05 October 2018
The Rising Enchantment of Gorontalo
For many years Gorontalo sat in the shadows of the bigger city of Manado in the province of North Sulawesi. Now, following its declaration as the capital of its own new province, the city has been growing more popular as a destination for visitors wishing to explore the lush natural beauty of the region and steal a glimpse of the abundant, exotic marine life.
Since becoming an independent province from North Sulawesi in December 2000, the new province of Gorontalo has been working to build its presence in various sectors, including tourism. It turns out that Gorontalo has a hidden enchantment waiting to be explored
Gorontalo lies on the Minahasa Peninsula and is home to an abundance of natural beauty, rich of culture, along with its friendly people. Mountains, hills, and a glittering, turquoise shoreline are the main characteristics of Gorontalo that make it a perfect island for outdoor tourism. Tourism sites in the city have steadily been modernised over the recent years and mostly surround historical sites such as Orange Fortress, Ju Panggola Graveyard, Nani Wartabone monument, Lake Limboto Lake and Otanaha Fortress, and Botubarani Village. The compact capital city, going by the same name as the province, features some of the best-preserved Dutch houses in the region and retains a languid colonial feel, perhaps enhanced by the ruins of a Portuguese fort on a nearby hilltop.
Gorontalo is a slice of paradise in the archipelago that has only just been discovered. Tourism in the city was kick-started by a picture of a whale shark in Botubarani that went viral in 2014. Today, the city, known as Serambi Madina (Veranda of Medina) is included on the bucket list of numerous travellers.
A plethora of dive sites are easily reachable from town, lending to the areas attraction for marine tourists wishing to explore the rich biodiversity and healthy, unique coral reefs. Tomini Bay is one of the area’s most visited destinations. The bay is famous for its underwater habitat and rare creatures. There are several unpopulated small islands dotted in the waters nearby. Some people commend Tomini Bay as a heaven for divers thanks to its geographic position on the equator line and the naturally occurring variety of sea creatures to be found here.
Olele Village is another popular place with deep-sea explorers. Known as a wild diving spot among world-class divers, Olele Village stands as a gateway to an underwater paradise. The amazing beauty of the underwater life in this area has been commended and proved by the enthusiastic divers who come to Olele beach.
Gorontalo encompasses several uninhabited islands, the most popular of these being Saronde Island. Deserted white beaches with breathtaking snorkelling sites and good fishing spots make it the perfect place to sail to and relax for the day.
Best Time to Visit
Gorontalo faces rainy season from December to March, but the rain is only intermittent with tropical downpours rather than incessant, torrential rain. From April to November, the northwesterly winds blow, creating larger surface waves in Tomini Bay. Therefore, it’s recommended to visit from November to April, when the seas are calmest.
How to Get There
Gorontalo is 230 km west-southwest of Manado and you can get there by:
You can fly to Gorontalo from Jakarta via Makassar (journey time is approximately 4 hours) with some airlines operating daily flights.
Alternatively, you can fly into Manado from Singapore, and then on to Gorontalo. There are regular flights (but with changeable schedules) from Manado to Gorontalo.
PLACES TO VISIT
Whale Shark at Botubarani village
Botubarani is just a small village in the Bone Bolango regency. However, the place became popular as a tourist destination wanting to see the native whale sharks in the waters here. Seven whale sharks appeared in Botubarani waters in 2014. Since that, their appearance has attracted tourists to come to see them close-up in small boats or by snorkelling and diving beside them.
Lake Limboto & Otanaha Fortress
The scenery around this lake is impressive. There are plenty of interesting photos to be taken here and visitors can also enjoy fishing, swimming, taking a boat ride, or filling up on a culinary tour of the various fish dishes cooked up by locals at this lake. About eight kilometres from Lake Limboto is the historical site of Benteng Otanaha. This complex of three small rock fortresses provides stunning views of Gorontalo's interior valley and Lake Limboto. Tourists can climb the 351 steps or take a paved road behind the fort to the top to take in the view.
Love Island (Pulau Cinta)
Pulau Cinta or Love Island was a previously uninhabited island that’s become a popular destination in Gorontalo. The island has very beautiful, fascinating scenery with clean and clear sea and healthy coral. An incredible eco-resort stands in the middle of the sand island above the stunning coral named Salvador Dali. Here, guests can not only relax and unwind amid the beauty but can also enjoy snorkelling and diving.
Located in the Tomini Sea, the Togean Islands are one of the best island destinations to visit in Gorontalo. The islands are surrounded by coral reefs, with beautiful white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and palm trees. Most islands have only a few family-run guesthouses. The Togeans are a magnet for divers and snorkelers, while on land, there’s variety of wildlife to look for in the undisturbed, wild jungles as well as other remote beaches to discover.
Bilenthango is a typical Gorontalo food made from sea fish. Spices similar to pepper along with a little lime juice are added to the fish which is first seared in a pan and then cooked through by baking it on top of banana leaves in a frying pan over a low heat.