The world’s fourth most populace country – 245 million and counting – is a sultry kaleidoscope that runs along the equator for 5000km. It may well be the last great adventure on earth. From the western tip of Sumatra to the eastern edge of Papua, this nation defies homogenisation. It is a land of so many cultures, peoples, animals, customs, plants, features, artworks and foods that it is like 100 (or is it 200?) countries melded into one.
And we’re talking differences that aren’t just about an accent or a preference for goat over pork; we are talking about people who are as radically different from each other as if they came from different continents. No man may be an island but here every island is a unique blend of the men, women and children who live upon it. Over time deep and rich cultures have evolved, from the mysteries of the spiritual Balinese to the utterly non-Western belief system of the Asmat people of Papua.
Komodo & Rinca Islands
Nestled between Sumbawa and Flores, the islands of Komodo and Rinca, their jagged hills carpeted with savannah and fringed with mangroves, are home to the legendary Komodo dragon. The world’s largest lizard, known locally as ora, it can reach over 3m in length and weigh up to 100kg. It hunts alone and feeds on animals as large as deer and buffalo, both of which are found here.
Need to know
Raja Ampat Islands
This group of about 1600 mostly uninhabited islands off Sorong has some of the best diving in the world. Little known until the last few years, Raja Ampat’s sheer numbers and diversity of marine life, and its huge, largely pristine coral-reef systems, are a scuba dream come true – and fantastic for snorkellers too. It’s like swimming in a tropical aquarium.
A trip to Tana Toraja is like a cultural documentary brought to life. Sweeping and elaborately painted houses with boat-shaped roofs dot terraced rice paddies where farmers work the fields alongside their doe-eyed buffalo. It’s an island hemmed in by mountains on all sides and rich with traditional culture.
This tiny, coral-fringed isle is North Sulawesi’s top tourist destination but (so far) it’s managed to avoid becoming resort-land and maintains a rootsy island soul. Tourist accommodation is spread out along two beaches – other than that, the island belongs to the islanders; these friendly folk have a seemingly endless reserve of authentically warm smiles.