Bulukumba: Phinisi Boat Building Industry and Tanjung Bira Beach Resort

Located at the most southern tip of South Sulawesi’s peninsula, 153 kilometers south of Makassar, lies the district of Bulukumba , holding hidden marvels in its pristine beaches, underwater gardens, and   unique maritime culture. The district is also known as Butta Panrita Lopi or ‘the land of the phinisi schooners” for its long tradition in building these majestic crafts, the pride of the Bugis people.

According to the ancient I La Galigo manuscript, phinisi schooners have been built since the 14th century. These  schooners are mostly crafted  in the area called Tanah Beru, located about 23 kilometers from the capital of Bulukumba, or 176 kilometers from Makassar.

Along the shores of Tanah Beru, you will see tens of dry-docks where phinisi schooners are in various stages of construction. Here the skillful hands of the Bugis with amazing precision, carefully craft the Phinisi that has become the icon of Indonesian seafaring. The Phinisi is built using traditional equipment following exact prescribed traditional techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation. Its construction does not only involve strength and technique but also – as the locals believe – supernatural powers, for which every stage requires strictly adhered rituals and ceremonies.

Further south, at the most southern tip of the district, about 200 kilometers from Makassar, the secluded white sandy beach, crystal clear calm waters and indulging breeze await at the Tanjung Bira Beach. Its location alone has made it a special place, where the sun rises and sets magnificently along a straight line.  Here the luxurious Amatoa Resort provides magnificent views on the vast spreading white sand,  making this a perfect spot for sunbathing, snorkeling and diving.

Far on the horizon, the scenic view of the island of Selayar adds to the splendor of the beach. While, not too far from shore, the Liukang and Kambing or Goat Islands welcome visitors to step in their pristine environment. There are several boats along the coast that are more than willing to take you to the islands. The seas off Tanjung Bira and around Selayarare also ideal for diving. Around Bira are fringing reefs, but most outstanding by far are the sheer walls at Kambing island, where a stark slab of rock rises out of the ocean between Bira and Selayar. Here the coral cover and schools of fish offer fantastic underwater scenes.

The word “Bulukumba” is believed to be derived from the Bugis phrase “Bulu’ku Mupa”, which loosely translated means “still my mountain”. The name appeared in the 17th century, when a war broke out between two kingdoms of South Sulawesi, namely the kingdoms of Gowa and Bone.  At the time, the ridge of Mount Lompobattang ,  known as “Bengkeng Buki”, –  which means “foot of the hill”, –   was claimed by The Gowa Kingdom.  The Bone Kingdom, however, refuted the claim and defended the area with all they had.  From this battle came the passionate outcry: ”bulu’ku mupa!” or “still my mountain”. Gradually its pronunciation shifted to cover the entire area of  Bulukumba.

Bulukumba is also the home of a special ethnic group called the Kajang. For centuries they inhabited the interior area of the Kajang regency in an area called Tana Toa, which they regard as having been bestowed to them by their ancestors. Until this day, the Kajang still practice age -old traditions and ways of life that teach men to maintain perfect harmony with nature. Living in simplicity, none of the houses have any furniture, electricity, and other modern convenience.The Kajang also wear black as their daily attire.  For to the people of Kajang, modernity deviates from customary rules and ancestral teachings.

Watching the magnificent phinisi schooners being built, enjoying the white beaches, and the splendors below the sea,Bulukumba is  truly worth a visit as you venture into the wonders of South Sulawesi.

As a district rich of natural and cultural splendors, Bulukumba offers more than just a single activity. After visiting the phinisi dock yards at Tana Beru, pristine white sandy beaches and calm waters will spoil visitors as they swim, play around or just lay their body into the care of the tropical sun. Its close proximity with Makassar makes it an ideal alternative destination from the capital city of South Sulawesi.

Far from the shore of Bulukumba, deep down below the surface, its waters offer wonders in its pristine marine park and biota. From the tiny islands of Kambing and Liukang, all the way to the nearby area of Selayar Island, the underwater paradise of Bulukumba is a treasure yet to be fully unveiled. Diving in the pristine water truly offers its own sensation, one that would match the excitement of RajaampatBunaken or Wakatobi.


The Hasanuddin International airport in Makassar serves flights to and from major cities in Indonesia including Jakarta, BaliYogyakarta, and Surabaya, as well as flights from Malaysia by AirAsia and to and from Singapore by Garuda Indonesia.  To reach Bulukumba, visitors can go straight from the airport to the Malengkeri terminal in Makassar by taxi with fare about IDR 40.000. From the terminal, visitors can choose to take a bus or other public transportation toBulukumba.  By public transport, the trip to Bulukumba will take about 2 -3 hours and costs around IDR 35.000.

Once you reach downtown Bulukumba, you can get to Bira Beach by taking the pete-pete minibuses for about IDR 8.000 to IDR 10.000. The Tanah Beru phinisi dock yards are along this road.

In Tanjung Bira Beach, public transport operates only till the afternoon. If you wish to return to Makassar, there are also cars for hire to take you back to Makasar for about IDR 500.000

Source: Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Republic Indonesia

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