Indonesia's volcanic archipelago geography creates a thrilling range of adventure opportunities. The many seas offer superb diving and snorkelling, and some of the world's most famous waves for surfers. On land, its string of dramatic volcanoes, wildlife-filled jungles and rushing rivers are an adventurer's delight.

When to Go

There are vast variations in the weather across the huge swath of islands that is Indonesia. Generally, dry season in Java, Bali, Lombok and Sumatra is May to September, while Maluku and Papua have their best weather from October to April. But exceptions are the rule, especially as the seasons increasingly become confused with changing weather patterns. However you'll want to research any location you plan to visit carefully if the weather will play a role in your enjoyment.

Beaches

With 17,000-plus islands, Indonesia has a lot of beaches. These range from the wildly popular beaches on south Bali to those for hardcore party people on the Gili Islands, and to literally hundreds more where your footprints will be the first of the day.

Pantai is 'beach' in Bahasa Indonesia.

Note that sunscreen can be hard to find outside major tourist areas.

Bali

Fabled for its beaches, Bali actually pales in comparison to scores of other islands in Indonesia. What the island does have is a thriving beach culture, with surfing and places to imbibe, ranging from the dead simple to the hipster-luxe. Locals and visitors alike pause on west-facing beaches at sunset.

  • Kuta Beach This is the original draw for tourists, with a golden-sand arc sweeping past Canggu to the northwest. Its beach breaks are good for both beginners and experienced surfers.
  • Bukit Peninsula Bali's southern tip has famous surf spots and beaches such as Bingin and Padang Padang that feature little pockets of bright sand below limestone cliffs. The east side has reef-protected strands, such as the one at Nusa Dua.
  • East Bali A long series of open-water beaches begins north of reef-protected Sanur. Waves pound volcanic sand that ranges from a light grey to charcoal black.

Java

Beaches near cities in Java can be very busy on weekends, but venture a little further and you'll find some great sand.

  • Batu Karas A simple village with two great beaches and a classic laid-back vibe.
  • Southeast of Yogyakarta Explore this beautiful coastline, a succession of alluring golden-sand coves divided by craggy headlands (but skip Parangritis, which is not in the same league).
  • Karimunjawa Islands Some 27 islands compose this offshore marine park, which gets very few visitors. It has some of the finest beaches in Indonesia.
  • Watu Karang East Java's finest patch of white sand, worshipped by beach-lovers and surfers alike.

Maluku

The fine beaches here have barely been discovered.

  • Banda Islands Maluku’s best beaches are all in the Bandas. Charter a boat from Bandaneira and enjoy exquisite empty beaches on Pulau Hatta, Pulau Ai and Pulau Run (Rhun). But the best of the Banda bunch is Pulau Neilaka, more a white sandbar than an island.
  • Kei Islands Sugary Pasir Panjang is ground zero for beach lounging. The petroglyph-swathed cliffs and mind-bending scenery at Ohoidertawun are also worth consideration. Rent a bike and make the two-hour trek to the stunning, remote and drop-dead gorgeous beaches of Pantai Ohoidertutu. Otherwise charter a boat from Pulau Kei Kecil to Pantai Ngurtavur's blinding white sandbar.

Nusa Tenggara

Nusa Tenggara is probably the region of Indonesia with the most beaches awaiting discovery.

  • Gili Islands The Gilis are easily reached from Bali and Lombok, and you can snorkel right off the blinding white sands. Gili Trawangan has one of the country's most vibrant party scenes.
  • Lombok Head south for the pristine white-sand islands of Gili Asahan and the north coast of Gili Gede. Kuta is an immense series of one spectacular beach or bay after another. Get there, rent a motorbike and explore.
  • Sumbawa In west Sumbawa the best beaches are south of Maluk in Rantung and north in Jelenga. In the east, head to the Lakey area.
  • Flores Head to the islands off Labuan Bajo and you’ll find bliss, especially on Pulau Sebayur and Pulau Kanawa. Pantai Merah on Komodo Island is famous for its sublime pink-sand beaches. The Seventeen Islands Marine Park off the Riung coast also has a dozen remote islands with epic and empty white-sand beaches to laze upon.
  • Rote The main beach in Nemberala town is beautiful enough, but the beaches just get wider and whiter the further south you travel. Ba’a is the most beautiful of the bunch. We also enjoy the empty sugary beaches on nearby islands Pulau Do’o and Pulau Ndao.

