Everyone has listened to awestruck prose about Bali for years, and more recently most everyone has heard the buzz surrounding Gili Trawangan: from the diving to the sunsets to the hedonistic party scene, it’s beautiful, yes, though hardly a well-kept secret.
You want to go to Indonesia and experience true Indonesia – what Bali used to be, that which has long since brought travellers to these magical islands lying neatly between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific. This enchanting country is so large, so diverse and so full of hidden gems that often get overshadowed as certain well-known places (Ubud! Lombok! Komodo!) are repeated over and over.
Well, we have the answers. We know the spots that will stir your soul, where the wild meets the restless; where the jungle is so green, it seems to grow more lush in front of your eyes; where the water is so crystal blue, you can practically see the schools of fish from the beach. These islands may be whispered about now, but knowing Indonesia’s ever-booming tourism industry, they won’t be for long…
Kei Kecil and Surrounding Archipelago
Head to the far east of Indonesia’s collections of islands — almost as far as the large province of Papua — and you’ll find the picture-perfect paradise of Kei Kecil, which, along with its neighboring island of Dullah, form the center of the Kei archipelago, itself part of the Molucca Islands. With few hotels and restaurants, stepping on this island is like going back in time, when beaches were perfectly white, water was perfectly clear and wifi was just four letters put together. Though most accommodation is pretty basic, it’s not about the luxury resorts or fancy restaurants, it’s just you, the beach and the sea. Visitors looking for a bit more excitement can explore the Goa Hawang caves, swim in the freshwater springs in the village of Evu or charter a boat to visit the smaller islands in the surrounding waters.
Though it may not be so secret to intrepid divers, Raja Ampat is a collection of small, sparsely-populated islands just off the northwest coast of Papua, Indonesia, whose serious blue water, stunning landscapes and incredible underwater life make the trip to this lesser-visited corner of the country a worthwhile excursion. Visitors may choose to bed down at a homestay to soak in the local culture, or opt for a liveaboard or a diving resort, for a fully-immersed diving experience. But it’s not just about what’s under the sea: these islands boast a diverse landscape of jungles, lagoons, caves and islets, for incredible, never-ending exploration both underwater and on dry land.
A large island to the southeast of Bali, Sumba is very slowly becoming more of a tourist destination within Indonesia, known for its unique landscape: think a dry savannah not unlike the climate of Texas and rolling limestone hills, surrounded by Indonesia’s staple crystal blue waters. Though the island is beginning to allow the encroachment of some luxury resorts, for the most part it offers basic accommodation and a simple, laid-back attitude based on surf, sun and sand. Visitors who want to know more about this mysterious island may be interested in exploring some of the stone megaliths that dot the island, as the ancient practice of burying bodies in the awesome rocks still exists here — how’s that for out there?
Just a stone’s throw from Bali, the large island of Nusa Penida could not be more removed from the Balinese opulence: think simple homestays and bungalows, very few restaurants (and no western ones to speak of) and very little tourist infrastructure. So why leave Bali to visit Nusa Penida? Simple: its untouched beauty is unparalleled, from rugged, undeveloped beaches to incredible coral reefs. And bird watchers, rejoice: the island as a whole is a designated bird sanctuary, home to rare and endangered species including the Bali Starling, Java Sparrow and lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoo. The island also boasts incredible limestone cliffs, caves and waterfalls, so if you’re more about pure paradise than partying, hop on that boat from Bali.
Okay, so it’s not exactly an island, but Lake Toba is one of the least-known, most underrated gems of Indonesia, located inland on North Sumatra. Originally created by a caldera of a supervolcano, this massive natural lake 62 miles long and 18 miles wide, making it the largest lake in Southeast Asia and the largest volcanic lake in the world. On its surrounding shores and its island, Samosir — which also has another lake inside of it — live the Batak people, known for their traditional, colorful houses, which add a whimsical layer to the lake. Visitors may take advantage of the locals’ hospitality, chatting with them and learning about their culture while staying in the town of Parapat on the mainland or tuk-tuk on the island. But the areas in between the villages that dot the shores of the lake remain, for the most part, full of undisturbed beauty — a perfect place to get lost, and then be found.
Want to know more about the 17,000-island rich country that is Indonesia? Perhaps looking to design an island hopping tour that gets you off the beaten (ferry) path and into the depths of the jungle — and the traditional culture? Our Remote Land experts are delighted to help you put together an itinerary that fits your desires, whether it be diving, bird-watching, an emphasis on the culture or a big old mix. Contact us today to begin planning the trip of a lifetime to one of the most biodiverse and beautiful countries in the world.