Agus Kamba – Bad Tour Guide in Gorontalo

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We were nine pax in the group. Two peoples are locals including myself and the rest are from a few different countries. Our initial plan is to explore Gorontalo and stay in the Togean Islands for four days three nights. After multiple times phone calls and hundreds of messages sent, we finally finalized the date, cost, and details. Our travel date is from August 16-22, 2018. After doing some research from online to offline and confirmations from the guide, I decided to fly in from Gorontalo and flying out from Palu. From the original five days plan extended to seven days with a plan to visit Lore Lindu National Park after from Togean Islands. And because of some of us might extend in Palu, to be easier, I requested to calculate for me the total cost excluding the last two nights accommodation.

 

• • •

The Beginning

As he was recommended by a friend and looking at his track records, I didn’t worry much and I counted on him for advice. Especially this would be my first time to be there and I wasn’t sure what if the things would turn out like what I expected. I also asked if he would be coming with us to Palu or whether the driver knew how to get us there. It’s very clear that he said he would only accompany us until Togean Islands and his friend would accompany us to Lore Lindu National Park and Palu. That looked good to me as long as someone coming with us.

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After a long back and forth messages exchanged and to avoid the confusion, I summarize what we have discussed and requested him to check if everything is okay – to ensure that we got the same understanding and avoid any unnecessary issues during the trip. I don’t like “surprises”. Every time if there are any changes, I would summarize the whole thing and asked him to check again. I even called him about two weeks before the travel date and run through the day to day activities, from day 1 to 7, to ensure everything was clear, ready and good to go. As I also need to share a more detailed itinerary with the rest of the people in the group so that they can get prepared as well.

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The day I called him to run through the itinerary day to day

The Itinerary

After the phone call, I tidied up the itinerary based on our last conversation and shared it with the rest of the people in the group. Everything looked good and we were ready for the trip. The final detailed itinerary as following:

DAY 1 (16 Aug): Airport – Explore Gorontalo – overnight in Gorontalo (L)
Reach Gorontalo at around 6.30 am. As we likely can’t check in to our hotel yet, so, please prepare your suit for snorkelling and clothing to change afterwards. From the airport, we will go to the whale shark point. The journey takes about an hour. We can swim with them or just watch from the boat. After that, we will go to Olele for snorkelling. We shall reach back to our hotel at around 2-3 pm. Check-in and rest until dinner time.

DAY 2 (17 Aug): Gorontalo – Togean (by speedboat) (L,D)
Depart from the hotel the latest by 5 am to the port. The journey takes about 2.5-3 hours. Reach the port around 8 am and go to the Togean islands by speedboat which will take about 3 hours as well. Reach Togean, then check-in to Kadidiri Resort. Get ready to explore jellyfish lake and island hopping (Pulau Hantu, Barakuda Beach) and snorkelling (Karina Beach).

DAY 3 (18 Aug): Togean (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we will go to Pulau Papan and snorkelling at a few points such as California Reef, Reef 1, 2, and 3. Then lunch on the island and enjoy the sunset back in the resort. Dinner and free time.

DAY 4 (19 Aug): Explore Una Una (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we will go to Una Una. Una Una is a few hours away from where we stay. We will go for a light trekking to explore the Gunung Api on Una Una Island and snorkelling around the island.

*Island hopping points are subject to change depending on the weather
*For those who dive, the itinerary will be slightly different. 

DAY 5 (20 Aug): Togean – Ampana – Palu (B)
After breakfast, we will go to Banta where we will see the panoramic view of the Togean Islands. We will need to trek a little bit here. Then back to the resort and get ready to check out and catch our ferry to Wakai at 2 pm. Reach Ampana around 3 pm and head right away to Palu. Reach Palu around 10 pm and check in to the hotel.

DAY 6 (21 Aug): Lore Lindu National Park (B)
After breakfast, we will start at around 8 am to Lore Lindu National Park. If time permits, we will visit the waterfall nearby.

DAY 7 (22 Aug): Palu – Airport (B)
Early check out at 5.30 am and head to the Palu Airport.