Papua

While Papua's better known for its diving and hiking, word is getting out fast about its islands ringed with powdery white sand.

  • Raja Ampat Islands There are some divine and empty beaches here, but due to the high cost of reaching the area they tend to be enjoyed mainly as a secondary activity by people who are diving and/or snorkelling.
  • Pulau Biak The Padaido Islands off Pulau Biak have some decent beaches that are not too hard to reach.

Sumatra

The best beaches on this huge island are actually on tiny islands offshore

  • Banyak Islands Banyak means 'many', and it's true there are many fine beaches among the 99 islands in this remote and seldom-visited chain off Aceh.
  • Mentawai Islands Overshadowed by its reputation as a legendary surf destination, this island chain also features insanely beautiful beaches.
  • Pulau Bintan A gem in the Riau Islands, this island has some fine beaches where you can live the tropical fantasy in a hut.

Cycling

Cycling in Indonesia is booming. Lowland towns such as Yogyakarta and Solo in Java teem with bikes, and bicycles are gaining popularity in Bali. Lombok has good roads for cycling.

Bali

Bike tours are available across the island. Some are simple downhill jaunts through rice fields while others are much more adventurous.

Java

Yogyakarta is a big cycling centre; pedal out to see the Prambanan Temple. Bikes are also for rent at Borobudur, while Solo is another good place to join a bike tour.

Sumatra

Cycling the languid streets of Danau Toba is a great way to explore the island. On Danau Maninjau you can pedal around the crater lake.

Nusa Tenggara

Bicycles are available for hire on the Gili Islands; Trawangan is best suited for exploration.

Diving

With so many islands and so much coral, Indonesia offers wonderful possibilities for diving and is regarded as one of the cheapest places to do so in Southeast Asia.

Bali

Indonesia's tourist hub has a plethora of excellent dive shops, schools and operators.

  • Nusa Penida Serious diving that includes schools of manta rays and 2.5m sunfish.
  • Pulau Menjangan Spectacular 30m wall off a small island. Good for divers and snorkellers of all skills and ages.
  • Tulamben A popular sunken WWII freighter lies right off the shore.

Java

While the island isn't known for its diving, there are some spots if you look.

  • Karimunjawa Islands These islands have some dive sites, including a century-old Norwegian wreck dive.

Kalimantan

Kalimantan has a growing number of dive resorts with house reefs and fast boats to access islands.

  • Derawan Archipelago Features a diverse range of sites: Pulau Derawan has excellent macro diving; Pulau Sangalaki is famous for mantas; Pulau Maratua has sharks, rays and barracuda.

Maluku

Diving has great promise here but is mostly undeveloped.

  • Banda Islands Seasonal dives can explore lava flow off Pulau Gunung Api, or the wonderful coral-crusted walls off Pulau Hatta, Pulau Ai and Pulau Run.
  • Pulau Ambon Something of a dive mecca. There are reef dives outside the bay off the Ambon coast, but most divers come here for the excellent muck diving on the slopes within Teluk Ambon.
  • Pulau Halmahera One of several untapped dive sites in North Maluku; get in touch with local guide Firman for tips on dive sites.

Nusa Tenggara

A vast range of diving opportunities awaits. Major destinations have land-based dive shops. For untapped dive sites, bring your own buoyancy control devices, regulators and computers (tanks are usually accessible) and explore Rote, Sumbawa and Sumba.

  • Gili Islands Among the best places to get certified worldwide; accessible reefs are within a 10-minute boat ride.
  • Lombok If you get lucky, you can see schooling hammerheads at Blongas, usually in mid-September.
  • Flores World-class sites within the Komodo National Park; in peak season up to 50 liveaboards ply these waters.
  • Alor Archipelago Crystalline waters and arguably the most pristine reefs in Indonesia, and you’ll have the sites almost all to yourself.
  • Pulau Moyo Pristine, colourful coral with plunging walls and a huge variety of marine life.

Papua

Bring your own equipment to ensure you get the most out of the journey.

  • Raja Ampat Islands Among the best in the world for the diversity and quantity of marine life. It's a remote area and quite expensive. Most divers head out on liveaboard boats for one- to two-week cruises, or stay at the handful of dive resorts.
  • Nabire Head out to dive with whale sharks; nearby is coral reef home to giant clams, seahorses and a multitude of sharks.
  • Pulau Biak Take the plunge to explore a famous US WWII seaplane wreck.

