Out of Sync: Bunaken Island and a Yearning Calm

Stillness and charm resonate on an unspoken frequency on Bunaken. The feeling is that of a perimeter, or, more precisely, an interior.

In the same way that Maluku’s Banda islands represent life a half-pace out of sync with everywhere else in Indonesia, here on Bunaken is a world beholden only unto itself.

Imagine a figure falling from a great height at a terrible speed, and then dissect that moment. Move away from it, suddenly, and consider what remains: an abstract shape, inconceivable yet somehow knowable. It stays within the scope of existence and yet has stopped entirely; only the potential of movement exists. The feeling it engenders is a vague, insistent excitement, quenchable only by means unknown.

Read more: A quick capsule guide to Pulau Bunaken, Sulawesi.

The traveller has the same feeling as they set foot on Bunaken. Before them lies a stone path, its constituent parts uneven and freshly laid. Beside them lies the ocean, buffeted by one of the island’s muggy mangrove swamps. The traveller pictures themself walking amongst them, wincing at the all-too-real impression of needle-like roots snaking across the island. 

To the other side, and stretching high overhead, is a vanguard of palm trees. Their varying shades of green convey the impression of beauteous calm, solidifying the yearning swelling within the traveller. Here is a place removed, locked within a bubble, a diving bell lost within its depths.

Shimmering way

Soon the road becomes a path, the stones turning to dirt. Still, the lack of stimuli is palpable; the ocean, strangely muted, sees its attendant roar swallowed and softened by the surrounding forest. Bird sounds are heard, but only at a distance, far over the distant peaks of mainland Sulawesi. Human existence is conspicuous by its absence.

But still, the traveller cares not. The feeling and calm are integral, the atmosphere vital. They come to a clearing, punctuated by angular wooden homes and centred upon a large rectangle; the ground is brown and dusty, suggesting a prolonged lack of rainfall. At its centre is a triangular white peak, covered in material collapsing to the ground to be met by a row of benches. The sounds of celebration are fervent, the excitement in the air intoxicating. Evidently, a wedding is taking place.

Civilisation thus encountered, the traveller doesn’t deviate from their course. Bunaken is still and all is calm, existing only to pacify the stirred soul.


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