Sulawesi Island or Celebes is the world’s eleventh largest island at Indonesia, covering an area of about 188,500 km2. The island is surrounded by Borneo to the West, by the Philippines to the North, by Maluku 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 ruggedly mountainous, such that the island’s peninsulas have traditionally been remote from each other, with better connections by sea, air than by road, land area is about 227,000 square kilometers no point of the mainland is more than 90 kms away from the sea. This makes the island has a long coast line. Most of the land are mountain in nature. The combination of the two offers wonderful sceneries both its shores and the highland.
The first western visitors reached Sulawesi in about 1511, they found Makassar a thriving cosmopolitan entry port where Chinese, Arabs, 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. One suggestion is the Bugis word si-lebih for ‘more islands’ – a reference to its shape suggesting it was more than one island. The modern name ‘Sulawesi’ probably origins from the words “Sula” which means Island and “besi” which means Iron, thought to be reference to the rich Lake Matano iron deposits. Other suggestion is that it comes from the portuguese word “celebres” or famous ones, as these islands were famous for their spices throughout Asia and even Europe, this being the reason that attracted them to these islands.
Sulawesi Island now has subdivided into six provinces : Gorontalo, West Sulawesi, South Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, South East Sulawesi, and North Sulawesi. West Sulawesi is a new province, created in 2004 from part of South Sulawesi. The largest cities on the island are Makassar formerly know Ujung Pandang, on the southwestern coast of the island, and Manado, on the northern tip.
Sulawesi’s location, geologic history, and long geographic isolation have created Sulawesi’s distinctive fauna. There is variability, different among various animal and plant groups, in the amount of interchange between other bio geography areas in the region, which led to the evolution of a large number of species endemic to the island. Although not species rich relative to Borneo or Java, Sulawesi is high in endemic because of its long isolation from Asia and Australia in Wallacea. This eco region exhibits high plant endemism, and the several distinct forest types provide habitat for the highest number of endemic mammals in Asia and several endemic birds.
Sulawesi island also has several endemic species of freshwater fish, such as those in the genus Nomorhamphus, a species flock of live bearing freshwater half beaks containing at least 19 distinct species, most of which are only found on Sulawesi. At least there are 127 known mammalian species in Sulawesi. A large percentage of these mammals, 62% (79 species) are endemic, meaning that they are found nowhere else in Indonesia or the world. The largest native mammal in Sulawesi is the dwarf buffalo, locally known as the Anoa. By contrast, because many birds can fly between islands, Sulawesian bird species tend to be found on other nearby islands as well, such as Borneo; only 34% of Sulawesi’s birds are found nowhere else. The most important among these last is the maleo, a bird that spends most of its time on the ground. It has undergone an observed very rapid decline. An international partnership of conservationists, donors, and local people have formed the Alliance for Tompotika Conservation , in an effort to raise awareness and protect the nesting grounds of these birds on the central-eastern arm of the island.
The people of Sulawesi are famous for their dedication to their diverse art abilities, which include pottery, weaving, and dancing. Their pottery was originally made specifically for the purpose of storing rice and water, but when the Dutch arrived, it became useful for commercial exporting and sale, and was noted for its extensive detail. The Sulawesian people also excel at intricate weaving, and repeat the same pattern at least once in every project they do. Although the women are predominantely weavers, both genders dance. The male dance is rigid, mechanical and robotic, while the female’s dances are fluid and smooth. They combine these aspects to tell a story
Islam is the majority religion in Sulawesi. The conversion of the lowlands of the south western peninsula (South Sulawesi) to Islam occurred in the early 17th century. The kingdom of Luwu in the Gulf of Bone was the first to accept Islam in February 1605; the Makasar kingdom of Gowa – Tallo, centered on the modern day city of Makassar. However, the Gorontalo and the Mongondow peoples of the northern peninsula largely converted to Islam only in the 19th century. Most Muslims are Sunnis. Muslims can be found in all parts of Sulawesi. Christians form a substantial minority. According to the demographer Toby Alice Volkman, 17% of Sulawesi’s population is Protestant and 2% is Roman Catholic. Christians are concentrated on the tip of the northern peninsula around the city of Manado, which is inhabited by the Minahasa, a predominantly Protestant people, and the northernmost Sangihe and Talaud islands. The famous Toraja people of Tana Toraja have largely converted to Christianity since Indonesia’s independence. There are also substantial numbers of Christians around Lake Poso in Central Sulawesi and among the Pamona speaking peoples of Central Sulawesi. There has also been growth in the Christian population of the Banggai Islands and the Eastern Peninsula in Central Sulawesi, traditionally thought of as Muslim areas (which in the past were controlled by Muslim sultanates in Tidore and Ternate). Christians can be found in every major Sulawesi city.
Through centuries of international trade, Sulawesi Island has become very cosmopolitan. Chinese, Arabs, Indians have made Sulawesi their home and are today very much integrated with the local population. Their customs, religions, rites and traditions becoming part of the culture and way of life on Sulawesi.
The name Sulawesi probably origins from “sula” which means island and “besi” which means iron, which was formerly known as Celebes were found many deposits of nickel-iron, copper and gold. Sulawesi Island is a fascinating destination owing to its unique landscape, beautiful unspoilt beaches, magnificent mountain area, tradition and culture diversity, rice fields, and tropical forests. One can see and enjoy the uniqueness of this culture such as ceremonial, traditional dance, carving, beautiful weaving from cotton and silk, traditional house and the fascinating natural tropical scene.
Tropical forests in Sulawesi Island is inhabited by some endemic animal, such as : anoa or dwarf buffalo, babi rusas, which are aberrant pigs, crested macaque (Macaca nigra), tarsiers, the world’s smallest primates including three tarsier species are found pumilus, spectrum, and dianae. Maleo birds, Bear Cuscus
The waters surrounding Sulawesi really do contain some wonderful treasures and greatly influence the island’s tourism, since they boast some of Indonesia’s most outstanding snorkeling and scuba diving destination, particularly around Bunaken Island – Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi, Labengki Island and Wakatobi in South East Sulawesi, Togian – Kadidiri Island – Parigi in Central Sulawesi, Tanjung Bira – Selayar and Takabonerate in South Sulawesi, and others area. Diving conditions in Sulawesi are absolutely stunning. Everywhere you look there are beautiful corals, the seas surrounding Sulawesi are teeming with marine life. It is said that the waters around Sulawesi contains a percentage of fish species that is one of the highest in the world.
Beside the scuba diving spot, Sulawesi Island still have many tourism object and it all completed with the white powdery beaches around South Sulawesi and South East Sulawesi. The south shore is where you will find the appealing beach resort of Tanjung Bira / Bira Beach, which is known for its boat building, traditional weaving and fishing, as well as its colourful coral reefs and rich marine life. In Central Sulawesi there are Banggai Islands are worth exploring and often disregarded in favour of the Lore Lindu National Park, the Morowali Nature Reserve and the Tanjung Api National Park. Further national parks and wildlife reserves await tourists in North Sulawesi and include the Bogani Nani Wartabone and the Tangkoko Batuangas Dua Saudara. The natural beauty within the Mamasa Valley, Bada Valley and others valley is quite hard to describe and really does need to be experienced firsthand.
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Sulawesi Time zone : UTC+8.
Population : About 18,455,058 (2014 Estimate).
Density : About 97.4 /km2 (252.3 /sq mi)
Main Ethnic Groups : Makassarese, Buginese, Mandarese, Minahasa, Gorontalo, Torajanese, Butonese, Bajo, Tolaki, Mongondow, Kajang.