I have spent so much time travelling through Makassar airport on my way to dive trips in Raja Ampat or Ambon or Sulawesi that I decided to stop for a day and visit the Maros Karst.
Maros is the regency of Sulawesi next to the city of Makassar and is conveniently located very close to the airport. A karst is a limestone landscape that has been eroded by water, producing ridges, towers, fissures, sinkholes, and other impressive topography. For those who are familiar with Raja Ampat, then there are examples of karst at the islands of Penemu and Farondi and maybe you have had the luck to do a lagoon tour.
After a short drive we arrived at a dock on a small river. There we some colourful canoes and some examples of the limestone we would see more of later.
The locals use this waterway to go about their daily business and the boats look just like ours but with a little lawnmower engine for power. To our delight our canoes were not motorized! We met our local oarsmen who guided us silently down the river lined with mangroves and grasses, weaving between the limestone rocks.
As we moved swiftly along the water, the geology of the karst became more dramatic. We followed the ancient course of the river where it had eroded the limestone and created arches large enough for us to travel through.
Just on the other side of an impressive overhang we disembarked from the canoes onto a rocky beach.
From here we walked across the harvested rice fields. Rainy season was obviously long past as the environment was very dry and dusty. I wonder what it would look like green!
The environmental benefit of a karst system are the aquifers which are able to supply large amounts of water. It is estimated that 25% of the world’s population rely on karst aquifers for their water supply. The final objective for our walk was to experience the underground water system first hand. We were not sure what was in store for us when we arrived at the entrance to the cave.
At this point I wished that I was wearing a pair of shoes instead of flip flops as the going became quite tricky. The erosion had made the limestone uneven and we made our way slowly and carefully around the impressive stalactites and through narrow fissures. The natural light dropped as we moved further underground and the torchlight reflected off the ambient water.
But the adventure was worth it! The photos cannot do it justice but underground river was truly impressive.
We had worked up an appetite by this time and our guide escorted us through the fields to the home of a local family who had cooked us lunch. Delicious!
Our route home was less adventurous along the road but the view was littered with impressive, natural, limestone monoliths and cows grazing.
We would love to return to this place during rainy season to see the green rice fields and lush nature in comparison to the stark dryness that we experienced.
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