Bagging It!

This mountain is the highest point of Kabaena island. The mountain is mis-spelt Sambapolulu on Google Maps, Bakosurtanal and many other sources. Locally, it is Saba Mpolulu or Sabampolulu. The peak is listed as just 1,533m high on the Bakosurtanal map but this is probably slightly lower than the true elevation. The lower peaks a couple of kilometres to the south are referred to as Pegunungan Malapulu – the Malapulu mountain range.

There are two small airports not too far away now: Raha on Pulau Muna and Bau-Bau on Pulau Buton. You can charter a simple wooden boat to the island of Kabaena from Mawasangka at the southern tip of Muna island to Dongkala for around Rp1,200,000 return (2018 price, roughly one hour crossing). From Bau-Bau this means crossing over to Wamengkoli first (a short crossing) then travelling by road to Mawasangka.

Local Accommodation


  • Getting there: According to Heru Hendarto, there are two ways to reach this mountain : From BauBau (there are flights twice a day from Makassar/Ujung Pandang), take a ferry 3x a week to Dongkala-5 hours (east Kabaena). In 2021, the schedule is “departs Bau Bau at 0730 on Mon, Wed, Sat, and departs Dongkala at 1230 on Mon, Wed, Sat.” Then hire a motorcycle or car to the village of Enano or Desa Wisata Tangkeno -1 hour trip (at the higher slope of Sabampolulu). There should be a hiking track I think). OR From Ujung Pandang (Makassar), take a bus to Bira/Bulukumba (6 hours) and take a ferry to Sikeli (once in a week-a night trip). Then hire a car or motorcycle to Enano village or Desa Wisata Tangkeno (1 hour trip).
  • Permits: Unknown
  • Water sources: Unknown
  • Travel insurance: We recommend World Nomads insurance, which is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities including mountain hiking.

Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):



3 thoughts on “Sabampolulu

  1. Much appreciated and much understood. I was looking forward to your report. Do you any theories about how the current Kalimantan fires came about? The smoke.must be very pervasive.

    • A few factors I think for the haze over in Kalimantan. First of all dry season with no rain at all for several weeks. Air quality always reduces in such cases. There is lots of land clearing going on, slash and burn, that contributes and sometimes gets out of control as happened last week when at least one person died. The very high temperatures of 37 degrees do not help matters. Global warming perhaps. It felt like two weeks in a roasting hot oven with very poor visibility, with occasional moments of coolness on the mountain tops.

      Yes, I’m sad I didn’t make it to Sabampolulu, as it took a lot of planning and I spent a lot of money on tickets which I now haven’t used. For some reason, if many Indonesians know you can afford a plane ticket, they also think you can pay double or triple or whatever when you actually arrive, even if you’ve been in the country for a long time and understand local prices fairly well.

      It makes you more right wing politically, because if you give them a tip or more than normal, or say yes to a high price, they then expect that higher price as the new normal, and for all other visitors who are visibly not local people. So, it’s difficult to be nice in Indonesia when being nice is seen as a weakness that can be exploited. At present, I feel like never giving a tip ever again here, even to an ojek driver, because much of my own time here is fending off outlandish demands for prices that are not reasonable. If they want to try to get as much from me as possible, then I will try to give as little as possible in return, and show no compassion as it is usually misinterpreted as a sign of undeserving wealth or stupidity to be exploited, when in fact most of my spare money goes on travelling to these kinds of places. No concept of a fair price here…. just take whatever you can get, especially from foreigners, and preferably the entire contents of a wallet. I bet if I offered my bank card and PIN many here would take it and only a handful would say… ‘no, mister, that’s your money and not mine’.

  2. Had planned to hike this mountain today, but it wasn’t to be. After my two hikes in West Kalimantan I was waiting in Sintang airport, as all flights were delayed due to horrendous haze blanketing the province. The shiny new BMKG weather screen terminal was being perused by locals, who seemed unaware that the data on it was from April, and therefore of no use to anyone being 4 months old! Indonesia is full of these facades of professionalism that turn out to be just that…. facades. Anyway, the plan was to get to Makassar the same day (via Pontianak) and then fly out to Bau Bau the following morning. All tickets booked.

    Admittedly, I was feeling quite exhausted, not just from the trekking and the unusually hot temperature (37 degrees!) but also after two weeks of ‘being a foreigner and being continually, constantly reminded of it’. It can get tiresome especially when you are on your own, to the point where you wonder why you are visiting these places when the pain often outweighs the pleasure and you are continually expected to pay higher prices, even when you’re trying to document these spots in order to help local people receive a few more visitors to these remote areas.

    I was really looking forward to Kabaena island and Gunung Sabampolulu (spelt incorrectly on Google Maps and many other places as Sambapolulu) and had been in touch with a local man who had set up a website to try to promote the island and tourism. He had sent me details of how to get to the island from Bau Bau (where there is an airport) but these details were hard to follow as public boats only run once or twice a week. And then it turned out the boat I was going to get had broken down and was out of service.

    So he said I would have to charter a boat to Dongkala on Kabaena island from Mawasangka on Pula Muna (after getting there via a short boat ride from Bau Bau and then shared car a fair distance along the road first). And likewise for my return to Pulau Muna and flight back to Makassar from Raha airport in the north of the island. So it would be Rp1,200,000 for the boat return, as opposed to perhaps only Rp200,000 return (or less) had there been any public boats, plus the costs of actually getting to Mawasangka in the first place. As there was no other way of doing it, I reluctantly agreed.

    He then asked for me to transfer him some money for him to take me to the mountain itself from the main town of Dongkala. Now, it’s only an hour at most from the main town by motorbike. So I asked him how much he needed. The reply came “2 million” not including the boat transport from Mawasangka, and he joked that I could give him a bit extra if I wanted.

    Understandably I was furious. I was now at Pontianak airport, resting, waiting for the onward evening flight to Makassar. It isn’t half tiring dealing with these outlandish money requests, but I was particularly sad as he had initially seemed like a really decent man trying to help me with information. Now, it just felt like he was trying to get as much out of me as possible, as per usual in this country, and perhaps unable to comprehend that money does not just fall out of foreigners’ wallets every time they open them. I work damn hard for my teaching salary and do not take kindly to constant attempts to siphon as much of it off as possible.

    Realistically, getting to the mountain from Dongkala can’t be more than Rp300,000 return on a motorbike, at the very most. The hike…. perhaps staying at the top one night…… Rp700,000 should be more than enough. Therefore anything over 1 million rupiah is just taking the piss.

    So, utterly fed up with him and his kind, I told him I would just cancel everything. Why bother spending leisure time in a place where folk only see you as a dollar sign, and have no capacity for long-term thought and how treating people well in the short-term can lead to repeat visits, international time-consuming promotion done for free on the part of the visitor, and perhaps even friendship (something that I have doubts over whether it exists in many parts of Indonesia once the money stops changing hands).

    He was shocked, and I was annoyed but felt fairly liberated. I’m not chained to this project, after all. I would just go home to Jakarta and have a couple of easy days whilst deciding what to do next. If hiking the gunungs is more trouble than it is worth, more pain and annoyance than pleasure and enjoyment, well then why bother?

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