Una-Una was formed by the short, broad Colo Volcano, whose summit rises just 500 meters above sea level, with a 2 kilometer wide caldera. Una-Una is a lush and scenic island and is indeed a direct result of the Colo Volcano’s eruption. One interesting by-product of the island’s volcanic nature is that unlike the pure, white sands of the other islands in Tomini Gulf, Una-Una’s beaches are a striking black.
Throughout history, only three eruptions have been recorded from Mount Colo, with two of them causing damage. In 1983, after over 80 years of dormancy, a powerful eruption burst from Mount Colo. Thick, yellow clouds rose 5 kilometres into the air, with volcanic ash reaching as far as East Kalimantan. Pyroclastic flows swept across the island, destroying everything in its path. Many settlements were completely devastated and hot clouds destroyed all plant species on the island. Only a narrow strip of vegetation and villages along the island’s east coast remained undamaged.
Six months prior to the eruption, the volcano began to show activity, giving the island’s residents the opportunity to be gradually evacuated to the surrounding islands. There were no casualties, and Mount Colo has not erupted since.
Una-Una remained uninhabited for some time, but after a few years, people gradually began returning to rebuild their lives. Initially, they only came to start agricultural production, but over time they once again began building homes. Although Colo volcano is still active and could erupt at any time, this did not dampen the desire of Una-Una’s previous inhabitants to return home.
Several changes have taken place on the island since the eruption. As a sort of blessing in disguise,the volcanic ash and lava which covered Una-Una has created an island of extremely fertile soil. Additionally, its deer population has increased drastically to an estimated tens of times higher than before. The phenomenon may have possibly been caused by the demise of many deer predators. Island residents now raise elk for every day needs such as food and clothing.
Pulau Una-Una has no accommodation of its own, or facilities of any kind, so it can only be visited on a day trip. There are, however, three cottages on Kadidiri, which is one of the closest islands to Una-Una, and the primary destination in the Togeans. All three of Kadidiri’s bungalows have meals included in their daily rates, and also rent out diving and snorkelling equipment. There are no shops on the island, but basic needs, snacks and drinks are sold by the bungalows.
There are no ATMs on Kadidiri; but bungalows do accept credit cards and cash payments in Rupiah, Dollars or Euro. For additional purchases, it is possible to catch a ride back to Wakai with boats from any of the resorts. Either that, or be sure to do any necessary shopping before leaving the mainland. Another point to bear in mind, is that there is no internet connection on the island, and almost no phone signal.
Kadidiri Paradise offers neat, wooden bungalows of varying sizes and quality, all of which are meticulously maintained.
Every room is furnished with a double or twin bed, fan, balcony and inside bathroom. Paradise Diving School is the first diving school on the island, and is fully equipped with boats, gear, and PADI certified diving instructors to attend to your every need.
Black Marlin Dive Resort is situated between the other two resorts, and offers 17 stylish, wooden cottages just a few steps from the beach. All rooms are equipped with double spring beds, mosquito nets, ceiling fans, clean running water and a panoramic sea view. Available facilities are pool table, ocean café and restaurant, bar, safety box, and dive boats. Prices range from 16-35 Euros per person per night.
Pondok Lestari is located further down the beach, to the right of the other two. Pondok Lestari is the cheapest on the island, and ideal for budget travellers. It offers simple, bamboo cottages; available for singles or doubles, and shared toilets and showers. They do not have their own dive center, but they do provide free snorkelling trips.
There are a variety of activities you can do on this beautiful island including fishing, sailing, swimming, and of course diving. Pulau Una-Una contains a rich underwater biodiversity of fish, shrimp, crabs and sea cucumbers.
The main dive spots at Una-Una Island are Apollo Reef and the Pinnacle. Apollo reaches a depth of about 45 meters, and is inhabited by many octopi and large fish, while The Pinnacle drop-off is occupied by schools of dolphins and even the occasional hammerhead shark. The waters of Una-Una are exquisitely beautiful, but due to strong undercurrents and deep waters, are not suitable for beginners.
If you love to climb, you can take the trek up Mount Colo. Steep ravines are often hidden by the thick vegetation, so a guide is advisable.
Because of Una-Una’s location within the Tomini Gulf and near the Togean Archipelago, there are more than a few other islands worth visiting to add to the adventure and variety of your trip. Una-Una is 30 kilometers from the nearest land, so one would have to route through the Togeans to get there in the first place. The Togean Islands are a Marine National Park that contains the largest coral reef in Indonesia, and is a breeding ground for the Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle and the Dugong.
Kadidiri, in the Togean Islands, is a world famous diving spot, and is one of the top destinations in the Togean area. Kadidiri is a paradise for divers for its stunning underwater landscapes, rich coral reefs and exquisite marine life, unsuccessfully hidden beneath a layer of unbelievably glassy waters. The Togean waters support over a thousand species of sea creatures, many of which are endangered and protected.
The reefs are in excellent condition and sustain an almost impossibly abundant marine life. Parrot fish, banner fish, moonfish, starfish, blue banded sea-snakes, and spotted stingrays are just a few of species you may encounter in the ankle-deep waters, barely a few meters from the coast. For more advanced divers, eager to head further out to sea, sightings of sea turtles and blue marlins are fairly common. If you’re patient (or lucky) enough, the scalloped Hammerhead Shark may even pay a visit. In certain seasons, the waters around the island become a gathering point for thousands of barracuda. Another popular dive site is the wreck of an American B24 bomber from WWII. The plane is for the most part intact, and is home to nudibranchs, lion fish, and huge schools of jackfish.
Batudaka is the largest and most easily accessible of the Togean Islands. Here you can visit the local villages, explore the natural forests, go swimming, snorkelling, or take a trek through Batudaka’s bat caves. For a more cultural experience, take a tour to visit the Bajo Settlement in Kabalutan.
The Bajo people, or Sea Gypsies as they have often been called, are a landless ethnic group that is sustained completely and exclusively by the ocean. But not only do they survive solely on marine resources — they actually live in the ocean as well. Entire villages are built on stilts and connected by wooden bridges over large expanses of coral reefs and rocks in the middle of the open sea. The Bajo tribes maintain an intimate knowledge of the maritime coastal ecosystems, as well as the seasons, winds, currents, tides, lunar cycle, stars and navigation. These mysterious sea people are also distinguished by their exceptional free-diving abilities, and through years of practice have acquired physical adaptations that enable them to see better and dive longer underwater.
Una-Una is 30 km from the nearest island and is not accessible by public transport. Therefore getting there is an exceptionally challenging task, and should not be attempted unless you have time to spare.
There are several routes, each taking at least a few days, but the first step is always to fly to Manado International Airport in North Sulawesi. Silk Air has regular International flights from Singapore to Manado. There are also domestic flights from Jakarta and Bali on Lion Air, Garuda, and Citilink.
From Manado, catch one of the twice-weekly flights to Luwuk. Sriwijaya Air, flies daily from Jakarta to Luwuk via Makassar. Once in Luwuk, take an 8-hour bus ride to Ampana, Central Sulawesi. Ampana is the usual port to the Togean Islands. Boats depart four times a week at 10:00 am. From the Togeans, you can hire a speedboat to Una-Una, or you could be adventurous and try to catch a ride with one of the local fishermen.
Alternatively, one may go via Gorontalo City, which can be reached from Manado by bus, chartered car, or plane. From Gorontalo, ferries and speedboats depart on a sporadic schedule on the arduous 12-hour voyage to Wakai. Once in Wakai, you must take a speedboat to Una-Una.