The History of Bugis Sailors of Indonesia

Since long before European explorers arrived in the Indonesian Archipelago in search of the riches of spice, the Bugis people had gained the position as masters of the seas. From the small village of Bira, on the island of Celebes, today known as Sulawesi, the hardy Bugis sailors constructed and controlled fleets of sailing ships to support the spice and cargo trade that thrived in these islands thousands of years before the Europeans ever arrived.

With the support and friendship of the Macassar traders in the Port of Ujung Pandang, the Bugis sailors carried spice and cargo to and from the 13,000 islands of the archipelago, to the major trading centers where their cargo was unloaded and traded to Chinese and Arab merchants, who then started their treks to the markets of Europe and the ancient Chinese dynasties.

The Bugis Schooners, crafted of the strong timbers of the islands, were capable of coping with the heavy seas of the region. Under the guidance of their masters, they earned a well deserved reputation of fine seaworthiness and controlled the major trade routes of most Asian waters.

With the arrival the Dutch, Portuguese and English in the Spice Islands, an alliance with the Bugis and Macassar people was a key strategic objective to assist in the colonization of Indonesia. The ultimate abuse of these alliances by the Dutch, was to label the Bugis people as Pirates. The basis of this label was the fierce rejection of colonization by the Bugis Sultans.

Today, these proud Bugis people still build the same massive sailing schooners and carry a great part of Indonesia's cargo to the same colorful ports across the archipelago. The Traditional Fleet is made up of these fine vessels and our working crews are drawn from the finest of these sailors. Our itineraries and ports of call are the same routes sailed by our hosts for thousands of years.

Additional reading on Indonesian, Bugis and Macassar history is strongly recommended.