Friday, 16 October 2015

Sulawesi Part II: Pulau Selayar (From the Travel Journal)




It is so alive here.  Millions of butterflies cavort on the edge of the jungle.  I can smell the sweetness of the blooms that attract them.  The bright yellow wings flutter from the trees whose branches seem to dance with the movement of the insects.  Bigger butterflies, brown spotted wings, gather on the sand, and large black ones, the size of bats, with brilliant blue splotches on their wings, come to say hello…

I have never seen so many crabs.  Tiny shells housing hermit crabs make the sand look like it’s crawling.  Ghost crabs scurry across the sand.  Larger crabs, the colour of stone, scuttle to the rocky ledges and the rocks themselves look alive.

The sea ripples with schooling fish, and thousands of tiny bait fish scoot across the glassy surface.

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GETTING THERE


We had written Palau Selayar off as it was very difficult to find information about how to get there and where to stay.  We knew only of Selayar Dive Resort, who arrange everything for you, but who were full during the time we were hoping to visit.

It was only by chance that we happened upon the Selayar Eco Resort. We contacted them, made a reservastion, and set off on our adventure on the road less travelled, very excitedly.

We arranged the ferry more easily than anticipated based on the lack of help at Bara Beach Bungalows.  We ate lunch in Bira at a small warung at the entrance to the port. (She made a superb Ikan Rica-rica that came with rice and a salty soup and cost us only 60 thousand rupiah for 2 of us including ice lemon teh).  We inquired with her about the ferry and she told us to be back there at 8 am for the next morning’s boat.  We arrived at 7.45, to give ourselves enough time, and she fed us breakfast and told us her son was also going to Selayar and he would take us and our bags to the ferry when it was time.  We sat very comfortably in Dian’s car while we queued to board, and we left our bags safely in his car to sit on the roof for the 2 hour trip to the island.  He refused to take money from us for the trip saying he paid for the car and it was no extra cost for us to ride with him.  This surprised us immensely as we find that most people in Indonesia see our foreign faces and want money for something…

It was an easy ferry ride from Bira to Selayar and we found Eka from the Eco Resort immediately.  His English was perfect and we chatted easily for the first hour about diving places in Indonesia and the differences between Bali (his home island also) and his new island home, Selayar.

BENTENG


The drive to Benteng was lovely – a scenic route all the way along the coast.  The road was new, there was little traffic, and the coast line was stunning with deep blue and turquoise waters.

Benteng was a surprisingly clean city – this was unexpected being in Indonesia, particularly after the rubble of Bira.  Here, streets were clean and the buildings well maintain.  It was clear that the islanders took pride in their land.  I was further impressed to see signs for car free days, and wondered why more places didn’t take similar initiatives.

We stopped in Benteng for lunch, to go to the dive shop, and to stock up on fishing gear.


SELAYAR ECO RESORT




When we reached the port where we would board the boat that would take us to the Selayar Island Eco Resort we couldn’t help but exclaim at the beauty; bright green forest growing over limestone cliffs and surrounded by turquoise sea.  We hardly knew where to look.

The small local boat that transported us to the beach where the resort was located was painfully loud, but the boatman was extremely friendly, the trip calm, and the scenery breathtaking.

When the bamboo bungalows came into view we could hardly believe the stretch of pristine beach, bright green lush jungle and clear water that lay before us.  If we had questioned whether such idyllic places still existed our doubts were obliterated.  We had, indeed, found paradise.


THE RESORT




Selayar Eco Resort is comprised of 6 bamboo bungalows.  The bungalows have all been built using local material.  Each has an ensuite bathroom.  There are lights and power outlets, but the electricity doesn’t run all day.  Rather, a generator supplies power for a few hours in the early evening.  There is a separate building with a kitchen and dining area.  The owner and guests all dine together.  Food is sourced locally and prepared by an onsite chef.

Tea/coffee/ fruit and snacks are available throughout the day and rates include room and full board.

The resort is set on the beach, totally isolated from civilization – all supplies need to be brought by boat.  The views are absolutely stunning and the ambience utterly serene.


DIVING THE MAGIC WALL




Our first 2 dives on the magic wall were scuba, and, in my opinion, scuba was totally unnecessary.  We saw some schools of big fish – but nothing like we saw free diving.  There were schools of snapper and sweet lip like I’ve never seen before.  There were giant trevally which were, frankly, frightening, sharks, turtles, rays, eels.  It had everything.  There were also beautiful bommies at 6 or so meters and a beautiful coral garden in the shallows to snorkel around or explore while decompressing from a deeper dive.


SPEAR FISHING



The wall that lines the east coast of Selayar Island, “the magic wall”, is protected.  All fishing is prohibited.  If, however, you head north of the Marine Park, fishing is OK.  There is much damage to the coral here, a result of dynamite fishing, but there are still things to see – turtles, lobsters, shells – Nathan even swam with a dugong!  He took his spear gun out for a few hours every day.  While the reef there isn’t thriving with fish, he caught something every time and we were well fed with his daily catch for the duration of our stay.

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We spent 2 magical weeks at the Selayar Eco Resort.  Our original plan was 5 nights but we loved it so much we decided to extend our stay.  I would have happily purchased some land on that beautiful east coast beach and built a bungalow for myself.  Stunning scenery, soft sunsets, spectacular diving straight of the beach and freshly speared fish for dinner – what more could you ask for?

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