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Outdoor Adventures Land and Sea in Indonesia


Begin a paddling sojourn in Indonesia by negotiating around the forest-clad banks of a holy mountain lake, before sea kayaking on smooth Balinese waters, or graduating to an exciting multi-day excursion in the more remote Raja Ampat Islands. Based in the Balinese mountain village of Kedisan, C. Bali runs morning tours exploring the volcanic caldera of Danau (Lake) Batur in inflatable canoes, while further south alongSanur’s beachy coastline, kayaks can be hired by the hour for leisurely exploration. In the far flung islands of Raja Ampat – around 2000km to the northeast – Kayak4Conservation explores a stunning archipelago of jungle-covered islands and concealed lagoons. Guided adventures include staying at local guesthouses.


With more than 17,000 islands – and hundreds of thousand of different beaches – Indonesia offers some the planet’s best places for escaping into warm tropical waters equipped simply with a mask, snorkel and swim fins. On Bali’s northern coast, snorkelling trips depart from nearbyPemuteran to explore the waters of Pulau Menjangan (‘Deer Island’), while at Tulamben in eastern Bali, the WWII wreck of the Liberty, a US Navy Cargo Ship, is just 50m off the coast. Continue further east to theGili Islands off Lombok’s northern coast for excellent snorkeling straight off arcing sandy beaches – sea turtles are often seen – or swim with whale sharks at Nabire in the remote eastern province of Papua.


Warm tropical waters, a huge variety of seascapes, and the attraction of abandoned wrecks and brilliant marine life make Indonesia one of the finest diving destinations on the planet. For beginners, the tourist-friendly dive schools of Bali and Lombok’s Gili Islands provide an introduction to the underwater world – including the opportunity to see manta rays and sunfish off Bali’s Nusa Penida – while liveaboard boat charters are the best way to explore the expansive reefs and teeming shoals of Nusa Tengarra, Sulawesi’s Pulau Bunaken and Papua’s Raja Ampat Islands.


Indonesia’s huge diversity offers many opportunities to discover different landscapes and cultures, ranging from enlightening day hikes through to multi-day jungle treks and ascents of spectacular volcanoes. Hook up with Sungai Penuh-based Wild Sumatra Adventures to explore the forests and mountain lakes of the Kerinci Seblat National Park or take on the challenge of ascending the chilly summit of Gunung Semeru, Java’s highest peak (3676m). Understanding Indonesia’s compelling mix of cultures includes easygoing day walks around Ubud’s verdant collage of rice terraces, sleepy villages and ancient temples, or exploring the fascinating local architecture and valleys of Sulawesi’s Tana Torajaregion.


From the beginner-friendly breaks of Bali, to brand new locations being discovered every year by intrepid travellers, Indonesia is a hotspot for surfers from around the globe. The southern beaches of Bali are packed with surf schools, laidback hostels and a pumping after-dark scene, while the islands of Java, Lombok and Sumbawa combine palm-fringed beaches and simple thatched bungalows perfect for a long-stay surfing sojourn. The massive island of Sumatra anchors Indonesia’s hottest surf regions including low-key Pulau Nias and up-and-coming Krui, while legendary Mentawai Island breaks like Pitstops, Telescopes and Bank Vaults are hugely popular with more than a few Australian and Brazilian boardriders.


From downhill journeys through the villages and rice paddies of central Bali to more challenging mountain biking adventures, exploring Indonesia on two wheels is a great way to explore more leisurely and travel at the same speed as the easygoing locals. Biking operators based inUbud or Kintamani lead tours around winding mountain roads past temples and heritage monuments, while the northern Balinese town ofLovina is a good base for independent day trips to nearby waterfalls. Exploring the backroads of Lake Toba’s Pulau Samosir in northern Sumatra includes verdant volcanic views, while Java’s cosmopolitan university city of Yogyakarta is a pleasant 17 km bike ride from the Hindu temples of Prambanan.

White-water rafting

For a small island, Bali packs in a diverse itinerary of outdoor adventure, and rafting the Ayung River near Ubud or the even more rugged and scenic Telagawaja River in eastern Bali are popular day trips after kayaking on Lake Batur or biking downhill from the mountain town of Kintamani. The Grade II to Grade III rapids are at their rollicking best during or just after the wet season (from November to March). Across on Java, the Citarak River offers exciting Grade IV white-water thrills, and there are also challenging Grade IV rapids on the Sa’dan River in Sulawesi. Based in Tana Toraja, Indosella runs rafting trips negotiating the Sa’dan’s 20 rapids. Book a three-day trip to combine overnight stays in riverside huts.

Wildlife watching

The world’s biggest reptile, superb birdlife and other iconic animals including orangutans and the endangered Sumatra rhinoceros all feature in Indonesia’s diverse menagerie. Growing up to 3m in length and weighing up to 100kg, the legendary Komodo dragon patrols the beaches and scrubby forests of Komodo National Park, while orangutans are best seen along the riverbanks of the Tanjung Puting National Park. Elephant-watching and birding trips combine in Sumatra’s Way Kambas National Park – including the opportunity to see the world’s smallest rhinoceros – and the diverse fauna of remote Papua includes colourful birds of paradise and exotic marsupials including tree kangaroos.