Sulawesi holidays, Indonesia
If asked which is our favourite destination in Indonesia, our specialists have a hard job deciding! Once one is agreed upon, another creeps up with benefits and a slight difference that warrants a new conversation. Sulawesi is almost always near the top of the list. Even if you have experienced local villages in Flores or already dived in to the waters of Komodo, Sulawesi offers an entirely new dimension.
The islands that make up Sulawesi are abundant with beauty and one can be forgiven for thinking that this really is the best of the best. The world class diving, landscapes and opportunity for adventure intertwine with an undiscovered element that with it will excite even the well-travelled. Although the region is evolving, and sadly western influences are starting to shape the style and character of the country, this is largely still not the case in Sulawesi and visitors here really can take a step back in time, visiting long forgotten tribes to see how Animism and Catholicism converge and how rural Indonesia is developing.
Makassar, the capital of the south, is a friendly city in which to start your journey and acclimatise to the Sulawesi way of life. The Dutch influence is still evident, and Fort Rotterdam is worthy of a visit - a colonial building which now houses the Museum of Sulawesi Culture.
The southern island and geography will then take you on a different adventure; this time ancient culture and tribal life are the order of the day. Many of the villages are set within breath taking scenery of rice paddy fields and rolling landscapes, and were left to their own devices as the rest of Indonesia developed. As such this has created a fascinating collision of how old and new can sit together. The villages and countryside, alongside the beauty of Lake Tempe one of the largest within Indonesia, house its various tribes including the well-known Tana Toraja.
Sat alongside an increasing number of modern houses, the ancestral homes and architecture of the Tana Toraja are known as Tonakens. With their distinctive boat shaped roofs and buffalo horned fronts, these homes typically include resting places for recently deceased family members. A number of villages now offer an intriguing insight into how the modern world, with its smart phones and contemporary dress, is gradually encroaching on local life and tribal ideologies.
Depending on the day of the week travelling to Southern Sulawesi will in all likelihood bring with it extravagant burials and festivals alike. Not for the faint hearted and for those who wish this can be avoided, these funerals can last for days and can contain numerous rituals and feasting - predominantly on water buffalo, advertising the status and income of the family. All set with a backdrop of effigies of the deceased nobility known as the Tau Tau guarding the gravesites of the family and ancestors of the local villages and the prestige that the deceased hold here is something quite distinctive to this island.
A visit to Southern Sulawesi will be in no way boring and although the drives are longer and the accommodation not to the standard of neighbouring Bali the vistas and uniqueness make it well worth a visit.
Manado City is the base to start your diving adventure, with a more international vibe than elsewhere in Sulawesi it acts as a great entry point for the north. The setting of local boats mooring with freshly caught seafood, combined with the world’s second largest Jesus Statue, yes Manado have beaten Rio in the statue’s size - if not its fame, makes for an interesting addition to a holiday here.
The jewel in the Sulawesi crown and loved by diving aficionados globally though is Bunaken Marine National Park. With their mangrove ensconced white beaches, the islands of Bunaken, Manada Tua, Montekage, Silande and Main are famous for world class coral reefs, walls and wreck diving to see the WW2 planes buried deep within the ocean nearby.
Not only is this area a spectacle visually, with its array of sea creatures large and miniscule, the calm sounds of the water in the evenings combined with local food and hospitality make for an enticing prospect and one that for the right people, will be a fantastic find. Accommodation here although not Deluxe is still a solid Superior level that the SA team will happily return to regularly, all in the name of research of course!
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