At peace: Sunset near Jinato Island illuminates a fi shing boat in an area where most locals make their living from the sea.
Selayar Islands regency in South Sulawesi has every reason to make its island group a marine tourist destination.
Located between the Flores Sea and the Makassar Strait, the regency has diverse and beautiful tourist attractions on offer.
Apart from Taka Bonerate National Park, Selayar has a number of gorgeous sites and diving areas. Several islands in the regency also possess captivating natural scenery.
Selayar covers an area of 1,357 square kilometers and comprises 132 islands, of which only 29 are inhabited. Belang-belang is one of those islands, where during the full moon various species of turtle come ashore to lay their eggs.
“Many people go to the island to catch turtle eggs during the full moon to sell in Bali. We fear the turtles in the area may become extinct because of illegal hunting so we’ve assigned security guards there,” said Selayar Islands Regent Syahrir Wahab.
There is also Batu Island, with its unique landscape comprised entirely of stones. The island is home to numerous swallows, and locals have made this zone of birds their source of living.
Tourists and nature lovers who aren’t inclined to go to Taka Bonerate have several alternatives not far from the city of Benteng – the capital of Selayar Islands regency.
The eastern coast is a sport diving area with scenic underwater panoramas featuring diverse coral and marine biota similar to that of Taka Bonerate. With a similar topography, the area is a favorite.
Baloyya Beach is known for its sloping white sand and clear blue water, adorned with varied coral reef underneath. Near the beach are two natural caves and several islets. Situated south of the western coast of Selayar, Baloyya is only about 9 kilometers from Benteng. Jammeng, a tourist village not far from Benteng, is also a convenient place for relaxing. Aside from the undersea beauty, the area boasts a cascading waterfall.
Selayar also offers historical sites and relics to visit. In Benteng, a large bronze gong created around 1686 is preserved as an heirloom. It is said there are only two such gongs in the world, the other found in Vietnam.
At the Padang Village Museum in Benteng there are heirlooms such as a large anchor and cannon as well as relics indicating traces of shipping and trade relations in the 17th and 18th centuries between China and the islands.
A sightseeing tour of Benteng, with coconut trees lining its coastal fringe, is particularly enjoyable. The city is a producer of snacks made of melinjo and kenari nuts and also grows citrus fruits. The process of making the snacks by hand is fascinating to observe.
At the sea terminal of Pamatata in Selayar, visitors can feast their eyes on a landscape of tree-shaded rocky promontories along the shoreline. On the way to Benteng, about 50 kilometers away, travelers are pampered with expanses of white sand and rows of coconut trees.
Before visiting Benteng from South Sulawesi’s mainland, visitors can stop and rest in Bulukumba regency. In the regency dubbed “Butta Panrita Lopi” or boat craftsmen’s settlement, tourists can observe the process of phinisi or traditional wooden boat building that is unique to South Sulawesi.
Near the terminal of Bira in Bulukumba, from which visitors cross the strait to Selayar, they can go to the Cape of Bira, an area with very fine white sand and clear water that offers good swimming and diving.
Touring the Selayar Islands does take time and consume energy. But as soon as one arrives at Pamatata and reaches Benteng it is well worth the effort, as these sites — let alone the national park of Taka Bonerate — enchant and offer magnificent journeying well worth exploring.