My journey across Indonesia took me from pristine coastline and rice paddies to the rainforest of Borneo, showcasing the true diversity of this archipelago.
My first stop in Indonesia was Bali, where during my two-night stay, I spent time in Jimbaran, over-ordering at one of the seafood beach restaurants. Here, lobster, king prawns, calamari, snapper, noodles and vegetables are all washed down with the local beer, Bintang. This fantastic meal was a great welcome to Bali, before spending the following day shopping in buzzy Seminyak and sipping cocktails in Potato Head Beach Club and watching the sun set over the sea.
Nihiwatu Luxury Retreat on the island of Sumba is a luxurious, want-for-nothing property in a remote paradise. The retreat has brought employment to the island, worked sustainably and given back to the local community. It feels as though you are a part of the Nihiwatu family as soon as you arrive.
My time here was jam packed: On the first day there I went deep sea fishing and diving, followed by an afternoon of paddle boarding down a calm river, passing water buffalo and wild horse along the way. We passed men who were line fishing and shouting children ran alongside us.
The following morning I set out on a trek through the countryside, passing more horses, buffalo and rice paddies until reaching the Nihiwatu Spa Safari. After a hearty breakfast, I could make the most of the unlimited spa treatments and laze on the private daybeds, until it was time for a Sumbanese lunch. That afternoon, I rode on horseback down the private three-kilometre stretch of virgin beach as the sun set.
The diving around Komodo must be the best I have ever experienced. The sheer amount of marine life, and the colour and vibrancy of the corals was just incredible. We saw reef sharks, moray eel, pygmy seahorses, turtles, bumphead parrotfish, stingrays and manta rays, as well as the usual array of tropical fish.
The manta dive was the best. We dropped into the water in a fairly barren area, due to the force of the current, from where we were swept along at quite a speed, giving the feeling of surfing underwater. We stopped by holding on to some of the rocks on the ocean floor at a Manta cleaning station where three huge rays circled and swooped over our heads. I don’t know if that underwater experience will ever be beaten.
Over on Rinca Island, I had the chance to see the famous Komodo Dragons and trek across the island. At the peak of a hill we had panoramic views over the greenery and bundles of swaying palm trees.
In the evening we set out on a boat to see the flying foxes migrating from the mangroves of Kalong Island to Flores. They do this every evening as the sun sets, and with absolutely thousands of them, it is quite a sight to behold.
On my return to Bali I stayed at Alila Uluwatu, where I had the opportunity to spend time doing nothing other than sip cool drinks by the private pool. Alila Uluwatu is just spectacular in design with beautiful views and fantastic food at their Indonesian restaurant Warung. Try Megibung, a traditional sharing meal that’s eaten during festive periods or at ceremonies.
Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo
Staying on a houseboat and sailing along the Seikonyer river of Kalimantan‘s Tanjung Puting National Park is a very unique and special way to explore this part of the world, while spotting orangutans in the wild. Despite the accommodation being the simplest of the trip I felt privileged to be one of few people to have this experience.
Days started early with the rising sun and bird calls, then breakfast was always served on deck. After sailing through the jungle to each feeding station – the river’s black water reflecting the tall trees, sky and clouds – I could watch the orangutans play, hoard their food and interact, which was fascinating and such a joy.
Visiting two feeding stations each day, we often had to hike through the jungle to get there, when we could spot orangutan high up in the trees. In the evening, dinner is eaten on deck while watching fireflies twinkle in the bushes and looking up at the stars, before getting an early night up on deck, with just a mosquito net between us and the elements.