Sulawesi Resort Has Surf, Sand and Sacks of Trash
DECEMBER 21, 2010
By Wahyuni Kamah
The sky was clear after the morning rain as I stood on the water’s edge, checking my mask and flippers, preparing myself for a snorkeling adventure in the warm, turquoise waters of Tanjung Karang Beach in Central Sulawesi. It was a weekday, so I had the stretch of beach off Prince John Resort all to myself — or so I thought.
As I stood talking with Arendt, a German diving instructor who had been working at the resort for a couple of weeks, another diver emerged from the water with a full and obviously heavy sack.
Curious as to what treasure he had pulled from the deep, I moved in for a closer look. It was then I noticed it wasn’t treasure at all. His sack was full of garbage.
Sadly, many divers find the same dirty loot when they swim in waters around the resort. The establishment’s manager regularly sends diving instructors out on garbage-collection missions during off-peak seasons or when there are few guests staying at the resort.
None of the divers has trouble coming back up to the surface with a sack brimming with tin cans, plastic bags, discarded wrappers and rubber flip-flops.
Arendt said these diving missions seemed endless because trash from a port some distance away was constantly swept toward the beach by tides and currents.
“I would really like to talk with the people there and tell them what their garbage is doing to our beach,” he said.
The layers of debris littering the ocean floor has diminished the resort’s possible appeal as a world-class snorkeling and diving destination.
Tourists from abroad and Indonesia come here to enjoy pristine beaches, but this selling point is put in jeopardy by the amount of trash dumped into the water.
Arendt also said the resort management was concerned that the garbage — especially non-biodegradable trash — would harm sea creatures or cause serious damage to coral reefs. He said if the beach was dirty or the coral reef damaged, the resort would have nothing to offer.
On the surface, the waste problem plaguing Tanjung Karang does not seem so obvious. Thus, I was curious to see just how badly the trash had harmed the area’s coral reef, which acts as a buffer against high-energy tides as well as serving as a home for fish and regulating the marine ecology.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the reef, located just five meters off the shoreline, teeming with hundreds of brightly colored fish that darted back and forth as I passed.
The schools of fish would turn in a flash, a wall of silver scales gone as suddenly as it appeared, like blinds opening and closing in the blink of an eye.
Incandescent blue starfish and different types of sea anemones swayed to the ebb and flow of the current.
Thanks to the cleaning missions of the resort’s divers, I was able to enjoy a relatively garbage-free coral reef.
However, as I neared the shore, I was jarred by the sight of shampoo bottles, instant noodle wrappers and shreds of plastic bags floating around like strange ocean creatures.
My heart sank as I realized how the actions of a few irresponsible people were ruining this beach.
It is certainly a shame because, save for the garbage problem, Tanjung Karang Beach is lovely, with its powdery sand and azure waters. Several clean and well-kept wooden houses dot the shore looking out across the water.
Prince John Resort itself is a quiet place, with only the occasional roar of a boat’s engine breaking the sound of the waves lapping against the shore.
The place doesn’t even need air-conditioners since the breeze cools the resort’s cottages. Trees and foliage also give plenty of shade.
The resort has a spacious garden, where one can drift off to sleep to the chirps and clicks of insects and the sound of the waves. The relaxing atmosphere at Tanjung Karang is a welcome reprieve from the stress, noise and pollution of big cities like Jakarta.
The hourlong trip to the area — best reached by taking a taxi from Palu, the province’s capital — offers scenic views of hills and coves. For the most part, the road that cuts through the jungle is clean and well-maintained.
Even with the garbage issue, Tanjung Karang is worth a visit. I believe if the garbage stops coming and the resort’s diving instructors can finally stop worrying about cleaning up other people’s messes, the area could be ranked among the world’s prime tourist destinations.
As I lounged inside a hut with a view of the horizon, I couldn’t help but think that Tanjung Karang was just a major cleanup away from becoming a true paradise.
Flights from Jakarta to Palu:
Garuda Indonesia Daily flights at11 a.m. (transit Makassar)
Lion Air Daily flights at6:15 p.m.
Batavia Air Daily flights at9:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. (transit Surabaya)
Sriwijaya Air Daily flights at6:10 a.m. (transit Balikpapan)