Toraja Tour - Sulawesi

7 Days and 6 Nights

Toraja is an area in south-central Sulawesi,and also the name of an ethnic group, famous for intricate funeral rites and for spectacular, very unique, housing architecture. On the coast is found another ethnic group called Bugis, famous for impressive, seagoing wooden ships that sail to all corners of the archipelago.

The Toraja nation displays a fascinating culture

Toraja is an area in south-central Sulawesi (Celebes during Dutch times) and also the name of an ethnic group, just as well-known as the Bugis, famous for intricate funeral rites and for spectacular, very unique, housing architecture. 

The architecture can in itself keep the visitor busy for hours, especially if you are interested in timber work, wood carving and handicraft – and photography. The Toraja nation displays a fascinating culture in a surrounding of soothingly beautiful nature. –

Tour Info

Trip Starts and Ends:  Jakarta, capital of Indonesia.
The price quoted includes a flight Jakarta – Makassar (capital of the province of Sulawesi) back and forth.

If you prefer to travel to Sulawesi from Bali, or if you want to go to Bali at the end of the Sulawesi visit, or some airport other than Jakarta, please let us know. We can help with bookings and will of course recalculate the flight cost

Best Time to Go:
June – October: dry season, good time for trekking, wildlife watching and boat travel
November: transition

December – March: rainy season, still ok for traveling on roads but not advisable for trekking including bird watching and similar

April – May: transition period

Level of Fitness Requirement: On some days several hours of car ride, one day includes walk through hilly cocoa plantations, otherwise not physically demanding

Number of Participants: Min 2, Max 12

Mode of Transport: Minibus or car

Accommodation: Hotel or Cottage with modern facilities including air conditioning and hot water

Highlights

  • Visit areas inhabited by the Bugis tribe on the Southern coast of Sulawesi, and see their ships being built
  • Travel by minibus through scenic landscapes to visit the heartland of the Toraja nation
  • Learn about the funeral rites of the Torajas and related beliefs, visit burial sites carved out in rock walls. Follow a burial ceremony, during which animals are sacrificed to accompany the dead (if there is a ceremony ongoing anyone is welcome to attend), otherwise a ceremonial leader will explain the procedure.
  • See the very special architecture of the Toraja people – we are guided around by an experienced carpenter who shows his tools, the material and how he is conducting repair and renovation. These impressive houses are nowadays considered uncomfortable and are no longer used for living, but they play an important role in family events and ceremonies, and they remain a fundamental part of the cultural heritage. Some say their shape goes back to the arrival of the Toraja tribe by boat from abroad, others claim that the shape imitates the hons of the water buffalo. In any case the buffalo is a basic component of Toraja imagery.
  • Visit farmer families, follow their daily life and see how they make a living by growing coffee, cocoa and rubber

Toraja - The Highlanders of South Sulawesi

Sulawesi is the fourth largest island in the Indonesian archipelago, located to the east of Kalimantan, recognized from its distinctive shape on the map, dominated by narrow peninsulas with steep sides. It has colorful cultures and traditions. One of these is the ancient funeral ritual which is still practiced by the people of Toraja, who dwell in the highlands of South Sulawesi.

 

The city of Makassar (previously called Ujung Pandang) used to be one of several important ports set up In the early days of trade in spices, initiated in the 1520’ies by the Portuguese. Pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove . . . To this day Indonesia remains the world’s biggest supplier of spices, and Europe remains the biggest consumer. You may have heard of Macassar Oil. It was produced by mixing ingredients obtained in Makassar: coconut oil, oil from seeds of a tree called Schleichera, and a very aromatic extract from the flowers of the ilang-ilang tree, also called Cananga. The mixture enjoyed an enormous reputation and was used during grandfather’s days for styling the hair and keeping it in place, by both men and women. (You may have heard of Antimacassar also; this has nothing to do with Makassar or sentiments against its people. The oil was obviously not only nice-smelling but also sticky. To protect the upholstery of the drawing room chairs from getting oily, somebody came up with a piece of washable cloth, that came in all shapes and colours, much like today’s place mats for the dining table, often crochet work, to be placed on armrests and backs of the chairs. The piece of cloth came to be known as Antimacassar.), As we keep on saying: people have been traveling around here ever since. And it has been good for us – we have learnt and we have developed in the process.

 

On the southern coast of Sulawesi lives the Bugis nation, a prominent and enterprising ethnic group, well traveled, wide-spread in Indonesia but originating here. Bugis are famous for building and sailing impressive, seagoing ships, called pinisi, of wood and capable of carrying cargo to many corners of the Indonesian archipelago. (There is special port in North Jakarta called Sunda Kelapa where you can walk along the quay and admire dozens of those really spectacular ships unloading timber, rice etc, from the outer islands. Usually you are welcome onboard for a visit – if you dare pass the narrow gang plank, that is.)

 

Toraja is an area in south-central Sulawesi (Celebes during Dutch times) and also the name of an ethnic group, just as well-known as the Bugis, famous for intricate funeral rites and for spectacular, very unique, housing architecture. The architecture can in itself keep the visitor busy for hours, especially if you are interested in timber work, wood carving and handicraft – and photography. The Toraja nation displays a fascinating culture in a surrounding of soothingly beautiful nature. – The funeral ceremony seems strangely to be the most important event in a person’s life! The dead person’s soul will be guided safely into the after-life, called Puya, by water buffaloes, and this is done through a big feast where buffaloes and pigs are slaughtered and sacrificed. How many depends on the social status and prestige of the departed.

 

As a result of variations in sea level and the tectonic drift in the Earth’s geological history some land areas were in the past temporarily joined while others remained separate; Sulawesi remained separated from Borneo, Lombok from Bali, Halmahera from the Philippines. Today that is reflected in the flora and especially the fauna. Already the first Portuguese explorers noted this, but the details were researched by the British naturalist Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin. The ecozone boundary became known as the Wallace line. Due to this geo-historical process, the flora and fauna of Sulawesi are distinctively different from those of other islands to the west, (including Borneo, Bali and Java, which have many biological features in common). Some animal species can only be found in Sulawesi, such Anoa, a forest-dwelling miniature water buffalo, and Babirusa, literally Pigdeer, a pig with rather long legs. There are also endemic birds such as maleos, hornbbills, and kingsfishers.