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BOAT BUILDING AT BIRA AND BUTTERFLIES AT BANTIMURUNG

South Sulawesi could have been designed with visitors in mind. The roads form a big loop making it very convenient to visit quite a large part of the south in three or four days.

PARE PARE: From Ujung Pandang, the road heads north to Pare Pare, a good lunch stop, from where you can head directly to Toraja or follow the coast north to Polewali and Mamasa (West Toraja) and turn west to rarely-visited Majene and its beautiful beaches.

Ship builder

PALOPO: From Toraja, the road heads east through the mountains to the coastal town of Palopo, following the east coast before heading inland to the Bugis heartland of Sengkang with its silk weaving and Soppeng Wattampone, and back to Ujung Pandang via Maros and the waterfalls and butterflies of Bantimurung, or the cool hill town of Malino with its fine pine forests and mountain ponies.

CAPE BIRA: Alternatively, follow the road due south to Cape Bira, with its clean white beaches. See the Bugis boat builders at work before going along the southern coast to visit the shipbuilding towns of Bulukumba and Tanah Bira then north through the historic Gowa kingdom back to Ujung Pandang.

 

WHITE WATER RAFTING AND TREKKING

White water

Some of the country's best white water rapids are in the Toraja highlands, and the adventure company Sobek takes guests to the hills. There is a choice of easy one-day raft trips for fun, or the more adventurous three-day rafting/trekking trip through countryside scarcely touched by man. Experienced guides take guests rafting down the Sa'dan river on some of Sulawesi's best runs where grades four and five rapids guarantee excitement. It's high adventure and a chance to visit remote villages where a foreign face is a curiosity.

MAMASA: Meanwhile trekkers will find the three-day walk from Toraja to Mamasa (West Toraja) a journey back in time. While east Toraja has many tourists, Mamasa is still very much the way it always was – a more rugged version of Toraja. Less agricultural, and with higher mountains, the air is appreciably cooler and walking is a pleasure. Trails lead through isolated villages far off the tourist route where traditional houses still use attap roofs and funerary tombs are carved in the shape of buffaloes. The clacking of handlooms can be heard echoing through the hills. Those who prefer to visit in comfort can contact a tour company and visit Mamasa by car or minibus.

BADA VALLEY AND LORE LINDU NATIONAL PARK

Just across the border in Central Sulawesi is the Bada Valley where mysterious stone megaliths and jars are dotted across the valley floor. No-one knows the origins of these smoothly modelled figures whose benign faces look more like modern sculptures than very old statues. Above the Bada Valley is the pristine Lore Lindu National Park whose 231,000 hectares is known for its dense lush forest, the best place to see Sulawesi's bizarre endemic species like the babirusa (the pig deer), anoa and several species of Sulawesi macaques and saucer-eyed tarsiers. The forest is also home to numerous bird species including hornbills, and green imperial pigeons.