We’re all in need of a beach, and as a nation of islands, Indonesia offers them in abundance. But there’s more to discover than white sand and swaying palm trees. Explore Indonesia’s hidden delights, from lush jungles to flaming volcanoes and sacred temples. As one of the most species-rich countries on Earth, it’s Asia’s largest expanse of rainforest filled with unique wildlife. Adventure seekers can trek through lush tropical jungles, float along backwaters discovering mangroves or scale volcanoes, with varied landscapes across its staggering 17,508 islands, home to everything from Sumatran tigers to Javan rhinos.
Trek deep into the jungle of Tanjung Puting National Park and explore the backwaters of the Rungan River on your private Klotok boat. The jungle’s most famous inhabitants are its orangutan population, now thriving thanks to the efforts of the Camp Leakey conservation project. Teeming with life, here you’ll discover clouded leopards, the unusual civets and Malaysian sun bears cavorting in the park, along with mouse deer and the wild cattle known as banteng. Sleep under the stars at night on the deck of your boat, savour tantalising cuisine and learn about the indigenous Dayak culture.
Tarsiers & Volcanoes
Discover the province of North Sulawesi, teamed with pristine forest and home to the spectral tarsiers, a species only found in Indonesia. Rise early to visit the twin volcanoes of Mount Lokon and Empung, considered to be amongst Sulawesi’s most active volcanoes, then take a boat over to Tangkoko Nature Reserve. You are most likely to spot the spectral tarsiers – the smallest primates in the world – sheltering in family groups within the trees at dusk.
Dancing Blue Flames
The colossal Kawah Ijen volcano produces a carpet of blue fire, with dancing flames that can reach 12 feet high. This spectacle, along with the vibrant blue acidic lake, is best experienced with the misty views and pink skies of sunrise. Join your guide for the ascent up Mount Ijen just after midnight, climbing to the summit to catch views of the crater’s lake just as the sun appears. For the best sightings of the blue flames, make your way along a smaller downhill path made by sulphur miners, through fragmented rocks leading down into the crater.
The culture is a rich fusion of Indonesia’s indigenous past and centuries of trading routes, with a multitude of influences from religions and customs throughout its history. Just as important as its striking temples are the opportunities to experience village life on tropical islands.
Sumba’s Village Life
Travel overland to experience the heart of Sumba’s distinctive culture and rugged natural beauty. Scattered throughout the countryside are thatched traditional houses clustered around unique megalithic tombs, where villagers pay homage to their ancestors. Visit Rende, the ‘Village of Kings,’ where houses are made from buffalo skins and can accommodate up to 50 family members at once.Observe the fine ikat weaving that has been practiced and passed on from one generation to the next, trying your hand at the skill yourself before joining the locals for lunch. Travel on down to the white-sanded Walakiri Beach for a swim and opportunity to see its dancing mangrove trees.
Local Life on Bali
Ida Bagus Suar Udiyana is a Brahman who lives with his family in the village of Mas, near the former royal residence and artist town of Ubud. They are all descendants of the holy priests who brought Hinduism to Bali in the 9th century, and they welcome you in their traditional Balinese home, where you have the opportunity to take part in activities that are ‘uniquely Balinese’. Learn intricate carving methods from a local woodcarver in the family. Later, assist the family in preparing a typical traditional lunch and receive a purifying Balinese Blessing by a priest at a hidden temple that only locals know about.
Private Borobudur Dinner
The world’s largest Buddhist monument, Borobudur, is a 9th-century marvel with 504 life-size Buddha statues and over 2,500 panels of intricate stone carvings. Waiting for the temple to empty out, your guide can share the monument’s ancient secrets as the sun sets over distant volcanoes surrounding the Kedu Plain. Having worked up an appetite, you will follow a candlelit pathway that leads up to the house of Pak Bilal. Enjoy an Indonesian feast consisting of many local Java dishes to include Soto, a local turmeric chicken soup, Gudeg, a famous jackfruit stew, Rowan beef curry and Serabi sweet pancakes.
Fishing on Rote Island
Rote Island is a largely undiscovered beach paradise known for its deserted white sand beaches and surf, unique mangroves and friendly Rotanese. The locals live very sustainably, both fishing and rearing livestock for food. On a morning fishing trip, expect to find fish such as Dog Tooth Tuna, Wahoo, Giant and Bluefin Trevally, Barracuda and Spanish mackerel. Then with your guide, travel through the rural countryside of Rote to Oeseli, enjoying a typical lunch before travelling by boat to a saltwater lagoon and discovering ‘Lake Nirvana.’
“Indonesia is so much more than just Bali – discover lush jungles, bubbling volcanoes, idyllic islands and a cultural mixing pot of religions and customs.”
Sail through blue waters, embrace island life and discover secluded bays and vibrant reefs teeming with marine life. The country offers some of the world’s best opportunities for diving, with over 80,000 kilometres of coastline and 3.1 million square kilometres of waters to explore.
Best Kept Diving Secret
Base yourselves on Sumbawa, west of Komodo, to stay at a dive resort very few know about. Kalamaya offers day trips to West Komodo Island, Gili Banta and Sangean Volcano that are otherwise inaccessible to day divers. This means you are likely to have the entire dive site to yourselves, truly discovering one of those few remaining untouched places in the heart of Indonesia. At Sangean Volcano, experience black volcanic sand with a constant bubbling base. Enjoy the high-velocity current diving in Gili Banta, perfect for schooling fish, sharks, octopus, amazing coral and manta rays, or dive on Sumbawa’s diverse coastline, with jutting peninsulas and steaming underwater volcanic vents.
Swim with Whale Sharks
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, growing up to a size comparable to a city bus. It is thought that less than 10% of whale sharks born survive to adulthood, but those that do may live to 150 years old. WWF has recorded 135 whale sharks in Teluk Cenderawasih National Park, and Indonesia is known to be one of the finest places to dive with whale sharks as you are likely to get an exclusive experience alone with your dive buddies and guide. You will set off by boat from Papua Paradise Resort, slicing through calm morning waters, to discover this unique species within their protected ecosystem.
Tropical Boat Race
Transport yourself back in time as your Aqua Blu vessel winds amongst the palm-fringed coral islands known as the Spice Islands. For millennia these fertile volcanic isles were the world’s only source of the rare spices of mace, cloves and nutmeg, which were once worth their weight in gold. Catch a long-standing tradition and head out on deck to watch the Banda Islanders in a 40 rower canoe race. It is an impressive sight to witness two of these traditional vessels in Banda harbour, with 80 local men chanting in unison as they race across the bay. As you sail these tropical waters, your next stop is Banda Neira fort and a spice-infused lunch prepared by the charter crew.
Explore mountains, volcanoes, beaches and local villages on an 11-night trip to Indonesia, with guiding, experiences, B&B and flights included, from £5,000pp.
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