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Blue water at Bunaken

At the Edge of the Map in North Sulawesi

I first heard of Sulawesi at age 9 or 10 from the Tintin comic, Flight 714. Tintin and his friends are on a plane that crash lands on a tropical island, where the lush jungle and smoldering volcanoes conceal mysterious machinations by the island’s secretive residents. Hmm, could this have inspired Lost? Anyway, at one point the book mentioned that the island was located in the Celebes Sea. I didn’t know where this was, so I called out to my father in the next room, “Daddy, what’s the Celebes Sea?”

“Er, the celibacy is when a priest or nun makes a vow not to have sex.”

Confused, I showed my father the text of the comic strip.

Embarrassed laugh. “Oh, that’s a sea in Indonesia!”

I later learned that Celebes is the former colonial name of the starfish-shaped Indonesian island of Sulawesi. After several weeks hitting the tourist highlights of Java, Bali, and Lombok, we decided to head to this less-visited island reputed to have fantastic wildlife, jungle-cloaked archipelagos, and unique culture. Our route would take us from Manado on the northeastern tip all the way to Makassar on the southwest.… Read more