Although international borders remain closed, domestic tourism in Indonesia is cautiously picking up. In a recent webinar, Indonesia’s minister of tourism and creative economy Wishnutama Kusubandio revealed efforts are underway to attract more domestic travellers. The central government has earmarked 3.8 trillion rupiah to develop quality destinations and launch new marketing initiatives such as social media campaigns and promotional programmes in places such as Bali, West Nusa Tenggara and North Sulawesi.
In July this year, the government also began constructing 10 new tourism villages around the Lake Toba area in North Sumatra. Lake Toba is among the five “super priority” destinations unveiled by the Indonesian Tourism Ministry in January this year, as a follow-up from their plans to create “10 new Balis”. Among these five destinations are the less-known Mandalika in Central Lombok, a coastal resort area; and Likupang in North Sulawesi, a 200-hectare stretch of pristine white-sand beaches.
In addition, Indonesia’s Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry is collaborating with virtual exhibition platform Fairtual, to hold the virtual “New Normal Travel Fair” from 7 to 15 November. During this inaugural event, participants can look forward to interacting with vendors, networking with other participants, and making purchases through the integrated ecommerce system. Tourism Minister Kusubandio is also expected to grace the event.
With so much resources being poured into reviving Indonesia’s tourism industry, we look forward to borders re-opening and visiting the “Emerald of the Equator” once more. In the meantime, here are seven gorgeous spots in Indonesia to put on your travel wishlist.
1. Samosir Island
Located in the middle of Lake Toba, this volcanic island is only slightly smaller than Singapore, making it the world’s largest island-in-a-lake-on-an-island. As Samosir is the heart of the territory in which the Toba Batak people live, this is where you’ll get to experience their ancient culture in myriad fascinating ways. Pop by one of the many well-preserved sopo (traditional Batak architecture) with their distinctive curved roofs or pick up some Tor Tor dance moves. Tor Tor is a traditional ceremonial dance of the Batak and refers to the sound of pounding feet made when groups of people take part in the dance.
2. Pulau Biawak
With a name that literally translated to “Monitor Lizard Island”, there’s little mystery as to what awaits you on this island located a few hours off the north coast of Indramayu. Previously a marine science research facility, this tiny island was closed off to the public until recently. Visitors are now allowed to explore the beaches and mangrove forests where you can catch a glimpse of these giant reptiles, some of which can grow up to 3m in length.
Although it’s located only 50 minutes by plane from Bali, this island still remains relatively remote but therein lies its appeal. Here, you’ll find wild swathes of savannahs and low limestone hills where the local Tau Humba people (also known as Sumbanese) live in hilltop villages. The island is perhaps best known for being the origin of the strong and agile Sumba Ponies, a breed of ponies whose strength is put on display during the annual Pasola, a mounted spear-fighting competition. Adrenaline-pumping sports aside, the island is also home to a handful of luxury resorts, including the exclusive Nihi Sumba and the newly opened boutique retreat, Alamayah.
4. Tanjung Puting
As one of the last few places in the world to observe orangutans in the wild, this national park in Central Kalimantan is a popular draw for lovers of the outdoors. Covering more than 4,100 sqm of land, this park is home to a wide diversity of wildlife, including the proboscis monkey, the Malaysian sun bear, clouded leopards and over 220 species of birds. If you’re hoping for more facetime with the great apes, consider taking part in a three-week volunteer stint at the research facilities of Orangutan Foundation International, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of wild orangutans and their rainforest habitat.
As one of the five “super priority” destinations unveiled by the Indonesian Tourism Ministry, Likupang is getting special attention from the authorities. This includes building a new four-lane road to connect it with Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi that’s 48km away, aimed to be completed by 2021. Hopefully, this will introduce more people to the rustic charms of this coastal area where powdery white-sand beaches are framed by emerald-green hills. Divers and snorkellers will especially love the crystal-clear waters, which are teeming with marine life.
6. Mount Kerinci
Standing tall at 3,805m, this is the highest volcano in Indonesia. With almost one eruption a year, Kerinci is also one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia but continues to attract many mountain-climbers and thrill-seekers. It’s easy to see why – the trail up the mountain is clearly marked and easy to follow, but more importantly, Kerinci is surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Kerinci Seblat National Park, which offers spectacular views of lush forested valleys and deep gorges during and after climb.
Perched on the northern coast of Java, midway between Semarang and Surabaya, the sleepy town of Lasem may seem nondescript but it is rich in history. As you walk through the narrow, high-walled lanes of the old town, you’ll see fading but still impressive Indo-Chinese mansions, generations-old batik factories and thriving Islamic schools. A group of passionate individuals were so taken in by the charms of Lasem that they started a community, Kesengsem Lasem (“deeply in love with Lasem” in Bahasa Indonesia), to raise the town’s profile on social media. During your time in Lasem, be sure to pop by Tiongkok Kecil Heritage Centre, which also serves as a homestay, café and batik store.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.