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Pulau Una-Una is an extremely remote island adjacent to the Togean National Park in the Gulf of Tomini, in Central Sulawesi, close to Kadidiri island, a world famous dive site.
Una-Una was formed by the short, broad Colo Volcano, whose summit rises just 500 meters above sea level, with a 2 kilometer wide caldera. UnaUna is a lush and scenic island and is indeed a direct result of the Colo Volcano’s eruption. One interesting by-product of the island’s volcanic nature is that unlike the pure, white sands of the other islands in TominiGulf, Una-Una’s beaches are a striking black.
Throughout history, only three eruptions have been recorded from Mount Colo, with two of them causing damage. In 1983, after over 80 years of dormancy, a powerful eruption burst from Mount Colo. Thick, yellow clouds rose 5 kilometres into the air, with volcanic ash reaching as far as East Kalimantan. Pyroclastic flows swept across the island, destroying everything in its path. Many settlements were completely devastated and hot clouds destroyed all plant species on the island. Only a narrow strip of vegetation and villages along the island’s east coast remained undamaged.
Six months prior to the eruption, the volcano began to show activity, giving the island’s residents the opportunity to be gradually evacuated to the surrounding islands. There were no casualties, and Mount Colo has not erupted since.
Una-Una remained uninhabited for some time, but after a few years, people gradually began returning to rebuild their lives. Initially, they only came to start agricultural production, but over time they once again began building homes. Although Colo volcano is still active and could erupt at any time, this did not dampen the desire of UnaUna’s previous inhabitants to return home.
Several changes have taken place on the island since the eruption. As a sort of blessing in disguise,the volcanic ash and lava which covered UnaUna has created an island of extremely fertile soil. Additionally, its deer population has increased drastically to an estimated tens of times higher than before. The phenomenon may have possibly been caused by the demise of many deer predators. Island residents now raise elk for every day needs such as food and clothing.
UnaUna is 30 kms from the nearest island and is not accessible by public transport. Therefore getting there is an exceptionally challenging task, and should not be attempted unless you have time to spare.
There are several routes, each taking at least a few days, but the first step is always to fly to Manado International Airport in North Sulawesi. Silk Air has regular International flights from Singapore to Manado. There are also domestic flights from Jakarta and Bali on Lion Air, Garuda, Batavia Air, and Merpati.
From Manado, catch one of the twice-weekly flights to Luwuk. Sriwijaya Air, (www.sriwijayaair.co.id) flies daily from Jakarta to Luwuk via Makassar. Once in Luwuk, take an 8-hour bus ride to Ampana, Central Sulawesi. Ampana is the usual port to the Togean Islands. Boats depart four times a week at 10:00 am.From the Togeans, you can hire a speedboat to Una Una, or you could be adventurous and try to catch a ride with one of the local fishermen.
Alternatively, one may go via Gorontalo City, which can be reached from Manado by bus, chartered car, or plane. From Gorontalo, ferries and speedboats depart on a sporadic schedule on the arduous 12-hour voyage to Wakai. Once in Wakai, you must take a speedboat to Una Una.