The government has outlined 10 strategic locations and attractions which will be the basis for the “new Balis”.
Labuan Bajo’s Komodo
The gateway to the famous Komodo Island is Labuan Bajo, a coastal town located at the western end of Flores in the Nusa Tenggara region of east Indonesia. Once an isolated fishing village, today Labuan Bajo is fast becoming a busy center of regional tourism.
Komodo dragons the world’s largest lizards (which grow to a length of 10 feet and weigh up to 150 pounds) are only found on the Komodo, Rinca and Padar Islands. Labuan Bajo is the launching point for expeditions to these Jurassic Park-like destinations.
Of course there is more to the islands than just man-sized reptiles. The Kanawa and Seraya Islands, located near Labuan Banjo, offer excellent, clear waters for divers or snorkelers. In Kalong Island thousands of flying fox bats appear in the evening, creating an amazing natural display.
Close to the town of Labuan Bajo itself are both jungle and seaside ecotourism sites. These include waterfalls, mountain trekking trails and an array of beaches.
Approximately 70,000 years ago a super volcano erupted in the mountains of northern Sumatra. This event, the most explosive eruption to occur during the last 25 million years, led to the formation of Indonesia’s and indeed South East Asia’s largest body of fresh water - beautiful Lake Toba.
Nestled in the cool, green Sumatran hills, the 440 square miles of lake offers a perfect relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle of the cities. Surrounded by waterfalls and world class ecotourism sites, visitors can easily access the habitat of Sumatra’s unique indigenous species including orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos.
The Toba Batak people that live on the shores of the lake have retained their unique and distinctive culture. Mainly protestant Christians, their strong reputation for hospitality and skill with music dates back to pre-colonial times. Visitors often remark on the charming and distinctive bow shaped rumah bolon traditional houses, which dot the landscape.
Indonesia sits on the so-called “Ring of Fire”, the active tectonic zone that pushed the archipelago out of the sea millions of years ago. Nowhere reminds the visitor more of this fact than Mount Bromo, named after the Hindu creator god. This active volcano rises 7,500 feet into the sky and pierces the cloud layer. It has been worshipped by the local Tenggerese people for millennia. Lucky visitors are able to watch offerings being thrown into the lava during the annual Kesodo ceremony, an ancient and mesmerizing occasion. It takes an hour to hike to the crater itself, which has a diameter of two and a half thousand feet.
East Java’s best known tourist attraction offers an astonishing view. Over 20 square miles of surreal dune sea surrounds the volcano. This ring, known as the Sea of Sands supports a unique climate, created as a result of volcanic activity. Amazingly, zones range from alpine to desert within this section of the tropical island.
Banten is the westernmost province of Java and is just a short hop, skip and a jump from Jakarta.
Beaches on this coastline, which feed into the Indian Ocean, are known for good surfing conditions, calm swimming spots, considerably extensive and thriving reefs, and soft, white sand. Tanjung Lesung is perhaps the most famous of these and it is fast rising as a popular and elite tourism destination.
Its proximity to the legendary peak of Krakatoa has only highlighted its natural beauty of the coastal landscape. The sight of Krakatoa (whose eruption some 130 years ago was heard 3,000 miles away) has made Sunda Strait well known all around the world. Today its fame is rubbing off on the development of Tanjung Lesung as an A-class luxury tourism destination.
Currently it is a three-hour drive from the capital city, making it a popular weekend getaway location for residents. However this transport time will be drastically reduced following the completion of specifically designed toll-roads.
Known as “The Unspoiled Bali”, Lombok’s highlands are covered in verdant, lush forest. The Gunung Rinjani National Park offers adventure tracks for hikers interested in fresh mountain air and mountain views. A vast crater lake called Segara Anak Toba, as it is known locally, offers breath-taking views and warm fresh water due to volcanic heating.
As far as seashore tourism is concerned, the Mandalika Conservation Area is above and beyond the island’s jewel in the crown. With almost 9 miles of pristine beaches and 11 bays, it offers the potential to become a major hub for visitors seeking sand and surf.
Virgin forests dot this sparsely inhabited island which is rich in biodiversity. Its waters are rich in marine life and supports local fishermen. In order to maintain the island’s appeal as an Eden by the sea, developers are creating a series of world class, sustainable, and integrated planned resort communities. The final result will be the continuation of Lombok’s green, clean and sustainable model.
