Although the wily jungles of Indonesia are slightly tamer than the days of the Borneo headhunters, there are still many options for the modern day thrill seeker. Whether trekking in the jungles and mountains of the vast archipelago, diving in some of the most biologically diverse waters in the world, or visiting with some of the few remaining tribal groups in the world, Indonesia can still live up to its unfettered past.
From the snow capped peaks of Papua to the smoking volcanoes of Java, Indonesia presents any trekker with a wide array of choices, regardless of skill level. The further a field you plan to go, the more valuable you will find using a tour agency to arrange your trip. Tour agencies often get better deals on national airline tickets and can arrange for transportation and accommodation in areas where such amenities are scarce. Papua, the easternmost province of Indonesia, is unfortunately experiencing periods of civil unrest, so be sure to get updated information if you plan to set off there. The snow covered Carstensz Pyramid, locally known as Puncak Jaya, is the highest mountain in Papua. Please note – the trek up Carstensz Pyramid is for the experienced climber. For those looking for something challenging, but without the need for carabineers, try the third highest peak in Papua, Trikora Mountain. Indonesia requires all trekkers in Papua to obtain a climbing permit, usually arranged by your tour company. Trekking can be combined with a visit to one of the few remaining tribal groups on the island to experience first hand the wonder of what it means to live off the land.
If you like diving, the blue waters of Indonesia, teeming with marine life of all shapes and colors, are not to be missed. Some of the best diving in the world is found in Indonesia and options come in all price ranges, from a quick dip off the coast of Bali to a two week liveaboard that will take you to areas otherwise inaccessible. Among the most popular dive spots for those wanting easy access, as well as beach resorts, is Bunaken Island off the coast of North Sulawesi. Bunaken has suffered some damage to its coral reefs from blast fishing, but much is still alive or recovering through the efforts of local conservation groups. If you prefer a liveaboard, there are many operators to the Komodo Islands, Sulawesi’s Wakatobi and Lembeh Strait, Flores, and Alor, to name a few. Shop around for the best price and definitely check up on the company or you might find your accommodations less than desirable. Once you get in the water though, expect to be awed by teeming barracudas, colorful cuttlefish, and mantas.
For the eco-tourist, the options are endless. From orangutan spotting and jungle trekking in Kalimantan to Komodo Dragon watching on the shores of Komodo, options vary by budget and time frame. The orangutan population continues to dwindle every year and some of the money garnered from eco-tourism goes to support foundations and local groups that work to save them. Although the number of visitors is limited each year, tour companies can arrange a visit to the famous rainforest study area of Tanjing Putting National Park and Camp Leakey in Kalimantan (formerly Borneo). A visit to the Ministry of Forestry’s feed station might earn you the chance to interact with the orangutans directly. Accommodation and transportation are best arranged beforehand as flights can vary throughout the year. Another popular ecotourism destination is Komodo National Park which includes the three large islands of Komodo, Rinca, and Padar as well as several smaller islands. A visit to this area can be combined with a dive trip as the waters in the reserve are home to an estimated 900-1,000 marine species. The Komodo Dragons themselves, giant monitor lizards, are relatively easy to spot, but you’re guaranteed to find them safely with the help of a guide. Accommodation in the National Park is rustic, but the staff is friendly and the food is decent. Foregoing the beaches of Bali may not be easy for some, but the treasures of the other Indonesian islands are not to be missed.