The Indonesian archipelago is home to 1 of the
world’s top surfing destinations. The best
time for surfing is from April to September with the best waves
found on islands facing southwest and south, including Bali,
Sumbawa, Flores, Sumba, Java,
Sumatra and Lombok.
Some of the better known surfing beaches, such as Ulu
Watu on Bali, tend to get congested,
however organised trips to isolated areas are hugely available.
Surf camps such as those at Cempi Bay (Sumbawa)
or Lagundri Bay (Nias) offer simple accommodations
and basic food. Windsurfing is popular on Bintan Island
and Nusa Dua and Sanur beaches on Bali.
There are approximately 80,000 kilometres or 50,000 miles of coastline,
said contain 15 % of the world’s coral reefs. In spite of
the opportunities, Indonesia’s diving industry
is still relatively young, though many of companies
offering courses and excursions is rising rapidly.
On Java island, the better diving is on the west
coast, where 3 volcanic islands mark the remnants of the Krakatoa
volcano (last erupted in 1883). Bali’s
tourist stronghold in the Kuta,
Nusa Dua and Suar
present simple and moderate diving, with accessible reefs. Tours
to more remote and quieter areas are available.
The Taman Nasional Laut Bunaken Manado Tua is
situated on the northern tip of Sulawesi island,
and is a national marine reserve with steep coral walls International
air connections to the island facilitate access. Further north,
the remote Sanggihe-Talaud and Togian
islands are reached by live-aboard dive boats.
To the south, Take Bone Rate is the world’s
3rd largest atoll. The Tukang Besi islands have
been featured expansively in the films by the French underwater
explorer Jacques Cousteau. Nusa Tenggara’s
well-liked sites are the 3 Gili islands
near Lombok, whose calm shallow waters are great
for beginners. Maluku has approximately 1,000
islands and has only freshly been discovered as a top diving destination.
Southeast of Ambon, the Bandana islands
are reached by air and offer numerous sites suitable for beginners
and experienced divers. The major resort in the
Sumatra and Riau islands is Bintan, which is
easily reached from Singapore.
The most colourful and clearest dive sites are
in Pulau Sikuai off the Padang
coast (western Sumatra) and Pulau Weh
off Banda Aceh (northern Sumatra). Irian Jaya
also provides good diving around the famous Mapia Atoll (where
dolphins and killer whales can occasionally be spotted) and also
the waters of Cenderawasih Bay off the western
end of Bird’s Head peninsula.
The island of Sumatra is probably the best location.
Gunung Padang, near the island’s capital,
Padang, is a small black cliff reached via a river-paddling trip
followed by a trek through a rainforest. Further inland, Bukittinggi
offers challenging cliffs with rice paddies as a view below. The
striking canyon rocks in nearby Harau National Park
are principally unexplored and should only be attempted by experienced
Indonesia’s most accessible caves are on the island of Java.
These include Luweng Jaran, stretching over 20
kilometres or 125 miles beneath the Gunung Seuw mountain range,
Gua Barat, the longest underground river system
in the southern hemisphere; and Gombong, with
stone towers rise spectacularly to about 40 metres or 132 feet
above sea level.
On Kalimantan island, Mangkalihat
has a rarely visited underground world of huge limestone corridors.
Even less explored are the remote caves near Wamena
on Bird’s Head peninsula in Irian Jaya.
Most companies offering whitewater rafting are situated in Bali,
where many rivers – including the Ayung,
Ubaya and Unda are commercially
rafted. Fantastic whitewater rapids can also be found on the Sadan
River (Sulawesi), the Citartik River
(western Java), and the Alas River (Sumatra).
Rapids are usually at their strongest
between November and March. River tours up the
great Mahakam River on the island of Kalimantan,
which is divided by a network of rivers running from the mountainous
interior to the coasts, are promoted as a trip into the ‘heart
of darkness’. Starting out from the port city Samarinda,
these tours last for several days (with on-board accommodation
available) and go deep into the upper jungle reaches, where tribal
communities have largely preserved their traditions.
There are around 120 active volcanoes and many
treks are possible. On Java island,
the popular volcanic destinations include Krakatoa
(reached by a 5 hour boat trip followed by a 30 minute climb).
Mount Bromo is the most visited of Indonesia’s
volcanoes and Kawah Ijen crater is filled with
a turquoise-blue lake.
Those in search of dormant volcanoes may head
to Gunung Agung in Bali (known
as the ‘Navel of the World’) or Gunung Rinjani
on Lombok island that has hot springs at the
top and is revered for its mystical qualities and Keli Mutu on Nusa Tenggara Barat
whose crater contains three spectacular mineral lakes.
For trekking through the rainforest, the islands
of Kalimantan, Irian Jaya and
Sumatra offer the most isolated and virgin terrain.
The better ones include trips to Bukit Barisan National
Park, a secluded and stunning peninsula in Sumatra with
treks leading through tropical rainforest onto a beach inhabited
by turtles; the Muller Mountain on Kalimantan
with a route following the traditional jungle trail used by the
native Iban people; and Lake Habbema on Irian
Jaya is a week-long trek to remote mountains and villages.
Having been criticised for the devastation of large areas of its
rainforest through de-forestation, the Indonesian government is
now keen to promote an environmentally friendly tourism policy.
The growing trend for back-to-nature vacations means that many
types of eco-tours are available. In the Tukangbeshi
archipelago near Sulawesi, visitors have the opportunity to participate
in coral reef preservation projects by helping with the collection
of scientific data.