Formerly known as Celebes, Sulawesi is shaped like a tropical orchid. It is Indonesia’s third-largest island with an area of 172,000 square km. The island of Sulawesi is divided into the provinces of North Sulawesi, South Sulawesi and Southeast Sulawesi. Sulawesi has great topographical variety-spectacular mountains, scenic coastline, lakes, rice and dense jungles-and offer wonderful opportunities for travelers.
Much of Sulawesi’s early history was written in old texts that can be traced back to the 13th and 14th centuries. When the Portuguese, the first western visitors, reached Sulawesi in 1511, they found Makassar a thriving cosmopolitan entre-port where Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Siamese, Javanese, and Malays came to trade their manufactured metal goods and fine textiles for precious pearls, gold, copper, camphor and, of course, the invaluable spices – nutmeg, cloves and mace which were brought from the interior and from the neighbouring Spice Islands, the present day Moluccas.
By the 16th century, Makassar had become Sulawesi’s major port and centre of the powerful Gowa and Tallo sultanates. The arrival of the Dutch in the early 17th century caused an upheavel in Sulawesi. To create their hegemony over the spice trade they captured the fort of Makassar in 1667, which they rebuilt and renamed Fort Rotterdam. From this base they managed to destroy the strongholds of the Sultan of Gowa who was then forced to live on the outskirts of Makassar.
The town again became a collecting point for the produce of eastern Indonesia- the copra, rattan, pearls and sandalwood. Although the Dutch controlled the coast, it was not until the early 20th century that they gained power over the interior through a series of treaties with local rulers. Meanwhile Dutch missionaries converted many of the Toraja people to Christianity. Later on when Indonesia became independent, Sulawesi became a part of it.
Sulawesi has warm tropical climate with wet and dry seasons lasting approximately six months each. The dry season is from April to October and the wet season is from November to May.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Sulawesi is during dry season from April to October. June to October offers the best chance of witnessing a major Torajanese funeral.
Places to Visit
Manado: It is the capital of North Sulawesi Province. Manado offers a variety of terrain with hills, volcanic mountains and scenic plateaus.
Bunaken Sea Garden: The world famous Bunaken Marine National Park, with an area 75.26 hectares, is located very close to Manado and comprises of 5 islands: Bunaken, Manado Tua, Siladen, Mantehage and Nain. The superb diving and snokelling sites puts the Marine Park in one of the top 10 dive area of the world and is a mecca for seasoned and beginner divers alike.
Manado Tua Island: This island is the main island of the group. There is a hiking path to the top which takes several hours to climb, and offers a spectacular view of all the islands of Manado Bay. The place offers excellent opportunuties for diving and snorkeling.
Kendari: Capital of Southeast Sulawesi. It is the seat of government and tourist center of the province. It lies along the sloping hill and seaside of Kendari Bay.
Moramo Waterfall: The fall is unique in itself. It traverses a 2 km plateau, with 127 separate terraced plumes, with the top of the waterfall some 100 meters above its basin pool. the falls have seven main terraces, each with its own natural bathing pool.
Moramo Bay: This clean, pollution-free bay is only one and one half hours by car or speedboat from Kendari. The white sand beaches of Moramo Bay are host to all sorts of water activities and sports
Shopping in Sulawesi
Ikat weaving is Sulawesi’s best-known craft, with different styles all around the island.