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Located at the most southern end of South Sulawesi, this quiet and now isolated island of Selayar, with its swathes of pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear tropical waters used to have an illustrious past.
Ancient Javanese writings in the Nagara Kertagama mention that in the 14th century there was already a thriving kingdom on Selayar. This pre-Islamic kingdom seemed to have been a hub of trade, visited by merchants from China, the Philippines and Thailand, having left evidence of its existence in the many precious artifacts excavated here. Most notable is the beautiful Dongson Kettledrum, the largest in the world, that is said to be 2,000 years old dating back to the Bronze Age. Other artifacts include delicate Chinese and Sawankholok (Thai) porcelain, which were found in abundance on the island. Islam seems to have entered Selayar in the 16th century spread by followers of the Sultan of Ternate, in Maluku.
In the 16th century Salayar was fought over for its blue-white cotton products, a favorite in the archipelago. And when the Dutch won hegemony over Selayar, they monopolized the cotton trade, forcing Selayar to send the cotton only to Fort Rotterdam in Makassar. However today, with modern fabrics the popularity of cotton waned and the people of Salayar were forced to return to living from coconut produce, relegating the island to its present isolation.
Due to the geographical shape and location of Selayar, standing vertical on the Makassar – Moluccas trade route, - when Ternate , Tidore, Ambon and Banda were the main producers of spices and Makassar was the center of trade, - the island of Selayar became an undisputable important territory that could either contribute to or hinder the spice trade.
The 80 km. long island of Selayar is in fact gateway to the spectacular Taka Bonerate National Park that teems with colorful coral reefs, giant sponges, a wealth of fish species including dugongs and tuna, gliding past turtles and manta rays. Comprising 21 islands and atolls, Taka Bonerate is the third biggest atoll in the world after the Marshall Islands and the Maldives. Although still predominantly covered by rainforests, Selayar boasts many pristine white sand beaches
The largest town on the island is called Benteng, a bustling little town of motorbikes and trishaws. The town center is the “alun-alun” , the town square, where on one side still stands a solid old prison built by the Dutch in the 1890s. The square is the focal point of celebrations and events happening on the island.
For more detailed information you can log on to the website of The Culture and Tourism Office of Selayar Regency at www.selayartourism.com.
The web lists hotels, guesthouses, cottages and home-stays in Benteng. The friendly staff can also arrange a tour guide, liaise with SMAC air, arrange traditional wooden boat trips and recommend restaurants. Most speak English.
To get to Selayar you can travel overland from Makassar to the town of Tanjung Bira, and take the ferry to Selayar from here. The sea journey takes two hours. But when the seas are choppy, ferries donot sail.
There are air conditioned buses from Makassar, leaving at 9.0 am and arriving at Benteng at 07.30 pm travelling via Bira, where the ferry carries passengers and bus to Salayar.
Alternatively, you can try the SMAC charter flights from Makassar to Selayar, that flies here three times weekly,on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, although its schedule is quite sporadic. The flight takes 40 minutes.
SMAC Office in Selayar : +62 414 21361, or +62 81355222282
Selayar Airport : +62 414 2700099, or +62 85242016932
It is recommended to make your travel arrangements through bona fide travel agents in Makassar, your Selayar Hotel and Dive Sites or the Selayar Regency Culture and Tourist Office.