Get Off The Grid In The Togean Islands

We all seek the holy grail of holiday destinations. Empty and endless white sandy beaches, turquoise water,  palm trees, and of course total relaxation. But when you also care about your impact on the environment, you also want to stay somewhere which shares your caring values. And this I happened to find in the heart of Sulawesi amid picture perfect floating paradise: the Togean Islands.

Seeking the holy grail of holiday destinations

I encountered my paradise destination in June 2017 with Lia Beach on the Togean Islands in Sulawesi. It ticked all the boxes one could wish for a perfect tropical holiday. But in my eyes it was made even more special thanks to the owners Marion and Epo, who took great care of the land, their environmental impact and the local community.

Sulawesi is breathtaking. For a start the sheer size of the country would demand weeks of travel to really be able to take it all in, and the expansive jungles of every possible shade of green is like a daydream. During my ten hour bus journey from Palu to Ampana I encountered stunning sceneries of tiny villages separated by lush green rice paddies and jungle forests. Despite huge areas of Indonesian jungle being burnt down, at least here there are still vast pockets of greenery relatively left untouched.

My journey took me through a ten hour bus journey, an overnight stay in Ampana, a 20 minute taxi bike ride, a ten hour ferry and an hour boat ride. Being Indonesia, you have to get used to island time. There are no fixed time schedules. So you do need patience and lots of time on your side. Needless to say, I arrived four hours later than scheduled, but my lovely host was waiting to take me on the final leg of the journey with an hour boat ride to Lia Beach resort on Waleakodi, which is one of the Togean Islands.

Tucked away in paradise

During the one hour ride from Dolong to Lia Beach, we were accompanied by an underwater fluorescent light-show. The artists were tiny plankton which apparently light up at night due to friction against the boat. This coupled with a black starry night felt like I had been transported to another world and it was very clear at this point that I was miles away from urban civilisation. No more cars, crowds, noise, or phone reception. Just me and nature. If you need a tech detox, this is the place the be. The Togean Islands have very limited phone reception which you can only get at certain points out at sea, and no internet or wifi. So you finally have no choice but to actually pay attention to what’s around you rather than what is happening on the other side of the world.

Lia Beach greeted me with a cozy and sleepy welcome with powdery white sand and romantic beach lamps. Set on a private beach strip the resort is nestled in a pocket of green jungle just off a turquoise coloured shore, with two beautifully designed bamboo bungalows, a gorgeous little restaurant and lazy hammocks hanging from trees dotted around. You can see and feel that everything is made with love through the design and attention to detail. And even though I arrived at 11 at night, a special home cooked meal was waiting for me.

This is essentially your home away from home. The two bungalows have been designed by a local Balinese architect and blend naturally into the surroundings with their bamboo structures. With thoughtful detail throughout, a very comfortable bed, soft sheets, nice clean towels, and absolute quiet, you cannot feel more at home. And to top it all off, three daily meals are offered with something different and special every time, and cooked from scratch with either home grown or locally bought ingredients.

An eco resort without being invasive

My stay was truly an eye opener to the incredible efforts run by locals to start their own ecological initiatives. Environmentalist owners Marion and Epo are absolutely delightful and being so down to earth they were happy to share their experiences on the Togean Islands and how they built Lia Beach. This project was certainly not for the faint hearted. A huge amount of hard work, time, patience and faith has gone into building this eco resort which started in 2015.

Marion who is from France and Epo who was born on the Togeans, could have taken an easier route and just opened a regular hotel. But with their love for the Togean Islands and wanting to share their outlook for more sustainable tourism in Sulawesi, they opened Lia Beach in the hope to inspire more locals to do the same and educate guests to a more sustainable holiday experience. Without being overwhelming or intrusive, they have built the whole foundation with sustainability at the chore with so many individual touches, and as a guest you cannot help but want to do your bit to keep this fragile ecosystem protected.

Construction with a green heart

Their vision is to develop ecotourism on the Togean islands to reduce the ecological footprint by using as many natural and local materials as possible, renewable energy, but also by being fair to local communities.

Below is some information on their green construction and initiatives at Lia Beach:

Bamboo is the key construction material
Affordable and quality material, available locally in great quantity
Renewable: it grows fast (1,2 m/day or 1 mm/minute. Can be harvested in 3-5 years)
It’s of the most absorbing plants for CO2 in the atmosphere
Using bamboo results in saving trees from the tropical forest

Eco-construction using other locally-sourced materials
Drift wood for furniture and decoration
Plastic trash collected by the non-profit organisation EVERTO (for bathroom bricks and decoration)
Local timber (floor and wall structure of bungalows)
Sago leaves (roofing)
Rattan (bamboo joinery, accessories and decoration)
Local stones (bathrooms and foundations)
Note: they use about 5% of cement and steel bars (reinforced concrete) for foundations

Other eco-responsible orientations
Rainwater collection
Waste separation and partial recycling
Composting and organic garden
Naturally homemade products for cleaning and personal care
Special architecture to aid natural ventilation and light into bungalows (no fans or air-con needed)
Soon to be implemented: solar energy

Power
Electricity is provided by a generator which operates mainly at night between 6-10pm. During the day there is no need for electricity as there is a sea breeze for ventilation, plenty of natural light filtering into the bungalows, and water is pumped directly into the toilet or shower. With lots of trees dotted around, there is also lots of natural shade.

Water
As has happened with the southern parts of Bali due to drought, the underground water system has been flooded with salt water due to lack of freshwater, which is almost impossible to reverse and extremely expensive. So now Marion and Epo have to hand fill the water tanks with water from the nearby islands. There’s a gentle reminder to use the local soap provided in order to not pollute the sea or surrounding nature, and of course not take unnecessary long showers.

Food
A vegetable garden has been built near the restaurant where a variety of herbs and vegetables grow. Other local produce is bought from the markets nearby. All the food is home cooked with each meal being a different and delicious surprise. There is no meat. The Togean diet consists of fish, and it’s either caught by the staff or bought from the local market nearby.

Guest hospitality
You are part of the family. With only two bungalows you are in close proximity to nature and the staff, while still being in total privacy if you wish. The wonderful part of staying in such a small resort is you actually get to know the owners and understand the vision they have for responsible tourism.

For more information, visit their website:

www.pae-lia-beach.com

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