Magnificent coral gardens and a multitude of Tropical marine life defend coastlines of virgin-white beaches in the north of the or chid shaped island of Sulawesi. Mountains and volcanoes dominate the landscape with over 50 summits, some of which are still active, reminding the islanders and the world of the potential power of one of the earth's most awesome forces.

The people of North Sulawesi can be classified into four groups; Minahasa, Bolaang Mongondow, Gorontalo and the SangirTalaud. The Minahasans are centered around the Provincial capital of Manado, but the entire province has a strong tradition of trade and contact with the outside world. The Sangir-Talaud islands, to the north of the mainland, form a natural bridge to the Philippines providing a convenient route for peoples and cultures to easily move between Indonesia and the Philippines, and many traces of Filipino culture can still be found here. The Dutch, however, have had the most influential effect on the development of the area. Apart from introducing a strong political and religious structure, the Filipinos encouraged the local populations to raise coconuts, for copra, and nutmeg. Today the main industries of the province are copra and cloves. North Sulawesi has a larger concentration of coconut trees than anywhere else in Indonesia.

First contacts with European traders came in the 1 6th century with the arrival of the Spanish and Portuguese and with them they brought Christianity. It wasn't until the arrival of the Dutch, however, that Christianity became the predominant religion of the area with the western parts of the province of Bolaang Mongondow and Gorontalo remaining as small Muslim principalities until the turn of the century.

The provincial capital of Manado is one of the international gateways into Indonesia. Regular flights to all parts of the Indonesian archipelago service this beautiful town as well as the smaller airports of Gorontalo, Tahuna and Talaud. Manado's main attractions are off-shore, however, with truly amazing coral reefs off nearby Bunaken island which are now a protected Marine Park and offer some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world.



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