The Togean Islands
Nestled in the middle of the Gulf of Tomini (Central Sulawesi, Indonesia), just 30 km south of the equator, the Togean Islands archipelago, formed by volcanic activity, is composed of seven principal islands and their satellites on a shallow plateau no deeper than 200 meters.
An almost continuous barrier reef protects this plateau. The Togeans occupy approximately 70 000 ha of land, with a total marine and terrestrial area of nearly 200 000 ha, and stretch for about 90 km.
The jewel of Central Sulawesi
Stunning reefs, small isolated white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, verdant mangrove, traditional fishermen villages, and luxuriant tropical forest make the Togean Islands a true paradise on earth. The biggest attractions of the Togeans are their great natural beauty and recreational potential. They are a particularly attractive snorkeling and scuba-diving destination because of the clear and calm waters of the sheltered bay.
The archipelago is frequently mentioned as containing all four coral reef types (patch, fringing, barrier and atoll reefs) in close proximity. It is located in the Coral Triangle, an area with extraordinary levels of marine biodiversity. There are at least 596 reef fish species in the waters around the Togean Islands. According to Conservation International Indonesia data, the islands provide a home to 315 coral species.
Unique and endangered fauna
Many endangered species use the Togean Islands as a breeding ground, including dugongs, hawksbill and green sea turtles. These islands also support one of the last populations of the endangered coconut crab (Birgus latro), a giant crab that spends most of its life on land. Although still relatively abundant in the Togeans, this crab has been wiped out throughout most of its range in Indonesia by human predation.
Almost 60% of the land area of the Togeans is covered in tropical forest that supports an impressive array of local and Sulawesi endemic species including: the Togean macaque — a primate only described in 1996, the Togean lizard, the babirusa or “pig deer”, and the Togean Tarsier (the smallest primate in the world). In addition, there are relatively high numbers of marine species, with perhaps some exclusive to the Togean Islands. Conserving the forest habitat that these animals require for survival is as much a priority as are the islands’ marine environments.
The People of the Togean Islands
At a glance
Approximately 30 000 people representing six ethnic groups (Togeanese, Bajo, Bobongko, Buginese, as well as Gorontalonese and Javanese transmigrants) inhabit the seven major islands of the Togean Islands (Una-Una, Batudaka, Togean, Talatakoh, Malenge, Waleakodi, and Waleabahi). There are 37 villages, each with its own pattern of livelihood. In some of the villages, such as those of the Bajo, nearly all are fishermen. In other villages, farming is the main activity. A small proportion is employed in the tourism industry but it is mostly during high season (July and August).
Despite an abundance of natural resources, most people living in the Togean Islands are poor.
29 of the 37 villages fall within the category of poor villages, in which monthly income per capita is below 500 000 Rupiahs (≈ € 35).