Jul 08 2013
If you’re looking to slip the weekend crowds of Sulawesi’s Bira, Liukang Loe Island beckons just offshore, a 15-40 minute boat ride away (depending on weather). With two homestays, no traffic, two mosques and a lovely long beach with sand perfect for castle-making, it’s a great little spot to just chill.
There’s a homestay at either end of the beach, each costing 250,000 rupiah per night, including breakfast. We stayed at Ocean Holidays Guesthouse, owned by former lobster diver Javar, which is to the far left when facing the island.
Ocean’s has three rooms, one attached to the restaurant, which we took, and two others attached to each other in a building nearby. With a double bed and desk, and attached cold water bathroom with a bodgy sink and a few cockroaches, it was basic, but adequate. A few chairs and table on the veranda makes it a reasonable place to rough it for a few days. A wall-mounted sanitiser squirting the air every few minutes in the bedroom fought to cover a smell that came and went from the bathroom. The extra bed was two thin mattresses rolled out at night (no extra charge); plenty of pillows meant enough to go around, but no extra coverings were provided, so bring a sarong or two if there’s more than two of you.
We stayed for two lunches and dinners, each pretty much the same and charged a very reasonable 35,000 rupiah per head (less than Bintang, going for 38,000). We had a few very fresh fish, noodles in kecap manis, one or two vegetable soups and a side of tomato sambal. It filled a spot, but you wouldn’t come here for the food alone. Biscuits from a box out the back or a freshly shucked coconut will have to do for dessert. Coconuts are 6,000 rupiah; small waters 5,000. We paid 250,000 rupiah for Javar to pick us up in his boat and drop us back to Bira.
What’s there to do? Snorkelling offshore is decent enough, and while the coral is quite banged up in close, further out from Ocean Holiday there is a massive coral garden and some great sand banks beyond — it is well worth the swim out, or get a boat to take you to the rocky point out to the right. We saw some very large schools of small fish… It’s not Kanawa, but a paddle rounds out a relaxing package on the island. The non-snorkelling inclined can take a cross-island trail to the second village (and a longer beach), but as we were snorkelling inclined we never made it.
It’s pleasant to just wander along the beach, through the sandy village (keep an eye out for the weavings for sale — and the attractive Bugis houses), and have a swim. We were there over a weekend, when Bira can get very busy — particularly the few weekends just before Ramadan — and it meant a few daytrippers also stopped by for lunch and a splash. Once they left though, it was very quiet, though you can always walk down the other end, where the other guesthouse is, to escape them. The daytrippers seem to come to Javar’s for the few deckchairs and lunch.
The owners at the other guesthouse are friendly too and it’s a similar set up. Three motel-style wooden rooms are attached to a little restaurant. The wood lends a more rustic feel — we just had a quick look, but noticed no smell from the dark bathroom. Rooms are a touch smaller than at Ocean.
If you like boats, you’ll enjoy seeing all the different kinds parked along the beach, from tiny one-person canoes through to larger affairs, all in various states of repair and condition.
Javar has an interesting history and has dived all over Indonesia, hunting lobsters for the Hong Kong market. The boat he did it all on is still moored just outside the guesthouse. And it’s not very big.
As at Bira, there was sadly quite a bit of rubbish — plastic, shoes, seaweed — along the beach, though they cleaned up outside Ocean’s (we didn’t notice outside the other place). A few locals told us it was seasonal; September/October is the best time to come — Javar said the oceans are calmer around then too, making it easier to get to the Takabone Rate national park, which is home to the world’s third largest atoll and lies further south toward Komodo. Perhaps next trip.
Ocean Holidays Guesthouse
T: (0811) 421 99418
Wisma Liukang Loe
T: (0813) 425 78515
Travelfish.org always pays its way. No exceptions.