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.