sign in a cave in Laos

21 December 2008

Bantimurung: Butterflies and blue pools - BT

Published on The Brunei Times (
Bantimurung: Butterflies and blue pools

Breathtaking: The Dreaming Cave is 500 metres long and full of stalactites and stalagmites. Bantimurung is a protected area with beautifully-coloured butterflies as souvenirs.Picture: Courtesy of Liz Price

Liz Price

Sunday, December 21, 2008

THE pool was such a milky turquoise colour that it didn't seem real at all. It reminded me of the blue school uniforms worn in Malaysia, although was slightly paler in colour, as if mixed with milk. The through a wooded gorge and then it plunged 15 metres down the Bantimurung falls. Once it reached the bottom of the waterfall it had lost its blue colour. Unfortunately it was dry season so there wasn't much water, and the rocks supporting the waterfall were hardly covered. The bottom of the fall was a sea of people; it was a Sunday and this area is very popular with Indonesian day- trippers.

About 45 kilometres north of Ujung Pandang at the Bantimurung waterfalls are set amid lushly vegetated limestone cliffs. Bantimurung is crowded with Indonesians on weekends and holidays, and at other times it's a wonderful retreat from the congestion of Ujung Pandang. Ujung Pandang (Makassar) is the capital of Sulawesi, the octopus-shaped island of Indonesia. To get to Bantimurung from the city, we took a bus for Maros. Local passengers asked where we were going. We found all the Sulawesi people to be very friendly, they are a mix of Makassarese and the Bugis Muslims, and the Christian Minahasans.

Before the bus I took reached Maros, it stopped, and we were told to get off. We were a bit puzzled and were wondering what was happening, then someone shouted at a microlet driver. We were bundled onto this, and without saying anything, we were taken to Bantimurung Waterfall Park. I suppose it was obvious to the lcoals where we wanted to go. The road passed under a giant monkey, which was waving with one hand and scratching its head with the other. It was as if it couldn't decide whether to welcome us or not. Apparently this 6 metres tall statue is of a lutung, which is a black, long tailed leaf monkey indigenous to Sulawesi and Kalimantan.

The road ended at the park, so we paid the driver then entered the park, paying a small admission fee. That was when we realised we had made a mistake by coming at a weekend, as there were people everywhere. We headed straight for Gua Mimpi, or Dreaming Cave. Bantimurung lies at the southern end of a limestone outcrop which houses a series of caves and rock shelters. There are many caves, but Gua Mimpi is one of the best, and is equipped as a tourist cave.

The cave consists of one long passage, maybe 500 metres

long, and is full of stalactites and stalagmites. Some were white in colour, others varying shades of cream, yellow and brown. In addition some looked like large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. There was a wooden plankwalk all the way through the cave, so presumably the floor is covered by a river in the wet season.

We came out at a smaller backdoor, so decided to walk back through the cave. As we emerged, several Indonesians asked to have their photo taken with us. I suppose they don't get too many European visitors to this area. To the left of this entrance is another cave, Gua Istana Toakala. There was no plankwalk in this cave, but we went in, and again it had some great stalagmite formations.

We went back down to the river and followed the right bank up to the waterfall. Several times we were stopped and had to have our photo taken with the locals. Steep steps lead up the side of the tufa waterfall and onto the gorge with the blue river. It reminded me of the Bei Shui river which flows through the Jiuzhaigou Nature Park in Sichuan province in southern China. It must be the tufa which gives the milky blue colour.

The pool looked inviting but no one was in the water. All the water was resurging from a cave. We were curious so went in to have a look and found a dry passage above the water. However the cave was very short and we soon popped out on the other side. There was another beautiful blue pool, with the water seeming to come out of yet another cave.

We then made our way back downstream, and we followed some steps which led up to another cave. Here some enterprising men had lanterns for hire so we went in to the cave, but it was quite short and nowhere near as nice as the two caves we had explored earlier.

The Bantimurung Nature Reserve covers 1000 hectares. There are many other caves in these cliffs but apart from the scenery the area is also famous for its beautiful butterflies. The naturalist Alfred Wallace collected specimens here in the mid 1800's. Among all the butterflies that he caught was the Papilo Androcles, one of the rarest and biggest, with a tail like a rare swallow. Today entomologists still come here to look at the butterflies and other insects. It is certainly a beautiful area, with white falls and bright butterflies.

Nowadays Bantimurung is a protected area, but there are still kids besieging visitors with beautifully coloured butterflies as souvenirs. The best time to see living butterflies is when the sun appears. They form a riot of colour as they fly.

According to a tourist leaflet, Bantimurung means a tranquil place for getting rid of sadness (membanting kemurungan). It would be difficult to be sad in such a beautiful place.

The Brunei Times


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