With more than 4000 km of territory from east to west, Indonesia ‘s sprawling archipelago, full of islands, offers endless opportunities for the most active and adventurous travelers. It is excellent for scuba diving and snorkelling, thanks to a diverse and colorful underwater landscape, and on the surface the waves challenge surfers from all over the world. On land, hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, and wildlife viewing combine in a landscape of rugged peaks, tropical jungles, and mighty rivers.
- The varied offer in Indonesia for hiking and trekking
Indonesia’s location along the Equator makes hiking challenging. However, the hiking offer in this immense country is extremely varied, from multi-week expeditions through the mountains of central Borneo to family walks among the rice fields of Ubud.
Due to the hot, tropical climate, the best hiking is in the highlands. The gentle mountains of Tana Toraja in Sulawesi are the perfect conditions for hiking among picturesque landscapes, even by Indonesian standards.
Also to note is Bukittinggi (meaning “high hill”) in the Sumatra highlands, one of the most underrated hiking centers in the world. The Flores Mountains, with more than 17 spectacular volcanoes, and the beautiful Lake Toba, in North Sumatra, are wonderful hiking areas, whose routes also pass through traditional villages, adding cultural experiences to the offer.
Even in Bali it is possible to escape the most beaten tracks. The almost unknown valleys surrounding Sidemen are building a solid reputation among hikers who want to avoid the crowds of the Ubud area.
- Scuba diving and snorkelling in the Coral Triangle
The Coral Triangle, which occupies mainly Indonesian waters, contains almost 75% of the world’s total coral species, which means there is much to explore underwater.
The stingrays and sunfish of Nusa Lembongan attract hundreds of Bali-based tube divers daily; the Gili Islands are also a paradise for them. Diving the walls and reefs that surround the tiny island of Manjangan at the northwestern tip of Bali can even exceed the experience of doing it in the famous Maldives, and dolphins, pilot whales and even whale sharks are sometimes seen.
While more technical divers can enjoy all over the country in a wide variety of conditions, less experienced tube divers will enjoy spectacular locations such as Komodo’s ‘Manta Alley’, where stingrays are so large they look like spaceships, or in the Sangeang Api volcano, swimming between underwater dens. In recent times, Komodo has had its crown of diving paradise taken away by the majestic Raja Ampat, a region of spectacular beauty and excellent for diving, with whale sharks and some 1,427 species of fish.
Another prominent location is Sulawesi, with Pulau Bunaken, and the Wakatobi Archipelago, which offers almost unknown reefs among its 143 islands.
3. Ascent to Indonesian volcanoes
Indonesia has more active volcanoes than any other country on the planet, about 127. Although their activity and eruptions prevent travelers from approaching them at any time of the year, many offer beautiful hiking routes.
The sunrise trail up Bali’s Batur volcano draws hundreds of hikers every day, and the spectacular Kawah Ijen (with its mysterious ‘river of blue flames’) in East Java is almost as popular. Some truly impressive volcanic landscapes that are home to excellent hiking trails include Tomohon in North Sulawesi, the highlands around Bandung in West Java, and the craters and peaks of Halmahera in Maluku.
Gunung Batukaru is Bali’s second highest peak (and the westernmost volcano), although it rarely receives hikers and is rarely visited. It offers incredible views of most of the island and the entire route to the smoking peak of the infamous Gunung Agung.
4. Indonesia, a surf paradise
G-Land, in Java; Uluwatu, in Bali; Occy’s Left, in Sumba; The Point, in Lagundri Bay, Nias… Indonesia has had a lot of tremendous waves since long before the term gnarly (which describes big, difficult and dangerous waves) existed.
The Bukit Peninsula, at the southern tip of Bali, along with Seminyak and Canggu, form the epicenter of the region’s surfing boom. Any surfer who laments the massification of the waves only has to remember that, in a country with more than 50,000 km of coastline, there will always be little crowded areas, if you know how to find them. The Mentawai Islands, near Sumatra, have long attracted established surfers, but other areas that are beginning to forge their reputation as ‘the new Bali’: the islands of Sumbawa, in western Nusa Tenggara, and Krui, in the south of Sumatra.
The north coast of West Papua, with hardly any surfers, enjoys the same North Pacific swell that reaches Fiji and Hawaii. Rote, in the south of West Timor, is increasingly known for its excellent waves, with enclaves such as Boa and T-Land. However, every traveling surfer has his ‘secret enclave’ in Indonesia that he is not willing to share, so you have to be very careful to find a good place.
5. Sustainable tourism in Indonesia
Tourist overcrowding is to blame for many of Indonesia’s social and environmental problems, but sustainable tourism offers some of its most viable solutions.
A number of initiatives and organizations have taken a step forward to address the ecological and social needs in areas that needed urgent help. These organizations, both global and local, work to prevent future ecological damage and raise awareness of the existence of indigenous tribes, helping them to prosper.
The growing Indonesian fleet of ship-hotels and, above all, the traditional pinisi (indigenous Bugi sailboats) are pioneers of the country’s tourism future, offering eco-friendly accommodation in areas that would otherwise be out of reach for travelers. In addition, in the lesser known and culturally fascinating archipelagos, such as Alor and Maluku, these types of boats are the only existing accommodation, and by using local products, hiring local guides and supporting the communities in the area, they achieve vital tourist income that they help preserve indigenous cultures.
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