Sulawesi

New dive areas are opening up, but favourites such as Bunaken are popular for a reason.

  • Pulau Bunaken Part of a large marine park, this island, which is easily reached from Manado, offers all sorts of diving.
  • Pantai Bira Varied marine life, including groupers, rays and occasional whale sharks, and colourful corals.
  • Lembeh Strait Muck diving at its finest; a weird and wonderful world of bizarre critters await discovery between Pulau Lembeh and Bintung.

Sumatra

Despite the diving potential on Mentawai and Banyak Islands, both remain the domain of surfers.

  • Pulau Weh One of Indonesia's best diving locations is this small coral-ringed island with 20 dive sites featuring an incredible wealth of marine life. It continues to grow in popularity, while retaining its laid-back charm

Feature: Safety Guidelines for Diving

Before embarking on a scuba-diving or snorkelling trip, consider the following points to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:

  • Ensure you possess a current diving certification card from a recognised scuba-diving instruction agency.
  • Be sure you are healthy and feel comfortable diving.
  • Obtain reliable information about physical and environmental conditions at the dive site. Ask your operator or guide detailed questions.
  • Dive only at sites within your realm of experience and engage the services of a certified dive instructor.
  • Check your equipment thoroughly beforehand. In much of Indonesia, the equipment (if it's available) may not be in top condition. Bali is your best bet for finding reliable equipment for hire.

Feature: Responsible Diving

The popularity of diving puts immense pressure on many sites. Consider the following tips when diving and help preserve the ecology and beauty of Indonesia's reefs.

  • Avoid touching living marine organisms with your body or dragging equipment across the reef. Never stand on coral.
  • Be conscious of your fins. The surge from heavy fin strokes near the reef can damage delicate organisms. When treading water in shallow reef areas, take care not to kick up clouds of sand. Settling sand can easily smother delicate reef organisms.
  • Practise and maintain proper buoyancy control. Major damage can be done by divers descending too fast and colliding with the reef.
  • Don't collect coral or shells.
  • Ensure that you collect all your rubbish and any litter you find as well. Plastics in particular are a serious threat to marine life.
  • Don't ever feed the fish.
  • The best dive operators will require that you adhere to these points.

Snorkelling

For many, there's bliss to be found in the simplicity of snorkelling beautiful waters right off the beaches. Most dive operators will let snorkellers hitch a ride on trips, but don't expect much in the way of decent masks and fins outside the most popular sites. Bring your own if you're picky. There are also some wonderful free-diving outfits.

Bali

Bali is ringed by good snorkelling sites that are easily reached.

  • Pulau Menjangan A steady current takes you right along the edge of the beautiful 30m coral wall.
  • Tulamben A popular sunken WWII freighter is easily reached right offshore.
  • Amed This coastline along east Bali has plenty of colourful coral and fish directly off the beach.

Java

Java has some healthy coral reefs that make for good low-key snorkelling spots.

Kalimantan

  • Derawan Archipelago Features some of the country's best snorkelling; head to its outer islands, as reefs around Pulau Derawan are damaged.

Maluku

There are plenty of accessible coral gardens on the many islands here.

  • Banda Islands Can be snorkelled, though you’ll need to free dive a bit to get the best views of the drop-offs. You might see turtles and sharks off Pulau Hatta.
  • Lease Islands These rarely visited islands, with wonderful clear waters, offer great snorkelling, including off uninhabited Pulau Molana.

Nusa Tenggara

Nusa Tenggara has the best selection of snorkelling sites in the country. You can snorkel all the Moyo and Alor dive sites and share a boat with the divers.

  • Gili Gede Head to the southeast coast to visit Gili Layar and Gili Rengit to swim among masses of tropical fish and thriving, colourful coral.
  • Komodo The best snorkel sites are around Pulau Kanawa, Pulau Sebayur and off Pantai Merah.

Papua

Divers aren't the only ones having fun here.

  • Raja Ampat Islands Many superb snorkelling sites are reachable just by walking off a beach or taking a boat. Dive resorts and homestays all offer snorkelling.
  • Nabire Snorkel with whale sharks.
  • Padaido Islands Great snorkelling with lots of colourful coral, caves, long walls and plenty of big fish and turtles.

Sulawesi

Sulawesi has a large number of great snorkelling sites.

