News Flash! The Best Indonesian Islands Don’t Include Bali
Indonesia is one of the most diverse yet underrated destinations in Asia. Though more than a million Aussie travellers visited in the last 12 months, the majority focused their adventures on just a few select islands like long-time favourites Bali and Lombok.
But what about the other 17,506 islands? Beyond the beaches and monkey temples of Bali, Indonesia is a vast, ancient and inspiring place with something to offer every traveller.
Want to hike through lush rainforests up to the rim of an active volcano? What about seeking out real-life dragons, or maybe chilling in an overwater bungalow watching fish swimming beneath you?
You can do it all plus a whole lot more – and it’s a lot easier than you think.
From vibrant Jakarta, the capital and gateway to the rest of the islands, the wonders of Indonesia are only a short plane, bus or boat ride away. Whether you’re into hiking, snorkelling, relaxation or adventure, there’s an Indonesian island with your name on it.
The hiking haven
You’re pretty spoiled for hiking locations across Indonesia, but one of the most diverse is the island of Java.
You could hike to watch the sunrise over Mount Bromo from Mount Penanjakan, view the cascades of Tumpak Sewu Waterfall, or join a trek to the magical Ijen Crater,renowned for the electric-blue flames created by its burning sulphuric gases (one of just two volcanoes where this natural phenomenon occurs).
The getaway for adventurers
Padar Island, Komodo National Park, East Nusa Tenggara
One the three main islands of the Komodo National Park, Padar is like setting foot in a long-forgotten world. It’s the Galapagos of Indonesia, home to dinosaur-like Komodo dragons, which can each grow to around three-metres in length. It’s a jaw-droppingly beautiful place to visit.
With pink sand beaches, hiking trails, jagged mountains, and plenty of lookouts, this is definitely a locale for the serious adventurer. Just don’t get too close to any of the dragons — their venom won’t do you any favours. Padar can be accessed easily via charter boat from either Bajo, Flores and Bima, or Sumbawa.
The Dream For Divers
Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua
Ask any serious diver where the best place to go in Indonesia is and there’s a good chance Raja Ampat will be their reply. Covering around 9.5 million acres of land and sea, Raja Ampat is a paradise home to 540 types of coral, over 1000 coral fish, and 700 types of mollusc.
There are four main islands, surrounded by a further 1500 small islands, cays, and shoals. It’s not the most accessible destination, with a couple of flights required, but the journey is worth it the moment you don your snorkel and fins and slip into the water.
The wildlife-filled wonder
Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo
A biodiverse wonderland spanning more than 4,000 square kilometres in Borneo, Tanjung Puting National Park in Central Kalimantan has often been described as one of the world’s natural wonders – and a big part of that is due to its resident wild orangutans.
One of the best ways of seeking out these gentle creatures in the wild is aboard a klotok houseboat ride along the Sekonyer River, or by visiting the Camp Leakey research facility.
Tanjung Puting is also home to other wildlife such as long-tailed macaques, agile gibbons, red leaf monkeys and, if you’re lucky, you may even spot a rare clouded leopard.
The place to relax
Pulau Macan, Thousand Islands
The islands of Bali and Lombok are home to some incredible resorts and retreats and are your best bet if you’re looking for serious indulgence. But, if you want an intimate escape few others have discovered, Pulau Macan is definitely worth a visit.
Located within the unspoilt Thousand Islands region, just a two-hour speed boat ride north of Jakarta, this boutique island resort welcomes a mere 40 guests at any one time. If that’s not special enough for you, each of its rustic waterfront bungalows is made of driftwood that has floated up on the island shore.
It’s a very small island — you could walk around it in a little over five minutes — but it’s the kind of place where you switch off and relax the instant you set foot on the shore.
Spend your days snorkelling just off your villa, chilling in a hammock with a good book, or trying out your best David Attenborough impression on as you watch the monitor dragons that freely roam around the resort. Whatever you choose, relaxation is pretty much guaranteed.
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With thousands of islands and hundreds of ethnic groups all calling Indonesia home, the land to our north offers a travel adventure few other countries can compare with.
Beyond the beaches, bars, and Bintang of Bali, you’ll be amazed just how diverse Indonesia truly is.
The writer was a guest of Wonderful Indonesia.