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Trips around Makassar
Caves, Coral and Falls

Just off the coast of Makassar is one of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. Beautiful formations of cora, around which colorfull fish swim; curious sharks look from a distance while marine life finds it's way.

The threathened reef

In the last decades the coral reefs around the scattered islands off the coast of Makassar has been severely damaged, partially by explosives used by fishermen, partially by collectors of coral and shells. Tridacna gigas, the huge shell which is used in churches here, has been extinct. The populations of corals and reef life in this area, which once was the most rich in numbers in the world, has strongly decreased. It's still possible to save the reef: fishing with dynamite is forbidden (although it's not strictly obeyed) and collecting corals and shells is discouraged. In any case is will stay a seagarden, with better possibilities to swim than along the beaches of the mainland. Further off the coast the corals, seeweads and coral algae change with the physical features of the submarine area: the first zone is almost dead, but from 6 to 60 km off the coast, where the sea floor suddently plunges 2000 meters, the reef is full of life.

Islands and sand plates

Some islands are inhabited or almost inhabited; others have big villages based on fishery or trade. Most offer shade because of the coconut-palms, breadfruit trees and other trees. One of the best places for swimming and snorkling is the reef area of Samalona, an island with white sandy beaches, enough shade and some coral. Before the independence it was only accessible by members of the hunting club Makassar and the members of 'De Harmonie' society. Now everyone is welcome which can pay for renting a boat.
Other coral islands, among them Barang Lompo, Barang Caddi and Kudingareng Lombo are all inhabited. Barang Lompo, with a few thousand inhabitansa, provides drinking water to the surrounding islands; a small warung sells simple but good seafood dishes. Barang Lompo, Pandang Lae-Lae and Kayangan are less good for taking a swim. Bone Tambung is a small island which is surrounded by a big reef.
Another nice place to snorkle or dive is Kudingarang Keke, an inhabited sand plate which doesn't offer any shade, accept a woodden house. The sand it blindingly white, the corals almost untouched. You will find exceptionally beautiful fish there and sometimes a barracuda. The reef is large and falls for 35 meters to a sandy bottom at the end. Take enough food and drinks with you. The trip from the harbor takes about one hour.

The deep

Experienced divers should to go Kapoposang. Besides some currents, one to two knots, diving is an exitement, even for them. During diving you should see reef-sharks, batfish, a big crocodile fish with it's poisonous stings and many others. A memorable thing to experience. Chances are high to see big fish like tuna, snapper and sometimes even a big manta.
This rich fauna is here thanks to the location of Kapoposang, at the edge of a wide shallow area scattered with little islands which stretches west of Makassar. Just past Kapopolang the seafloor suddenly descends to several hundred meters to ascend again athe the continental plate of Kalimantan.

Kapoposang is located about 20 nautical miles from Makassar. The almost two hour trip by speadboat is no fun, even not in the morning when the sea is relatively calm, but the trip is worth while. The reef suddenly descends to a depth: at certain places it dives almost vertically , at other locations the reef is 'broken' by deep gorge or pinched by little inlets and labyrynths which are populated with sponge-like animals. The visibility under water is exceptionally good, sometimes upto 30 meters horizontally. Since the afternoon normally brings a stronger wind and higher waves, you have the choice between diving two times before the afternoon or spending the night - in tents or among local population, the happy Buginese.
For those who think they are to inexperienced for diving at Kapoposang, it's more easy but less abundant to dive near Makassar. Several shipwrecks have been located here, among them a Japanese one. Fantastic material for exploration when the water is clear (rarely). Pulau Samalona is also worth while a try, it's located 15 minutes from the city. Huts are available for spending the night. Here you can see nice corals. The reef descends to 15 meters here, which makes the reef very nice for diving at night.