  • Pulau Bunaken Great for snorkelling for many of the same reasons that it's a good dive location.
  • Togean Islands Given the challenges in reaching these idyllic little gems, it's nice that there's good underwater action once you get here.

Sumatra

The best snorkelling is around the little islands offshore. Rudimentary day trips are available, but travellers are advised to bring their own snorkelling gear.

  • Pulau Banyak The stunning gin-clear waters of the Banyaks have to be seen to be believed, with a heap of tropical fish, turtles and deep-sea creatures.
  • Pulau Weh This island off the northern tip of Sumatra has easy offshore access to an aquarium-like wonderworld of colourful fish and marine life.

Surfing

Indonesia lures surfers from around the globe, many with visions of empty palm-lined beaches, bamboo bungalows and perfect barrels peeling around a coral reef. The good news is that mostly the dreams come true, but just like anywhere else, Indonesia is subject to flat spells, onshore winds and crowding (particularly on Bali). A little research and preparation go a long way.

There are usually boards for rent (but don't expect great quality), and surf schools are located at the major surf sites.

Bali

Despite the crowds, Bali remains a surfer's paradise, with some of the best tubes in the world. Breaks are found right around the south side of the island, and there’s a large infrastructure of schools and board-rental places.

  • Kuta Beach Where surfing came to Asia. Generally a good place for beginners (unless it's pumping), with long, steady breaks.
  • Bukit Peninsula From Bali's largest sets at Ulu Watu and Padang Padang, to world-class breaks at Balangan and Bingin, this is one of Indo's best surf spots.
  • Keramas Right-hand break that's fast, powerful and hollow. The world pro comp is held here, and it also has the novelty of night surfing under lights.
  • Medewi Famous point break with a ride right into a river mouth.
  • Nusa Lembongan The island is a mellow scene for surfers who come for the right-hand breaks known as Shipwrecks and Lacerations, and the less challenging leftie at Playgrounds.

Java

Java is still being explored by surfers, who find new breaks every year. Its popular breaks at G-Land, Cimaja, Batu Karas and Pacitan have surf schools and shops.

  • G-Land One of the world's best left-handers, G-Land is a holy grail for expert surfers. With consistently perfect waves and long rides, it's worthy of all the hype.
  • Cimaja A popular surf spot at Pelabuhan Ratu. The fabled Ombak Tujuh break is off a pebble beach.
  • Pulau Panaitan Some of Indonesia's most photogenic but dangerous waves; experts only.
  • Batu Karas One of several good breaks around Pangandaran, a popular surf spot off the southern coast of Central Java.
  • Pacitan This town on a beautiful little horseshoe bay rewards surfers who make the trek.

Nusa Tenggara

You could spend years exploring – and discovering! – places to surf in Nusa Tenggara.

  • Lombok South Lombok is a surf utopia. There are numerous breaks from Ekas to Gerupuk to Kuta, all of which can be accessed from Kuta. Tanjung Desert (Desert Point) is more of a surf camp, and it’s also legendary.
  • Sumbawa Jelenga (Scar Reef) and Maluk are among the greatest and most overlooked surf breaks in the world. Surfers regularly descend here to surf Supersuck, which offers one of the best barrels anywhere.
  • Rote T-Land is the legendary left, but there are hollow waves in Bo’a Bay, as well.
  • Sumba West Sumba has the best breaks, but it’s not set up for tourists. You’ll have to hire a car, drive into remote villages and paddle out on sight and feel.

Sumatra

Arguably Indonesia's hottest surf region; newish areas such as Telo are attracting surfers in the know and further areas are opening up all the time.

  • Mentawai Islands Surfing is huge business in the Mentawais, where you'll find some of the world's best waves. Everything's here, from simple losmen and luxury resorts to seven- to 10-day all-inclusive trips on surf boats. Primo breaks include Macaronis, Lance's Right and Pitstops.
  • Pulau Nias Another legendary spot for surfers in search of the perfect wave, this low-key spot is most famous for its right-hander Keyhole in Sorake Beach. Its west coast is also packed full of sublime breaks, as is the Telo Islands just south – a region that's really starting to take off.
  • Krui Word's certainly out about the pumping waves found off the coast in South Sumatra, but it's still yet to attract mobs; not unlike other Sumatra secret spots Banyaks and Simeulue.

