Selayar Island is the main island of the Selayar Islands. It lies off the coast of Cape Bira of South Sulawesi Province. Divers dominate the scene in the few resort hotels, and the most fascinating and rare underwater encounter is seeing dugong! This gentle creature never fails leaving divers in awe, nor do the over 50 well preserved dive sites around Selayar and nearby atolls. Other activities include hiking the lush rain-forest with picture perfect waterfall and a batcave, which can also be reached by bikes or motorcycles. Secluded white-sand beaches complete this island paradise.
Selayar Island is a secret find; an unspoiled island tucked away in South Sulawesi. The charm of the island combines genuine, warm hospitality with first-rate diving spots. The crystal clear tropical waters used to have an illustrious past. The Island is positioned near the famed Takabonerate National Sea Park, and is the third-largest coral atoll in the world, after the Marshall Islands and the Maldives. With this major draw card you would expect to find developed tourism, several dive resorts and five-star hotels, but this is not the case. Selayar is a secret find. It is a place where time has stood still.
Ancient Javanese writings in the Nagara Kertagama mention that in the 14th century there was already a thriving kingdom on Selayar. In the 16th century Salayar was fought over for its blue-white cotton products, a favorite in the archipelago. And when the Dutch won hegemony over Selayar, they monopolized the cotton trade, forcing Selayar to send the cotton only to Fort Rotterdam in Makassar. However today, with modern fabrics the popularity of cotton waned and the people of Salayar were forced to return to living from coconut produce, relegating the island to its present isolation.
The 80 km long island of Selayar is in fact gateway to the spectacular Taka Bonerate National Park that teems with colorful coral reefs, giant sponges, a wealth of fish species including dugongs and tuna, gliding past turtles and manta rays. Comprising 21 islands and atolls, Taka Bonerate is the third biggest atoll in the world after the Marshall Islands and the Maldives. Although still predominantly covered by rainforests, Selayar boasts many pristine white sand beaches.
Accommodation is mostly in homestays or three-star hotels in Benteng, the main town, however the journey out to the dive sites that are worthwhile, will take you up to six hours by boat to access. Another dive accommodation option is a remote National Park managed dive facility, six hours off the mainland, with homestay accommodation. If those options don’t appeal, you are whittled down to two choices – Selayar Island Resort and Selayar Dive Resort.
If you are not a diver, then these resorts offers a beautiful beach setting, relaxation and hammock time. Explore the reef from your bungalow door, with flippers and a mask in hand – it is all you need. The reef stretches all the way across the front of the beach and tied to the end of the jetty is a rope, so you can traverse the length of the reef and keep your bearings. You will literally lost in time, snorkeling for hours following turtles, schools of friendly fish and drifting with the swaying coral.
How to Get There
To get to Selayar you can travel overland from Makassar to the town of Tanjung Bira, and take the ferry to Selayar from here. The sea journey takes two hours. But when the seas are choppy, ferries do not sail.
There are air conditioned buses from Makassar, travelling via Bira, where the ferry carries passengers and bus to Salayar.
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