Manado and Makassar promises pristine beaches, gorgeous coastlines, historical sites, cultural vibrancy, culinary delights, genuine local hospitality and modern urban lifestyle.
One of the most compelling islands in the country, Sulawesi, charms travellers across the globe with its mountainous interiors cloaked in a dense jungle. This island was a special site for British scientist, Alfred Russel Wallace who successfully identified the division of flora and fauna which is now known as the Wallacea line spread between Bali and Lombok as well as Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Sulawesi is the eleventh largest island in the world, covering an area of 174,600 square kilometres in the eastern Indonesia, which is undeniably a great exploration place for globetrotters who crave charming cities with nice people, world class scuba diving and snorkeling sites, gorgeous rainforest trekking and exceptional flavours to satisfy their palate. Nothing could go wrong setting your foot to the two gates, Manado and Makassar, the largest and busiest cities on the island.
Adventure of a Lifetime in Manado
Most travellers to the capital city of North Sulawesi, Manado have Bunaken National Park in their itinerary. It’s a great introduction to discover diverse sea life of all types and it’s only an easy decision away. Bunaken is an 8.08 square kilometre island in the Bay of Manado just a 20-minute speedboat ride away from Marine Blue Banter harbour. Even before you land at the airport, you will be able to see the stunning view of the Sulawesi sea and the small island of Bunaken, as well as the neighbouring mountainous island Manado Tua.
With total area of 89,065 hectares including the five islands of Bunaken, Manado Tua, Mantehage, Siladen, Nain and part of Arakan Wowontulap, this marine park offers about 20 diving spots, 12 of which can be found in Bunaken island with extremely deep waters (up to 1,566 meters) in Manado Bay and with clear visibility of 35 to 40 metres deep. The beauty of the marine life is very well maintained where approximately 58 species of coral reefs and 90 fish species inhabit this sea park. Bunake is also home to numerous rare species, such as the Hawksbill sea turtle. Divers have the choice amongst several homestays with various rate.
Want more marine fun? Head to Malalayang beach, only about four kilometres away from the city centre. During the weekend, you’ll find many locals swimming and snorkeling in the water or relaxing on one of the food stalls by the beach. This is the best time to taste iced coconut and pisang goreng sambal roa (fried banana dipped into garfish chili sauce).
Another icon of Manado is the monument of Tuhan Yesus Memberkati (The Blessing Jesus), which was built in 2007 in Ciputra housing complex on the outskirts of Manado. The statue stands on a 20-degree slope, and it’s facing the city centre as if blessing the city and its people. To get up close the statue, you can climb up 200 stairs to the monument. Along the way, there are 14 stops, each with an epigraph depicting Jesus on the way to Dolorosa.
After a period of neglect, a huge construction boom happened at the end of the 90s alongside Manado Boulevard, the city’s main road. The district consists of malls, shopping centres, hotels and restaurants. This fancy side of Manado is the target to feel the lifestyle of the local people, include find tempting culinary, such as the spicy meat rica-rica, bubur Manado (porridge with vegetables) and tuna sashimi.
Fish lovers can try a short trip to Kalasey, just a few kilometres south of the city, which offers dozens of seafood restaurants built on stilts over the beach and extremely popular with locals. The barbecued fresh fish and other delicacies usually taste excellent.
Where to Stay?
Grand Whiz Megamas Manado
Mercure Manado Tateli Resort and Convention
Makassar, a City on the Move
The capital city of South Sulawesi, Makassar is East Indonesia’s largest city with a population of 1.44 million people. It is one of the country’s busiest hubs connecting Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Kalimantan in the West and Sulawesi and Papua in the East. The city, also known as Ujung Pandang, benefits from strategic location and strong wholesale and retail trade. It has been a centre for trading and shipping for Southeast Asia over centuries. Further, manufacturing and construction industries contribute substantially to the city’s success.
Makassar continues to grow as one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the country, while retaining its ancient historic charm, intense forts, buildings and beautiful islands.
Across the south coast facing the city lies the Spermonde archipelago, which consists of more than 115 tropical islands. While most are uninhabited, several are popular among the travellers. Within the archipelago, across the city, there are three islands: Samalona, Lae Lae and Kapoposang, which are not to be missed to explore.
If you’re looking for the pulse of the city, head to Losari beach. But don’t expect to see sands here, because you’ll only find concrete at the edges and plenty of street vendors selling traditional food and beverages. This is the best place to taste pisang epe, flattened grilled lady finger bananas covered with delicious palm sugar syrup. Place your order, take a seat on the surrounding plastic chairs and enjoy the banana together with the scenic view of the beach.
The area also provides some good restaurants and hotels as well as the majestic Fort Rotterdam, the city’s most iconic landmark with historical traces dating back to the Kingdom of Gowa from the 16th century. This fort has silently witnessed many episodes of Makassar’s history, playing a most essential role in its development.
From Fort Rotterdam, travellers can continue the exploration to Jalan Somba Opu to shop, because any vacation is incomplete without buying souvenirs. This popular souvenir centre is almost always crowded and busy with tourists looking for traditional house and phinisi replicas, fabric, various snacks and rubbing oils.
About 45 kilometres from Makassar or 20 kilometres from Sultan Hasanuddin international airport, travellers can reach Maros regency to visit Bantimurung National Park. This park is the kingdom of butterfly with an area covering 43,750 hectares and is divided into three major types of ecosystems, the karst ecosystems, a lowland forest ecosystem and a lower mountainous forest ecosystem.
The valleys of limestone hills and steep karts walls with tropical vegetation have made Bantimurung an ideal habitat for various rare and endemic species of butterflies, birds and insects. Although there are not as many butterflies today as there were during Wallace’s expedition, travellers can still observe the wide variety of butterflies within the Butterfly Conservation Captivity managed by the Center for Butterfly Breeding.
Within the national park, visitors can also find a butterfly museum which houses thousands of unique and rare butterflies that have and still inhabit the area. By the butterfly centre, the fascinating Bantimurung waterfall draws visitors with its powerful rush of water and refreshing atmosphere.
Makassar is also a well-known culinary destination offering a wide range of seafood and good restaurants. Names like Golden Asian, Palu Basa Serigala, R. M. Nelayan, Coto Nusantara, Rumah Makan Seafood Apong and Sop Konro Karebosi are the ideal place to taste traditional food, such as sop konro (brown-black ribs soup), palu basa and coto Makassar (beef soup).
For travellers who love theme parks, Makassar has Trans Studio, which claimed to be the largest indoor amusement park in Asia. This is a must to be put on the bucket list.
Where to Stay?
Four Points by Sheraton Makassar
Jalan Ujung Pandang No. 8
T: +62 411 369 0000