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The last summary of the trip based on the conversation on the phone. No more changes after this.
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The Execution

Day 1. Everything was fine. From the pick up to the Whale shark point, snorkelling at Olele as well as visiting Otanaha Fortress (part of the city tour) before dinner time. We were suggested to have dinner at the restaurant a few doors away from where we stayed. So that we wouldn’t be too tired as we needed to wake up early the next morning to Marisa for our speedboat ride to the Togean Islands. I asked whether we could find something to eat for breakfast tomorrow so that we could prepare some food if there weren’t any. He said there are stalls selling food where we can buy.

Day 2. Woke up early, 3.45 am standby at the lobby heading to Marisa. About three hours later we reached and no shops were opening except the fruit stalls not really far from the hotel along the way where we stopped to buy some fruits to bring to Togean islands. That was August 17th, a public holiday. I thought okay, no stalls open because of that. We cut fruits to fill up our tummy after two really light breakfast (slices of bread with jam) prepared by the hotel. Another three hours speedboat ride to Togean Islands right to the Kadidiri Paradise Resort. Everything was okay. We snorkelled right in front of the jetty while waiting for our lunch and our rooms to be ready.

We stayed there for three nights. When we were checking in, I was told that the occupants of one of the rooms need to move every night. I was only aware there is one room that needs to move and only on the 2nd night and not every night. I was the one who booked for this last room and had been informed in advance by the resort which I agreed to it. After I showed what I had been told through the message I received, the lady reconfirmed and said yes to follow based on the message I had. This room was supposed to be occupied by myself hence I didn’t mind at all to change room as I understand it was during peak season.

There were two friends joined in later, so I gave them the room because there was no room available anymore in Kadidiri Paradise and I thought it would be better for them to stay together with the rest of the people in the group in the same place. I informed them upon check-in that they need to move on the second night and they were okay. I stayed at Black Marlin Resort (next to Kadidiri Paradise).

Agus told us that he would stand by on the island and there would be another guy, Imam, who would accompany us. Our group was divided into two boats and we went to the jellyfish lake and places as per itinerary except for the Karina Beach which somehow we skipped because we were told the current was strong that time. The other boat went far off from my boat and I didn’t know what actually happening until we caught them up again in the last stop – Barakuda Beach. Day 2 went off without any big issue.

Day 3. We were informed to have breakfast at 7 am and we would set off at 7.30 am. The fact was after I had my breakfast at Black Marlin at 7 am and I approached them before 7.30 am at the dining area, the breakfast was not ready yet. The breakfast was served per pax per portion and some of them had not got it yet. I didn’t think too much as I thought just coincidence the service was slow. As we would be out for the whole day, we got our lunch in a lunch box. While they were still having their breakfast, I checked with Imam if they remembered to prepare a vegetarian lunch box as I really know about that so he went to check with the kitchen. And later on, I just found out that the person in charge in the resort forgot to inform the kitchen to serve the breakfast earlier. In the end, we set off only at around 8 plus.

I was on one boat and Imam was on another boat. Our destination was going to Pulau Papan which took about 3 hours away from the Kadidiri Resort. However, along the way, we did stop at California Reef for snorkelling first. I was a little puzzled because the other boat stopped at the conservation house, far away from us. Our boatman told us we supposed to start snorkelling from here to the conservation house, following the current and he would pick us up near to the conservation house. We did as he said as that’s what I usually do for other snorkelling trips. The California Reef 1,2,3 were amazing. We saw many fish and healthy reefs.

We reached the conservation house and got back to our boat. And I asked my friends from another boat what they think about this snorkelling spot. They said seeing not much because the current was strong. I was like..aah…that’s a shame. I mean how can they have a different information of what is the best way to snorkelling at this quite popular snorkelling spot? It seemed that there’s a disagreement between the boatmen. Carried on, we went to Pulau Papan and finally snorkelling around Pulau Papan and Bolilanga before going back to the resort. Although there was a miss here and there, everything was okay overall.

Before the trip, I had informed that there are two people in the group want to dive. He had given me the price information for diving which is three dives around Kadidiri and two dives in Una Una. Because diving in Kadidiri was somehow not happening because they were told that there are not enough divers and that on top of the diving cost, they still have to share the boat cost to dive which we just knew it, so they dropped the idea. Hence, the only chance to dive was only at Una Una. The original plan was those who dive would go on a separate boat and for those who don’t, would go for trekking on Una Una. Meaning, all will still go to Una Una whether diving or not.