Natural beauty and prehistoric caves

A little north of Makassar are limestone rock formations in the mountain range that stretches from Maros to Pangkajene. The area is enriched with natural beauty, with white falls and bright butterflies. The limestone hills are also known because of their prehistoric caves in which remains of neolithical humans have been found. Some caves are open to public; a visit can be combined with a trip to the falls of Bantimurung.
To get to Bantimurung you have to take a bemo to Maros, one hour north of Makassar, and then a second to the east, towards Bone. Bemo to Maros leave from the central bemo-station; the trip takes one hour. When leaving the city you will maybe see men with carts loaded with bamboo and people on bikes with leaves of the nipah-palm from the swampy areas northeast of the city. These leaves have been the fundamental roofing in this area for centuries. Interesting is the relative new building from the provincial government at the left side: it has roofs in five layers, something that was only used by Buginese and Makassarese royals in the past.

Picture: Marine life

About five kilometers outside the city the road runs along an old Chinese graveyard of about 12 ha. The oldest graves, at the back, have been there for over a century; most others were transported here in the 1970's because they were removed from the central graveyard which has been replaced by a central market now. All these graves were replaced again for the construction for buildings of the provinvial government. A kilometer down the road you will find a heroes graveyard as well as a christian one.
Beyond the burial sites a sharp turn to the right follows, just before you reach the power plant on your way to the orchid garden of Bundt. Stay on the main road and see the new campus of Universitas Hasanuddin. The campus, built with support of the Asian Development Bank, was opened in September 1980.
Further down the road on the right side, just before a military camp, is a Balinese temple, Pura Giri Natha. The suncretic character of the temple is pretty well expressed by the statues of Krisna and Buddha. The first road to the left after you have entered kabupaten (region) Maros, leads to the mosque-headquarters of the mystical order of Khalwatiah.
After crossing the Maros river you will enter the new governmental center of the city. Here you can take a bemo to Bantimurung. The road runs towards the east to Bone and Bantimurung, through the older part of the city of Maros. About ten kilometers ahead a turn to the right brings you to the archeological park (Taman Purbaka Leang-Leang). The caves in this area, the most accessible for public in the region, have prehistoric paintings of 5,000 years old. There are 55 of such caves in South-Sulawesi , where the limestone tocks of the central mountain range have been excavated. The caves are a precious source of information about the prehistory of South-Sulawesi as well as Southeast Asia in common; archeologists here try to expand their knowledge of the area. Unfortunatly their work is being hampered by looters, which destroy sites of findings in their seach for antique porcelain, as well as farmers which remove the soil to enrich their exhausted fields.

The caves of Ulu Leang seems to have been inhabited between 8,000 and 3,000 BC. The two caves are Ulu Leang I or Gua Pette and Ulu Leang II, Gua Pettakere. In the clear mountain stream at the cave entrances you can have a nice swim. Follow the signs to the cashiers to enter the caves. In Gua Pette, 15 x 20 meters large, you can see handprints on the wall. Ulu Leang II can be accessed from the southern side of the rock, about twenty meters above the bottem of Ulu Leang I, and has other small entrances which lead to the rock wall. This cave was probably used as burial site, because human remains have been found there. On the rock above the opening you can see a heavily damaged drawing of a babirousa. With a flashlight, the other caves can be visited as well, where you can also find an identical drawing.
Further along the road you can find other caves: they are less clearly marked, but also accessible for the public. This are Leang Jarie, Leang Saripa and Leang Karrasa. Here you can also find old handprints.

Falls and butterflies

From the caves you return to the main road and take a passing bemo to go to Bantimurung. The entrance of the park cant be missed: the road runs under the legs of a 6 meter concrete monkey. This area, with it's spectacular falls, clifs and gorges, butterflies and birds, has always attracted visitors. In 1856-1857 the English zoologist Russel Wallace, man from the 'Line of Wallace', spend some of hist 'most pleasurable moments of his life' here. He caught many rare insects, birds and butterflies, among them the Papilio androcles, one of the biggest and most rare butterflies. Wallace wrote: 'Such gorges and steep descends as they appear here, I not yet seen in the archipelago...'. His detailed descriptions attracted big numbers of archeologists, prehistorics and butterfly-fanatics, among them the Russian-American enthomologue and novel writer Vladimir Nabokow, which wrote a scientific article about the butterflies that he had discovered here.

