by Theodora Sutcliffe, The Telegraph, November 10, 2017
An insider's guide to the best adventures Indonesia has to offer, from cycling the emerald green rice paddies of Bali and marvelling at volcanoes in Java, to snorkelling with whale sharks on the islands surrounding New Guinea.
1. Paddy pedalling
Cruise the timeless rural landscapes of Bali and East Java on two wheels – with a support vehicle on hand for 90 per cent of the journey. Highlights include a thrilling ride down from the crater rim of Bali’s Mount Batur volcano, snorkelling the pristine reefs of Menjangan Island, climbing to the sulphurous crater lake of Mount Ijen and East Java’s secret beaches.
A 15-day Cycling Indonesia’s Islands holiday costs from £2,349 (with £150 discount if you bring your own bike). Price includes flights, accommodation, many meals and bike rental: bring your own (mandatory) helmet. Departures between April and Sept 2018. Exodus Travels (020 3811 4071; exodus.co.uk).
2. Here be dragons
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In a nation replete with bizarre wildlife, the venomous Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard, still stands out. As you journey from Bali to Komodo to meet the dragons, aboard the Mermaid liveaboard, expect dolphins, rays, cetaceans and spectacular bird life. Along the way, snorkel pristine reefs and cross the Wallace Line, where Indonesia’s fauna shifts from Asian to Australian forms.
A 13-day Bali to Komodo – In Search of the Dragon! trip costs from £5,895, including flights, accommodation, activities and almost all meals. Departs Sept 10 2018. Naturetrek (01962 733051; naturetrek.co.uk).
3. Luxe living
Make your introduction to Indonesia the holiday of a lifetime as you journey by private car, plane and floatplane to opulent resorts in some of the archipelago’s most iconic locations. Watch the sun rise over the ancient temple of Borobudur in Java; wake to grazing deer or nesting turtles in a tented camp on pristine Moyo Island; in Bali, experience Ubud, the Bukit Peninsula and the serene east coast.
A 17-day Luxury Tour of Indonesia costs from £8,765. Price includes flights, accommodation, some meals and many activities. It’s best enjoyed between April and Oct to avoid the rainy season. Audley Travel (01993 838000; audleytravel.com).
4. The Big blue
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The Raja Ampat islands stud the seas off Indonesia’s half of the island of New Guinea, in the heart of the Coral Triangle. Award-winning Blue Planet cameraman Doug Allan is your guide to paradise. You’ll snorkel with the whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay, dive Second World War wrecks and experience exquisite reefs. Papuan cultures also await.
An 11-day Whale Sharks with Doug Allan cruise costs from £6,695. Price includes domestic flights, full-board cruise with diving, and accommodation en route. Excludes international flights, dive gear rental and park entry permit. Tour departs on Nov 21 2018. Steppes Travel (01285 601751; steppestravel.com)
5. Animist magic
Widely tipped as “the new Bali”, Sumba offers clear waters, sweeping beaches, epic surf and largely unspoilt animist traditions, including an annual ritual horseback fighting festival, Pasola, in February and March. Acclimatise in the comfort of Ubud, the home of Eat, Pray, Love…, before flying to Sumba to witness colourful ceremonies, megalithic tombs, traditional villages and glorious beaches. Close with three days on Bali.
A 13-day Sumba Explorer adventure costs from £3,545, including flights, accommodation, some meals and many activities. Audley Travel (01993 838000; audleytravel.com).
6. Ring of fire
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Wrapped around the volcanic arc known as the Ring of Fire, Indonesia is home to around 129 active volcanoes. Take in some of Java’s most stunning peaks, including Bromo and Merbabu, before flying to Lombok for an epic three-day climb to the gaping crater of 12,220ft Rinjani. Along the way, discover relics of ancient Java, including the temples of Borobudur, Prambanan and the Dieng Plateau.
A 17-day Indonesia Volcano Trek costs from £2,469, including flights, accommodation, activities and some meals. Departures between April and Sept 2018. Exodus Travels (020 3811 4071; exodus.co.uk).
7. Total Eclipse of the Heart
Jungle, orangutans, the world’s largest crater lake and the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle of an annular eclipse make a combination that’s hard to resist. So book ahead for this adventure in Sumatra, where you’ll meet orangutans, explore the Toba super-volcano, bathe in hot springs, discover tribal cultures, and watch from lush rice fields as the moon eclipses the sun, leaving only a fiery halo.
A 15-day Sumatra and Eclipse tour costs from £3,169. Price includes accommodation, transport, breakfast and flights. Departs Dec 17 2019. Explore (01252 883621; explore.co.uk).
8. Islands and highlands
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See Komodo dragons, snorkel with sharks and turtles, witness multi-coloured crater lakes and discover unique highland cultures on this adventure that takes you beyond Komodo and to Flores, one of Indonesia’s most up-and-coming islands. Staying in accommodation as diverse as a converted fishing boat, a working convent and an eco-lodge, you’ll get a taste of Indonesia’s addictive wild east. The trip starts and ends on Bali’s golden sands.
A 15-day Komodo & Flores: Indonesian Island Explorer Tour costs from £4,930. Price includes flights, accommodation and some meals. Best between April and Oct to avoid rains. Audley Travel (01993 838000; audleytravel.com).
9. Borneo and beyond
Get a taste of Indonesian Borneo’s crazy diversity on an adventure that transports you from deep jungle to white sand islands. Get up close and personal with orangutans, turtles and long-nosed monkeys, cruise mighty rivers on a traditional klotok houseboat, visit a floating market and a diamond mine, meet Dayak tribespeople, and snorkel with stingless jellyfish. You’ll rough it a little – but that’s all part of the fun.
A 16-day Kalimantan Adventure costs from £2,885. Price includes flights, accommodation, some meals and activities. Departures in May and August 2018. Explore (01252 883621; explore.co.uk).
10. Islands of the Gods
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Explore waterfalls, spice farms, coffee plantations, lush rice fields, stark volcanoes and lakeside temples in beautiful Bali and its lesser-known neighbour, Lombok. Scale Mount Batur volcano, snorkel amid giant sea fans, and experience traditional Hindu art, dance and architecture in Bali’s cultural capital Ubud. After discovering traditional arts, crafts and lifestyles in Lombok’s unspoilt highlands, wrap it all up with three sybaritic days on the white sand tear drop known as Gili Air.
A 15-day Bali & Lombok Adventure costs from £1,295, including accommodation, some meals and a wealth of activities. Flights not included. Departures throughout 2018. Intrepid Travel (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com).