Millions of tourists head to Bali’s shores every year to enjoy low prices, banging beach clubs, picturesque rice paddies and idyllic beaches. We tourists and ex-pats can’t help but have a love affair with Bali, but what about the other islands that South East Asia has to offer? To help you rethink Bali as your destination of choice, we’ve put together 10 alternatives worth discovering in 2020.
Thousand Islands, Java
Alright, so the name isn’t quite accurate. This group of 128 islands just north of Jakarta are popular amongst city residents for getting away from the crowds. Think crystal blue waters, powder white sand and plenty of palm trees and that’s what Thousand Islands has to offer. Only 45 of the islands are open to tourists, with just six offering overnight accommodation. This makes it the perfect place to island-hop and explore one island, whilst sleeping in another!
If you enjoyed the culture in Ubud, then you’ll fall in love with Sumba. Located in East Nusa Tenggara, this island has retained its fascinating culture and ancient Marapu religion. One of the islands draws is the traditional thatched houses and megalithic stone tombs that are at the centre of every village. Here you can expect to see villagers riding horses bareback and women weaving, the traditional way of life has not been lost here. The best example of this is the annual spear-throwing festival called Pasola, which takes place in Western Sumba. Once this festival required rival tribes to spill blood in order to have a good harvest year, thankfully now the spears are blunt, and it is merely ceremonial. But this island has more to offer than its intriguing culture. Sumba is known for its barrel waves that entice professional surfers between May and October.
Morotai Island, North Maluku
Morotai Island is the northernmost island in Indonesia. It played an important role in the second world war and has plenty of allied sites to tour, including a monument to the last known Japanese soldier who was discovered alive in hiding, in 1974, not knowing the war had ended.
If you’re after natural wonders, then this island has plenty. Look to Dodola Islands and their vanishing bridge which connects the two islands together when the tide is out. Think secluded, pristine beaches and the sea perfect for snorkelling. Morotai has 28 diving sites on offer, with some incorporating mysterious wrecks from the second world war. There is also the option to dive with sharks if you are feeling brave enough!
Raja Ampat Archipelago
If you are passionate about diving, then Raja Ampat needs to be on your bucket list. This archipelago is home to 1500 islands covered in dense jungle, that offer crystal clear waters and coral reefs, teeming with marine life. This is the closest to paradise for any nature lover wanting to get off the beaten track and lose themselves in a remote adventure like no other.
If you’re not ready to let go of Bali just yet, then why not try Lombok? Often dubbed Bali’s more chilled out sister, it is the perfect escape from Bali’s crowds. Located only a one-hour ferry ride or twenty-minute flight from Bali, Lombok has a different feeling entirely. Things are more laid-back here. There is plenty to see, from the horse-drawn carts along the island streets to the temples, forests, historical cities and impressive Mount Rinjani, which has a picturesque blue lake on the top. Lombok is a surfer’s haven, enjoy endless coastlines, unspoilt beaches and a laid-back vibe that will make the hustle and bustle of Bali seem overwhelming.
Flores Island is located only 90 minutes away from Bali in East Nusa Tenggara, but it feels like a world apart. The island is the start of the Komodo National Park and is home to pristine, empty beaches, world-class diving, the Kelimutu volcano with its three coloured lakes and a diverse cultural landscape. The most well-known village to visit is Wae Rebo, which is known for traditional housing, set against an idyllic mountain backdrop. Flores is also one of the islands that is home to the infamous Komodo dragon, with the Komodo Islands looking to charge the extortionate price of $1,400 AUD to view them there, Flores will become the best alternative.
If you are after a world-class diving spot, then look no further than the Wakatobi Islands. Located off the shores of Sulawesi, these islands boast a teeming marine life with hundreds of diving spots to get exploring. Situated in the coral triangle, the marine life has been likened to an underwater nirvana. Even with this status, the islands are underdeveloped and are not overrun with tourists. The remote location has ensured that Wakatobi remains more protected from than other popular diving locations in Indonesia.
If surfing is your bag, then you need to head to the Mentawai Islands. Dedicated surfers flock to this island paradise for big waves that can reach up to 15ft tall. When you’re not hitting the surf, you can be exploring what’s beneath them and try your hand at scuba diving, exploring the vibrant marine life that calls this place home. You will also have the chance to get up close and personal with dolphins, dugongs and sea turtles.
The Derawan Islands are located off the mainland of East Kalimantan. Made up of an archipelago of 31 islands, each with their own unique draw. This is the ideal tropical paradise, with warm weather, isolated islands and pristine beaches that boast a bustling marine life. The archipelago is the largest nesting site for giant green turtles and hawksbill turtles, which are rare and endangered.
They are also known for island hopping, snorkelling, diving, exploring sea caves and swimming in a jellyfish lake. There are some resorts on the island that elude luxury, but you can also get off the beaten track. The opportunities are endless!
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