With more than 18,000 islands, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world and potentially one of the best cruising grounds when it comes to diversity and adventure. Covering a huge geographical area between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, the country stretches all the way from Malaysia to the north, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the east, Australia to the south and India to the west. The country boasts everything from ancient tropical rain forests, world class diving, bustling metropolis, rich culture, vibrant ethnic diversity and a fascinating history and it is no wonder this exciting country is fast becoming one of the main fixtures on the world's best cruising destinations.
Although yet to offer cruising yachts a full scale marina, Indonesia's myriad islands offer plenty of choices for safe, protected moorings and some of the islands now boast berthing facilities such as those at Nongsa Point Marina in Batam and Big Boat Quay in Benoa Harbour, Bali, which is also the country's only dedicated superyacht facility.
When it comes to travel destinations in Indonesia a lot of people will instantly think of Bali. Just one of countless islands in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali distinguishes itself with its unique Hindu culture which fascinates people from all over the world due to its colourful and spiritual characteristics. Another major attraction here is varied nature with its lush terraces rice fields in the island's interior, black volcano sand beaches to the north, rugged coastlines in the remote west side of the island and beautiful, wide sandy beaches to the south and southwest. Combined with world-class entertainment and night clubbing in Kuta, and hip restaurants, bars and shops in the upscale lifestyle area of Seminyak, the island is so versatile there is entertainment here for what seems a lifetime.
One of the must see places of Bali is Ubud which is located a couple of hours north of Kuta. The town is littered with art galleries and art works and hand crafts can be bought and shipped home from most of the galleries. On the road between Kuta and Ubud lies the village of Celuk famous for its gold and silver smiths. The town offers a multitude of jewellery, with designs ranging from the very tribal to the very modern with western and eastern influences.
To the west of Bali lies Lombok. Roughly the same size as Bali but with a mostly Muslim population, the island has remained relatively un-developed compared to its neighbour. There are several untouched beaches and plenty of sleepy fishing towns to explore and the island's interior is covered in dense rainforests where there's a good chance of seeing monkeys, rare birds and plants. The main attraction on Lombok, however, is Rinjani, an active volcano which can be seen from far away. The trek to the caldera is challenging but worth it as it affords excellent views of the crater lake within and an opportunity to experience the diverse flora and fauna of Lombok, some of which exist only here.
Off the northwestern tip of Lombok lies the Gili Islands, like pearls on a string not far from the coast. Initially a sleepy backpackers hideaway, the word of these islands' natural beauty got out, and they have become more developed. The island of Gili Trawangan, which is the largest and most visited of the three, offers some high end accommodation options with Gili Meno and Gili Air being smaller with a more laid back atmosphere. All three islands have several operators offering scuba diving courses and excursions to the many excellent dive sites around the islands.
The cruising grounds east of Lombok all the way to Timor Leste comprise one exciting island paradise after the other. Sumbawa, known for its remote, sandy beaches and great waves, making it a paradise for surfers who make up the majority of visitors here. A Bali of 30 years ago, the islands has little in terms of tourist infrastructure and visitors have an excellent opportunity to explore daily life on this charming island.
The next large island east are the Komodo islands where the famous Komodo dragons live. Part of the Komodo National Park, the island is recognised by several international bodies such as WWF and Conservation International as a conservation priority area due to its fragile ecosystems both over and underwater which are not rich in diversity but rare in terms of the kind of species found here, amongst them of course the Komodo Dragon but also the Timor Deer and wild boars amongst others. It is possible to visit the park on your own but there are also some tour operators that organise educational tours where visitors can learn more about the island environment and the local inhabitants.
The last large island to the east before Timor Leste is Flores, another divers' and snorkellers paradise. The main attraction here is the three coloured crater lakes of Mount Kelimutu, and traditional villages where visitors can live with locals.