It seems like ages ago that I wrote a blog, a lot has happened in that time! From my husband being stolen by another woman, seeing the effects of human environmental destruction first hand, diving with turtles, a treacherous four day trip on a rocky worn out boat and much more! Here’s what travel in Indonesia was like for me.
Want to explore the most extraordinary, breathtaking and awe-inspiring parts of Indonesia? We’ve pulled together a Indonesia travel itinerary for 2 weeks, 3 weeks and 4 weeks:
2 Nights With No Sleep
Leaving Nepal was an absolute mission. It involved 3 delayed flights, 2 missed connections, a diversion to Jakarta, lost luggage, staff who could not communicate with each other across airports (despite being the same air company) and couldn’t speak to the central customer service.
By the time we arrived in Medan, Sumatra it was 30 hours after we got to Kathmandu airport. It t was 3am in the morning. We had no stuff. I was a mess, we hadn’t really slept for 2 nights and had patchy meals. Never fly Malindo Air!
Bukit Lawang, Sumatra
Thankfully, we did make it to Sumatra, Indonesia and the jungle in the end.
And bloody hell it was so worth it. We did a guided jungle trek out of Bukit Lawang of the Gunung Leuser National Park. I think it was 2 of the best days ever.
We were very surprised when the lovely Lonne and Denis joined our tour, as we’d met them already on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal!
Our local guide was completely amazing. He knew loads about the animals in the jungle and had such an amazing knowledge of the medical properties of the plants we saw. Many of which had been used for centuries in the villages around the region.
My Husband Was Stolen By Another Woman
On our jungle trek, James (my husband) was stolen from me by another woman.
Her beauty was beyond compare, with flaming locks of auburn hair. I cannot compete with you…Jackie.
Particularly as Jackie was an adult orangutan and much much stronger than me. Jackie is a very clever orangutan. Although she is a wild creature (the feeding programme stopped in Bukit Lawang a few years back), when she spots a group of tourists, she grabs one of the group by the arm. She refuses to let go until she is plied with the right amount of fruit.
James was her chosen target. There was no way he could escape her strong grip (which can break a human’s arm). She eventually did let him go after we paid the required fruit tax. We had to run off to ensure she didn’t grab someone else in our group.
Luckily we didn’t meet Meena, another orangutan who was less peaceful in her approach with tourists and had bitten a great many people. Our guide had the scars to show for it.
We saw loads of orangutans on our jungle trek. We saw babies playing in the branches and I got peed on by an adult orangutan. Despite the pee, I felt fortunate to be in this beautiful jungle with them.
Removing A Mooncup In A Jungle Rainstorm
During our two day stay in the Sumatran jungle, I had a significant personal development experience.
I managed the difficult task of doing a number two and extracting a mooncup in a toilet with no roof and just a small fence around it during an epic nighttime tropical rainstorm. It was absolutely pissing it down, but when you gotta go, you gotta go. I made James go with me because I am a wuss and didn’t want to be eaten by a giant spider or killer monkey.
After recovering from that experience, I then was faced with a huge gibbon while in the toilet the next morning. The toilet fun while travelling never ends!
Deforestation In Sumatra
On a different less lighter note, throughout the trip in Sumatra, deforestation was apparent most of the time. With miles upon miles of palm oil plantations reaching as far as the eye could see, and only small pockets of jungle and rainforest remaining. It was truly heartbreaking.
Sumatra is the only place where orangutans, rhinos, tigers and elephants coexist and they are at serious risk. More broadly, in the last half century more than 74million hectares of Indonesian rainforest (an area twice the size of Germany) has been destroyed. With Indonesia losing 72 per cent of its intact forests.
These forests aren’t just homes to amazing biodiversity, we need these forests to reduce the effects of climate change – the trees help absorb the carbon dioxide we put in the air. The removal of forests also releases thousands of tons of carbon which is stored in the Peatlands of these forests. Deforestation sounds like a long way away when you are at home in the UK, but when you are faced with the reality of it that is something else. What are we doing?!
The Gili Islands, Off Lombok
Next stop was the Gili Islands just off Lombok. As you may know, Lombok (including the Gili Islands) was recently devastated by a huge earthquake.
This left significant numbers dead and homes/businesses destroyed.
We thought hard about going, but it’s my view that a key way to help these communities is to go to them. Much of their income relies on tourism.
Recent Earthquake On Lombok
I spoke to a number of locals in Lombok and on Gili Air (where we stayed) who were still struggling after the earthquake. They were dealing with destroyed buildings, power cuts and water outages. Locals spoke of the fear that a tsunami would hit just after the earthquake. They described struggling to get to high points (Gili Air is as flat as a pancake) and sleeping outside all night with limited food and water, some for weeks on end.
Despite the destruction Gili Air had faced, I really loved the island. It was an island of beautiful sunsets and shit loads of cats.
Indonesia Travel High-Point: Learning How To Scuba Dive
Gili Air was also where I got my open water scuba diving qualification. I can dive! I’ve never had so much fun learning a new skill, and I was taught by the fabulous Rowan and Jane at Blue Marlin Dive Gili Air.
