Sangir is located in the Celebes Sea, between the Indonesian Island of Sulawesi and the Philippines. Sangir today is part of the nation of Indonesia.

A very large volcano on the island, Gunung Awu, is very active, with eruptions as recently as 1979. Over 8,000 people have been killed by this volcano.

Awu Photo

The Sangir islands spread down from Mindanao, south of the Philippines to the North Sulawesi peninsula with the Celebes Sea to the west and Maluku Sea to the east of the archipelago. They cover an area of 44,000 square kilometer of sea and 2,263 square kilometer of land.

The district actually consists of 77 islands, of which 56 islands are inhabited. The largest islands of the group are Karakelang, Salibabu, Kabaruan, Karatung, Nanusa and Miangas.

The large island of Karakelang is often referred to as 'Sangir' on old maps. Today the name Sangir applies to the group of islands listed above. Sangir is sometimes spelled "Sangihe".

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, we can posit that these islands were once a landmass connecting the Philippines and Indonesia together.

Due to the proximity to deep seas both east and west of the islands, the currents emerging out of the deep bring plenty of plankton and nutrient rich water to the shallows, allowing the entire region to be blessed with a prolific and intricate pristine underwater habitat.

The underwater landscapes vary from steep drop-offs with crevices and caves to sandy slopes with sporadic coral overgrown rocks and pinnacles, to slopes of volcanic rock originating from former lava flows off the islands. They are usually lined with an ensemble of huge gorgonian fans, vase sponges, sea whips, and most impressive stag-horn, lettuce, table and mushroom corals. Now and again temporary moderate to strong currents, altered our dive profile into a drift dive, surprise us.

Most of the people live from agricultural products, such as coconut, vanilla, nutmeg and clove.


The most northernmost island lies only 250km from Mindanao in the Philippines. The islands capital is Tahuna with the airport Naha 21 km away. There are flights to Manado and ferries to Bitung on Sulawesi.

The large Gunung Awu volcano (1,320 m) occupies the northern end of Sangir Island. Gunung Awu is a very active volcano - the eruptions have caused more than 8,000 fatalities!

The last eruption was in 1979. Another smaller volcano further south also regularly spews forth ash and lava.

The northwest side of Sangihe Island is the site of a "lost city", reputed to have been swallowed by the sea a long time ago. It is difficult to ascertain the location of this modern-day Atlantis, but it is great fun to try.

These islands are inhabited by many rare and exotic birds and mammals. There are several parrots among them the Red-and-blue Lory (Eos histrio) and other birds such as the Talaud Rail and bush-hen and the Sangihe Scops owl that are very rare or nearly extinct.

The Karakelang Hunting Reserve on Karakelang island is for hunting wild buffaloes and wild pigs, but it is also good for birding.


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This page updated: Sunday, August 30, 2009