After all, it is always the shared experiences and journeys that make the most cherished memories.
With dry and sunny weather from April to October, Indonesia is arguably the best summer destination in Asia. Its stunningly beautiful and dramatic landscapes spread across some 17,000 islands as well as varied culture and cuisine make it an ideal place for travellers of all ages.
Here are my recommendations for the best family experiences in Indonesia. Active families with children of any age will find something that they will love here…
Diving and snorkelling tops the chart for me as soon as I think of Indonesia. Manta rays, Komodo dragons and dolphins, and incredibly pristine and healthy reef systems have made it one of the best diving destinations on the planet.
There are many good locations but based on its sheer beauty and varied wildlife, my favourite is the UNESCO-protected region of Komodo National Park, which consists of three larger islands of Komodo, Padar and Rinca and about 26 smaller ones that cover a massive area of about 219,322 hectares.
Arguably the best way to explore this area is by sailing. Aman’s two luxurious boats Amandira and Amanikan are ideal for families or a group of friends, and for couples Alexa Private Cruise with just one cabin offers an incredibly cozy and intimate sailing experience. The boats are fitted with state-of-the-art equipment that are perfect for a variety of dives, as well as snorkeling and kayaking.
Another firm favourite of mine is the pristine and off-the-beaten-track Wakatobi National Park in Southeast Sulawesi, which is blessed with some of the healthiest reefs in the world. For serious divers and snorkelers Wakatobi offers a very special and less-touristy experience. The resort is totally secluded and there are no other divers for at least a hundred miles!
You don’t even have to rough it out as there is a delightful luxury dive resort named after the marine park that offers superb amenities, service and food. The beach bungalows are delightful, where you can step out of your door and straight onto the golden sand. For families, there are range of private two-bedroom villas which can be taken, some with a private pool in addition to being on the very edge of the beach.
These two-bedroom villas include a butler to ensure that all your needs are met, a private diving guide, underwater photography instruction and a personalized service to give the diving-enthusiast family the best possible experiences.
The resort is serious about providing the best diving experience in the world and have extensive conservation programs in place to protect their world-class for the long term benefit of the island and its communities.
They additionally have a range of ways which they support the local community through employment and sponsorships which not only has a positive impact on the local people, but on conservation in turn.
Indonesia offers a plethora of outdoor adventures that are suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. The area around Ubud and Bali offers excellent options including:
For something a bit more adventurous, the mystical island of Sumba is one of my favourite destinations. Nihi Sumba is a fully-inclusive exclusive resort spread over 267 acres of private land and nestled on the edge of a stunning stretch of beach.
They offer a wide range of accommodation in varying styles to suit all tastes, with various options of adjoining villas for families or groups of friends to take. But the real attraction here are the incredible experiences you can have.
The beach is famous for its incredible surfing waves, or one can go paddle boarding on the sea or the Wanukaka River. You can take a private boat charter and go fishing or scuba diving, and the coral is fantastic for snorkelling from the island or a boat. For some adrenaline, why not take out a jet ski, or try out spear fishing for yellowfin (or any amount of snappers and other delicious fish) and eat what you catch!
On land, take a day trek to the blue waterfall, or you can spend the morning walking through rice terraces and villages to the Nihi Oka valley. Riding is a must and taking a hack along the beach, riding through the spray and across the pristine landscape is a breathtaking experience.
The islands forests are inhabited by tribal communities who continue to practise their traditional way of life, and you can visit them to learn more about their culture as well as learn how to weave.
For children of all ages, there is so much to do and Nihi even has its own chocolate factory, where they can help turn the locally grown cacao beans into finger licking treats.
Gastronomically speaking, throughout Indonesia there are fantastic culinary experiences that can be curated ranging from sharing a simple home-cooked meal with a tribal community to a fun and hands-on cooking class with a celebrity chef!
Indonesia is not just about nature and wildlife. For history and culture buffs there are two regions that are hugely important in my opinion – the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan near Yogyakarta, and the Pakerisan Valley in East Bali. Located in the heart of Java, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Borobudur is the largest Buddhist religious monument in the world.
Built in the 8th and 9th- century, the complex consists of nine stacked platforms topped by a central dome and is a stunning example of stone architecture. Exploring the complex at dawn with an expert anthropologist is simply magical! Beyond Borobudur, Yogyakarta and the temples of Prambanan also make a very interesting exploration.
The highlights include the 17th-century Sultan’s palace, Taman Sari Water Castle (a former royal garden featuring a unique combination of Hindu, Buddhist and Portuguese architectural styles) and the 9th-century temples of Prambanan. Prambanan is particularly special as it hosts the largest Hindu temples in Indonesia and is a dedicated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Indonesia is also excellent for handicrafts and East Java’s Batik work and Bali paintings have become world-famous.
Offering a complete contrast to Central Java, the much less-touristy region of Pakerisan Valley in East Bali is home to World Heritage listed temples, meditation sites and monuments that trace back to the creation of Balinese Hindu religion.
It is believed that the modern-day Bali Hinduism was born between the 8th and 12th centuries when elements of Buddhism, Hinduism and local Javanese traditions were merged together. The Sukarno Foundation is doing a remarkable work in conjunction with the local authorities to research, document and preserve these fascinating monuments and their historical and cultural significance on the region.
The whole valley is a mystical place containing remnants of Bali’s pre-Hindu culture that was based on a religion focusing on the ancestors. It is a stunning location amidst lush rice fields featuring stone carved shrines dedicated to 11th century royalty and is a must for anyone interested in history and archaeology.
The culture, wildlife and activities in Indonesia are varied and fantastic; there is something that will please families of all preferences. Do feel free to contact me for more information if you would like to find out more.
Images kindly provided courtesy of:
Nihi Sumba, Aman and Wakatobi Dive Resort (background image by Didi Lotze).