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What to do in Indonesia

Scuba diving

Group of divers going deep, Bali

Indonesia holds the Guinness World Records for the most number of scuba divers submerging simultaneously. This distinction befits a country where there are more islands within its territory than in all of South East Asia combined. With 15% of the world’s coral reefs located just off the Indonesian coast, it’s hard to imagine leaving the country without seeing these natural metropolises sprawling under the sea.

The island of Sulawesi draws the most number of scuba divers coming to Indonesia. Bunaken, Wakatobi, and Togean islands are aquatic hotspots that you should see. Sink beneath the waves and swim among the snappers and gobies darting across graceful corals. A barracuda or a shark might be prowling at a distance, and if luck shines, a manta ray might grace your presence.

Nusa Penida and Gili Islands off the coast of Bali may not have coral reefs as striking as the coral reefs in Sulawesi, but beneath the waters are some of the best-preserved shipwrecks in the country.

 Cultural exposure

One of the reasons tourists pick a destination is to experience how the locals walk the talk. It makes us compare our values, hoping to understand what life means for people we find strange. While some beliefs or ways of living make us cringe, we may pick some lessons along the way. After all, our humanity grows the more we understand ourselves. And what better way to start learning than quietly observing how people left untouched by modern times live their lives?

The Bataks were once man-eaters, believing the organs could strengthen a person’s soul force. The Minangkabau are strongly Islamic, but their families are headed by the eldest mother. The Dayak used to collect skulls as trophies and live in longhouses to strengthen family ties. The Toraja’s elaborate funeral rituals last for months, and their homes resemble the ancient boat houses, a nod from their seafaring past. The Javanese were once empire-builders, while the Balinese retain their Hindu roots. Lastly, there are the Asmat, whose woodcarving methods are prized all over the world.

In a land dominated by the grace of Allah, finding these people living under one nation is an accomplishment in itself. So, indulge your inner anthropologist and observe these cultures. For as the sway of the modern times gets closer to these people, a time might come their customs and traditions will be no more.


Indonesia is blessed with stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife. To protect the country’s fragile ecosystem, Conservation International listed Indonesia as one of the Megadiverse regions in the world.

Unfortunately, threats to the environment still abound. Aside from illegal logging and poaching, reckless destruction of animal habitat further upsets the ecological balance.

For this reason, the government opens its frontiers to ecotourism. One of the favorite destinations is the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, where the wild Sumatran elephants and tigers still roam the national parks. Kalimantan is another top destination, serving as home to the proboscis monkey and the orangutan. The biggest flower, Rafflesia, also grows within its forests. Sulawesi is also being eyed as a new destination. The rare dwarf buffalo and deer pig are becoming local celebrities on the island.

The flocking of eco-tourists from around the world support the preservation efforts of Indonesia’s wildlife. Eco-tourism also discourages local inhabitants from converting their lands to farms and plantations. The more tourists visit Indonesia’s national parks and sanctuaries, the more the local authorities will be compelled to add hectares to their forest reserves, thus saving some of the world’s most endangered species from extinction.

Whitewater rafting

White water rafting

Veins of foaming rivers flow across Indonesia’s mountain enclaves, and the best place to engage in whitewater rafting is the place where the roar of the torrent becomes loudest.

If you’re the type who isn’t content with paddling in placid waters, lose yourself in a tumbling, trashing experience these mighty Indonesian rivers have to offer.

For starters, the Ayung River in Bali has a Grade 2 rating. Novice rafters will find it easy to maneuver the drops compared to the wilder Balian River, whose plunges are compared to riding a roller coaster. The Sadan River in Sulawesi has a Grade 4 rating, but the trek will carry you across uncharted forests and exotic wildlife.

The Pekalen River in Probolinggo is one of the more popular rafting destinations in the country. The river, which cuts across Eastern Java, is 25 kilometers long. It offers the longest whitewater course, with more than 10 rapids for you to contend with. The grade varies from 3 to 4, and the river path takes you to some of the most captivating caves and waterfalls in the island.


Picture of Surfing a Wave. Bali Island. Indonesia.

The country with the second-largest coastline surely possesses some of the best-surfing destinations in the world.

Bali, known for its fine white sands and vibrant nightlife, is a top choice for seasoned surfers. The winds, which come all the way from Antarctica, create a ripple effect on the waters surrounding the island, so expect some big waves tumbling towards the coastline. Catch a tube ride in Padang Padang or lap at the gentler waves of Keramas Beach. The choice is yours to make.

Another favorite destination is the Mentawai Islands off the coast of Sumatra. Waves from this area come all the way from Africa. For novice surfers, avoid the waves at Rifles and Thunders, as these surfing spots are considered territories of experts.