As a vast archipelago of erupting volcanoes, pink sand, komodo dragons, bio-luminescent algae, boat accidents, and lethal cocktails of alcohol: Indonesia sounds like the setting of the greatest adventure novel never told. It’s also, in our opinion, a little off the beaten track. Venture far enough from Bali, beyond the fringes of the neighbouring territories, Java and Lombok, and the number of westerners plummets.
Adrenaline junkies will meet their match in Indonesia, but the fruits of your efforts, of all the toil and sweat, will not just be some of the most incredible scenescapes in all of Southeast Asia, but some of the most incredible in all of the world. Here are five reasons why Indonesia is the adrenaline junkie’s paradise:
1. Mount Bromo
Named after the Hindu god of creation, Bromo sits on what is known as the ‘Tengger massif’, a convergent boundary of tectonic plates where the Indo-Australian plate is sinking below, and being destroyed, by the Eurasian plate. Like Yin and Yang, it is precisely such destruction that has forged one of the most astonishing environments we’ve ever experienced.
Most visitors arrive in Cemoro Lawang under darkness, a sleepy village alarmingly close to Bromo’s smouldering crater, getting a few hours’ slumber before hiking (or taking a jeep) to the summit of Mount Pananjakan, where one gets the neo-Cretaceous treatment at sunrise: two active volcanoes, Mount Semeru and Bromo, smouldering over a hilly terrain of desolate volcanic ash. From then on, it’s a hike down Penanjakan, to the summit of Bromo, where you can stare into the edge of the abyss: an active crater that gurgles with all the energy of the interior of the earth.
The Ijen volcano complex is the logical next stop for adrenaline junkies after Bromo, because it’s always “on the way” if your destination is either Jakarta or Bali. The Ijen crater itself is home to the fanciful blue flames that in recent years have made it so famous (which, by the way, are caused by the burning of sulphur from the hot magma underneath). It’s about a two-hour trek up the volcano, again, under cover of darkness; giving you an elevated view of the sunrise, and then another hour’s descent into the crater, where the air gets difficult to breath. Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like being handed a gas mask as you march into an active crater!
When the sun is finally up, you’ll be able to gaze at the deceptive beauty of the crater lake—the world’s largest lake of acid. As well as the miners who extract the sulphur for a living, toiling; carrying excavated chunks out from the crater while the temperature is still cool.
3. Gunung Rinjani
The summit of Lombok and the second highest volcano in Indonesia, the views presented atop of Rinjani are, again, almost prehistoric: like looking back over the eons, to the beginning of time itself. On a cloudless day, hikers will be treated to spectacular views of Rinjani’s collapsed caldera, along with its magnificent greeney-blue crater lake. The volcano’s new crater has already formed an island in this lake, which occasionally emits plumes of smoke and vapour.
The journey to the summit is not for the faint-hearted, though, requiring a high level of fitness along with “strength of spirit, and a sense of adventure” (to quote TrekkingRinjani.com), and typically takes about two days and one night to complete—though there are longer, more arduous alternatives. Distinct, thin, forest grows at cooler ascensions, giving way to pleasant lowlands of vanilla and coffee as you descend. And you’ll be pleased to know the Gili Islands aren’t too far away for some much needed R&R.
4. Komodo Island – Home Of The Komodo Dragons
The mighty komodo dragon—the inspiration behind the legends of King Kong—are to be found nowhere else on earth. Their sheer size means they are naturally the dominant predators in their apex; with a human being no exception. The dragons also have a secret weapon: a lethal combination of venom and bacteria, that serves to dismantle their prey lucky enough to escape with just a bite.
Fortunately, a park ranger will be with you at all times and, with the increasing numbers of tourists flocking to the region, there’ll be safety in numbers, too. (We’re kidding, it’s not that dangerous.) Visitors can expect a short, but easily digestible, path through the park, with plenty of narrative about the monitor lizards, as well as other fauna and flora and the environment. Komodo Island is also home to a gorgeous beach with pink sand to kick back on, one of only seven in the world, and some excellent snorkelling opportunities.
Bali is a culture shock compared with the rest of Indonesia. For starters, the overwhelming majority of residents practice Balinese Hinduism, a complete inversion of the nation’s predominantly Muslim faith, and visitors will see this superstition manifest in the architecture, as well as in the offerings, which are often placed roadside. Bali is also stuffed with tourists, posh hotels, karaoke bars, and surf shacks. Kuta, in particular, resembles something more like Benidorm than Southeast Asia (except the traffic is even worse).
Why are we telling you—the adrenaline junkie—this, you ask? Because there’s room for you, too. Bali has everything from the party (Kuta) to the therapeutic (Ubud) to the adventurous: Start the day with a sunrise hike up Mount Batur; rent a quad to explore the ragged terrain and bamboo forests at your own leisure, then try your hand at canyoning, or go white water rafting. It’s all there for you in Bali.
Indonesia is the land of adventure. More than fifty per cent of the country is covered in tropical rainforest, while the other half is a myriad of temples, volcanos, cities, rice terraces, and beaches. We love it because it’s cheap, scenic, and diverse. And we’re sure you’ll love it, too. Particularly the adrenaline junkies out there.
Get to know more about the amazing places you can visit in South East Asia.