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Sulawesi

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Travel Guide Asia Indonesia Sulawesi

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Introduction

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Sulawesi is one of the biggest islands in the Indonesian archipelago and is located between Borneo and the Maluku Islands. After Java and Sumatra, it has the highest number of inhabitants of all islands, and is the 4th biggest island in terms of pure size.

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Geography

Sulawesi is divided into 6 provinces: North Sulawesi, West Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, South Sulawesi, South East Sulawesi and Gorontalo, and has roughly 17 million inhabitants in total, living on almost 175,000 square kilometres of land, making it even the 11th largest island in the world! The island is surrounded by Borneo to the west, by the Philippines to the north, by the Maluku Islands to the east, and by Flores and Timor to the south. It has a distinctive shape, dominated by four large peninsulas: the Semenanjung Minahassa, the East Peninsula, the South Peninsula and the South East Peninsula. The central part of the island is mountainous, reaching up to 3,478 metres above sea level. Three bays dominate the island, namely the Gulf of Tomini, Tolo Sea, and Bone Sea, while the Strait of Makassar runs along the western side of the island. There are also several other smaller islands, which are officially a administratively part of Sulawesi. Selayar Islands make up a peninsula stretching southwards from Southwest Sulawesi into the Flores Sea, The Sangihe Islands and Talaud Islands stretch northward from the northeastern tip, while Buton Island is southeast, Togian Islands are in the Gulf of Tomini, and Peleng Island and Banggai Islands form a cluster between Sulawesi and Maluku.

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Regions

The provinces on Sulawesi are:

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Cities

  • Makassar (Ujung Pandang) capital of the South and Sulawesi's largest city
  • Manado - capital of the north and the gateway to Bunaken
  • Tomohon - cool, fresh town in the northern highlands
  • Gorontalo
  • Poso
  • Palu - capital of the Central Sulawesi
  • Tentena - pleasant little lake-side transit town on the way to Ampana
  • Rantepao - gateway town to Tanah Toraja
  • Makale

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Sights and Activities

Bunaken Marine Park has superb snorkelling and diving. But if you are interested in trekking don't miss to visit the Minahasa highland. Mount Lokon and Mahawu are located in Tomohon. Also popular is Tondano for the Lake of Tondano, which offers beautifull scenery, friendly people as well as good seafood. Other highlights include:

  • Bangka - island group in the north with world-class diving
  • Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park - forest park in the north near Gorontalo which is home to tarsiers and much more
  • Lore Lindu National Park - important forested national park in the central highlands which is home to some 77 endemic bird species and some remarkable megaliths
  • Tana Toraja - highlands famed for their elaborate burial rites. The Torajans are Christians but still maintain strong connections to their Indigenous culture and religion. Locals welcome visitors to take part in their elaborate funeral ceremonies which are interesting but involve animal sacrifices and are not for the squeamish.
  • Tangkoko National Park - home of the tarsier, the world's smallest monkey
  • Togian Islands - diving destination way off the beaten track
  • Wakatobi - a marine national park, yet more world-class diving

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Weather

Sulawesi has a tropical climate with hot and humid conditions. Temperatures at sea level are usually ranging from 23-24 °C at night to 28-32 °C during the day. Fore most of the island, the wet season is from October to April while May to September is drier, but still sees occasionl rainshowers. There are big regional variations. In the south, Makassar for example has a few months (June-August) which are actually very dry while in the northeast, Manado sees more rain compared to the south, although it's also less wet compared to November-March. In the mountains, temperatures are significantly lower and conditions are actually pleasant, though some areas actually have more rain during the monsoon season.

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Getting There

By Plane

Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport near Makassar and Sam Ratulangi International Airport near Manado are the main gateways for Sulawesi. While the first is located in the south, the other is located in the northeast.
To Manado, there are flights to/from Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia and Singapore with SilkAir. Other destinations include Jakarta, Balikpapan (in Kalimantan, Borneo), Bali, Surabaya, and Jayapura (West Papua).
To Makassar, flights exist from most of the places mentioned above except Singapore. It does have more domestic destinations though, including Ambon (Maluku Islands, Biak (West Papua) and Kupang.

By Boat

Almost every big coastal city in Sulawesi has a port. However the most usual places of entry (and the ones where one is most likely to see a Pelni ship) are Makassar, Pare-Pare, Palu, Toli-Toli, Manado and Bau-Bau.

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Getting Around

By Plane

The sheer size of Sulawesi and the poor state of its roads make plane the transportation method of choice. Flights radiate out from Makassar and Manado to all points on the island.

By Bus

The Trans-Sulawesi Highway winds for over 1,900 kilometres from Makassar to Manado. Despite the grand name, the road is narrow, twisty, spottily paved and dangerous.

Bus travel is very good from Makassar to Tana Toraja, however the quality diminishes considerably if you intend venturing on to the Togean Islands.

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Eat

Sulawesi cuisine is quite varied, but the best-known is Manadonese cuisine from the north, an interesting mix of Dutch influences, incredibly spicy chillies and unorthodox ingredients like bat and dog.

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Contributors

as well as joffre (8%), CBP (3%)

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This is version 27. Last edited at 13:22 on Jan 2, 17 by Utrecht. 33 articles link to this page.

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