Cashing-In on Conflict for Tourism: Poso, Central Sulawesi

After the area was rocked by sectarian conflict, the administration of Poso regency in Central Sulawesi has decided to turn to the tourism sector as one of the main drivers of development so as to boost its economy and restore its image.

Poso Regent Piet Inkiriwang said his administration would put the program to revitalize the tourism sector at the head of its list of priorities.

He said Poso, which was rocked by bloody sectarian conflict from 1998 to 2001, was once regarded as the province’s best tourist destination.

He believed that the regency could capitalize more on its tourism potential compared to other regions in Central Sulawesi.

The administration, he said, planned to revive the Poso Lake Festival, which was previously held every year, but has been discontinued since the outbreak of the conflict.

He said the administration would also promote many other tourism attractions in the regency, such as the Black Orchid Forest in Bancea.

“Each of the tourism attractions has their own special quality and were favorite tourist destinations before the conflict,” Piet said.

He said Poso was no longer a conflict area as the Muslim and Christian community had reconciled their differences while terror threats were things of the past.

“Poso people now live in peace. They are working together to rebuild Poso and resurrect its glorious past,” Piet said.

One of its main tourist destinations is the 5,000-hectare Black Orchid Forest in Bancea.

The forest is home to various species of orchid, especially the black orchid, and is full of pine trees, providing picture-postcard vistas.

The forest encompasses the high altitude Lake Poso, which is situated in Tentena, capital of North Pamona district. Visitors must take a boat trip and travel another 40 km to reach the area.

The lake, which is said to be the third largest in the country, is strategically located as it lies along the Trans-Sulawesi highway, which stretches from Tana Toraja in South Sulawesi, through Poso and Gorontalo province, and up to Manado in North Sulawesi.

The lake is 32 km long from north to south, and is 16 km wide. It reaches a depth of 510 meters and is situated at an elevation of 657 meters above sea level.

Its waters are crystal clear with white sandy beaches, and it is rich in fish. It also has a number of restaurants and hotels on its banks ready to serve the area’s specialty dishes to visitors.

A cave called Goa Pamona can also be found on the lakeside, is situated around 63 km from Poso. It can be accessed by both motorcycle and car.

There are human remains and skulls in the cave. According to history, the cave is where the Pamona tribe kept human remains hundreds of years ago.

“Uniquely, the water from the lake doesn’t enter the cave despite the fact that it penetrates right down to the base of the lake,” said Inkiriwang.

Another cave, called Goa Tangkaboba, is also an attraction.

Located in Sangele subdistrict, the cave was also used to house the remains of rulers, nobility and their kin, as evident from an ancient coffin placed at the cave’s mouth.

The Poso regency administration is also promoting the 12-tier Soluopa waterfalls as a tourist attraction.

Located some 12 km west of Tentena, the waterfalls can be reached by car or bike, followed by a walk of 500 meters.

“There are many interesting places to visit. We would like to invite everyone, both local and foreign visitors, to visit Poso,” Piet said.

“Don’t be afraid. Poso is very safe, and we can assure you of that.”

Ruslan Sangadji