Danau Tempe, Indonesia

Danau Tempe: Nomadic lifestyle

Danau (lake in Bahasa Indonesia) Tempe, located in South Sulawesi, is famous for its amazing floating village. The lake is about 350km², the size is impressive, in some parts it’s even hard to see the bank. The scenery is wonderful, Danau Tempe is home to many bird species, and the mountains in the background are a marvel for the eyes. You’ll also see many fishermen, notice their net and their technique to throw it.

It is common in Indonesia for fishermen and their families to live on the banks of the river or lake, but Danau Tempe is one of the few real floating villages with houses you can actually move around.

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Fisherman throwing his net, Danau Tempe, Sulawesi, Indonesia, floating village
Fisherman throwing his net

The houses are built on huge bamboo sticks, making it possible for its inhabitants to move it as they want, as they would do with a boat. They often don’t have electricity and no running water. The houses are really simple with usually just one bedroom and a common area; outside there is space to dry the fish and a small space for commodities, everything goes into the lake.

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The lake is so vast, it’s useful for the fishermen to be able to move their houses. The moving is mostly influenced by the seasonal cycle of the tides. During the high tide season, the houses are near the banks, but at low tide, they have to move to the center of the lake. The fishing activity decreases during low tide season, and many fishermen become farmers in the meanwhile.

Most people living on the lake do so because they can’t afford to buy land and also because it saves money to be so close to their work. Some of the fishermen still have a house on the mainland and use their floating house to rest and store their tools.

danau tempe, sulawesi, indonesia, flood, floating village
Floating houses and houses on tilts

Many areas near the lake are flooded during high tie season; the houses are built on stilts, so these villages become floating villages for half the year. Because of the flooding, you’ll see many trees in the middle of the lake, this way people have a garden and even fruits.

Lotus flower, danau tempe, sulawesi, indonesia, flood, floating village
Lotus flower

The first part of the boat trip is all about nature and scenery. During the second part, you’ll explore the villages and watch the daily activities of its people. It’s a great opportunity to discover a different way of living, and if you have a guide, you can interact with the locals.

Although the banks have been flooded for many years, geologists expect the lake to disappear one day.

Flooded houses, danau tempe, sulawesi, indonesia, flood, floating village


How to get to Danau Tempe:

Cars are living from Makassar every morning. You can also get there from Tanah Toraja.

If you are in Bira, it’s a bit more complicated, there’s a direct car living Bulukumba every morning, but it’s too early to get public transportation from Bira, so if you want to take this one you’ll have to charter a car to get to Bulukumba on time. The second option is to take the first car from Bira to Bulukumba, then another one in Sanjai. Expect to spend the day in transportation.

Where to stay near Danau Tempe:

There are many places to stay in Sengkang; accommodations are a bit more expensive than in other places though. I stayed at Amira Guesthouse; the rooms are clean, the restaurant serves good and cheap food, and the owner is super friendly.

I arranged the boat ride at the guesthouse, the prices are pretty much the same everywhere. They take you around for a couple of hours and you have tea in one of the floating houses. If you want to reduce the cost, you can go only with the boat driver, but he probably won’t speak English… The price is for the whole boat (160K), so try to find people to join you.

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Danau Tempe, Indonesia

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