If you often “suffer” from lounging on a white-sand beach, smelling the scent of sea, listening to the waves or discovering the underwater treasure, Tanjung Bira (Cape of Bira) in the southern tip of South Sulawesi is worth your mind. Its oceanic appeal never fails to seduce the appetites of sea aficionados.
I remember my tweet about a spree in Tanjung Bira and some of friends thought whether I was in a northern part of Thousand Islands, bay of Jakarta. In fact, it takes hours to reach this peninsula in Sulawesi, yet it only takes seconds to start loving this place.
There are now many flights to Makassar, which from there you will need to take a six-hour road trip to touchdown Tanjung Bira. Public transportation from Makassar to Tanjung Bira is available but you may need to change cars in Bulukumba regency to resume the trip.
As I didn’t want to waste time and tired out on the road heading to Tanjung Bira, I decided to rent a car in Makassar for Rp 600,000 (USD 65.4) – including driver, fuels, and a two-way drive. I suggest you not to sleep much during the trip or you will not notice interesting places nearby. Two hours from Makassar, I noticed somewhat smaller-sized horses everywhere in Jeneponto regency, which is notorious for its local horses. With its horse statuette city icon, Jeneponto local foods even use horsemeat. There are coto kuda (horse meat with nut and spices soup) and konro kuda (roasted horse ribs).
Continued driving along the coastal area, I encountered salt fields on each sides of the road. “Open up the window and gasp deeply the coastal scent, you don’t want to miss the smell,” the driver suggested as he opened the car windows. Two hours later, we arrived in Bulukumba regency where the legendary Phinisi sailing ships are crafted by Konjo people, part of Bugis sub-ethnic.
Bulukumba’s Phinisi ship builders have been busy finishing international orders as they are recognized for their ship-building ability. It is said that Phinisi ship builders still follow their predecessor traditional way of constructing ships – each step in building a Phinisi requires some rituals to complete – combined with their technical skills.
Just the next 1.5-hour, the Tanjung Bira tourism area was before our eyes. I had to pay Rp 5,000/person in the entrance post before entering Tanjung Bira. I was slightly surprised finding out that the area was already set like a housing complex. Hotels, kiosks and restaurant were lining up, so visitors do not need to worry about a room to stay.
The hotels’ rates are economical, as many offer Rp 100,000 to 400,000 per night, with AC/non-AC room and breakfast, while others come in above Rp 800,000 per night. Local people also offer their rooms and house to rent if you come in plenty. Choose your room view from the various hotel – on a top of hill to see the beautiful, sparkling sea or on a top of rocky coral with sea view that, even better, you can soon jump and swim away in the sea.
With the sun shone brightly in the afternoon, I stepped down to the Bira beach and walked in the white sands. The sands were no kidding; it was like flour – soft and truthfully white. No wonder visitors put the sand in the bottle and take them home, some times. At the time I was there, there were not only domestic tourists came. Several foreigners were seen laid back and sunbathed on the beach, while some others were just finished snorkeling and diving.
The beach provides banana boat, kite flying, boat rental to nearby islands, snorkeling and scuba diving. Banana boat costs Rp 70,000 per trip and around Rp 300,000 for renting boat – negotiate for a cheaper price. Heading to the quieter part on the beach’s east side, the sea was calm and still, with green-to-dark blue shades. Here, you can go snorkeling in the crystal clean water even though it doesn’t have quite fancy and colorful corals, but it is really worth to try.
No need to worry if you need snorkeling equipments, as many stalls line up on the beach offering the gears in Rp 35.000 – including mask, snorkel and fins. Moreover, boats to cross to the Liukangloe Island are plenty. Each boat can be packed up to six people, even more, depending on the size of the boat. By handing out Rp 300.000 (negotiable) for back and forth, I could have a little cruise to this south island of Tanjung Bira.
Now, not many dive operators open in Tanjung Bira. Divers are advised to have information about the best time of the day to dive, as Tanjung Bira has clear water visibility and, occasionally, unpredictable water temperature (up to 23 degrees Celsius in August and 30 degrees Celsius in April). Kambing Island (Goat Island) is one well-known dive spot, especially for its white-tip and gray reef sharks, rays, nudibranchs and pretty coral reefs.
With the sun got ready to go down, I moved to a perfect place which was in the upper side near the inns and cottages before the beach. From here, I spotted Liukangloe Island and also the beam of Selayar Island port’s lighthouse in the night – which also renowned for its breezy sea escape – Takabonerate Islands. In the morning on the next day, as planned, I sailed away to the south of Tanjung Bira: Liukangloe Island. People talked about the appetizing lobsters in a local seafood dine on the island.
Beforehand, absolutely I didn’t want to miss tasting the sea. The boat driver told me the beautiful spot for snorkeling and dropped me there. Dipping along the sea near Liukangloe Island for about more than an hour was more than awesome. Never mind the darker and darker skin tone I got, the underwater scenery was mind-blowing and stunning. I needed to be very careful not to footstep a squadron of sea urchins in the shallow water, when stepping up to the seafood restaurant.
There’s the sea turtle conservation nearby a seafood restaurant located right in the seashore of Liukangloe Island. The turtles, which mostly come in huge size, are heeded in a pool with other sea animals like crabs, fish and lobsters. People are allowed to swim and play with these turtles while the foods ordered are being prepared.
The attractive thing is when I ordered lobster, they asked me to pick which lobster I wanted in the pool. The restaurant staff will swim in and take our orders, the 1-kilogram weight of lobster – it could be a two or three lobsters. It was Rp 350,000 for the whole lunch package for two people – three scrumptious grilled lobsters with a bowl of rice, tumis kangkung (water spinach stir-fry), fried fish and ice tea. This what I call fresh seafood right from the ocean.
Too bad, I couldn’t spare time to walk around and explore the Island. It was 3:00 PM that I was on the boat heading to the hotel in Tanjung Bira. Other visitors back from Liukangloe Island in the next day told me they were thrilled with a number of dolphins came out of the water alongside their boat. Unfortunately, I had no chance to perceive dolphins while sailing back to the hotel.