Text : Gandi Faisal
In late June, I got a chance to revisit Buton Island, Southeast Sulawesi. It was a trip long in coming if for no other reason than Buton being my late mother’s hometown, and that I finally got the chance to take my family there. It was also a trip I found I sorely needed to recharge and to get reacquainted with my parent’s past, or what’s left of it.
Buton is more than a paragraph or two in students’ book describing the island as the place where all of that high-quality asphalt is coming from. It houses various outstanding tourism spots, some of which are one of a kind in the world. Don’t believe me? Read on.
BUTON PALACE FORTRESS
Perched on a hilly-area in the city of Baubau (the capital of Buton Island), the fortress encircles some of the Buton Sultanate’s most important locations, including the palace itself, the palace mosque, royal cemetery, and the square where the past Buton’s sultans took their oath and were crowned. Today, Buton leaders also take their oath of office here. The fortress was erected in the 16th century, using volcanic rocks and limestone mixed with egg white for the materials. It has 12 gates (lawa) and 16 emplacements where old cannons were situated. Facing the Buton Bay, the fortress offers a grand vista of the city of Baubau below and the open sea. By the way, its whooping 2,740 meter circumference and 23,375-hectare area earned the fortress a place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006 as the world’s widest fort.
Located around nine kilometers from the center of the city of Baubau, Nirwana Beach is a popular destination located around nine kilometers from the center of the city of Baubau. Being on Nirwana beach, one can’t help but overwhelmed by the natural beauty the beach offers: crystal clear water, with fish freely swimming a mere few meters from land; creamy white fine sand; temperate climate; and, overall relaxing atmosphere. The beach also is a gateway to some outstanding snorkeling spots. It’s also a great spot to catch the sunrise and sunset.
Buton is dubbed the land of a thousand caves (also, the land of bananas, for that matter; and I did have my share of banana binge eating whilst there). Many of these caves are yet untouched by modern man, while those which have been discovered haven’t had every nook and cranny explored. Lakasa Cave, located not too far from Nirwana Beach, actually, has a depth of around 120 meters with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. After light spelunking for about 15 minutes, you will come upon a small lake at the base of the cave, offering cool and crystal-clear water as a perfect spot to bathe.
Located by the side of the road (eight meters from the road, to be exact), Lanto Cave is an amazing piece of nature’s work. Entering the cave means going down to the bowel of the earth. At the base is a pond with a depth of about 12 meters, with stalactites adorning the roofs. The cave has a length of around 100 meters and can only be traversed by experienced divers. In fact, my uncle, whose house practically neighbors the cave, told me no local people have ever explored the cave; some western divers have. The cave is located in Kadolomoko Village, Kokalukuna district.
Kabura-burana is interesting. It is a river with different levels of river bottoms, making it look like it has big steps of a giant ladder, or terraces (seven of them), with each drop creating mini waterfalls with the height of around one to 1.5 meters. Located in South Lawela Village, in South Buton, or 20 kilometers from Baubau, Kabura-burana has very minimum public facilities, meaning that you mustn’t forget to bring your wellstocked picnic basket with you if you are visiting the place. Going to the location, you can also see rows of wooden stilt houses which are slowly being replaced by landed houses in Baubau. There is a slew of remarkable natural tourism spots to be found on the island, including Samparona waterfall, Tirta Rimba waterfall, various other caves and underwater ponds and rivers, more beautiful beaches, and Wakonti Natural Reserve. The list goes on and on. You need maybe a month on the island to truly explore the island and its surrounding small islands—time which I sadly didn’t have.
Originally published in 3S, Sept-Dec. 2017 edition