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The southern coast
The origin of maritime Makassar

Ship building and other traditional crafts can best be observed along the southern coast, the central area of Makassar. There are very good beaches, beautiful nature and a good main road. Modest hotels and restaurants can be found in Bantaeng, Sinjai, Bira and Benteng (on Pulau Selayar).
Over the main road the trip from Makassar, along the coast to Sinjai via Tskalar, Jeneponto, Bulukumba and Kajang, is 221 kilometers. The way back can be done through the hills via Malino or further north via Watampone (Bone). The trip to Bira, known for it's shipbuilding, runs over a bad road. From here a ferry leaves for Selayar daily.

Boats, pottery and flying fish

From the main bus terminal in Makassar, buses regularly depart for Takalar and Jeneponto. A direct bus to Bira leaves at seven and connects with the afternoon boat to Selayar. Travelling along the southern coast is easy, it's possible to stop to inspect the rural areas as well. From Takalar and Jeneponto you can take a minibus of bemo to Sinjai and Bone. The distances written ahead are measured from Makassar.
When leaving the city the road turns to the right to cross the water of Sungai Berang past Sungguminasa. Near Limbung (22km) a turn to the right through the ricefields brings you to Galesong at the coast. This place has always been one of the most important harbors and political centers of Makassar, but modernisation seems to have passed this city. The beach is scattered with small crafts, especially in May and June, and there are hundreds of boats of hunter for flying fish (patorani). The residents of Galesong are known to be experts in shipbuilding. They are also known for the most spectaculair boat ritual in Sulawesi: a festive race to a small island, held on the day that fishermen pull their boats off the beach for catching flying fish.
From Galesong you can go back to Makassar via a bat, but attractive road north og Barombong, where there is a school for sailors. There is also the closest beach of the city. From there the route runs over a partially good road towards the southern main road. From Limbung you can also go further south through an area with stone factories and monuments for heroes of the revolution. Especially the area of Polambangkeng of Takalar has played an important role in the battle for independence.
Takalar (34km) is a new governmental center along the main road. File kilometers ahead on the right side is Takalar Lama, the colonial capital of the district, with an old Dutch prison as the most important remainder of that time. Takalar is famous for it's pottery; a little north of Takalar Lama women make pots under their house, they use them for storing rice and water, to burn incense in and to cook in. Much of the pottery is brought to remote seaports in Kalimantan and Sulawesi by ship. Grey clay from the ricefields is the base material, the reddish soil from the mountains is used as decoration.

Picture: Fishing boat

About ten kilometers after Takalar you reach Jeneponto district, the most dry and poor and in some ways most traditional area of South-Sulawesi. Ahead the land gets dryer ans corn replaces rice (the base food for Jeneponto), oranges, kapok and the lontar-palmn. This palm grows best in dry circumstances, gives leaves for fine baskets, sugar, palmwine (tuak), and the fruit itself (buah lontara), a refreshing gelly-likee substance which is sold along the road in little baskets. You should peal it before eating.
Horses are important everywhere in South-Sulawesi (accept Toraja), especially to bring people and goods in small carts (bendi or dokar) to the markets. But only in Jeneponto they are more important and powerfull as the waterbuffalo. Horsemeat is, especially to honour the guests, eaten at weddings and other festivities.
A Jeneponto village researched in 1980 showed that the average annual income was only USD30. Many young men are forced to look for a job as becak-driver in Makassar. Others work in the sugar factory in Bone or elsewhere. In contrary to the Buginese they don't migrate permanently, but are rooted in this nice area. The residents of Jeneponto have the reputation to be more proud than the Makassarese, more concious of their siri, and even ready to kill close relatives if the honour of the family is damages.
On 57 km a very bad road on the right leads to Cikuang, governed by a theocracy-like group of descendants from the original Arabic sayyid which, as it is said, converted this village to islam in the 15th century. The remarkable religious tradition can best be seen at the colorful fest of Maudu Lumpoa in the islamic holy mond maulud.
On 63 km you have a very nice view over the sea and hills near Bangkala. Visitors from the former shipbuilding center of Pallengu go over a bridge via the mosque and follow the mnain road where it turns right. Just before a row of shops is a road on the right side which descends to the village of Pallengu, located along the small rivermouth.
This is the former center of the principalty Bangkala, which' ruling aristocratic families have a long history of shipbuilding. Most men in Pallengku are sailors; their operations go over the entire archipelago. The biggest shipyard is Karaeng Getah (Haji Adkbar), which now has a seat in Jakarta. All boats however, are built in his village of birth, with the help of workers from Ara.
In the early 1980's it still looked like several Noach's started to build their archs all at the same time, but all shipbuilding activities have been replaced to Tana Bero. The big motorized ships are less decorative than the prahu pinisi which ruled here before, but the wonder of the hand-built ships gets bigger when the ships get bigger as well.
After this, the road offers a nice view on the saltpanes during the dry season, they are used as fishing ponds (empang) during the wet season. When the water evaporates, the salt is gathered and sold for low prices. The fishing ponds bring in more money. The salty water from rain is used to grow ikan bolu and shrimps.
Further to the east, an important way of extra income is generated with bringing in the bolu at the edge of the sea (this fish can only grow in salt water) and to sell this to the empang-owners. Jeneponto isn't a real fishery area, however it's long coast.
Ahead (74 km) you can find pemandian (sea resort) Tirta Ria on the right side. The environment is richly grown with bamboo and breadtrees, so there is enough shade. You can change clothes in cabins on an average beach. The local visitors on Sundays prefer the two bassins filled with water from a source.
On 77 km a road to the left ascends for four kilometers to the royal graves of Bontoramba. On several graves of the Binamu dynasty, which was concentrated here before they moved to Jeneponto Lama in the 19th century, you can find human-like and animal-like enscriptions.
On 90 km you can go right to Jeneponto Lama, the pre-war city and seat of Karaeng Binamu. Here are the predictible old colonial prison and the house of the guard. There are many nice aristocratic Makassarese houses. Before Jeneponto Lama the road runs close enough along the coast to give access to a number of nice beaches. Just after Jeneponto a bad road to the left takes you to the former Dutch mountain resort Malakaji, popular before Malino was opened in 1922.
In the descend to the coastal plain (108 km) the road offers a view over the valley, the feet of the mountains and the sea. After this point the road runs along the sea for another 20 kilometers, along traditional villages and colorful prahu, where nets are dried.