Nowadays Bantimurung is a protected area, since many wild animals are threathened by too enthousiastic collectors. Nevertheless visitors are besieged by dozens of kids with beautifully colored butterflies. The best time to see living butterflies is when the sun appears after a rainshower.
In the dry season the fall is a curtain of clear, splashing water, which falls down from the rocks into deep ponds for about 12 meters. Steep steps besides the fall lead to the river above. Unless the current is too strong (like usual during the wet season) you can walk from the bank to a sandbank in the river, fifty meters from the left side. From there, a shadowy path brings you to a second fall in the jungle. This one is smaller byt wider. The pond is nice, but sometimes dangerous to swim in, because whirlpools can occur. Nearby you can find a cave where you will need a flashlight for. Here is a popular place for a picknick, especially on Sundays, and a very nice place for a walk, a swim or just to enjoy the beauty of the nature. The placement of big concrete frogs has done some damage to the beauty of the fall. It's worth while to walk to the river behind the fall. It runs through a dark rocky gorge.


Two hours and 70 kilometers east of Makassar is the remarkably fresh market city of Malino on the lower slopes of Gunung Bawa Karaeng. It can be reached with buses and minibuses, which repart on a regular base from the main bus terminal in Makassar. The road runs towards the south through Sungguminasa, where you can stop to see the ruins and the old palace.
After the palace of Gowa the road to Malino goes straight at the intersection (the road to the right goes to Jeneponto and the southern coast). After that the bus passes the Pabrik Kertas Gowa, when built in 1962 it was the biggest papermill in Indonesia. It was seen as a sign op hope for the province, which had long stayed behind because of political unrest. The plant, built with Japanese support, used about 80 percent bamboo for the pulp, and smaller amounts of acacia, mangrove and pinetree wood.

Across the factory is Banau Mawang, once a favorite spot to sail between the abundant lotus flowers. They are gone, just like the boats, but you can still picknick under the trees.
92 kilometers ahead towards Malino you will find a natural silk project. Since 1974, silk-catarpillars are grown here with the help from the Japanese and Chinese. Farmers in South-Sulawesi are given their eggs, which they grow into adults.
The road to Malino was completed in 1927, after which the city was developped into a recreational area for Makassar. In the colonial period it was a mountain resort where the Dutch fled to from the heat of the coastal planes. The most important moment for Malino arrived in 1946, when the 'Malino Conference' formed the base for the failing of the Dutch federalism in post-war Indonesia.
On Sunday mornings, market day, the quiet city comes to life. The area is known for it's vegetables and fruit, tomatoes (tamarillos), passionfruit (markisa) and avocado's. You will also find orchids, birds and woven baskets. In May and November Malino is on fire because of the flowers of the high tulip-trees, which grow along the road and the park.


In this area you can make nice trips through pine forests and ricefields, surrounded by falls, mountains and rivers. Two spectacular falls can be reached from a small road south of Malino, just after the Takapola bridge in Desa Buluttana. Right of the road the Balaniparang falls 100 meters along a steep rock wall. A little ahead there is a small fall on the left side of the road, where you can swim. Follow the footpath about 500 meters along the river until the basin of the fall.
You can climb Gunung Bawa Karaeng in three to four hours from the village of Ngangre Apiang, on the highest point of the road past Malino. Best is to take care of guides and to spend the night before the ascend in Malino, so you can leave early and to avoid the afternoon rains. Only in the period between July until September you are sure of dry weather. It's a beautiful trip between high rising trees, orchids and dozens of spiecies of birds.

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