Pulau Siau Travel Guide: Visiting The Siau Island Tarsier In Sulawesi, Indonesia
Pulau Siau is a small, remote island with amazing nature in northeast Indonesia, and it’s pretty easy to visit from Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi.
Siau Island may not be very well known (at all), but it has everything that makes Indonesia great: scenery, wildlife, and volcanoes!
It’s home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes (Mount Karangetang), which is constantly smoking and occasionally spitting out rocks and lava.
The island is also home to a unique species of tarsier called the Siau Island tarsier, and you can see these little bug eyed primates in the wild.This travel guide will explain how to get there, and everything you need to know before you go!
Where Is Siau Island?
Siau Island is located about 150 kilometers (90 miles) northeast of Manado, in North Sulawesi, Indonesia.
It’s part of the far-flung Sitaro islands regency, which includes the volcanic islands of Siau, Tagulandang and Biaro.
How To Get There
There are currently two ways to get to Siau Island.
The normal way is to take a 4 hour fast ferry from Manado harbor to Siau. The ferry is clean, safe, and runs daily in each direction. It’s like a big speed boat with air conditioning and comfy seats. The price is 220k Rupiah.
The other way is to take a domestic flight to the brand new Naha airport (NAH) on Siau. There are two flights weekly with Wings Air from Manado (MDC) and it only takes about 1 hour. The price is 530k Rupiah.
If you go in the rainy season (November to April), you might want to avoid the ferry because the waves on the open ocean can be very choppy and scary. Otherwise, in normal months, the ferry is great.
How To Get Around
You can get around Pulau Siau by car, scooter, or boat. It’s not a small enough island to be walkable.
Car pickup and dropoff at the harbor were included in the hotel price where we stayed (at the Kalea Beach Resort), and then we paid them for a few ojek rides (motorbike taxis) when we went tarsier spotting and when I climbed Gunung Karangetang.
You can expect to pay about 100k for a motorbike taxi ride from the south part of the island to the north, or vice versa, because it takes about 1 hour to drive from one end of the island to the other.
Motorbikes can be rented for about 50-100k per day in Ulu (the main town), and the roads are decent, but we didn’t feel like self driving.
An island hopping tour to Mahoro is 800k Rupiah for the day (starting from Kalea), but you might be able to negotiate for less since it’s a small boat and the islands are very close to Pulau Siau.
Best Things To See & Do
• Mount Karangetang (Gunung Karangetang)
The Karangetang volcano is the most amazing feature of Siau Island, and you can’t go anywhere on the island without seeing it.
It’s one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia, and the top has twin smoking craters. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see it spouting molten lava and rock bombs at night, which it does pretty often.
You can climb to the top of Karangetang if you’re feeling extra crazy, but to be safe most people only hike partway up the mountain and peep at the smoking craters from a distance (and even that’s a bit risky).
Needless to say, hiking this volcano is an amazing (but challenging) experience!
Read More: Best Hikes In Indonesia
• Mahoro Island (Pulau Mahoro)
Pulau Mahoro is a small island east of Siau that has nice white sand and some of the bluest water we’ve seen in Indonesia, plus you can see the smoking volcano in the distance!
It’s easy to visit Pulau Mahoro (plus the other nearby islands) on a day trip from Siau since you can reach it in just 30 minutes by speedboat.
There’s also a short trail to the top of the island, but we skipped it since I was planning to hike Gunung Karangetang the next morning.
While we were on Mahoro, a local couple staying on the island asked us to give 50k Rupiah as a ‘cleanup fee’ after their friends had a big party there.
I don’t mind paying for trash cleanup, but we never saw them do any cleaning all day (just napping), so we gave 20k and explained the reason.
There was some trash on the island, but not too bad. Overall, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve seen in Indonesia.
If you explore the backside of the island by boat, it even has multiple caves (including one you can go inside) and a rock arch on the sea.
• Masare Island (Pulau Masare)
This is another small island near Pulau Mahoro, with more of the same white sandy beaches and turquoise water.