Sidebar: Surf Info Online

  • Bali Waves (www.baliwaves.com) Surf reports, including webcams of top spots.
  • Magic Seaweed (www.magicseaweed.com) Popular and respected for reliable surf reports and forecasts.
  • SurfAid International (www.surfaidinternational.org) Surfer-run aid organisation.
  • Gone to Get Salty (www.gonetogetsalty.com) Useful guide offering a heap of tips and covering the practicalities of planning where to go and securing accommodation.
  • Surf Travel Company (www.surftravel.com.au) Australian outfit with camps, yacht charters, destination information, surfer reviews and more.

Whitewater Rafting

Some of the rivers tumbling down Indonesia's volcanic slopes draw adventure operators and thrill-seeking tourists.

Bali

Two reputable operators are Bali Adventure Tours and Bio; both offer rafting, river boarding and tubing.

  • Sungai Ayung Features 33 Class II to III rapids, which are fun and suitable for all levels.
  • Sungai Telagawaja Rafting trips take on this scenic and wild stretch of river near Muncan in east Bali.

Java

Java probably has Indonesia's best white-water rafting.

  • Sungai Citarak Churns out Class II to IV rapids.
  • Green Valley Located near Pangandaran; you can skip a raft altogether and go 'body rafting' in a life jacket.

Kalimantan

  • Loksado The bamboo rafting here is more of a relaxing paddle than an adrenaline rush.

Sulawesi

  • Sungai Sa'dan Lures adventure junkies to tackle its 20-odd rapids (some up to Class IV).
  • Tana Toraja Rafting agents in Rantepao organise trips down its canyon.
  • Minahasa Combine rafting rapids with wildlife-watching.

Sumatra

  • Bukit Lawang Finish off your sweaty jungle trek with an enjoyable wet 'n' wild river journey down fun rapids.

Hiking & Trekking

Setting off on foot in Indonesia offers limitless opportunities for adventure and exploration, from volcanic peaks with celestial dawn views to remote jungle treks; you can leave civilisation behind.

Bali

Bali is very walkable. No matter where you’re staying, ask for recommendations, and set off for discoveries and adventures.

  • Gunung Agung Sunrises and isolated temples on Bali's most sacred mountain; however in 2018 it was off limits due to its series of eruptions.
  • Gunung Batur This volcano's otherworldly scenery almost makes you forget about the hassles.
  • Munduk Lush, spice-scented waterfall-riven landscape high in the hills.
  • Sidemen Road Rice terraces and lush hills; comfy lodgings for walkers.
  • Taman Nasional Bali Barat A range of hikes through alternating habitats of jungle, savannah and mangroves.
  • Ubud Beautiful walks between one hour and one day through rice, river-valley jungles and ancient monuments.

Java

Java has some great walks. Guides are always available at national park offices or via guesthouses. Tents and sleeping bags can be rented at Semeru. Organised hikes can be set up in Kalibaru (to Merapi) and Malang (to Semeru).

  • Gunung Bromo One of three volcanic cones (one active) that emerge from an eerie caldera. A must-see sight; however expect mass crowds due to its popularity.
  • Gede Pangrango National Park Waterfalls and the nearly 3000m-high Gunung Gede, an active volcano, are the highlights.
  • Gunung Lawu On the border of Central and East Java, this 3265m mountain is dotted with ancient Hindu temples.
  • Gunung Semeru It's a tough three-day trek to the top of Java's tallest peak (3676m), which is nearly always volcanically active.
  • Ijen Plateau Surrounded by scenic coffee plantations and misty jungle, this blockbuster volcano is most famous for the eerie 'blue fire' that illuminates its sulphurous crater lake.

Kalimantan

The jungles of Borneo remain seemingly impenetrable in vast areas, and that's all the more reason for intrepid trekkers to set out on a trail.

  • Cross-Borneo Trek This uber-choice of Kalimantan treks is best undertaken by contacting either De'gigant Tours in Samarinda or Kompakh in Putussibau and going from there. No one should try to organise it by themselves.
  • Loksado A real-life adventure park with dozens of rope and bamboo bridges across streams amid thick jungle.
  • Gunung Besar The highest peak in the Meratus mountain range, Besar (1901m) is accessed via a three- to four-day hike from Loksado.

