What to do when you have 72 hours in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi

Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi – Southeast Sulawesi or its capital Kendari is rarely on the list of must-see places among travellers. People who have visited the place would simply say that the place is quite “bland”.

But of course, perspectives and experiences are often very subjective, depending on your expectations. You just have to look for the right places, if you have limited time.

It is widely known that traveling to eastern parts of Indonesia is quite costly. As such, travelers should make the most of their journey by planning their trip carefully.

There are several options to fly to Southeast Sulawesi. Direct flights are available from Jakarta with Garuda Indonesia or Lion Air. Another option is with a two-hour stopover in Makassar, South Sulawesi with Sriwijaya Air. There is also another option of flying from other cities outside of Jakarta (Surabaya, Medan, etc) to Makassar first, and continue with Lion Air or Sriwijaya to Kendari.

The total flight time from Jakarta to Kendari is around two hours and 50 minutes, with airfare costs around Rp 1,500,000 to Rp 2,700,000 (equal to USD $108 to $200) for a round trip.

Kendari is the capital of Southeast Sulawesi. The city lies along the Kendari Bay and it has a population of 314,812, making it the fourth-largest city in Sulawesi, behind Makassar, Manado, and Palu.

Hotels are available from international chains such as the Swiss-Bell to some of the local ones, which I found quite decent.

One of the major downsides was the repeated electricity outages any time during the day or night. As it is widely known that eastern parts of Indonesia has a chronic shortage of electricity and blackouts are treated as normal by local people.

Delicious food and beautiful beaches to enjoy

Bokori island
Visitors bathe in the warm water of Bokori island beach. The beach is often used as the venue for national beach volleyball competition.

We are not going to talk about the Wakatobi National Marine park, one of the world’s marine tourism objects and one of the regencies in Southeast Sulawesi province. Mostly because it is outside of Kendari and it’s expensive to go, unless you’re well prepared for the trip.

Other choices of Kendari’s beautiful beaches are available such as the Nambo Beach. This beauty and tranquility place can be reached only 30 minutes from the city. This sloping beach, with breezy winds, is lined with beautiful palm trees waving all around.

The calm and clear water makes it a convenient beach for swimming or boating, or just simply sitting around and enjoying some coconut drink, while reading a good book.

A further drive, about 45 minutes from the city will take you to the Bokori island, with its beautiful scenery, warm water and white sandy beach. The island is also former home of the Bajo tribe before they were told to relocate in the 90s.

The Bajo is one of Indonesian ethnic tribes famous for being great seamen. They live and die around the ocean, and build their homes close to the ocean to make a living. That is why Bajo tribe are often called as sea nomads, because they first live on their boat as their floating house.

They are still around today, easily found roaming around the waters and will help travelers cross with their humble boats.

“I still remember grew up in this island when I was a kid,” said Pak Mus, a local leader of the Bajo tribe told me during my visit.

Sinonggi, one of local delicacy in Kendari, Southeast of Sulawesi.
Sinonggi, one of local delicacy in Kendari, Southeast of Sulawesi.

To get to the Bokori island you need to cross with the locals’ boat for only 10 minutes. People commonly pay Rp 20,000 per trip.

Bokori island is a clean and well maintained area, with small villas to stay. It’s quite surroundings is suitable for couples or family. I would compare Bokori island to the Tanjung Bira beach in South Sulawesi province, but less developed and not too crowded, which is a better get away option if you look for a quite place.

However since there are no restaurants available around the island (yet, although local government plans to add soon), some cooking skills are necessary to stay in the island.

Alternatively, the locals who take you with their boat would happily deliver food if you arranged it earlier. Or you can bring some with you before crossing.

The famous dabu-dabu sambal.
The famous dabu-dabu sambal from Sulawesi island. HOt and sour mixed in a plate.

A further drive, about 20 minutes will take you to the Bintang Samudera area where you can dive or snorkel.

Local delicacies as expected, are heavily based on seafood, because Kendari is located by the bay and seafood are easily found fresh and is quite cheap. One of it is Sinonggi, made of sago and topped with fish soup, steamed vegetables and fresh mango sambal.

Another famous sambal from the island is called dabu-dabu, which is made from fresh chilli, shallots, tomatoes and fresh lime to accompany your fresh fish, whether it is fried or grilled.

All and all, Kendari was a pleasant short trip for me and I would gladly come back.

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