The Thousand Islands
Looking for a relaxing island getaway less than 30 miles from Jakarta, Indonesia’s sprawling capital? Then look no further than the Thousand Islands.
Scattered throughout Jakarta Bay, this array of 120 tropical islands and coral atolls offer everything from luxury resort living to a private, castaway escape under a grove of coconut trees.
With a minute population of around 13,000 people, the bay is made up of a mix of both inhabited and uninhabited islands. A quick speedboat from the mainland or a leisurely cruise can easily transport the holiday maker to either.
Dominating the site is the Thousand Islands Marine National Park. This stretch of reef and vibrant underwater habit covers the archipelago and teems with life. Divers, snorkelers and boating enthusiasts can explore this immense ecosystem while island hopping from atoll to atoll.
One particular part of the island chain, Paradiso, speaks for itself. This scenic slice of heaven offers white sand beaches and spectacular views of the forest and the sea.
Located off the coast of South Sulawesi, the Wakatabi National Marine Park covers five and a half thousand square miles of islands, atolls and sea, 60% of which is coral reef. Located between the Flores and Banda seas, it forms the largest barrier reef in Indonesia, and is second only in area to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
It is the habitat of countless fish species, turtles and marine mammals such as dolphins and whales. Jacques Cousteau famously described it as an “Underwater Nirvana”.
Of 143 islands, only 7 are inhabited by less than 100,000 people. In fact Wakatabi is home to one of the most intriguing and unique ethnic groups of Indonesia, the the Bajo people. These famous seafaring nomads live a hunter-gatherer existence almost entirely at sea. Subsisting as fisherman and traders, they spend most of their life on the water, either on traditional boats or on homes built over the sea on stilts.
Surrounded by the lush, green fields of Central Java, Borobudur is an ornate, ancient and mystical Buddhist temple. The structure is covered with over 2,000 relief panels and some 500 statues, and when contrasted with the surrounding countryside is incredible to behold.
This UNESCO world heritage-listed site, reminiscent of Angkor Wat, actually predates that temple complex by three centuries. For hundreds of years it was lost to world history, until Governor of British Java, Sir Thomas Raffles, best known as the founder of Singapore, was alerted to its existence by locals.
Following Raffles’ departure, this incredible temple remained vine-shrouded and left to the mercy of the elements until the late 1970s. Once opened to the public, it grew in popularity to become the country’s most visited attraction. Besides Buddhist pilgrims, the site draws millions of eager domestic and foreign tourists drawn by its distinctive Gupta architecture.
Belitung, an island off the southeast coast of Sumatra is one of the country’s most promising up and coming destinations. Surrounding the main island, once known for tin mining, are hundreds of smaller islands known for their natural beauty, white sand beaches and crystal clear water. Coral atolls and underwater reefs growing over granite rock outcrops give the area a unique and starkly beautiful appearance.
In addition to the beautiful coastline, Belitung offers cultural and historical sites born of its role as a colonial spice island, which add to its charming character as an international melting pot. Lengkuas Island for example is home to a 129-year-old lighthouse from the Dutch colonial period. Chinese influence is felt through the Taoist Fu De Ci temple.
Most intriguingly, The Belitung shipwreck sheds light on the island’s history as a meeting point for international trade. An Arabian dhow which sailed from Africa to China sunk off its coastline in 830 AD, containing some 60,000 valuable items from across the region.
This spice island speaks to anyone who has dreamed of being a castaway in a remote Pacific paradise archipelago. Sparsely populated and located in the remote province of North Maluku, Morotai is a pristine, untouched paradise literally littered with history.
Dugongs, dolphins, fish and tropical marine wildlife co-exist amongst shipwrecks, rusting amphibious troop carriers and relics from World War II. The island had been the site of major battles during the closing days of the Pacific Campaign, and it shows.
For nature lovers it boasts underground rivers, rich reefs, butterflies, birds, uninhabited beaches and a plethora of diving wrecks to explore.
The sparkling blue colors of the ocean turns into lush green hills covered with the region’s endemic cloves and nutmeg.
A wandering visitor can easily imagine Tero Nakamura, the last Japanese soldier, living a Robinson Crusoe existence until he eventually surrendered in 1974.