Maluku

  • Gunung Api Head up this perfectly formed volcanic cone (656m) on a quite arduous three-hour self-guided trek.
  • Gunung Api Gamalama Tick off this this active volcano from your list by climbing to its crater peak (1721m) for stunning views on an eight-hour return trek.

Nusa Tenggara

Lombok and Flores are both easily accessible and home to some top hikes.

  • Gunung Tambora Make it to the top of this 2772m volcano, famed for its 1815 eruption, still the most powerful eruption on record.
  • Gunung Rinjani Indonesia’s second-tallest volcano is on Lombok. The standard trek is three to four days; it begins near a sacred waterfall, skirts lakes and hot springs, and culminates with sunrise on one of two peaks.
  • Flores Enjoy hikes to remote villages only accessible by trail, the most interesting of which is the trek to Wae Rebo in the Manggarai region. You can also climb Gunung Inerie in the Bajawa area, or hike to the remote Pauleni Village near Belaragi.

Papua

Trekking is the reason for many people to visit Papua.

  • Baliem Valley World-class trekking: great hiking in wonderful mountain scenery among friendly, traditional people. It's possible to sleep most nights in villages; some simpler routes don't require guides or porters.
  • Korowai region Tough jungle trekking in an area populated by ex-headhunters who live in tree houses. You'll need a well-organised, expensive guided trip.
  • Carstensz Pyramid & Gunung Trikora You'll need mountaineering skills to climb the two highest mountains in Oceania. Both involve high altitudes and camping in a cold climate. Organise through specialist agencies.
  • Yali Country Make your way around Kosarek for fascinating encounters with locals dressed in traditional rattan hoops, penis gourds, grass skirts, and accessories made of boar tusks, cassowary feathers and orchid fibres.

Sulawesi

The region around Tana Toraja could occupy months of trekking.

  • Tana Toraja Beautiful valleys and fascinating Torajan architecture and culture are highlights. Good guides are readily available in Rantepao.
  • Mamasa West of Tana Toraja, this 59km trek linking Tana Toraja and Mamasa is a three-day treat.
  • Tomohon Hike up to Gunung Lokon's crater lake.

Sumatra

Unsurprisingly, this vast island offers a huge range of overland adventures.

  • Mentawai Islands Famous for its hunter-gatherer tribes, the Mentawais still have dense, untouched jungle that you can penetrate by longboat on river journeys. Local guides will take you to their isolated abodes.
  • Berastagi A cool retreat from steamy Medan. Easy treks include volcanoes.
  • Bukittinggi You can meander through tiny villages, climb volcanoes or head off into the jungle for the three-day trek to Danau Maninjau.
  • Kerinci Seblat National Park Dense rainforest, high mountains and rare animals such as Sumatran tiger and slow loris are the highlights of treks through Sumatra's largest park.
  • Gunung Leuser National Park Trek in search of orang-utans in Bukit Lawang and Ketambe.
  • Around Bengkulu Truly get off the beaten track by trekking to waterfalls, volcanoes and hot springs and by overnighting in local villages.

Feature: Safety Guidelines For Trekking

Before embarking on a trekking or hiking trip, consider the following points to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

  • Pay any fees and obtain any permits required by local authorities.
  • Be sure you are healthy and feel comfortable walking for a sustained period.
  • Obtain reliable information about physical and environmental conditions along your intended route.
  • Be aware of local laws, regulations and etiquette about wildlife and the environment.
  • Walk only in regions and on trails/tracks within your realm of experience.
  • Be aware that weather conditions and terrain vary significantly from one region, or even from one trail or track, to another. Seasonal changes and sudden weather shifts can significantly alter any trail or track. These differences influence what to wear and what equipment to carry.
  • Ask before you set out about the environmental characteristics that can affect your walk, and how experienced local walkers deal with these considerations.
  • Strongly consider hiring a guide. Indonesia has many good guides who have invaluable local knowledge.

Feature: A Guide to Guides

A guide can make or break your trip. Some travellers report disappointing trips with cheap guides, but high fees alone don't guarantee satisfaction. Here are some tips for choosing a guide.