I didn’t understand how the actual arrangement is and I also think that is not really the part I need to know as well. All I know that according to the itinerary, we all would go to Una Una the next day and for that we have to pay additional for speedboat going to Una Una which I already agreed and prepared. I started to be alarmed when Agus and Imam were busing looking for the boats only that evening for tomorrow excursion. And they conclude that we would go to Una Una with two boats and for those who want to dive would right away approach the dive centre on the island while the rest would explore the island. We were all excited and that’s how they day 3 ended.

Day 4. We were told that breakfast will be at 7.30 am and depart at 8 am from Kadidiri Paradise. I came out for breakfast at 7 am in Black Marlin and while I was having my breakfast, Agus came to me and saying that one room needs to change room. I was kinda shocked. Why? He said that it’s already booked much in advance by other guests. What’s more agitated me was why you just said it now and not the night before? And why you didn’t inform us when we checked-in? Why a sudden move like this? He said he had asked the guys to change room and they didn’t willing to and he hoped I could talk to the girls. I was sure they would be unhappy and even if they were willing to move, they still needed time to pack their stuff. And they might still be having their breakfast now and we were about to leave.

The sudden changed was unacceptable to me. Even so, I tried to approach the girls in the dining area. And guess what, it’s already 7.30 and no sign of breakfast yet until I asked Agus and Imam to check with the kitchen. I tried to talk to the girls and they are not willing to because it doesn’t make sense that they have to move to other room because of other guests coming in. Their reaction was understandable – they still need to pack, they haven’t had their breakfast, and we were so tight in time plus we were informed so last minute. So, it was no – they didn’t agree to move. Just if, it was informed to us much earlier during check-in, the outcome might not be the same.

After breakfast, we were ready to go to Una Una. And I still need to remind Agus about the vegetarian lunch box. I don’t know how is the handling process between the resort and Agus. I think it was forgotten because we waited quite a while before we really set off. A delay after a delay. We reached Una Una about three hours later at around 11.20 am just to find that all the divers at Una Una Sanctum have set off and the next available slot was at 4 pm. That will be too late as we still need three hours to go back to the resort. This shouldn’t be happening. About this diving, it’s been informed way far before the trip, and it seemed not in the plan at all.

I asked Imam to think of a solution. And he suggested to check out the resort next door, Pristine Paradise. Luckily, there is a 1.15 pm time slot but I still wasn’t sure if we could join the dive as the divemaster was sick and it’s the owner himself led the group out. So, no one was there to confirm whether we could join. And the only way to find out was to wait for them to come back. As there is still about 1 hour plus away, I told my friends who want to dive that if they don’t mind to miss the activities for that day, we could try our luck to stay back and wait for the owner to come back. They agreed.

Considering the time-constraint, and I wasn’t there to make a decision on the spot, I asked Imam to bring the group to proceed with the rest of the activities as we discussed – village, snorkelling spot and trekking. See whichever feasible. The trekking will take about 4 hours both ways. So, I told him to bring them to the furthest point as they could and make a turn back if time has run out. I and the other two guys stayed back and waited for the owner to come back at around 1 pm. I forgot to get our lunch boxes from the boat for three of us, so while waiting, we had fried instant noodle for lunch ordered from the resort. I thought that time, okay, everything should be okay.

When the owner came back, we were welcomed to join. And around 1.15 pm we started preparing and checking our gears at the dive centre and then we went off to the dive spot not far from the resort. We started to dive at 14.10 and the dive time was 42 minutes. We got back to the resort and took off all the gears back to the dive centre was about 15.40 something. And three of us met back with the rest of the group before 4 pm. And what surprised me most was when they told me that they already came back before 2 pm and the snorkelling spot was bad. I asked Imam about the trekking. He said it’s far so they didn’t go. At that point, I didn’t what to say anymore. I was frustrated – many little things I have been trying to tolerate, I still tried to stay calm. We set off back to Kadidiri Paradise not long after that, around 4.15 pm.

