This large, octopus-shaped island in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago is one of the places farthest off the beaten track that we’ve visited. Our travels there focused on two of our favorite things: snorkeling and ethnography. In Bunaken National Marine Park off the island’s northeastern tip, we enjoyed tropical coastal scenery, beautiful reefs, and hundreds of dolphins. In the Tana Toraja highlands of south central Sulawesi, we encountered a fascinating culture, including unusual houses, water buffalo fights, lavish funerals, and intricate burial practices.

When we visited

September 2016

Major stops

Bunaken Island, Manado, Rantepao (Tana Toraja), Makassar

Memorable Moment

Munching cookies and tea with other guests at a Torajan funeral while, 10 feet away, men with machetes hacked up water buffalo carcasses to feed the assembled crowd

Did you know?

Torajans give each other live pigs as gifts on special occasions (which are good sources of meat for feasts). Etiquette requires that recipients keep track of and reciprocate those gifts. A Torajan couple we stayed with traveled 8 hours away to the big city to get married so they could avoid incurring “pig debt.”

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