  • Meet the guide before finalising any trip. (If you're dealing with a tour agency, insist on meeting the guide you'll travel with, not the head of the agency.)
  • Quiz the guide about the itinerary. That can begin by email, WhatsApp or telephone, and will also provide a sample of their ability in your language. (Be aware that guides using email may have a helper handling that correspondence.) Listen to their ideas, and see if they listen to yours.
  • Guides usually offer package prices and should be able to roughly itemise trip costs. Be clear on what's included in the package, particularly regarding transport and food.
  • Some guides offer the option of charging you only their fee (250,000Rp to 800,000Rp per day) while you pay other expenses directly.
  • Find out what you'll need from the guide, such as water.
  • For ambitious treks in places such as Papua, you may need to hire porters to help carry your food and water, in addition to a guide.

Watching Wildlife

Indonesia's wildlife is as diverse as everything else about the archipelago. Great apes, tigers, elephants and monkeys – lots of monkeys – plus one mean lizard are just some of the more notable critters you may encounter.

Bali

Other than prevalent macaque monkeys and an occasional monitor lizard, Bali has limited wildlife encounters (with the exception of a night out in Kuta).

  • Bali Barat National Park Excellent for birdwatching, and also has multiple species of deer, monkey, wild pig and buffalo.

Java

The national parks are home to a huge range of animals and birds – and usually guides ready to lead you.

Kalimantan

Kalimantan is mostly about jungle river trips to experience wildlife such as orang-utans and discover the myriad local cultures.

Maluku

Maluku remains a relatively untapped birder paradise. It's worth the effort and cash to access the national parks of Seram and Halmahera.

Nusa Tenggara

This vast collection of islands has one real star.

  • Komodo National Park First and foremost is the area’s namesake endemic species: the Komodo dragon. But there are also slow-screeching flocks of flying foxes roosting on mangrove islands in the park.
  • Seventeen Islands Marine Park Near Riung you can find barking deer, wild water buffalo and rich bird life.

Papua

Papua is fantastic birdwatching territory, including for birds of paradise. It's more difficult to find other Papuan wildlife, including exotic marsupials such as tree kangaroos, cuscus and sugar gliders, though some expert local guides can help.

  • Raja Ampat Islands Birds of paradise and many other species cause birdwatchers to flock here.
  • Pegunungan Arfak Thickly forested mountains hide all manner of birds.
  • Wasur National Park It's fairly easy to spot wallabies and deer here.
  • Danau Habbema Cuscus, birds of paradise and sometimes tree kangaroos are found near this isolated lake.

Sulawesi

Tarsiers are all the rage among Sulawesi wildlife spotters.

Sumatra

Large mammals such as elephants, orang-utans and the Sumatran tiger have homes amid the still untrodden tracts of wilderness here.

Rock Climbing & Canyoning

While still an emerging scene, there are reputable operators offering climbing, canyoning, abseiling and spelunking. Gear is provided, but serious climbers will want to bring their own.

Bali

  • Ubud Based in Mas, outside Ubud, Adventure & Spirit offers very popular canyoning day trips out to central Bali that combine abseiling, swimming, jumping, climbing and zip lining through scenic gorges and waterfalls.

Nusa Lembongan

  • Flores Head to the Cunca Wulang Cascades around Labuan Bajo for 7m jumps off waterfalls into swimming holes.

Sumatra

One of Indonesia's more well-known spots for rock-climbers.

  • Harau Valley The area is popular for rock climbing and hikes. Guides can be arranged here.

Sulawesi

  • Minahasa Outside Tomohon, this scenic area is gaining recognition for its adventure activities, including abseiling, canyoning and 60m drops from Tekaan Telu waterfall.

Water Sports

Surfing isn't the only way to catch a wave in Indo these days; kitesurfing is fast catching on as a popular water sport. For something more relaxing, jump in a sea kayak for a paddle around.

Java

  • Banyuwangi For those with their own gear, Pulau Tabuhan gets some good winds for kitesurfing. It hosts the Tabuhan Island Pro in August.

Bali

  • Sanur The best spot in Bali for kitesurfing. Rip Curl has set up shop, and offers kitesurfing lessons and equipment hire, as well as windsurfing and SUP.

Nusa Tenggara

  • Pantai Lakey & Hu’u One of the world's top-10 kitesurfing destinations; the season runs from July to November.
  • Kuta Several operators offer lessons and rental.
  • Komodo National Park Glide through the park on a guided kayak tour from Labuan Bajo.

Sumatra

  • Aceh From May to September, Lampu’uk on Aceh's west coast is popular for kitesurfing. Seabreeze Kite Club in Lhoknga is the best place to head.
  • Banyak Islands Jump in a sea kayak to explore dozens of tropical islands.

Papua