Diving is unlike anything I’ve done before, it’s like floating through space. Also, rather than seeing the underwater world from above like in snorkeling, you feel more part of this fishy world, although still very much just a visitor! I absolutely loved watching the fish go about their busy lives. And I saw countless turtles. I’m hooked!
The “Fuck You” Gecko
Gili Air (and lots of South East Asia) is also home to a very amusing gecko. At sundown, they make a noise that very much sounds like they are yelling “fuck you”. They were nicknamed the fuck you lizard by foreign troops in the Vietnam. Every time they made their noise, I’d end up in fits of laughter. I want one!
Bleached Dead Coral
Although I loved Gili Air, what was shocking to see was all the bleached dead coral along the beach and under the water when diving. From my understanding the cause of this is a mix of rising sea temperatures, dynamite fishing (where people drop bombs in the water to kill the fish – now recently banned in Indonesia thankfully), reckless tourists and pollution, and the damage was further aggravated by the recent earthquake.
It got me thinking about all the activity around plastics after the TV series Blue Planet and David Attenborough drawing the nation’s attention to it. He also flagged up coral bleaching, and there is a need for us to also focus on this more and the damage this is having to marine life.
We all need to be environmentalists and care about the planet we live in, like the living legend sir David Attenborough.
Boat Trip From Lombok To Flores
After Gili Air, we embarked on a 4 day boat trip from Lombok to Flores to pay a visit to the Komodo dragons. This boat trip was the kind of boat trip where afterwards I was happy to be alive.
20 of us were squashed on what looked like an old fishing trawler. Sometimes the boat rocked so violently I thought it was going to capsize. The boat was broken and old, and creaked like it was going to fall to pieces. The crew would often smoke in the engine room.
We had a cabin and most other people just slept on the deck. Neither were great options as the cabin filled with fumes and was absolutely boiling. It also leaked when it rained.
This whole situation might have been improved if the crew and our guide were friendly and helpful, but our guide barely spoke to us. Although we stopped at some really beautiful places (viewpoints, beaches, islands, snorkeling) he never told us where we were or what we needed to bring.
Meal times were random. They’d get breakfast ready at 5am but not tell anyone so people missed it. Sometimes lunch would be at 10.30am, whilst other times it would be 2pm.
On the last day, we could see the final port one hour away, but our guide insisted we had to stay anchored where we were for 4 more hours. We all got so fed up of being on the boat and not knowing what was going on we staged a mutiny and protested by making a lot of noise and a guy tried and failed to pull up the anchor. How long does it take for cabin fever to kick in?
Dumb Tourist Vs. Komodo Dragon
Despite the conditions on the boat, we did see some really amazing things on our voyage. We saw Komodo dragons, although we were not impressed by some of the guides’ behaviour in the national park, particularly where they chased a Komodo dragon into Lonne and I.
Below is a dumbass tourist photo of me with a Komodo dragon, if I had been eaten, it would have been my own stupid fault.
Less dangerously we swam with mantas. I dived in off the boat to be faced with two huge manta mouths swimming towards me – terrifying and exhilarating! We snorkeled in schools of fish and I met Dory. We also went to an amazing view point on Padar Island for sunset.
Dead Coral And Plastic Waste On The Beach
Because I’m a firm believer of talking about the good, bad and ugly of places I’m travelling to, we again saw beaches full of dead coral and plastic bottles.
We arrived in Flores (an island near the Komodo National Park) exhausted and absolutely filthy (yay for 4 days no showering in sweltering conditions).
We booked ourselves on some diving in the Komodo islands. I was relieved when diving to come across some really healthy looking reefs and glorious sea life. I met turtles, puffer fish, a sea snake, a barracuda, a super ugly crocodile fish and a rather angry titan triggerfish (which was MASSIVE).
Chasing Waterfalls In Flores, Indonesia
On our final day in Indonesia, we wanted to do something a bit different. Diving and boat trips are quite expensive in the Komodo National Park so we searched around for something else to do.
After asking around a bit, we found a guide who would take us into Flores for a hike and to see a waterfall rarely visited by tourists.
Our local guide scaled jackfruit and coconut trees for us and we munched on as fresh as you can get fruit. We had a whole waterfall and plunge pool to ourselves. Until a large group of local kids turned up to look at the amusing tourists jumping in the plunge pool. They befriended us and wanted photos with us. We were happy to oblige, particularly after one of the little boys said he was Justin Beiber. To meet the real Justin Beiber in Flores, amazing and unbeleiberble (I know, bad pun).
Indonesia Travel: Final Thoughts
Travelling in Indonesia has been fantastic, and I’d say it was one of my favourite countries. It’s got jungles, amazing marine life, beaches and mountains. The locals are friendly and helpful. Indonesia will hold a special place in my heart as the place I learnt to dive and met a load of turtles. I will be returning one day!
If you want to explore beautiful Indonesia too, check out my Indonesia travel itineraries: