Once believed to have been an open gulf between southern Toraja and the rest of South Sulawesi, millions of years transformed the now Lake Tempe into a vast, shallow, freshwater wetland teeming with a wonderful array of waterbirds, fish, pretty reed beds and flowering lily’s.
Around 30 families have also made their homes on the lake, living in a small community of floating houses, fishing and harvesting hyacinths and lotuses from the lake. The floating village is fascinating and practical, enabling villagers to constantly move around in response to changing levels of fish stocks and seasonal fluctuations in the water level.
It’s quite easy to visit the floating village by chartering a longboat from the bustling market town of Sengkang. Your accommodation provider should be able to arrange a boat for you but you’ll probably get a better deal by heading down the wharf along the Walanae River and doing it yourself. Expect to pay around 150.000-180.000Rp.
It generally takes about an hour to reach the floating village and you’ll need at least an hour to float among the homes and watch the fishermen pulling traps or casting nets. The villagers are quite welcoming and with the help of an interpreter will happily chat about their floating lifestyle whilst you sip tea or coffee and enjoy fresh made pisang goreng (deep fried banana) at a floating warung. The outing should take 3-4 hours; more if you decide to visit one of the stilted villages fringing the lake. For keen photographers, the best time to visit Lake Tempe is early morning or late afternoon when the light is perfect to capture reflections on the water and the birds are most active.
Lake Tempe is located adjacent to small city of Sengkang, the capital of Wajo Regency in South Sulawesi, around 188km northeast of Makassar. The city is readily accessible by public transport from Makassar, either by public bus (6hrs) or kijang (4-5hrs), departing from Terminal Daya. There are also public transport links to/from Pare-Pare (2hrs). Of course, you can always hire a private car with a driver if your budget extends to it. Alternatively, there are quite a lot of tour companies incorporating Lake Tempe in tour itineraries out of Makassar. However you get there, you’re likely going to need to spend a night in Sengkang. Fortunately the city has a number of decent hotels so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding something to suit your budget.