You’ve probably seen Takabonerate on Instagram, but you won’t have realized where it is. The island is famous throughout Indonesia as a place where you can play with baby sharks. Well, I use the word play very loosely. More like take photos with baby sharks swimming around your legs.
I’ve been eyeing Takabonerate for a while (Dan has also written an article about travel guide to Takabonerate, check it here). Like usual for remote islands in Indonesia, I didn’t have a clue how to visit the place. Most people who visit Takabonerate join a shared tour and I couldn’t find a shared tour that fitted my schedule.
So the news is I just got back from the islands a few days ago (I had a great time!) and I would like to share some information so it will be easier for people who want to visit the islands in the future without joining a shared tour. Early warning, it’s challenging to visit the islands if you are a single traveller or a small group of travellers. I will tell you why later.
A friend of mine, Andes, organise the trip (I would say he is a bad organiser haha. Sorry Andes!). However he managed to collect 7 people and 1 kid for this trip. This included himself, Bulan (check her blog here) and me. It’s a good enough group size to be able to rent car(s) and a boat for a reasonable price.
What Is So Special About Takabonerate?
There are tons of small islands around Indonesia. Imagine beaches in the tropics. This one ticks all the boxes; white sand, blue turquoise water, plenty of underwater creatures, some good soft and hard corals, great weather and warm water.
Then add swimming or canoeing with baby sharks by the beach (you can do this on Tinabo Besar Island). According to the locals, back then they could find baby sharks in the shallows by the beaches of all the Takabonerate islands. Sadly this is no longer the case.
Tinabo Besar Island is quite small. The circumference is around 2.3 km. It took us around one hour, well two hours, because we took so many photos, to circle the island. The baby sharks are mostly found around the jetty, though you can find them all around the island.
I think it’s quite popular to feed the baby sharks in the morning and afternoon when the tide is in (they’re not around in the afternoon and or the evening when the tide is out). You don’t need to feed them they can find their own food. They will swim around you as long as you are calm.
How to get to Takabonerate?
Ok this is the most important part, how to get there. Well, as you’re probably aware, Takabonerate is just off the coast of Sulawesi. You can fly to Selayar Island from Makassar. I flew with Trans Nusa. Or you can go overland from Makassar to Tanjung Bira and then by a ferry from Tanjung Bira to Pamatata port in Selayar Island.
Once you have arrived in Selayar, you have to go to the port (the name is Benteng Port). There is a Damri bus from Selayar Airport to Benteng Port. From here you can take the public wooden boat to Rajuni Island in Takabonerate. Unfortunately at the port things get a bit complicated.
There is no clear schedule for the boat. Sometimes the boat goes twice a week, sometimes three times. What day it goes, and even the time, is up in the air. The boat just leaves and you need to be there. This makes arranging your travel itinerary pretty tough.
The only way to get information about when the boats leave is to get in touch with a local person closer to your travel date. If you’re interested in a contact number for someone then comment in this post and I will email you the relevant details.
Anyways, once we arrived at the airport a private car picked us up. The car drove to Patambukan Port where the boat that we had chartered was waiting for us. The journey from the airport to Patambukan Port was around 45 minutes.
It took us six hours by boat to get to Ranjuni Kecil. Omg that night was probably one of the scariest nights I’ve experienced. The sea was rough and there was a high wind. We didn’t have the best boat as well… Please keep in mind that the journey usually takes 4 hours.
We decided to stop at Rajuni Kecil Island for the night, because we arrived late. If you do the trip by yourself you can get the public boat to Selayar Island and then rent a small boat to do island hopping for the day. A boat rental costs around Rp 650,000 (from 9 am to 4 pm).
We chartered the same boat for the whole trip. The boat picked us up from Patumbukan and brought us to Rajuni. It then dropped us off at Tinabo where we did two days of island hopping before we returned to Patumbukan. Check our budget/breakdown cost here.
The Challenges Of Visiting Takabonerate
Besides the lack of public boats with and clear schedule, the other thing that you should consider is the weather. Based on my guide there are two times of the year when you should visit. This is from the middle of March to the start of June and then end of September to the beginning of November.
The worst time to visit Takabonerate is between December until the middle of March and the start of July through to the end of September. I say the worst time, to be honest just don’t go between these months. The sea is rough and it’s dangerous.
Our Takabonerate Travel Itinerary
Get yourself to Makassar (I arrived one day before)
Fly to Selayar (I flew with Trans Nusa at 11:45 am)
Pick up by car from the airport to Patambukan port
Get a wooden charter boat from Patambukan to Rajuni Kecil. Journey 3-9 pm.
Rajuni Kecil by wooden boat to Tinabo (45 minutes-1 hour journey)
Explore Tinabo for a bit
Play with sharks in front of the guesthouse
Morning walk around the island Tinabo
Play with sharks again in the morning
Go to Tarupa Kecil Island to see Bajo people
Back to Tinabo and chill
Board to the boat 11 pm and sail to Patambukan
5 am arrive at Patambukan
We continue to travel to Tanjung Bira and Toraja after Takabonerate! Stories are coming soon (hopefully).
I am happy I finally got to visit Tinabo Island. Swimming with baby sharks and exploring Takabonerate National Park was an amazing experience. There’s no Internet connection so expect a holiday where you are disconnected from the outside world.
If you want to experience to swim with baby sharks and enjoy the tropical beaches then Takabonerate is definitely worth a visit. It’s not just sharks. Some of us spotted turtles during our snorkeling around the island.
While Takabonerate was great I prefer the Togean Islands. You can read about my visit to the Togean Islands in this post. It’s from a while ago, so maybe I should go back and visit the islands again. Haha!
Have you ever been to Takabonerate? Got any tips for future travellers? Share it here 🙂
Takabonerate is amazing, however getting there is too much effort.
Yes that is true. I personally prefer Togean.
I heard a lot about the beauty of takabonerate from my friends but i didn’t expect that going there was difficult. Random departure boat schedule make it even harder and will be a hassle for sure. But, im sure it worth it, swimming with baby shark would be a great experience.
Yes. It was so difficult to arrange a trip to Takabonerate islands, but I think that is the challenge 😉