Another issue came after we reached back to Kadidiri Paradise. I walked into the resort the last one as to make sure everyone had reached safely. On the way to the restaurant, I saw the two girls, Agus and the lady from the resort were having an argument and I was told that Agus and the lady had moved all their things from their room to the new room – which is clearly unacceptable. The manager was called to respond to this incident and the argument happened for quite long. Agus said that he had informed me..okay..I said that he informed me way far way before the departure and I requested to avoid changing room. He said he will try and he and the receptionist didn’t update me anything about that even during check-in it wasn’t been told at all. He was there.

While the one room that I booked myself which I was clearly aware, the receptionist did remind me about that. He indirectly admits that he forgot to reconfirm about the room matter. The manager felt apologetic and admit that it’s not right to move the things without its owner. My friends asked for a compensation. They had the right to ask for it, I didn’t comment further about their reactions. Just if, it was informed to us much earlier or during check-in, the outcome might not be the same.

One little miss to another, from day to day, I felt exhausted to “fix” it. That night I was late for dinner as I actually didn’t feel to have one. But my commitment was to meet them after dinner as to make sure they don’t feel I leave them alone and to brief them the next day plan. Another surprise was that our boat to Wakai would leave at 9 am instead of 2 pm as per schedule, which means the morning plan for that day was cancelled. So, they changed their boat schedule or something. On the other side, I didn’t think that is totally bad since we still had a long journey go to Palu. Nonetheless, we were told that we will leave at 9 am and to gather at the restaurant before that.

The Unexpected

Day 5. Today, supposedly to be a more relaxing day. Officially, I told everyone to gather at 8.30 am. A little bit later than the previous days. I had my breakfast at 7.30 am, a little bit later and back to my room to pack everything getting ready for check out. I went to Kadidiri Paradise before 8.30 am and I was told that some of them have gone back to the room because they were told that to gather at 9 am not leave at 9 am. Oh my…it’s clear though that we were told we would leave at 9 am. About the time punctuality and such, this trip I would say is the worst that I ever had. Especially when we were on the island, any minutes can make a big difference. Weather can turn around in minutes.

Anyway, I put my stuff down and sat down in front of the resort with one friend. And not long after that, I saw one boat sailing out, passing in front of the resort and I was alarmed because we were supposed to go on that boat. And it was only 8.45 am. Imam said the receptionist lady forgot to inform or she wasn’t around to arrange. How can that be possible…? At that time, I didn’t think much. As long as we still could get onto the boat to Wakai and catch our ferry to Ampana. We still have about 2 hours of free time before our ferry departed, we walked around the market in Wakai and then had a coffee and tea at the warung opposite the terminal. Agus was there having his breakfast I supposed and without I realized he had gone to somewhere when others came in. I didn’t think much as I was looking out to see if anyone going back to terminal looking for us.

We finally depart to Ampana at 12 noon and reached about 2 pm plus. We hopped onto the minibus and had our lunch stop not far from the terminal. Imam was with us as I supposed he should have because I thought he would accompany us until the last day (as what Agus said a guide will be with us). After finished with our lunch, it was already about 3.30 pm, and I was puzzled when Imam said he’s not going with us. His job was only until Ampana. At that moment, I still didn’t think much and thought the driver would be our guide then since tomorrow we would only be going to the Lore Lindu National Park and they would have the local guide there. So, we set off as per plan to Palu, 6-8 hours drive.

As usual, I would try to get to know the driver by asking his name and so. When I asked if he knew where we were going, he didn’t seem to know. And from the way he responded to my questions, he didn’t look like what a usual driver would do – chatty, friendly, and like to talk about the place of interest around. I still thought that okay…maybe he’s not that type of people that like to talk or maybe he can’t focus if someone keeps talking to him. So, I didn’t talk much and every once in a while trying to check the google map on my phone. The signal was on and off along the way.

After a while, I was thinking, while watching the driver eyes once in a while. I came out with a thought, “Don’t say that Agus only arrange this bus to drop us all in Palu and that’s it?” I tried to contact Agus but he didn’t respond and I just remember he’s not reachable because he’s on the ferry way back to Gorontalo. So, I contacted Imam although I knew this had nothing directly to do with him. I just wanted to make sure that what I had in my mind won’t be happening. To my horror, he said, “Yes, the bus will only drop you all in Palu. This bus won’t be going to Lore Lindu. I asked Agus who will guide you all in Palu but he didn’t answer.” 

