SULAWESI TOUR: Sulawesi photo slideshow

20+ pictures of rainforests in Sulawesi

Sulawesi is an island in Indonesia. It is the 11th largest island in the world.

Sulawesi—which used to be called Celebes—is a strange island. It is shaped like a funny-looking lower-case "k".

Sulawesi was formed when different tectonic plates collided. It has never been connected to another major land mass.

Because of this history, Sulawesi's plant and animal life is distinct from other parts of Indonesia.

Sulawesi has many endemic species: plants and animals found nowhere else.

Among the most famous of these species is the babirusa, which is also called the pig-deer.

Another interesting animal is the maleo, a ground bird that builds large mounded nests that are warmed by the sun or heat produced by volcanoes.

The Crested black macaque is Sulawesi's most threatened primate. It lives in large groups and spends a lot of time on the ground.

The smallest primate in Sulawesi is the tarsier, one of the few primates that eats only insects.

Sulawesi has two species of wild cattle: the lowland anoa and the mountain anoa.

Overall more than 60 percent of Sulawesi's land mammals are found nowhere else.

Sulawesi also has rich marine ecosystems including some of the most biodiverse coral reefs in the world.

But Sulawesi's wild areas are at risk. About 80 percent of Sulawesi's forest has been damaged or destroyed.

Most deforestation has been caused by agriculture by small farmers who grow rice and other crops.

Sulawesi is also a major producer of cocoa, which is the base ingredient of chocolate.

Some of the biggest threats to Sulawesi's remaining forests are mining, bushmeat hunting, and illegal logging.

Some of Sulawesi's endangered species--especially birds and reptiles--are smuggled for the international pet trade.

But conservation groups are working to protect Sulawesi's wildlife and ecosystems.

The most effective programs involve local people as beneficiaries of conservation.

There are several ethnic groups in Sulawesi, each of which speaks its own language.

One of the most distinct groups in Sulawesi is the Toraja, who live in the southern part of the island.

The Toraja are Christian and have elaborate funeral rituals and burial practices.

After a long and costly funeral, Torajans traditionally bury their dead in rocky cliffs.

Other ethnic groups in Sulawesi include the Makassarese, Buginese, Mandar, Minahasa, Gorontalo Bajau, and Mongondow. Today most are typically Muslim.

In recent years, more and more migrants from Java and other parts of Indonesia have reduced the proportion of native groups in Sulawesi.

At times migration has contributed to conflict between groups. Traditional inhabitants have been upset that newcomers are often wealthier and compete for land and jobs.

If you visit Sulawesi there are several special activities.

In North Sulawesi there are rainforest parks and spectacular coral reefs.

In South Sulawesi there is Torajaland with the Toraja people as well as coral reefs around islands off the southern parts of the island.

In other parts of Sulawesi there are colorful agricultural landscapes, including terraced rice paddies.