touring | indonesia - the land of the last dragons
'the land of fire has more to offer than bali'
Indonesia; this vast island nation spread over south east asia is one of the top tourist destinations in the world but only because of bali. im here to tell you that bali's time is over its now the turn of flores & java to take centre stage. yes... i know your thinking i'm crazy is bali really over?.. for me as a traveller for sure. this was once the home of backpackers & yogi's alike but has now become more of a vacation spot. after a few days in bali i decided it was time to get out & visit one of the last untouched places on earth. the land of the dragons...
komodo national park
flying from bali to labuan bajo the main town for exploring the national park i arrived to the wonderful diving hotel dragon dive. located just off the main street close to the the night food market that serves up some of the best barbecued fish in the world. the hotel is specialising in diving as komodo has some of the best diving sites on the planet. if your not diving the pool is a great way to escape the midday sun.
there are a lot of tours going from the town with the main ones visiting 4 island including komodo island that's home to the last dragons on earth. you have a lot of choice here when i comes to tours for the slow boats your paying around ($50) but its a hard journey as the distances in a slow boat between the islands are huge so i decided to take the top rated speedboat tour in the town red whale daily speedboat tours leave everyday & cost around ($85) but its well worth it as your always first to arrive to the islands & the guides english is amazing.
our first stop was padar island this is where you'll clamber up to a view point & witness one of the most spatular vistas in the world. it was a great start to the day, looking over padar island in the morning i had the feeling this was going to be one of the best days of my life. as the day past by it turned out it was.
our next stop was the pink beach so called due to the colours that comes from the coral that been ground down over millennia culminating in one of the most beautiful beaches that you will ever set your eyes on. it was out next stop that was why i came here, komodo island the home of the famous dragons that are one of the strangest creatures in the world. after a slow walk on the island searching for these creatures we happened upon a watering hole where they spend most of the day chilling in the shade. its a great experience to visit them in their natural environment, after taking a few hundred shots we jumped back on the speedboat & jetted off over to manta point. i don't think i know of another place in the world where you can swim with so many manta rays as soon as i jumped in the water & swam down i was confronted with more than 30 manta's these huge creatures are massive, truly majestic the way they elegantly glide through the water. so what could top this day off?... well on the way back to labuan bajo we stopped at a reef to swim with turtles...
from bali the easiest way to nusa is by speed boat transfer. maruti pick you up from most locations in bali and take you to the speed boat terminal (just a beach) on the east of of the island. the ride takes about 45mins to the nearest port from there just grab a taxi to where your staying. there are no hostel on the island but hotels & guest houses are really cheap around ($25) for your own bungalow with swimming pool. so now on the the good stuff, where to go on the island...
the island is super underdeveloped in terms of infrastructure so really the only way to get around is by motorcycle either scooter or as i prefer a dirt motorcycle as most of the roads are non existent.
my first stop was the most famous place on the island kelingking beach. from the cliffs above the beach you get some spectacular views of the of the turquoise waters & crystal white beaches. its truly a paradise but make sure if you looking for the best shot to come around midday as the sun illuminates the beach from this time. make sure to make your way down to the beach itself its not easy but well worth the visit.
another of my favourite places was thousand island view point its a great place to explore for half a day just be mindful that the roads here are quite treacherous after its been raining so try to go during a dry spell. after you've spend the day on the beaches & swam your heart out make your way to one of the most famous beach bars on the island penida colada. it was one of the highlights of the evening for me set right on the beach they have great food & 2 for 1 cocktails every evening.
ijen volcano & mount bromo
from denpasar mengwi bus station i caught the coach to banyuwangi this is where your trip starts to ijen volcano. it actually does not matter so much about what accommodation you choose as you leave on the tour at 12am so no time to sleep, a place just to put your bags down is all thats needed. most of the homes stays & hostels organise the tour for you on the same day. the tour is around ($35) this includes transport & a guide to take you up. be ready to hike as its a medium hike taking around 2 hours to reach the summit at around 3 in the morning. at this point its pitch black & you'll make your way down into the volcano to see the blue fire its amazing to see & we where super lucky as multiple fires where burning at the same time, but be mindful its not guaranteed to see it as its a natural phenomenon and nature does not always work on a tourist schedule.
