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The southwestern part of Sulawesi offers some fine wreck diving around Makassar and beautiful coral reefs around the rocky island of Selayar and the atolls around Takabonerate. Plan for a longer stay, because some of these islands are not reached so easily but they are worth the somewhat longer journey!
There are several islands (Spermonde Archipelago - map) east of Makassar with interesting dive sites and wrecks. The city of Makassar is a good base for trips to this group of small islands and atolls. The east monsoon season (April - November) is the best period for visiting these islands.
There is a lot of wreck diving on the following islands: Samalona (Maru wreck) / Kodengareng Keke (gunboat wreck) / Tin-Tingan Atoll (cargo vessel wreck) / Takabakan Atoll (submarine ) / Samalona Island (wreck of a Michell-Lanchaster bomber) / Tanakeke (cargo vessel and the Nikko Maru) / Labutung Atoll (cargo vessel) / Lai Lai Island (Hakko Maru) and dives on Kodongbali , Tambakulu and Suranti Kapoposang Lanyukan. Travelog in German (Wracks) and in English (Michael Bode) also about the wrecks and the Forum Makassar straits.
The Cape of Bira is both known for the sharks, rays and other pelagics and its strong and dangerous currents (Want to know more about how to assess accurately the rate of current? Click here. There used to be a German dive operator but he was chased out of the country and only a few months later a tragic accident happened, when 5 Japanese divers were swept out and away from Cape Bira (this story was told me twice by different people, somebody else said it happened at Pulau Kambing). Please heed your dive guide's advise about currents and the best time of the day for certain dive sites! Visibility is good but I read, that the water can be quite cold (23-24° in August). We had very warm water (29-30°) in April.
We did several dives at the cape and thoroughly enjoyed them. Both times we entered the water slightly to the east of the cape, were first swept along a wall, then a slope and turned to the shallows in time for a long safety stop. In the deeper parts (30-40m) we encountered several whitetip and gray reefsharks and on one dive a group of 6 eagle rays, the second dive 2 eagle rays and a large 3m black stingray (gray color)! The shallows are quite interesting also, if you take a close look - some nudibranchs and ribbon eels. Currents can pick up quite a bit and we actually did one safety stop hanging on like flags to a coral block!
Dynamite fishing (blast fishing) is still used around Bira and on our second dive a fisherman dropped a stick of dynamite very close too us. I had just espied an eagle ray in the shallows and considered using my tank banger to attract the attention of my dive buddy then thought better of it - thinking I might scare it off - when a LOUD BANG scared us all nearly to death including the ray who took off really fast! Our boat crew told us later, a fisherman had dropped a bomb (a bottle filled with a mixture of fertilizer and petrol) just around the corner! Sone of my dive buddies had dived here before and they were very disappointed when diving at Mamasa Pinnacles, north of Bira, because the beautiful upper reef was destroyed by dynamite!
House reef Bira diving resort: A nice wall dive to the depth of about 20. There seems to be a lot of lionfishes here about, from clearfin, spotless to zebra lionfishes and even the shy twinspotted lionfish. Also nudibranchs and lots of coral reef fishes.
Tanjung Bira (Bira bay): a great dive with dozens of sharks and if you are lucky even a hammerhead.
Shark point: This dive site lies close to the harbour. You do a drift dive on a slope and sometimes there can be quite a lot of surrent. A good place for big fish like tunas, trevallies, sharks and cods.
Pulau Kambing (Goat island): In the strait between Selayar island (stress the second vocal) and Bira lie two islands. We did several dives at Kambing, all of them excellent. You dive on a wall that drops down to at least 60m. Sometimes there is a lot of current and you have to know when you can dive and when it is better to listen to the boat captain and dive somewhere else. On the dive there were constantly sharks patrolling back and forth - white tipped, black tipped sharks on the wall and nurse sharks at the coral garden that starts from about 15m up. But you are also very likely to see schoools of hunting mackerels or tunas abd great trevallies as well as groups of bumhead parrotfishes. In the coral garden you might find scorpionfishes, cuttlefish or a octopus and with luck the juvenile zebra batfish. A great place for scuba diving!
Night dive at Coral garden: Night dives close to Pantai Kechil (little beach) just south of Bira harbor are very nive. We encountered many interesting animals: Spanish dancer, twinspot lionfish, a sleeping turtle, several cuttlefish and an octopus. One of the highlights was a huge Conus shell (Conus geographus) hunting for prey such as fish and mollusks. It had expanded its whole mantle to the size of about 30cm and was probing with a trunk-like appendage (siphon) for prey. This slug shoots extremely poisonous darts at its prey. The venom paralyzes and kills the fish and even humans (I read that over 3 dozen deaths are known to have been caused by it).
Tanjung Cumi (Selayar): I liked the diving around Selayar a lot. We started on the Ciska our liveaboard from the southern tip and did a few dives on the east side of Selayar. Diving at Tanjung Cumi was very interesting with a school of barracudas, reef sharks hiding under a table coral and a large grey shark in the blue.
Selayar dive resort: There are several very nice dive sites around the resort. Friends of mine reported tremendous dives with white tipped, blacktipped and grey sharks (at depths of 40m plus) and beautiful coral cover with gorgonians, soft corals, huge sponges and colorful reef fishes in the shallower parts.
The reefs of Selayar are still being explored and are not often visited by travelers. Look at this description of dive sites by Marlin dive and by Michael Bode (report in German and English).
Takabonerate (Telaga Bone Rate) lies southwest of Selayar island and is the third largest coral atoll in the world (the largest is Kwajalein in the Marshall islands and the second largest Suvadiva in the Maldives). Spread over 2,220 square kilometer (21 small islands) in the Flores Sea, there are coral reef and seagrass ecosystems. The atoll offers some very good wall diving. Visibility is normally around 30 meter. The atoll rises sharply from the side of a submerged ridge 2,000 meter below the surface. It is said to have been a huge volcano, that has since subsided, leaving a wide ring of coral. The area is an Indonesian National Marine Park and as such there should be no fishing. I researched in the internet and found a lot of game fishing pages about Takabonaerate. There seem to be a lot of fish such as the wahoo, barracuda, giant trevally, marlin, sailfish, yellowfins, dogtooth tuna and mackerels. There are some nesting areas for sea turtles on the islands.