The biggest lake in North Sulawesi, Lake Tondano has been a long time favourite with locals and tourists alike. Cradled in a natural basin at 600m above sea level surrounded by Mounts Tondano, Kaweng, Lembean, Tampusu and Masarang, it is a cool and scenic retreat away from the hot and humid coast.
Covering an area of 4,278 hectares, Lake Tondano sprawls across three districts, supporting rice and vegetable crops, fishing and tourism although there are signs of strain. Since 1936, the water level has dropped by over two thirds and in 2010 was recorded at only 12m at its deepest point.
Nevertheless, exploring the lake is a lovely way to spend a day. The entire lake can be circumnavigated by road. Take your time exploring the lakeside villages and watching the locals working in their farm plots or drop into a fish farm. Be sure to stop by the Remboken on the western shoreline. The stilted fish farm villages there are fascinating and for lunch, try some fresh Tondano fish or shrimp at one of the lakeside floating restaurants.
If you want to get out on the water, 50.000Rp will buy you a seat in one of the small tour boats that leave from Remboken. Boats depart throughout the day when full (10 passengers) so you may have to wait around awhile. If you prefer, there are multiple places around the lake where you can hire a boat for yourself by the hour, half day or day. The advantage of this is you can ask the boatman to stop whenever you see something interesting, which will likely be often. The best time to be on the water is late afternoon when the locals head out to check their fish nets or harvest water hyacinth, and the light is especially good for photographs.
Lake Tondano is just 5km from Tomohon or 30km (1-1.5hrs) from Monado and can be easily explored in a day. Mikrolet transport from Tomohon go clockwise and anti-clockwise around the lake so you can hop on and off as you please. In my book though, the freedom of exploring on your own hire scooter wins hands down.