Making The Most Of Makassar

Posted on March 31st, 2010 at 8:17 am by Akhyari


While Makassar boasts what some claim to be the largest indoor theme park in the world — Trans Studio — a trip to the biggest city in Sulawesi might be better spent outdoors exploring the warm, clear waters of surrounding islands or venturing off for a visit to the cool stream that feeds the Bantimurung waterfall.

Island Hopping: Samalona and Lae-Lae

Makassar, the provincial capital that has served as Sulawesi’s major seaport for hundreds of years, is cradled in the arms of a natural harbor that makes it hard for tourists not to be tempted to step aboard one of the marina’s tour boats and head off to the surrounding islands and atolls.

If you are looking to take a day trip, there is an array of islands to explore, including Samalona, which is a quick seven-kilometer hop, and Kapuposang, 70 km away from the city.

Be sure to arrive at Kayangan Marina, just in front of the famous Fort Rotterdam, early in the morning and try to haggle with a handful of tour guides before deciding on your itinerary. Just like any other tourist destination, the guides can smell a naive traveler and will likely hike up the price of a trip, so be ready to negotiate.

After some fierce bargaining I finally settled on Rp 350,000 ($38.50) for a visit to Samalona and Lae-Lae islands.

The crew of three quickly loaded the boat and my friends I set off for the 45-minute ride out to Samalona.

Arriving on the island is like reuniting with an old friend. Once on the island a warm familiar feeling, probably in part to the smiling faces of the locals, seeps over you. Most of the 15 families living there make their living catering to visitors or fishing the water that surround the tiny 300-by-600-meter, oval-shaped isle.

The island was very relaxing. I snorkeled here and there, changing spots every hour or so without being bothered.

While Samalona is beautiful, the underwater vistas leave something to be desired. Various marine life can be seen in the calm, clear waters, but the snorkeling is subpar at best. I read that Samalona was once famous for its surrounding reef, beautiful sea garden and colorful tropical fish, but these glories are now a thing of the past.

Nonetheless, putting my head down in the crystal waters and feeling the beach breeze at my back made for a very tranquil experience.

With no restaurants on Samalona, visitors usually just buy their lunch straight from the fishermen. During my trip, the catch of the day was fresh fish for Rp 20,000. But there’s another catch: Rp 20,000 gets you the fish and the fish only. You must pay an additional Rp 50,000 if you want rice and chili to go with your meal.

After lunch, it was time to climb back on the boat and set off for Lae-Lae Island.

Lae-Lae, just 1.5 km from the capital and easily visible from the mainland, is just a 15-minute boat ride from Makassar’s famous Losari Beach, where tourists flock each night to walk the pier and enjoy the sunset.

Unfortunately, proximity to the mainland leaves Lae-Lae’s beach riddled with trash, making the waters surrounding the island a bad choice for snorkeling or swimming. Nevertheless, wandering the island and strolling the shores of Lae-Lae makes for a cultural treat.

The densely populated island is home to more than 400 families who, for the most part, subscribe to the traditional way of life. Old men nap quietly in the shade as the waves lap softly against the hulls of the fishermen’s ancient wooden boats while children joyfully play outside the mosque, giving the island it’s own distinct rhythm.

Bantimurung Waterfall Park

The Bantimurung waterfall takes its name from the local phrase membanting kemurungan , which translates as a place to get rid of sadness, and the cascade’s name says it all. The tranquil setting, complete with rare butterflies, lush valleys and steep limestone hills, is clearly capable of washing away any sorrow.

If your feeling adventurous Bantimurung, which is 15 km from Makassar, is easily accessible by pete-pete (public minivan) or a taxi.

After an hour and a half and three separate connections, I was at the gates of Bantimurung Waterfall Park, which 19th-century British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace referred to as the “kingdom of the butterflies.”

But sadly, the growing trade in catching and collecting the gossamer-winged insects for tourist souvenirs is making their kingdom slowly disappear.

The butterfly museum inside the park, meanwhile, fails to properly showcase Bantimurung’s biodiversity. The collection is sad. Torn butterflies are displayed in a dusty glass windows featuring discolored labels. Some pins and identifiers for the once-brilliant insects are even missing. The stained floor and gloomy atmosphere of the one-room museum only encourages visitors to head back outside and enjoy the splendid scenery as soon as possible.

The park is always teeming with visitors. Families come and throw blankets down for picnics, while children and teenagers enjoy the cool water of the falls.

As I climbed past the picnickers and up the pathway, the waterfall — a 15-meter cascade of sparkling water flowing down between rocky cliffs into a stream shaded by trees — came into view. There are two different ways to enjoy the waterfall and the stream that leads away from it. Older visitors are free to climb the stairs and enjoy the scenery from above, while young adrenaline junkies can rent an inner tube and brave the tiny rapids below. As for me, I chose to do both.

The view from the top of the waterfall is nothing short of mystical one of the most interesting things to do at the park is watch the various species of butterflies flutter along the river below.

About 800 meters up the hill from the main waterfall, visitors are free to explore Gua Batu (Stone Cave), which is full of stunning stalactites and Gua Mimpi (Dream Cave), which is renowned for its raucous bats.

Outside the park, hawkers bombard tourists with an array of butterfly souvenirs, from simple key chains and T-shirts to actual butterflies tucked under glass. Having a keepsake to remember your travels is always good, but visitors should think twice before putting Sulawesi’s biodiversity at further risk .

Source: The Jakarta Globe

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