A gigantic monkey statue stands behind entrance of the Butterfly Park. Slightly dishevelled and with an arm raised and a knuckle resting upon his head, he bears a quite a quizzical expression. Before the confused monkey, a goliath like butterfly spreads its titanic wings high above the entrance, welcoming visitors to the park that lies behind it.
Munir parked up, and we hopped out. After paying a ticket of 20,000 Rp we entered through the gate into the park. (This 20,000 Rp being the local price – bule (foreigner) prices will be a little higher. As I am lucky enough to possess a KITAS, a kind of Indonesian identity card I can usually be counted as a local. After showing my KITAS, the ticket inspector seemed satisfied and sure enough that both Layla and Tukimin had one too and therefore didn’t bother to check. They didn’t have any KITAS. A little acting, persuasion, and the added bonus of us having someone Indonesian with you goes along way.) Crawler plants crept up and stretched on the rock face of a mountain to the left of us, and a few sites of unfinished construction lay on our left, in amongst all the green forest.
Despite the odd colourful butterfly fluttering past our heads, we were informed that the butterfly area of the park was sadly closed. However, Bantimurung Butterfly park has more to offer than just butterflies. It has a waterfall, too.
Usually during Indonesia’s wet season, the level of the river rises higher so it is almost impossible to cross the water to get to the waterfall. We travelled to Maros in early September, which seems to have been the peak of dry season of 2013 so far – so the river level was lower, and the waterfall was still wonderfully impressive without being wonderfully treacherous.
Locals frolicked in the water, standing under the torrents of water that gushed from the waterfall and sliding down the river in rubber dinghies. We hadn’t prepared for any water based activities that day, and therefore hadn’t brought any swimming gear. Looking at the people laughing and playing in the water, a spark of envy started to grow inside me. Despite being bikini-less, I wanted to be in that water too. Next to that waterfall. Since we had been in the humid, unforgiving Sulawesian sun all day, the water looked cool and delicious – especially for my poor feet, which had been cooped up in a pair of trainers and socks since the morning. I looked at Jack.
‘I want to go over there and put my feet in the water.’
‘Me too,’ he said.
We walked closer to the waterfall, noticing a brigade of army boots standing side by side next to the edge of the river. A troop of young army boys were enjoying what seemed to be a well deserved break from their military exercises. Still dressed in their green and black camouflage uniforms, they basked in the cool water and pushed each other in yellow dinghies down the stream.
Layla and Tukimin decided to stay dry and remain on land, keeping guard of our trainers and flip flops. Jack and I, barefoot, began to traverse the smooth rocks over to the waterfall. A very slippery affair, we finally made it over to the waterfall. The cool water lapped around my ankles; my feet were overcome by happiness.
We looked back over to Layla and Tukimin, and Miss Layla had attracted quite a buzz from the army boys that were about. Intrigued by her bule (foreigner) presence, they all posed for pictures with her – and it wasn’t long before she joined us by the waterfall and brought the swarm along with her. Just as cheerful and friendly as the brightly dressed schoolgirls, they shook our hands, asked us questions about England and if we knew words of any Bahasa Indonesia (and were then heavily surprised and pleased when both Layla and I spoke a few words to them, saya dari inggris/satu lagi/ terima kasih!).
After posing for a few more photos, we shook hands and departed from the Butterfly Park. The had been long and hot, but our eyes had enjoyed a multitude of natural wonder; karsts, caves and waterfalls – who could complain about that? And since leaving Maros, I have spoken about it on many occasion to my students, none of whom as of yet have heard of the place. Only an hour outside the hub of the capital city of Makassar, Maros sits quiet and humble, remaining one of Indonesia’s myriad of secret cities.
*Tune in next time, for tales of gallivanting around South West Java…
Go Go Go!
Where: Bantimurung Butterfly Park, Maros, one hour away from Makassar, South Sulawesi in Indonesia.
Why: Butterflies, forests and waterfalls.
When: If you want to paddle around in the waterfall, I’d suggest Indonesia’s dry season from April – October, otherwise the river’s water level rises too high.
How: If you are Indonesian, or possess a KITAS, entrance is Rp 20,000 (approx £1). If you’re a foreigner without any Indonesian ID, the price will be a little higher, from 40,000 – 50,000 Rp.