Between the islands of Borneo and Sulawesi in Indonesia, there is an undiscovered gem that people need not confuse with Bali: Makassar, the fifth largest city in Indonesia after Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung and Medan is one of the uncongested islands of this wonderful country.
As a port city, Makassar is rich in waters and has been the primary hub of the Eastern Archipelago. It plays a big role in international and domestic connections, not just in Indonesia but in all of Southeast Asia. Village life is the vibe of the city as fishing is the main livelihood for most of its people. Its outstanding waters are gateways to magnificent adventures to the far-flung South Sulawesi.
I was expecting a bustling city when I came to Makassar. People don’t have any idea what this city is all about so often, they skip it. Most tourists think their money is worth spending in Bali but what I learned is that when people hear about Indonesia, they only think about Bali. I am from an archipelagic country myself ― the Philippines has 7,107 islands that I have yet to explore but Indonesia has a whopping 17,000 plus and I am always wondering why everyone’s flocking one super mega crowded island when there are thousands of remarkable choices.
Imagine a magnificent island life without having to defend your sunbathing space to a fellow tourist, swim an entire coral blue beach to yourself, snorkel your way to the deep clean waters of the Sulawesi, immerse yourself to the great outdoors ― this is Makassar. I believe it’s time we get to know it.
Bantimurung National Park
Situated in the Maros regency of the South Sulawesi province, the Bantimurung National Park is 50km from Makassar and is often flocked by locals during the weekend. Butterfly gardens that house over thousands of different butterflies, spectacular caves with fascinating stalactites and stalagmites plus a stunning waterfall where you can leisurely swim with an imrpovised tire-looking liferaft.
20km from the Hasanuddin Airport, you can take local public transportation called “pete-pete.” Trip duration is 30 minutes. From Makassar, public buses or DAMRI are available in the Makassar Mall (to Maros). From Maros, you can again take a “pete-pete” to reach the park.
Hit: There are a lot of places for family picnics. Gazeebos and grills are available for an enjoyable Sunday with friends and family. You can also bring a mat and just find your space ― the area is huge!
Miss: Usually crowded on weekends. Like super crowded by locals (not tourists).
Kodingareng Keke Island
One of the closest islands to the city, Kodingareng Keke Island is the best place for water activities. Crystal clear beaches and (literally) white sand beaches await once you get off a 30-minute boat ride from the port of Makassar. Other activities include swimming. Snorkeling, diving, underwater photography and sailing.
Boats are available in the port of Makassar and it’s possible to not book it beforehand. A package trip costs 600,000 IDR ($60.00 USD) and usually inclusive of food, 2-way transpo and water gear(s).
Hit: There weren’t a lot of people when I was there so I was able to enjoy sunbathing by myself!
Miss: The water has a lot of sea urchins so make sure to wear some water shoes before going in!
On the same day as visiting the Kodingareng Keke Island, you can head to Pulau Samalona for a tasty lunch prepared by locals in the island. There are a lot of local homes that offer a magnificent meal (especially for groups) at a very low price. Chill vibe, good food, fresh coconut juice and a wide array of the best foods in Makassar, this island is definitely worth the visit!
It is usually included in the island hopping tours from the Port of Makassar. You can tailor-fit your tour by including this island in the itinerary.
Hit: Food prepared by the locals was outstanding. You will also get a chance to interact with them and ask what food in Sulawesi is all about.
Miss: Toilets/showers are a bit challenging but it’s not something that any traveler should worry about. After all, it’s just a 45-minute boat ride and you can shower when you are back in your hotel in Makassar. If you are not picky, the toilets charge 5,000 IDR ($0.3 USD) for one-time use.
One of the well-known sunset spots in Makassar, Losari Beach is a long beach line that has food stalls, parks and a pretty decent night life. Grab a beer on the nearby K Mart (if available), sit down and watch the astounding sunset by the port.
Pretty much easy as it is in the city of Makassar. The address is Jl. Penghibur No. 10, Bulogading, Ujung Pandang.
Hit: Photographic/scenic views are spectacular!
Miss: Too crowded. There were a lot of Pokemon Goers when I visited I had a hard time taking photos.
A 17th century fort by the Dutch Colony, Fort Rotterdam built on top of an existing fort of the Gowa Kingdom. It served as a regional military headquarters for the Dutch until the 1930s. In the brief Japanese occupation, scientific research were also conducted here. The fort was extensively restored in the 1970s and now serve as a tourist destination in Makassar.
Address is Jl. Ujung Pandang, Bulogading, Kota Makassar
Hit: Beautiful instagrammable colonial buildings!
Miss: Too hot to visit during the daytime and closes early so there’s no other option but to go early.