The Jakarta Post
A series of festivities to welcome the total solar eclipse on March 9 have begun in a number of regions, ready to fascinate hundreds of foreign and local tourists visiting areas to experience that rare phenomenon directly.
In Central Sulawesi, four regencies, including Sigi, have prepared various festivals that also aim to promote the uniqueness of their art and cultural richness, such as a lesung (mortar) punching competition.
Governor Longki Djanggola said that around 3,000 foreign visitors would come to Central Sulawesi to closely observe the rare phenomenon, most of whom were scientists and solar eclipse hunters.
'So they are not regular tourists,' Longki said.
Daud Sango, a resident, said that the location where the festival in Sigi was held offered a complete tourism package. Rafting, viewing the captive maleo birds and enjoying hot springs are options available to tourists.
Apart from Total Solar Eclipse Festival in Sigi, the World Art Ritual Festival, held on Matantimali Mountain in the Marawola subdistrict from March 7 to 9, will also be held with participants coming from Makassar, Aceh, the United States, Canada and Australia.
In addition, a number of contemporary and traditional art events will be held in a foreigner village in Ngatabaru Village in Sigi. Foreigners who wish to participate in the village must pay US$300, while locals are charged with Rp 1.5 million.
Astronomers have predicted that Indonesia is the only country in the world from which the solar eclipse would be visible. Dozens of cities across 11 Indonesian provinces, including those in West Sumatra, Central Sulawesi, South Sulawesi, Bangka-Belitung, East Kalimantan and North Maluku, have been identified as areas that will experience the short-lived yet breathtaking occurrence.
In West Sumatra, at least 30 foreign tourists arrived on Sunday on the Mentawai Islands to observe the solar eclipse.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that recently struck the island did not deter them, as all were enthusiastic about seeing it.
Swiss citizen Carlos Munoz said that he had intentionally planned to visit Mentawai to observe the eclipse, but would also be surfing.
'This is my third visit to the islands, but this one is special because this one coincides with the solar eclipse,' said Munoz, who also went to France in 1996 and Turkey in 2006 to watch total solar eclipses.
As the solar eclipse will fall on the same day as the Hindu Day of Silence, known locally as Nyepi, Parisada Hindu Dharma Bali head, I Gusti Ngurah Sudana, said that they would let Muslim residents in Bali hold an eclipse prayer.
'After a meeting with several relevant parties, we will give permission to anyone who wants to perform an eclipse prayer during Nyepi. They can go to the nearest mosque, but they're not allowed to use vehicles or loud speakers during the prayer,' he told kompas.com.
Meanwhile in Sukoharjo, the Modern Boarding School of Islam Assalaam will provide 2,300 pairs of glasses for those who want to observe the eclipse from the school's observatory.