Natural wonder: Children and adults enjoy some leisure time at the base of a waterfall in Bantimurung Nature Reserve, which is part of the Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park. Bantimurung Nature Reserve, about 45 kilometers to the north of Makassar, is just one of the natural wonders that Indonesia offers. JP/Andi Hajramurni
Upon arriving at Bantimurung Nature Reserve, visitors are immediately welcomed by cool air, the rumbling sound of a waterfall, the sweet sound of birds and other animals and the rustling of leaves in the wind.
The area is in the middle of a steep karst mountain, with sheer walls to the left and right of the reserve.
Bantimurung Nature Reserve (Taman Wisata Alam Bantimurung) is located in Maros regency and is about 45 kilometers to the north of Makassar, South Sulawesi.
It is a one-hour drive from Makassar city or about 45 minutes from Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport. One can travel to the reserve by car or public transportation.
Karst formations line both sides of the road from Maros city to Bantimurung up to Pangkajene regency. The formations have various shapes, but most stand tall and steep at a 90 degree angle.
The formations are part of the nature reserve, but management of them has not been optimal.
The government has proposed to UNESCO that the area be declared a world wonder.
Bantimurung Natural Reserve, which is a part of the Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park, has a panoramic view.
The waterfall flows all year round, through stones and into the lake at the bottom in which bathers can swim. Inner tubes can also be rented to slide down with the water into the lake.
Colorful butterflies hover around the plants close to the waterfall. Once in a while, they perch on a flower or on the side of the lake.
The beauty of hundreds of butterflies in this area is a unique attraction in itself.
There are many species of butterflies here, including the Troides helena Linne, Troides hypolitus Cramer, Troides haliphron Boisduval, Papilo adamantius and Cethosia myrana.
Alfred Russel Wallace, a British scientist who visited Bantimurung from 1856 to 1857, dubbed the place the Butterfly Kingdom.
Some residents earn money from preserving butterflies, which are then set into key chains and ornaments and sold as souvenirs near the entrance to the reserve.
After enjoying the cool waterfall, visitors can walk along the lake, which has a variety of trees.
They can also visit the insectarium, which has a huge collection of rare butterflies.
The reserve also has a butterfly breeding center, managed by both the reserve administrator and residents. Visitors can watch the metamorphosis process of a butterfly, starting from caterpillar to cocoon to fully grown butterfly.
Bantimurung Natural Reserve is also interesting for the adventurous as it has two caves: Gua Mimpi (Dream Cave) on the left side and Gua Batu (Stone Cave) on the right side of the waterfall. Both have stalactites and stalagmites.
It is not easy to reach the caves, especially Dream Cave, as one has to ascend a rocky path among lush trees to get to the cave, which is about 15 meters high.
The way to Stone Cave is easier as there is a stone stairway to the right of the waterfall and a path that takes you along the lakeside to the entrance of the cave.
Most visitors find Dream Cave more interesting as the one-kilometer cave has awesome stalactites and stalagmites in various shapes, such as a human statue, an animal statue, a huge bulb of garlic and a hanging crystal lamp. Water drips from the various stalactites.
The interior of the caves are spacious in some areas, which are separated by limestone walls.
The floor is wet and slippery, but there are wooden bridges and stairways with railings for visitors to walk along.
Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park also has various flora and fauna, including rare protected species, such as the Sulawesi Moor macaque (Macaca maura), the red-knobbed hornbill (Rhyticeros cassidix) and pot-bellied boar (Sus vitatus) as well as a number of trees and wild orchids.
The area also has lines of karst formations along the road to Camba and Pangkajene Kepulauan (Pangkep) regency that have many caves that have yet to be identified.
One of most well-known caves visited by tourists and students for research is Leang-leang, which is believed to have been home to prehistoric humans and ancestors of the South Sulawesi people.
The interior of the cave has a picture of a human palm and a wild boar. Near the cave is a river with flowing clean water. The other caves are Pattunuang and Asu.
With so many alternatives available to enjoy the beauty of Bantimurung, the area has become a favorite spot not only for local tourists but also for foreign tourists.
Visitors usually crowd the place during holidays as there are many guesthouses, leisure areas and places of worship.
There is also a swimming pool to the left of the entrance to Banti-murung Nature Reserve.