after the hike backdown i arrived to my homestay around 9am. after a much needed nap my first train journey of the trip was set to depart at 12. trains on the main island of java are the fastest & easiest way to get around the island just make sure to booking in advance & take the business seats for comfort. the trains are on time, clean & easy to book with trip.com on there app. after a 6 hour ride you will find yourself in probolingo this is the start point for trips to bromo mountain treks. stay at colorbox house in a budget private room as they organise the tours for you, again your leaving at midnight so the place does not matter so much as your not sleeping there. after a hike you'll reach the view point where at sunrise you will have one of the most awe inspiring views of your life in the distance.
from probolingo i was suppose to take the train direct to yogyakarta but i decided to break the trip up & take a rest for a few days after all the midnight starts. djoglo luxury bungalows are set just outside of the city at the edge of one of the best golf courses in indonesia. arriving at the djati lounge your immediately put at ease by the amazing staff. i was taken to my own private bungalow complete with a coy pond & mature garden where hundreds of butterflies would hangout the whole day. the bungalow its self was surrounded by an all glass wall & outdoor double bathroom with the most amazing bath. the bed set in the middle of the room was huge & super comfy, i really felt like i was a king staying here. i stayed for two nights & it was a perfect amount of time to rest & recuperate in the peaceful surroundings especially in the evening with the live music & well prepared european food of the lounge. i truly believe this is one of the best places to stay in the whole of the country.
i heard a lot about this city before i arrived, everyone said its the new bali. this special region is actually governed by a king not the politicians of the country. immediately from when i arrived i felt its was a really relaxed environment from the people to the accommodation everything seems recalled chilled out.
my first point of call was one of the best hostels in the city, otu hostel is located south of the centre where all the boutique hotels & nice restaurants are trying to get the tourists to visit. its a great place to return to in the middle of the day as it has its own swimming pool.
the main attractions of the city are the ancient temples of prambanan & borobudur. they are old buddies temples from a long forgotten era. make sure to get the duel ticket for both temples as this can save you a lot on the entrance & if you have a student card it half price.
now as with most of indonesia to get around you need to have a motorcycle. i decided to go with one of the best rated places in the city, pamitran tours
offer one of the best selections of bikes in the city this is where i rented to what would
become my beloved kawasaki klx dirt bike. the staff are super & the bikes are in great condition. for the few days i had the bike i was able to explore some of the more difficult areas along the coast & in the mountains super easily. give them a message on facebook or whatsapp & they will sort you out with a great bike.
on your bike head to the coast, timang beach a few hours drive for some spectacular rugged coastline & great fried prawns for less than a dollar.
considering this was my last stop in indonesia before i flew out to south africa i decided that once again a little luxury was needed. this is where the greenhost hotel stepped in. this is a super interesting eco hotel complete with rooftop greenhouse growing vegetables for the onsite restaurant. the rooms are specious & come with slippers that have been hand woven by local women from a nearby village. the onsite spa & pool will take you away from the hot midday sun not to mention the outstanding breakfasts they serve here truly one of the best i have had in any hotel in the world. for the price i really think this hotel has not competition its amazing. for me it was the amount of greenery this place had, you could really feel the fresh air inside.
to sum up...
indonesia is far more than just bali. from the komodo dragons in the east to the mountains & volcanos in the west this country truly has everything an outdoors traveller could want. my advice is to start in java with all the treks & midnight starts & finish in one of the most beautiful untouched places on the planet komodo national park.
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country travel tips
atm: most bank have free withdrawals. make sure not to select the on screen conversion.
sim card: telkomsel is the best data provider. 10GB is ($10) for 30 days
transport: grab app in cities & rail for long distance.
taxi: grab taxi app is cheap | uber? use promo: carlm5078ue for free ride.
accommodation: get ($20) off your first booking.com reservation here