As a nation of islands, it’s hard not to do at least some island hopping while traveling in Indonesia. The interesting thing about island hopping in Indonesia, though, is that when you go from one island to the next, more often than not, the experience is almost like traveling to an entirely different country. The cultures of many of the islands in Indonesia have risen and developed in relative isolation from one another over centuries and millennia. Accordingly, there are more than 300 languages spoken throughout the archipelago. So, in addition to the merits of being able to see the unique environments that exist from one island to the next, you’re also able to experience entirely different cultures and ways of life- even between islands that are in a relatively close proximity to one another.
With more than 17,000 islands to choose from, there are virtually endless possibilities for island hoping in Indonesia. A classic way to see varied sides of Indonesia would be to traverse Java by land (train) on the way to Bali and Lombok. This tour allows you to go from Indonesia’s bustling capital city, Jakarta, to the ancient citadel of Borobudur and its patron city, Yogyakarta to the grumbling volcanos of Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen, while passing through stunning countryside along the way to Bali. After discovering the cultural charms and stunning beaches of Bali, many then head to Lombok which allows travellers to pass over what is known as the “Wallace Line”; the transition point between the Asian and Australasian tectonic plates. In between, be sure to visit the spectacular Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida Islands just off the coast of Sanur. From Lombok, most people then combine excursions around the island with a separate island-hopping trip around the Gilli Islands. These small islands just off Lombok’s coast are idyllic escapes, and a perfect wrap-up to an epic island adventure.
A more off-the-beaten path island hopping adventure that has become popular in recent years due to improvements in infrastructure, is between Komodo, Rinca and Flores Islands. Komodo and Rinca Islands are home to one of the world’s most unique ecosystems, and are the only places in the world where Komodo dragons live- the largest lizards on earth. Flores, just east of them, is a large and sparsely populated island composed of jagged and forbidding jungle-capped peaks, deserted tropical beaches, crystal-clear water and fascinating tribal cultures. To journey between these islands is like visiting an entirely different planet.
Perhaps the ultimate island hopping experience in Indonesia involves exploring the little-visited and hard-to-reach Raja Ampat Islands. Just off the coast of West Papua in the eastern frontier of Indonesia, these islands are widely regarded to be some of the wildest and most paradisiacal on earth. Although they are most well-known for the spectacular diving there- said to be the best in the world- the islands themselves are no less spectacular in their own right. Laden with rich biological diversity and some of the densest populations of Paradise Birds in the world, they’re the perfect place to go if you want to truly get away from it allr.
In theory, Indonesia’s year is divided into a wet and dry season. In reality, though, it’s often hard to tell the difference. The entire archipelago is so close to the equator that trade winds tend to mitigate the effects of monsoons that sweep the rest of the region. Very roughly, in much of the country, November to April are the wet months (January and February are the wettest) and May through to October are dry. Peak tourist season is between mid-June and mid-September- although, from a weather perspective, it isn’t necessarily the best time to visit.
Bring motion sickness pills such as Dramamine from your home country. It’s not impossible to find in Indonesia, but bringing them along is a great way to save yourself a potential hassle- particularly if you’re prone to motion sickness. The seas between islands are generally quite languid, but this isn’t always the case. As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.