Sulawesi is the world's eleventh-largest island, covering an area of 174,600 km².The island is surrounded by Borneo to the west, by the Philippines to the north, by Maluku to the east, and by Flores and Timor to the south.
Like the petals of windblown orchid, the unruly peninsulas of Sulawesi reach out into the Celebes, Moluccas, Banda and Flores seas. Within its odd, dancing outlines—the product of the collision of ancient continents—are found extra ordinary landscape. Rugged mist cover mountains, primal tropical jungle, emerald green rice terraces and deep mysterious lake dominate the interior. Along the coast, dazzling coral reefs encircle dormant volcanoes that jut dramatically out of the sea. Stretches of white sandy beach fringed with coconut trees and scattered fishing villages are flanked by rugged limestone outcroppings that might have stepped out of a Chinese painting.
Sulawesi once known as Celebes—is home to an amazing variety of peoples. Fishermen inhabit its coasts, catching flying fish, shark, tuna, mackerel and squid, as well as score of fish. Sailing and trading peoples, in particular the Bugis and Makassar on the south and Mandar people on the west, are renowned for their remarkable wooden sailing crafts and their voyages to destinations as distant as Singapore and Australia even to Africa.
Now a days, Sulawesi becomes the most popular tourists destination outside Bali. The colorful ritual life of Sulawesi’s Toraja people was discovered by foreign tourists. But this remarkable culture constitutes only a part, albeit a stunning part, of the complex, ever-changing tapestry of the island. Form the mysterious megaliths of the Bada Valley to the superb coral gardens near Manado, the island of Sulawesi offers a visual and cultural feast for the visitors with sufficient time and a sense of adventure.
Generally, Sulawesi divided into five parts. Although Sulawesi consists officially of five provinces, a separate chapter has been devoted to Tana Toraja (part of south Sulawesi province), in part because it is the area most frequently visited by the traveler to Sulawesi, and in part because of the striking cultural differences between the Toraja and other groups in the south. But while Tana Toraja is the area most frequently visited by travelers to Sulawesi, the regions of the island are equally is fascinating.
It has a distinctive shape, dominated by four large peninsulas: the Semenanjung Minahasa; the East Peninsula; the South Peninsula; and the South-east Peninsula. The central part of the island is ruggedly mountainous, such that the island's peninsulas have traditionally been remote from each other, with better connections by sea than by road.
The island is subdivided into six provinces: Gorontalo, West Sulawesi, South Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, and North Sulawesi. West Sulawesi is a new province, created in 2004 from part of South Sulawesi. The largest cities on the island are Makassar, on the southwestern coast of the island, and Manado, on the northern tip. Sulawesi straddles Wallace's Line meaning that it has a mix of both Asian and Austronesian species. However, the majority of Sulawesi's wildlife belongs to the Australasia region. 2,290 km² of the island is devoted to Lore Lindu National Park.
There are 127 known mammals species in Sulawesi. A large percentage of these mammals, 62% (79 species) are endemic, meaning that they are found nowhere else in Indonesia or the world. The largest native mammal in Sulawesi is the dwarf buffalo, locally known as the anoa. By contrast, because many birds can fly between islands, Sulawesian bird species tend to be found on other nearby islands as well, such as Borneo; only 34% of Sulawesi's birds are found nowhere else. The most important among these last is the maleo, a bird that spends most of its time on the ground. It has undergone an observed very rapid decline. Sulawesi also has several endemic species of freshwater fish, such as those in the genus Nomorhamphus, a species flock of live bearing freshwater halfbeaks containing at least 19 distinct species, most of which are only found on Sulawesi.
Once called Celebes, Sulawesi was born of a violent coallision between two islands three million years ago. As a result, much of it was thrust above 500 meters where, today, 17 active volcanoes still growl. The island's extraordinary shape gives the forested 227,000 square kilometer land mass a massive 6,000-kilometer coastline. On top of that, it also boasts coastlines of more than 110 reef ringed offshore islands.