I felt disappointed more than upset. Our agreement is from day 1 to day 7. Why would he do that? As it’s already quite late, I tried to contact whoever can help to prepare transport for us tomorrow. And another surprise is when the new guide that will accompany us sad that Lore Lindu National Park can’t be done in a day because the journey will take at least 5 hours. When I did the research, definitely with the help of the map, it indicated 3.5 hours one way. I decided to stay in Palu and planned a day trip to there because the distance from Ampana to Lore Lindu which was too far. But I didn’t expect this as well. The guide agreed but the road is hilly and the map isn’t accurate as the fact is.

For this matter, I also had sought Agus’ advice and he didn’t mention this at all. I shared thoroughly the plan like what I usually did to my other guides, but why he didn’t say anything at all. If he didn’t know then he should have said so and not saying yes to everything. At that moment, I calculated that we would only reach our hotel around 2 am the earliest which originally I expected we would reach the latest 12 am. It’s been a long journey to Palu but since the guide had advised so, I heed his advice as I wasn’t sure I could accept another blowout anymore. It’s a struggle to inform others.

From one to another issue, and now the transportation, and now change of the plan. I tried to stay calm and do what I should do. We have got the transportation for tomorrow and now where to go? The guide suggested a few places and we tried to go along with it. Tanjung Karang in Donggala is the main place with few other places if time permits and by 4 pm the latest we should have been back to our hotel. We checked in at 2 am plus and agreed to gather at the lobby at 9 am the next morning.

Day 6. I asked the guide to come earlier so we could have a talk before heading out. Everyone was on-time. We stopped by at the local supermarket to get some snacks. The journey to Tanjung Karang was about an hour. The main activity was snorkelling. We rented a boat out for snorkelling and the rest who chose not to come along, they enjoyed their time by the beach. We had our lunch at the rented cottage by the beach. Before 2 pm, we left the place and went shopping for local snacks to bring back home.

Reach back hotel around 4 pm and we went out for dinner at 7 pm. It was optional as to give them some free time. I would say, it went not that bad although I believed not everyone was happy with the change of plan. I’ve tried to do what I could at that moment, I couldn’t think of anything else. While I was still chasing Agus and ask for his response about this and also the compensation about the incident in Kadidiri Paradise.

Day 7. The trip ends. It’s between sad to be apart with the group after a week and gladness as I could rest after this and following up the issue with Agus.

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Below is the last conversation we had and I have given deadlines to Agus to respond to this matter. It’s already due and therefore, this post is up here on my blog.

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All these times, I have put too much consideration maybe towards the local guides. I always paid up everything in advance as I don’t want them to have difficulty to make the booking for the facilities we need and so on. There are many good guides I met for the past 5 years, this is just one of the bad ones. I hope there won’t be any second person to be on my list.

Agus Kamba Profiles:
• Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aguskamba/
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gusckam.luphinchay

If you have further questions about this person, feel free to contact me.

• • •

UPDATES:

29/08/2018 No responses from him after one week from the due date. I published this article and he blocked me on Facebook and Whatsapp after that.

30/08/2018 He unblocked me after I made a report to the chief of Gorontalo Tourist Guide. I informed him of the financial damage he has caused and requested him to refund the portions of the trip that he didn’t fulfil. The total damage he caused is around IDR5,500,000,- (five million and five hundred Indonesian Rupiah) covers the trekking costs in Una Una, Lore Lindu National Park and transportation for the last two days which he promised.

I requested him to refund the 60% of it first and the remaining the latest by end of September. I gave him one day to think about it. I unpublished this post and I was hoping he would try to do something and not just running away. Our reputations (me and the Travel Agent I partnership with, and many other related people) are ruined – no costs can ever recover this back again.

31/08/2018 One day is up and no news from Agus. He blocked me again on Whatsapp.

1/09/2018 I posted updates on this case and published this post again. Hope this won’t happen to any other people. At this point in time, I and Travel Agent haven’t yet finished dealing with the damages. It is not as simple as 1+1=2.

• • •

It is a pain for me to have to write this post. I learnt my lesson. Just that I never thought I have to deal with such a bad experience when I am thinking to break away for a while from organizing trips after this year. Maybe I shouldn’t have thought of that. Maybe.

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