Just offshore from Bali’s southeast coast, Nusa Penida is a dramatic island of impressive rugged cliffs, beachy coves and rocky pinnacles, and its surrounding waters are the most popular of Bali’s dive sites. The island is a superb getaway from the busyness of Bali for those seeking a little solitude and especially suited activities such as trekking, mountain biking and snorkelling.

For sun worhippers, the island’s best recreational beach is Crystal Bay, situated on its northwestern coast, but many less easily accessible coves are bountifully scattered around its shoreline and of great appeal to intrepid travellers and photographers.

Penida is the largest of three islands, which collectively with its smaller neighbours Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, make up Bali Bird Sanctuary, set up to save the Bali Myna from its virtual extinction on the mainland. Although the Myna is the main focus for birders, other endangered birds were also released here, including the Lesser Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, Java Sparrow and Mitchell’s Lorikeet.

Neighbouring Nusa Ceningan is accessible via a bridge on Lembongan’s south coast, and has an alternative surf break and a zipline across the coastal Blue Lagoon, situated on the island’s west coast, around which most of the activities are to be found. In common with its neighbours, Ceningan is also a hallowed diving destination.


Bali’s eastern neighbour, Lombok, although very close, is a world away from its more illustrious neighbour, crossing the Wallace line, named after naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Charles Darwin and like-minded thinker, who shared in the formulation of evolutionary theory.

The flora and fauna of Lombok are markedly different to that found to the west in the Indonesian islands of Bali, Java, and Sumatra which belong to the same natural biogeography as the Malay Peninsula and Borneo, whilst east of Bali, the distinct differences found throughout the natural kingdom exhibit kinship to New Guinea and Australasia, while to the north, the Philippines marks an area of crossover.

Culturally too, Lombok differs from its neighbour. While there are a few Hindu traditions still prevailing from Indonesia’s earlier cultures, Lombok is overwhelmingly Muslim, and far less easy-going in terms of social mores, when compared to the relaxed atmosphere that prevails on Bali.   

Dominated by the awesome spectacle of Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia’s second highest volcano, the island possesses some truly stunning beaches, particularly along its southern coast and on the triplet of the Gili Islands hovering just offshore of its western coast.

Of the southern beaches, Kuta, Seger, Tanjung Aan and Kaliantan are the main resort beaches, and are also home to the best surfing breaks.

On Lombok’s western coast, Senggigi beach sits just to the north of the island’s capital, Mataram, while a little way further north, Sire beach affords good views of the volcano and is backed by Kosaido golf course.


Just offshore from Sire, the Gili Islands, Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan, all of which boast superb white sand beaches surrounded by beautiful turquoise waters, offer superb swimming, snorkelling and diving.


Further east along the Indonesian archipelago, the island of Komodo is famed for its Dragons, and gives its name to Komodo National Park, A UNESCO World Heritage site, which aims to protect the unique creatures and their habitats.

The park also covers the neighbouring islands of Rinca, Padar and Motang and twenty-five surrounding islets, which together comprise the territorial range of the dragons. Outside the park, there are also a few isolated populations surviving on the island of Flores.

The largest of Earth’s surviving lizards, growing up to three metres in length, the dragons are related to the Monitor Lizard, but also possess a heritage from the Pleistocene era giants that used to roam east of the Wallace line prior to their extinction.

The park’s headquarters is situated on Pulau Rinca, and tours to visit the dragon colonies are strictly controlled and must be done in the company with a qualified guide. Komodo Dragons are dangerous, powerful and agile predators with a history of attacking humans, particularly children, who they regard as prey and can both outrun and outswim. It is not permitted, nor in any case advisable, to trek alone.

Despite the Komodo Dragon's fearsome reputation, several traditional human habitations exist on the islands, their communities pre-dating the formation of the park in 1980. There is also a stilted community of Bajau sea gypsies.

The islands of Komodo National Park are also home to a wide range of other creatures, including the dragon's main prey, Timor Deer, as well as Flying Foxes, Wild Boars, Wild Buffalos, Long-tailed Macaques, and Civets as well as many birds and reptiles, including Russel’s Pit-Vipers and Cobras.

The islands are blessed with some fabulous white and pink sand beaches, superb for swimming, snorkelling and diving, with many beautiful dive sites within the park, but is should be noted that the dragons also enjoy wandering some of the beaches and a lookout is advised.

The surrounding ocean itself is a wondrous marine treasure, containing over a thousand species of fish swimming among beautiful corals. The larger species include Manta Rays and several species of Shark, as well as marine mammals such as Whales, Dugongs and Dolphins. For the serious diver, several liveaboard cruises are available to explore the magic of the park’s reefs in dedicated detail.

If the forecast is fine, a brilliant way to explore the inspiring coastal fringes of the National Park is by sea kayak.

Access to the park from Bali is usually achieved by flight to Komodo Airport situated at Labuang Bajo on the western coast of Flores, from where the journey is completed by boat.


Far to the east of Bali, the island of Papua is most visited for an encounter with the Dani tribes people of the Baliem Valley, in the Papuan highlands, where the stone-age culture of these ancient peoples still survives despite the arrival of the modern world.

The remote valley is accessed by a flight to Wamena, the only way in and out not just for visitors, but for all produce, though roads are planned for the future.

For those fascinated with ancient tribal culture, despite the fact that Christianity and mobile phones have made their presence felt, the people still authentically retain their remarkable stone and bone culture and traditional dress which for the men consists of a penis sheath (Koteka), nose bone and a head dress, while the womenfolk wear a short skirt woven from orchid fibres.

The tribe was only ‘discovered’ in 1938 and, although warlike headhunters, were never cannibals as were many of the other tribes of Papua. The Dani share the valley with two other tribes, the Lani and the Yali peoples, with whom they were often at war until recent times, and nowadays mock battles are performed for visitors, who can also observe many other fascinating traditional practices including salt extraction, cooking in the earth and smoke mummification.

Dani villages are comprised of circular huts and surrounded by small agricultural plots, where among other produce, sweet potatoes are highly valued and even regarded as currency.