Indonesia is made up of an estimated 18,000 islands, of which 900 or so are inhabited. They can make excellent tourist destinations with so much beauty on offer, adventure both above and below water, and relaxing opportunities to recharge from the stresses of modern life. Here’s a selection of five, magnificent and unique islands that are all well worth visiting.
Portuguese for “flowers”, the name Flores is perfectly matched to such a beautiful place. East of Sumbawa and west of the Solor Archipelago, it is surrounded by immaculate beaches of white sands including one of only a small number of pink beaches in the world. The island topography has been defined by a line of volcanoes that divide up the landscape in such a way that many distinct ethnic groups have emerged, making it a fascinating place to visit, both culturally and environmentally.
Flores is home to an array of amazing aquatic life. There are 50 dive sites offering you the chance to swim in crystal clear waters alongside vibrantly coloured marine life as well as larger sea creatures such as dugongs, dolphins and giant manta rays. Kayaking is also very popular along the coast and mangrove shores.
Not confined to the sea only, you can also witness dazzling colours on land if you visit Mt. Kelimutu located near Maumere. Mt. Kelimutu is home to three lakes of different colours, colours that can transform from time to time, depending on weather and climate. There are also many beautiful waterfalls on the island such as the Cunca Waterfalls on the west of the island – a great place to swim in refreshing, clear pools of water, nestled enchantingly within stone formations and dense forest.
If you’d like to enjoy some of the local culture, Larantuka on the eastern tip of the island is a fascinating place where locals still continue Easter Traditions that the Portuguese imported to Flores around 500 years ago.
Interestingly, Flores is also famous for the discovery of the “Flores Hobbit” a new species of human found in the caves of Liang Bua.
Komodo is part of the Lesser Sundra chain of islands and the Komodo National Park. It is an island of rugged volcanic hills, savannah and lush forests that was first declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in order to protect the habitat of the Komodo Dragon, the world’s largest lizard. This has now expanded to cover a much wider biodiversity, both in terms of marine life and terrestrial wildlife.
With the continued protection of the 4,000 or so Komodo Dragons’ natural environment, we can be lucky enough as tourists to observe them living in their natural habitat. These prehistoric creatures are both intimidating and hypnotic, growing as long as 3m and weighing up to 70kg. Seeing them in the wild is really a once in a lifetime experience that you can’t pass up.
Also, not to be overlooked is the diversity of Komodo’s marine life that is vast and most certainly, impressive. Consisting of 70 species of sponges, 260 species of coral, sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, whales, manta rays, crustaceans and dugongs, as well as 1,000 or so species of bony fishes.
The snorkeling is amazing at Pantai Merah, (the aptly named “Pink Beach”) which is one of only seven pink beaches in the entire world. The clear, glassy waters are perfect for witnessing beautiful coral and many bright coloured fish species with unbelievable clarity.
Lombok, east of Bali and west of Sumbawa is not as famous as its neighbour but it could be only a matter of time before this island becomes a rival destination. Hopefully this doesn’t happen too soon, as the low key environment really sets it apart for the discerning traveller, providing a relaxing alternative which still has plenty on offer.
The pure white, sandy beaches are exquisite here, edging onto the pristine water. If you are a skilled surfer or just love observing the beautiful curling breaks, Desert Point is known to be one of the best sets of waves in the world. For the less experienced surfer there are other options, for example Kuta-Lombok or Belongas Bay.
Aside from its reputation for immaculate sandy beaches and world-class surf breaks, there is definitely much more to enjoy on Lombok. For a start, it is home to Indonesia’s second largest, volcano – Gunung Rinjani, a sacred site which is still active. Helicopter tours are an exciting way to see the breath-taking lake named Segara Anak atop the volcano, and trekking on one of the many hiking trails which traverse the dense, unblemished forestation below, is another way to experience Lombok and all its diverse expanses of wilderness and beauty.
Bordering the Seram Sea, a busy laneway of large aquatic life, is one of the four major islands in the Raja Ampat Islands in West Papua: Misool. This island boasts an incredible 75% of all known ornamental fish and coral in the entire world and as such, the experience underwater is just as interesting as it is beautiful.
The water is so clear at times that even on a boat trip you can witness a plethora of colourful underwater life and coral, with a visibility range reaching as far down as 30m below the surface.
The landscape on Misool is predominantly limestone covered with lush vegetation, mangrove swamps and green jungle.
Not only can you enjoy the beach, swimming and snorkeling, but the island has some very important historical and cultural sites. There are petroglyphs on the caves throughout the island which are as old as 5,000 years. Some people have even described the Raja Ampat islands as Indonesia’s answer to France’s famed Lascaux Palaeolithic cave paintings.
On the east coast of Sumatra in the Java Sea is Belitung, an island considered to be one of the most beautiful not only in Indonesia, but in South East Asia. It is truly a rare gem, with pure beaches of white sand and shimmering blue waters, the perfect way to enjoy the hypnotic charm of untouched nature without the crowds of other Asian beach destinations.
One of the most interesting features on Belitung are the granite rock formations, which have sometimes evolved into small tunnels, providing an enjoyable place to swim and play.
Find time to visit some of the small offshore uninhabited islands on one of the local tours and you will marvel at the beauty and quiet serenity of this paradise.