Indonesia’s numbers astound: more than 17,000 islands, of which 8000 are inhabited, and over 300 languages spoken across them. It’s a beguiling country offering myriad adventures.
The world’s fourth most populous country is a sultry kaleidoscope draped along the equator for 5000km.
From Sumatra’s western tip to Papua’s eastern edge, Indonesia defies homogenisation. It’s a land of so many cultures, peoples, animals, customs, plants, sights, artworks and foods that it’s like 100 countries melded into one.
The people are as radically different from each other as if they came from different continents, with every island a unique blend of the people who live there. Over time, deep and rich cultures have evolved, from the mysteries of the spiritual Balinese to the utterly non-Western belief system of the Asmat people of Papua.
Venturing across Indonesia you’ll see a dramatic landscape, as diverse as those living upon it.
Sulawesi’s wildly multilimbed coastline embraces white-sand beaches and diving haunts, while Sumatra is contoured by a legion of nearly 100 volcanoes marching off into the distance, several capable of erupting at any time.
Bali’s beaches are the stuff of legend but you don’t have to travel far to find even more beautiful and less touristed stretches of sand in Nusa Tengarra. Banda islands in Maluku, Derawan in Kalimantan and Pulau Weh off Sumatra are all superb.
Dramatic sights are the norm. There’s the sublime: an orang-utan lounging in a tree. The artful: a Balinese dancer executing precise moves that would make a robot seem loose-limbed. The idyllic: a deserted stretch of blinding white sand on Sumbawa contrasting with azure surf breaks. The astonishing: Sunday mobs in a cool, glitzy Jakarta mall. The intriguing: the too-amazing-for-fiction tales of the beautiful Banda Islands’ twisted history. The heart-stopping: the ominous menace of a Komodo dragon. The humbling: a woman bent double with a load of firewood on Sumatra. The delicious: a south Bali restaurant. The shocking: the funeral ceremonies of Tana Toraja. The solemn: Borobudur’s serene magnificence.
This ever-intriguing, ever-intoxicating land offers some of the last great adventures on earth. Sitting in the open door of a train whizzing across Java, idling away time on a ferry bound for Kalimantan, hanging on to the back of a scooter on Flores, rounding the mystifying corner of an ancient West Timor village or simply trekking through wilderness you’re sure no one has seen before.The great thing about adventure in Indonesia is that it happens when you least expect it. An orang-utan swinging through the trees? Surfing breaks on remote islands? Yes and yes.