South Sulawesi in Pictures 6: Stilt Houses

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One of the elements of the South Sulawesi landscape that really caught my eye were the houses and their architecture, from the curved rooftops of Torajan traditional homes to the stilt houses that line the road around Bira on the … Continue reading

Bira Beach (Pantai Bira): White Sand Spoilt by Litter

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A friend’s opinion that Bira was the most beautiful beach in Indonesia secured my decision to visit as the endpoint of my South Sulawesi trip, which had taken me north to Tana Toraja and to the city of Makassar.

Bira Beach, a few hours drive from Makassar, has become one of South Sulawesi’s most popular traveller haunts, with domestic and international tourists coming to enjoy the powdery white sands and crystal clear waters.

White sand at Bira BeachTourism = Litter

Unfortunately, as happens in many places that become tourism’s new best friend, the main part of the beach, where the road finishes abruptly at the seashore, was covered in litter. Plastic bags, food and drink containers and other random objects had been churned up by the waves and dumped on the beach, and the situation did not change during our three-night stay.

Rubbish on the beachYes, the sand is some of the most powdery soft white sand I have ever set foot on, but the need to constantly watch my step to avoid treading on broken glass rather spoilt the moment.

The sign on the right tells people to keep the beach clean. Beside it is a pile of litter.

The sign on the right tells people to keep the beach clean. Beside it is a pile of litter.

A Changeable Sea

On our first day the sea was relatively calm; people buzzed back and forth on banana boats dragged by speedboats. Other boats anchored near the beach, with passengers from nearby islands alighting. I swam in the sea, and as long as I avoided the boats, it was pleasant for swimming.

On day two, however, the waves were bigger and it was impossible to do proper swimming. Sunsets along the beach were beautiful, but not of the sun-dropping-into-the-ocean type.

I found that walking further along the beach, away from the hubbub of Bira with its souvenir stalls and rubber ring hire shops, led me to cleaner sand with fewer people, and I swam there on day three.

Not a Peaceful Idyll

So, Bira is definitely not the peaceful idyll that some guidebooks and people would have you believe. It’s a small but bustling tourist place, with plenty of places to stay and eat, and lots of shops to buy your Sulawesi t-shirts.

With this kind of under-planned tourism, where places just sprout up to cope with demand, there is often a lack of thought for keeping an area clean and pleasant. I hope that this issue will be addressed by the local businesses who rely on a steady stream of beach-going visitors. And for the time being, I suggest avoiding Bira – there are plenty of better beaches in Indonesia (here’s one example).

South Sulawesi in Pictures 5: Bira Beach

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This gallery contains 12 photos.

Having been told Bira Beach (called Pantai Bira in Indonesian) was some kind of idyllic white sand paradise, I was disappointed. However, once you ignored the rubbish that litteres the central section of the beach, the sand was indeed powdery … Continue reading