Probably the first destination that comes into your mind when you hear of Indonesia is Bali, but Indonesia is way more diverse and has around 16,999 more islands to explore. Long white sand beaches, virgin rain forest jungles, unique diving spots with 100 species of corals, friendly and smiling locals are just a few reasons why Indonesia should be on your bucket list! To fuel your wanderlust and start packing right now, I’d like to share the next 10 absolutely unique and hidden places in Indonesia…
The Togean Islands
Have you seen “The Beach”? If you did, do you remember that hidden tropical paradise only chosen travellers managed to discover? Well, Togean islands are just the same. Lost in the Gulf of Tomini away from Central Sulawesi coast, the archipelago is hard to reach, yet it is absolutely worth it!
White sand beaches that can overrank the Maldives, a variety of corals and underwater life as diverse as at the Great Barrier Reef and plenty of deserted islands where you can experience the real castaway life for a few days.
No wi-fi, no cell phone reception at most islands, no electricity at day time, simple meals and water brought in barrels. But, you live in a wooden bungalow right on the beach; can get your coconuts for free from the nearest palm, dive and snorkel all day long or sunbathe on a beautiful beach all on your own.
Another fantastic destination for all diving geeks. The archipelago’s based northwest from New Guinea coast and consists of four main islands: Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo with over one thousand tiny deserted islets around. The tropical landscapes here are stunning and life flows slow and simple just as it used to be decades and decades ago. The best diving spots are Manta Rindge, Cape Kri and Cross Wreck, a Japanese Patrol boat that sank during World War II all beautifully covered in sponges and corals. It’s just 18 meters away from the shore and a perfect place to choose for newbie divers.
The Village of Kabalutan
A tiny settlement lost on one of the numerous islands of Togeans inhabited by the Bajau people known as the sea gypsies. Till recent times this community lived on numerous wooden houseboats that still can be seen roaming around Indonesia. Brought and raised in the sea, kids learn to dive from early ages and can go as deep as 12 meters without any gear at all! I’ve dropped my snorkelling tube by accidence and the kid just jumped from the board and fished it out from 8 meters deep. Being amazingly skillful fishers the Bajau catch around 200 species of marine life and you can buy a huge crab or some sort of exotic fish to be cooked afterwards for you. Yet, most of the profit comes from selling sea cucumbers to Chinese exporters who consider it to be a powerful medicine.
Another amazing spot to check out while on the Togean Islands. After the last eruption in 1983 the island is quite deserted with just a few people living on the East Coast. Hike to the very top for the most amazing scenery ever and check out the nearby Apollo Reef and the Pinnacle that are mainly inhabited by octopus and large fish and if you’re lucky enough you can swim with the local dolphins!
The Baliem Valley, Papua Indonesia
The place stayed absolutely undiscovered to the rest if the world till 1940s. The first expedition took place in 1938 and it was the first time when the local Dani tribe has seen an outsider. In 1945 a plane crashed here with military on board who went on a fun trip over the valley. The survivors have spent a few month with the tribe till they were finally rescued. You can get to know more about the accident in Lost In Shangri La book written by Mitchel Zuckoff.
Today, the place us still remote and rarely visited by foreigners. The local lifestyle is pretty much the same as it used to hundred of years ago. With Manual labour used for manufacturing household items, simple agriculture and pigs being the most valuable items and main currency. Most locals still cover themselves in a mixture of ash and mud to protect skin and men wear really peculiar traditional outfits. Come to visit during the Warrior festival in August when the Dani, the Yali and the Lani tribes choose their best warriors to compete.
Tangkoko Nature Reserve
A huge reserve park based around Mount Tangkoko 70 km away from Manado. You can see the black macaque monkeys, little fluffy tarsiers hiding in the tree hollows, cuscus and a variety of colourful birds.
Another hidden gem of Indonesia with stunning golden beaches and coral reefs is part of the Derawan Archipelago in East Kalimantan. The local specialty here is the Non-Stunning Jelly Fish Lake which can be found right in the middle of the island. A fun diving experience is guaranteed.
A huge tranquil lake hidden deep in the island of Papua. Located in a few hour drive from Jayapura it’s absolutely worth to take the ride! Surrounded by sloppy green mounts and think jungles it is the home to around 24 tiny villages inhabitant by local tribes. Each one having unique tradition and peculiar lifestyle.
Londa, South Sulawesi
So, the Tana Toraja people have quite a variety of burial ceremonies to offer. Around 50 years ago it was still common to bury children in special trees with special hollows used as graves. Londa is another burial site with special caves made to let the loved ones rest in peace for good. Gouged in rocks these twisted narrow caves have coffins places here and there all covered in money, cigarettes and candies – traditional gifts to bring. Outside the caves are decorated with wooden statues of its inhabitants that seem like be watching you from every angle you look at them.
Though the place’s listed in most guides I have seen just a few reckless travellers here who took the courage and went down the slimy rocky paths down to the crater lake. The sulphur vapour here makes it hard to breath and you should keep your nose covered with mask, but the scenery is out of this world!