Makassar, founded in 1607 is the bustling capital of South Sulawesi. It’s a jump off point for a smattering of dreamy, sand fringed islands just off the coast of the port city. The city also plays host to interesting sites and tales of Indonesia’s history. Those more in tune to the offerings of a modern city, there are international franchises like Sushi Teh and Black Canyon Coffee, as well as indigenous cuisine options that are renowned throughout the archipelago.
But, let us focus on the main reasons why a traveller would haul ass all the way to this wildly contorted mass of land that looks like an octopus after it has been ravaged by the savage claws of the Wolverine.
One of the chef reasons would be to visit the idyllic paradise that takes the form of little gobs of sandy land masses, isolated by crystal clear waters that poke out of the sea ever so slightly. Situated in the coral triangle, the waters surrounding the Indonesian islands are home to an array of biodiversity, found nowhere else on Earth. Pulau Samalona, is only 10 km or a 30 min boat ride from Makassar city. There is quite a bit of development on the island, but there is decent snorkeling to be had here. If you are looking for a bite or accommodations, this is also the place to head to. The grilled fish that the locals sell to visitors here is absolutely delicious, and so is the refreshing coconut juice. Usually visited on the same day trip as Samalona, Pulau Kodingareng Keke is a further 30 mins away and a total of 16.6 km from the city. The corals here are slightly healthier, and you can catch a glimpse of quite a number of reef fish. However, it is also true that there is a burgeoning sea urchin population and much bleaching of the coral beds. The island itself, is a gorgeous sand bank that is barely higher than the sea that surrounds it.
Fort Rotterdam is the main historical site in the city itself. Prior to the arrival of the Dutch, the site was where an older fort was raised in 1634 by the indigenous Makassarese Gowa kingdom. As the balance of power shifted to the Western foreigners, the new fort served as the military and governmental centre of colonial administration up until the 1930s. Now a museum, the exhibits trace the history of the island’s inhabitants from the distant past until modern times.
If you are able to commandeer a vehicle, make your way to the Bantimurung – Bulusarang National Park. At 50 km to the North of Makassar, it takes about an hour’s drive. As you pull up to the park entrance, you will find the deplorable practice of selling insect specimens mounted in display cases. Although the government has officially outlawed the practice, there are still many vendors who find their way around the rules. As you probe further into the jungle reserve, you will find butterflies fluttering is significant numbers. Especially around the pools and in the vicinity of shaded undergrowth.
The lower falls are popular amongst locals on the weekends. The cooling waters of the lower cascades serve as makeshift water-slides, as children rent inflatable rubber rings to sit on and ride down the stream of water. The caves in the area are also 2 caves within easy reach for exploration. The one known as stone cave can be found at the end of the concrete walkway and it about 1 km long. There is some natural rock formations like stalagmites, stalactites and flow stones but I enjoyed the other cave that was about 30 minutes further away and required a scramble along a barely visible path. To get there, you can ask the park staff to take you to the cave which leads to a small wading pool at the other end. The path was slightly challenging, requiring some climbing skills and a good sense of balance. At one point, you would have to enter a cave and walk to exit at the other end, where it opens up to a small pool. As with the water in the area, it has a green tinge, from minerals in the rocks.
How to get there:
Balai Taman Nasional Bantimurung Bulusaraung is found in Maros Regency, 50km north of Makassar. You can hop onto a local mini-bus known as “pete-pete” from Makassar. that will take around 3 hours. Alternatively, a taxi can get you there within an hour from the city.