You can easily visit it together with Mahoro, and I’ve heard the snorkeling is good at this one, but we didn’t try.
From Mahoro, you can reach this island in only 10 minutes or less.
The island is home to some rare Maleo birds, an endangered species that’s endemic to Indonesia (only found in Sulawesi and Buton).
The Maleo birds lay their eggs under the sand, and then the hot sand incubates them in the sun. Neat!
The shape of the island even looks like a bird from above.
• Siau Island Tarsier Spotting
Siau is home to its own unique species of tarsier, called the Siau Island tarsier. These are little bug eyed primates that hunt insects in the dark.
There are lots of tarsiers in the southern part of the island, and you should definitely spend at least one evening seeing them!
Our hotel (Kalea) arranged 2-3 hours of tarsier spotting for 150k Rupiah, including transport for both of us.
We actually had even better luck finding tarsiers here than at the Tangkoko Nature Reserve in north Sulawesi. We saw several, and heard even more chirping in the night.
Remember to keep your distance and don’t use a camera flash (small handheld lights are okay). The Siau Island tarsier is critically endangered, so you don’t want to stress the little guys.
I used a stock lens for these pics, but with a proper camera setup and a long range lens I’m sure you could do much better.
• Temboko Lehi Beach (Pantai Temboko Lehi)
This is a hot spring beach on the northwest side of Siau island.
The source of the hot water is from underground fissures at the foot of the Karangetang volcano, and the water is actually too hot to swim in directly, although there’s a safe pool near it the locals can show you.
Temboko Lehi is unique for being the only hot spring beach in Indonesia! In fact, these are very rare anywhere on Earth. I think there are only a handful worldwide.
Where To Stay In Siau Island
• Kalea Beach Resort
We stayed a few nights at the Kalea Beach Resort, which is the main place to stay in Siau, located on the south end of the island.
It’s set on a rocky beach with views of the volcano in the distance, a nice breeze, and tiny hermit crabs walking on the sand. We even heard tarsiers in the trees at night.
The rooms are very basic but comfy enough, with flush toilets and a hand shower. They don’t have A/C, but the fan is enough to keep you cool at night.
Everything needs a bit of upkeep and a bed net would be nice, although we saw very few mosquitoes. The hotel staff was nice and helpful, and they were willing to negotiate on the prices.
We paid 500k per night during Corona, and that included transfers to/from the harbor and 3 meals per day for both of us. All of the food was amazing.
You can contact them via WhatsApp at ☎ +62 821-8773-3163.
• Other Accommodation
There are lots of basic homestays popping up in Ulu, the main town on Siau Island.
My top recommendation would be Little House, which is located in the main town right by the harbor, and has its own little restaurant and a minimarket nearby.
Keep in mind it’s a very basic homestay, but they have double bedrooms or family rooms available with A/C, hot showers, and TV. Prices range from 220k to 550k per night, depending on which size and type of room you choose.
Coincidentally, it’s owned by the same people as the Kalea Beach Resort, so the contact number is the same (+62 821-8773-3163). The woman who manages Little House is very friendly and helpful even though they don’t speak much English.
After I hiked Karangetang, they let me use the shower at Little House and cooked us a free breakfast even though we weren’t staying there!
- ATM: There are several working ATMs in Ulu town. We used BNI and it gives the smaller 50k Rupiah notes.
- Credit Cards: No credit cards were accepted anywhere when we visited. You’ll have to pay everything by cash or bank transfer.
- Electricity: The whole island has 24/7 electricity, although we had a couple of 15 minute outages at Kalea.
- Cell Service: Telkomsel has good 4G reception all over the island. We used this for a hotspot at times since we never had WiFi.
- WiFi: There is basically no WiFi on Siau Island, although I’m sure that will change soon. Kalea told us they’re planning to add it soon.
When To Visit
Pulau Siau has a tropical rainforest climate similar to Manado and the rest of North Sulawesi.
The rainiest months are November through March, so try to avoid these if you can.
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