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Donggala and the north
Old harbor and the northern neck

Forty kilometers north of Palu along a good road is the old, picturesque harbor of Donggala. Across the huge Teluk Palu there is a large narrow stretch of island. This area is often only seen as a needed piece of land to connect Central Sulawesi with North Sulawesi, but in fact it is very interesting as center point between contrasting cultures of the highlands and lowlands.

Picturesque, dreamy town

Donggala has always been an important seaport, mainly for the traders from South Sulawesi and the eastern coast of Kalimantan. Their ships have come here for over a thousand years to trade; they brought Indian textile and weaving techniques, which has inspired the famous silk fabrics from the Kaili area. These kain Donggala are still made in the village of Towale. During the centuries, Buginese sailors and traders have settled in Donggala. First they integrated with the local Kaili, but later they largely replaced their place. When the Dutch thought it was time for Central Sulawesi to be under colonial rule, Donggala was chosen as the colonial governmental center.

During and after the Second World War, when Palu became capital, the seaport became less important. Shorter ago, new seaport facilities in Pantoloan across the bay, has degraded the importance of Donggala as a seaport even more. Ships of Pelni and other companies don't stop at Donggala, but Buginese schooners on their way to Surabaya do stop in Donggala. At any given time there are at least a few schooners in the seaport. They transport food, cement and tools which are transported to Palu by truck or smaller ships. On the way to Surabaya, the ships are loaded with copra, Donggala's main source of wealth. Thanks to the copra-money, many of the people here have had their hajji, the religious trip to Mecca.

A trip to Donggala offers a welcome rest in comparison to Palu. This sleepy provincial capital is located on the protected inside coast of Teluk Palu, close to the end of the mountainous peninsula that forms the western coast of the bay. It's pleasant to walk through the city and to enjoy the view on the harbor, vegetable gardens in the surrounding hills and the activity near the small pasar. The best view on Donggala's picturesque harbor do you have when you take a small road towards Tanjung Karang and Boneage in the north in the afternoon. From the edge of the city it's a pleasant two kilometer walk to this crossroads. The road left goes to Boneage, the other one to the shore at Tanjung Karang. In this village, the best beaches are protected and you have to pay a small amount to have a swim. During weekdays the beaches are empty. The crystal clear water in the bay gradually changes into green colors before it suddenly changes into deep blue near the hills across the bay. You can often find a wide variety of small ships here.

Further along the coast near Boneage, seven kilometers from Palu, is a village with a length of two kilometers and two houses wide with a very fine sandy beach. A 12 kilometer long road from Donggala crosses the point of the peninsula and runs along a golf course towards the village of Towale along the western coast. Near a small saltwater lake there are swimming possibilities.

From Towale there is a road towards the south to the village of Suramana at the border of South Sulawesi, 24 kilometers ahead and then again towards Pasangkayu. From there you can follow little pieces of road towards Mamuju in the south. It's a lot easier by boat.

The sea off Tanjung Karang is not to be called spectacular for snorkeling, but closer to Donggala and Towale, there are better diving possibilities. During the Permesta Revolt in 1959, five ships that were used by the Indonesian army to transport troops were sunken by rebel planes in front of Donggala. One of these ships, the Mutiara, is still there, turned over, near the pier which was build by the Dutch close to the warehouses for copra and rattan. The water isn't really clear here, but a little ahead you can find many species of coral just along the coast, a nice diversity of anemones and fish. To go snorkeling and viewing the harbor, you can rent a cheap boat, rower included.

About eight kilometers south of Donggala, along the road to Palu, is recreational park Loli Indah with a swimming pool and playground. From the smaller harbor city of Wani, small boats with destinations along the northern arm until Tolitoli, along the western coast and even seaports in South Sulawesi, depart.

Diving centers

Just before the end of the road to Tanjung Karang, a road to the right runs through coconut plantations and to the Prinz John's Diving Resort - a small tropical paradise. This holiday resort offers simple, well built huts and rooms, good food, white beaches and all kinds of water sports, among them diving, throughout the year. The shallow, quiet sea along the coast ideal for children.

Several meters from Prinz John's there is a good place for snorkeling, but windsurfing, sailing and all-round diving are the real attraction of this holiday resort. Diving from the beach and the shallow seabed make this an ideal place for beginners. Experienced divers can dive up to 30 meters a little more offshore.

Big parrots and the not dangerous reef sharks regularly swim here and dominate the beautiful variation of see fauna. Experienced divers can even bring a visit to the 'drop-off' near Enu, fifty minutes by boat across Teluk Palu. This 'drop-off' makes a dive of 60 meters and surpassed Bunaken without any doubt.

Experienced divers can explore the wrecks outside the seaport of Donggala and you can snorkel around the wrecks off the coast. The best wreck is on it's side, between 32 and 50 meters deep. The shipper of Prinz John knows how to find this wreck - not very easy when in heavy currents. The trip is worth while however: the wreck is beautiful, in good condition and overgrown with a wealthy variety of corals. You can have an encounter with many kinds of fish. Ask the shipper for a full oxygen bottle with regulator at a depth of several meters, if you are in need of decompression.

Northern strip of land

The areas around Palu and Donggala and the coastal areas of the northern strip of land - the long small stretch which connects North and Central Sulawesi - offer a number of attractions which can be reached by rented car or with one of the many minibuses which drive the route over the main road frequently.

The coasts of the northern strip of land have been inhabited by migrants from Gorontalo, Mandarese and Buginese origin for a long time. The fishing villages dominated and large coconut plantations were planted for the production of oil and copra. The chain of mountains is inhabited by scattered ethnical groups (suku terasing) - among them the Tajio, Pendau and Lauje - which are named Da'a by the coastal residents. This seems to be a pointer to the Dayak populations of the inlands of Kalimantan. These groups of the highlands lived from cry crops, among them sweet potatoes, taro and corn. Every now and then they descended to the coast to trade their forest products like onions, garlic and coffee.

This traditional pattern of relations between the high-and lowlands has changed dramatically in the recent history. Members of the mountain tribes work together with the people from the Philippines when chopping wood and other expensive products in the mountain forests. The government has relocated entire villages along the coast. They gave elementary shelters, tools and seeds for wet rice cultures to the people. This caused that there is no separation in ethnical groups to be made anymore on a geographical ground.

West coast until Tolitoli

The western coast of the strip of land doesn't have a good road, which connects Palu with Tolitoli. Still, a visit to this area won't disappoint you at all. You can travel in the district of Tolitoli to Pantoloan or Wani by boat or plane. When taking the plane, you will see a vast amount of clove farms. The area is ideal for cultivating clove, because the hills around Tolitoli always catch wind from the sea which is needed by these trees to grow well. The Tolitoli region has known a good economical growth at the end of the 20th century because of the export of clove.

In the environment you can find some quiet places: the beach of Batu Bangga, 12 kilometers north of Tolitoli, offers possibilities to swim or just to enjoy the nature. The same goes for the beaches of Pulau Lutungan, a kilometer west of Tolitoli and each to be reached by boat.

A tomb of one of the former raja of Tolitoli is still a place of pilgrimage on the island. To decide whether their wishes will be obeyed the people stick a rib of a palm leaf in the soil; later they will come back to see if it's longer (a good sign) or shorter.

Near Salumpaga, a village about 70 kilometers north of Tolitoli are the remains of another monument of earlier rulers. The high rising walls of the old ramshackle Dutch fortress still remind of the fragile power the colonial regime had over the remote outposts like Sulawesi.

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