Bantaeng (123 km) was handed over to the Dutch in 1667 because of the Treaty of Bungaya. It was originally occupied by the Buginese from Aru Palakka, but later became a Dutch post. In the colonial period it became the capital, but now it's not much better than other capitals along the southern coast. The area around Bantaeng, the best irrigated area around the southern coast, supplies rice and vegetables to Makassar.
Before Bantaeng to the left, towards Bissapu, you can find a spectaculair fall (air terjun). About four kilometers north of Bissapu, along an unpaved road, the water falls for about 100 meters. In 1840, James Brooke, the raja of Sarawak, admired it's 'undisturbed lonelyness and total rest', on a weekday this is still valid. Brooke then climbed the mountain Lombobatang, the highest point of the southern mountain range; he took three days from Bantaeng to reach the summit. Between Bantaeng and Bulukumba are some good beaches. Swimming is adviced outside villages.

Ship building

Kabupaten Bulukumba (146 km) concludes the rocky southeastern corner of the province. Since the road is not smooth and rocky, process is slow. After a short trip along the coast the road turns inland, along rocky terrain which is vegetated with forest and grass. Here are cows, waterbuffalo's, goats and horses. More to the coast are empang, which attract masses of birds.
Along the beach of Tana Beru (174 km) you can see traditional shipbuilding, partially ofrom Bira and Pallengu. Watch the sign 'Lokasi Konstruksi Pinisi'. On 178 km the road which runs inland, towards Ara and Bira, is clear; here are the last road signs which travellers find. Turn left on an intersection at 181 km. On 188 km you can go left to Ara or right to Bira. On 195 km a steep, rocky descend to Bira (5 km), which has been a center of shipbuilding in South-Sulawesi for centuries, starts.
There are three harbors, two for prahu and one for other ships. The water is nice to swim in, and the white beaches are nice and full of shadow, especially in the environment of the pier of the ferry. Earlier, when Bira still was a center of sailors, the prahu gathered here before their departure to Maluku and (then) Irian Jaya. With the ferry you can cross the sea strait to Selayar; on the island is transport. The rocky coast and the sandy beaches around the piers are very enviting.

Ara and Kajang

Back in Bira you walk back to the turn (a 5 km climb) towards Ara, which is located 13 km ahead. Every once in a while you can see the sea between the trees. The prosperous Ara is known for it's shipbuilders. The village doesn't have easy access to the sea (two kilometers distance), nor it has supplies of wood. Still, the biggest part of the male population works in the shipbuilding industry across Indonesia. They always return to their families in this village.
The road sign to the caves of Ara (Gowa Purbakala Ara) on the main road indicates a distance of 500 meters. Which turns right at the sign, has to go through bushes and scrubs. The caves themselves are not exciting: reasonably open, with scattered remains of broken porcelain, coffins and bones.
Further along the coast towards Kajang is the grave of Dato Tiro, Khatib Bungsu, one of the three islamic men from the Minangkabau, which brought the islam to Sulawesi in the 17th century. Tiro also has a pre-islamic grave in a cave above the sea. Further towards Kajang is a big state rubber farm. In the area around Kajang the Tanatowa-tradition is still kept. Spending the night is possible in Pondok Sisihoring, ten km north of Kajang.


The trip to Sinjai is pleasant; you drive through hilly terrain around the foot of Gunung Lompobatang (2871 meters), a sleeping vulcano which is one of the first areas to rise from the ancient sea, according to local historic tales. On the terraced hills grow different crops: clove, some rice, corn, fruit. The corn is dried under the houses in wrappings made of coconut leaves. Just before Sinjai the road offers a nice view over the city and the coast.
Sinjai (221 km) is separated from kabupaten Bone by Sungai Tangka. The seaport is located in the neighboring city of Balangnipa. There is a former Dutch fortress, built in the 1860's. It's now used as police station. From here you can take the boat to Pulau Sembilan, a picturesque series of nine islands, covered in jungle.

The road towards the west, to Malino, offers an alternative route to Makassar. After 1.5 km you will see the hot water sources of Uwae. The holy grave on this place, taken care of by a holy man (sanro), is visited by locals to pray and sacrifice. North of Sinjai are the hardly accessible caves Gua Karampuang and Gua Bappajeng; closer to Sinjai is a traditional aristocratic house.
The road to Bone runs through flat terrain with rice and some pastures. West of Marek, 30 km from Bone, are the hills where prince La Darapung fled when he was banned from Luwu' because of leprosis, as the legend tells us. Because he didn't have any other company than his dog, he had two children with this animal: humans with white skin and blue eyes. The shocked residents of this area banned the family. He left to populate Europe.....
Further on the right is a sugal mill within 5000 hectares of sugar cane. The factory, the biggest outside Jawa, was taken into production in 1975. Many of it's workers, which only work during the harvesting season, are attracked from the poorer areas in the south.

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