I am writing this post as I sit in my beautiful Airbnb in Ubud, Bali and loving life. So with that, no, the irony of that title isn’t lost on me.
When I told people I was gonna go to Bali for three months, I actually meant Indonesian islands yet to be determined. I wasn’t particularly keen on following the Eat, Pray, Love cliche of a thirty-something single woman writing a book in Bali waiting for Javier Bardem to find her (though I wouldn’t mind that very much). I just didn’t really know what else Indonesia had to offer and what it would be like.
Even with so much help to make decisions these days I was quite overwhelmed to figure out what I wanted. I only had a vague notion that there should be plenty of Gado Gado for lunch and many Mola Molas for underwater excursions.
Yes, I am a travel blogger, but still, I don’t think I can be faulted for this somewhat unprofessional attitude towards trip planning. Not in Indonesia, after all, this country consists of over 17.000 islands! My non-plan was to arrive, look around and just wing, something very untypical for me, making me hyperventilate ever so slightly.
Luckily Wonderful Indonesia came to the rescue, inviting me on their Trip of Wonders, a blogger trip covering different destinations in Indonesia and taking me to Bali to end my trip.
While I know I have still only scratched the surface on what Indonesian islands have to offer, I wanted to give you a brief overview of some if you want to explore beyond Bali and discover the best beaches in Indonesia.
For: City Slickers
Jakarta is Indonesia’s capital and known as the Big Durian (New York – Big Apple, Jakarta – Big Durian, get it?!). It is one of the first places to visit in Indonesia for many. I will frankly admit that so far I have only spent 1,5 days here and was not sad to leave. However, some people love it and have compared it with Bangkok which in my book is a good thing as I adore Bangkok. Also, many of the new friends I made on my trip call Jakarta home and love it. With that said, I will return for a travel conference in September and don’t mind giving it another chance. Often enough, I have fallen madly in love with places on second sight. For any recommendations especially non-durian food related I shall be grateful.
Also good to know is that flights to Jakarta seem a lot cheaper than to Bali (when I researched about an average of Euro 200). So if you consider seeing other places beyond Bali, it might be worth flying into Jakarta and making your way over to Bali with national carriers.
Tanjung Puting, Borneo
For: Wildlife lover
I had no idea I was going to go back to Borneo on this trip and couldn’t have been more excited when I realized that Tanjung Puting as it said on our itinerary is in fact in Borneo. Not only is Borneo one of two places (the other one is Sumatra, yet another Indonesian island to be explored) where you can see orangutans in the wild but you can also go on a river cruise on the Sekonyer and Black River – one of the things to do in Indonesia.
Here you can see hornbills, crocodiles, and Proboscis Monkeys from a humble but fun abode while cruising. All this before you even stepped into the jungle to discover orangutans in one of the many conservation camps in Borneo.
For: Kids and those who are still young at heart
We used Makassar for a stop-over on our way to Wakatobi dive resort, and while I personally wouldn’t choose it as a destination on its own, it’s worth checking out if you are in the area.
The city is known for its port, but I recommend you head out of town and towards Bantimurung National Park. Part natural waterpark, playground for the local school and butterfly zoo, it is a great location to spend an afternoon. Join the kids on the natural stone slides or hike further into the park to hidden lakes, caves and springs for eternal youth.
Flores – Komodo – Padar – Rinca
For: Fans of Jurassic Park
All four islands belong to Komodo National Park and they are truly some of the best islands in Indonesia. Their dragon to people ratio is equal and lush green hills will make you feel like you have stepped into Jurassic Park. Or in The Land Before Time. Or Lost.
Labuan Bajo on Flores is the perfect base to fly and start your Komodo tour. Take speedboat excursions to the surrounding islands from. There are not only dragons to be discovered, but peaks to be hiked, and bats to be watched. If you need a refresher after lots of adrenalin I recommend a nap on Komodo’s pink beach, one of the best beaches in Indonesia, or cooling off with a sunset view from the water after a manta ray dive. Scuba diving in Komodo is world famed. For diving in Indonesia I would either head to Raja Ampat or to Komodo.
Wakatobi & Hoga
For: Wannabe Mermaids & beach bums
If you want a truly unique island and diving paradise I recommend you head to Wakatobi. It is not a UNESCO Marine Biosphere Reserve for nothing and Wakatobi diving is amazing. While I was probably too nervous to fully enjoy my first dive in half a year, the amount of marine life here is incredible.
If you want even more seclusion head to Hoga Island, a two-hour boat ride away. Robinson would have a field day here: turquoise water, looooong, white beaches, and fresh coconuts – the perfect place to learn the art of doing nothing and one of the best beaches in Indonesia.
Mind you, if you are seeking a bit more interaction after spending your days with the fishes, head towards the Bajo villages in the area. Here you can learn more about life above water, make Kasumi (a steamed root dish), and practice your best Snapchat faces with the kids after school.
Getting Around – The best islands in Indonesia
I took about ten local flights over the last two weeks and while I had the best team who took care of logistics, luggage, and transport for us, flying within Indonesia is quite easy in general.
Check out local airlines include Lion Air, Garuda Indonesia, and Kalstar. Note that you can take liquids over 100ml in your hand luggage, but tripods may need to be checked in, depending on cabin size. Also, Indonesia has three different time zones so make sure to set your watch accordingly when flying around.
Of course, there will be many detailed posts to come about all of these Indonesian islands and cities in the following weeks. If you have specific questions about logistics, things to do, food or where to find the best Pokestops, please let me know in the comments below and I will address them in the posts to come!
Want to head to Bali afterwards? Check out this guide to the best things to do in Bali!
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