Experience the scenic and cultural highlights of eastern Java and neighbouring Bali on this superb two-week road adventure. Winding from Yogyakarta, the nation’s ‘cultural capital’,…
Take a walk on Indonesia’s wild side to see endangered orangutans, Komodo dragons, proboscis monkeys and other amazing jungle creatures across a string of exotic, coral-fringed islands. Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to visit some of the country’s most atmospheric colonial ports and spellbinding ancient ruins – including Borobudur on Java. The trip features a three-day luxury live-aboard cruise around the Komodo archipelago, where you’ll see the famous ‘dragon’ lizards and swim and snorkel in crystal-clear, turquoise water. A relaxing spell on the beach in Bali brings the trip to an appropriately heavenly conclusion!
In short: the best of Indonesia’s world-class attractions, with the accent on wildlife and nature, and stays in some of the country’s most desirable hotels.
Wildlife Holidays Cultural Tours
Fly overnight from the UK to Kuala Lumpur.
On arrival at Kuala Lumpur airport, you’ll be met by your TransIndus chauffeur guide and driven to your hotel for a two-night stay in the Malaysian capital. Spend the remainder of the day recovering from the journey by the pool, perhaps venturing up to the 33rd-floor of your hotel later for a sunset cocktail and superb panoramic view over the city from the famous SkyBar.
Dubbed affectionately as ‘KL’, Kuala Lumpur started out life in the 1850s as a Chinese mining shanty town, but over the ensuring century-and-a-half has expanded into a metropolis of 1.5 million. One of Asia’s principal financial centres, it’s a stridently modern, cosmopolitan, upbeat place whose high-rise core – a glittering spectacle at night – epitomizes the modern, forward-looking face of Southeast Asia.
A perfect place to get your bearings is the SkyBar on the 33rd floor of Traders, where you can sip a gin and pomelo ‘bowcut’ cocktail by the poolside while watching the sun set on the nearby Petronas Towers, Malaysia’s most iconic building.
Enjoy a full day’s sightseeing of KL today in the company of your TransIndus chauffeur guide.
You’ll be able to discuss your sightseeing priorities with your consultant before leaving home, but a popular starting point is always Merdeka (Independence) Square, dominated by the copper dome of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. On its south side, the KL City Gallery is an ideal place to learn about the capital’s past. From there, head east across the river to the covered Central Market, where you can pick up traditional Malaysian batik, jade jewellery and other handicrafts at bargain prices.
More historic character is to be found in the old colonial quarter, where the intricate, Moorish-style Jamek Mosque is the standout building. To its south, Chinatown’s shophouses, traditional cafés and colourful Buddhist temples give a sense of what KL might have been like half a century ago. The superb Islamic Arts Museum, whose ultra-modern premises is crowned by a turquoise-tiled Persian dome, is another of the city’s key sights.
Energy and time permitting, a great excursion out of the capital would be to the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia – ‘FRIM’ for short – where a wonderful tree canopy walk reveals fine views over the metropolis. Nearby, the Batu Caves complex holds the country’s most revered Hindu shrine, approached via a flight of 272 steps and colossal gilded statue of Lord Murugan.
Transfer to the airport after breakfast for your onward flight to Yogyakarta in south-central Java for a two-night stay.
On arrival, you’ll be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day relaxing by the pool, perhaps venturing out later in a local ‘becak’ (rickshaw) to Malioboro Street, the city’s liveliest shopping area. Its hub is Beringhajo, a covered market dating from the Dutch era that’s the best place to find quality Javanese batiks and sarongs, as well as devotional statues, antiques and musical instruments.
After the market closes, vendors set out ‘angkringan’ food stalls in the surrounding streets. Pick your ‘tempeh’ skewer, which is cooked over hot coals as your bowl is filled with noodles and freshly prepared vegetables. Local specialities worth looking out for include ‘gudeg’, made with chunks of jackfruit and a distinctively Javanese blend of stir-fried vegetables, herbs and spices. You’ll also come across café stalls where lumps of smouldering charcoal are dropped in the coffee glasses to add extra warmth and aroma – the perfect accompaniment for ‘terang bulan’, a sweet made with a scrumptious mix of chocolate and peanuts. After the meal, sit back and enjoy a spot of crowd watching as traditional Javanese music plays over the café’s crackly sound system.
A full day of sightseeing today begins with a visit to the Sultan’s Palace, or ‘Kraton’, followed by the famous ‘Water Castle’. Later, learn how to make traditional Javanese batik, before a cultural cabaret featuring fine local cuisine and classical dance.
One of Asia’s most beautiful buildings, the Kraton is a fine example of traditional ‘joglo’ architecture, featuring sandy-floored courtyards that open via carved doors into chambers surmounted by traditional tiled roofs. Inside, ornately decorated apartments and reception rooms house a selection of royal treasures in a small museum. Standing in the palace grounds, the Taman Sari Water Castle is an exquisite, mid-18th-century leisure complex of gardens, pavilions and ponds offering a perfect retreat from the heat. For lunch, we recommend at meal at Bale Raos restaurant, where you can dine on regal Javanese cuisine of a kind enjoyed by the local Sultans.
In the afternoon, join a batik workshop to learn about the ancient philosophies and practical techniques of this distinctively Javanese art form, in which hot wax is ‘drawn’ on to cloth to resist layers of dye. By the end of the workshop you’ll have made your very own ‘stampe’ cap – the distinctive local headgear.
Featuring lavish costumes and jewellery, Classical Javanese dance usually enacts scenes from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, in which the hero, Rama, struggles to recapture his new bride, Sita, from the clutches of the evil demon, Ravana.
Check out early to visit the UNESCO-listed Prambanan Temple, followed by the Candi Mendut and Candi Pawon temple complexes in the same region. You’ll arrive shortly after lunch at Magelang, a springboard for Borobudur, where you’ll be spending two nights.
Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, Prambanan was constructed in the mid-850s AD, but deserted only a couple of generations later – probably because of volcanic activity in the area. Only in the early 19th century was the complex re-discovered. Substantially reconstructed, its crowning glory remains the elaborately carved, 47-metre-tall sanctuary tower surmounting the site’s central shrine. The spectacle of this extraordinary behemoth soaring above the surrounding palm canopy, swathed in smoke from village fires, ranks among the most memorable Southeast Asia has to offer.
Later, you’ll have the chance of visiting two lesser known temple sites, Candi Mendut and Candi Pawon, both older and less visited than Prambanan.
Rise before dawn for the short drive to Borobudur in time for sunrise. Later, explore a nearby village by bicycle, visiting local craft workshops and a typical rural family home in the company of your guide.
Watching the first rays of daylight illuminate the faces of 1200-year old stone Buddhas at Borobudur ranks among the highlights of this trip. The great statues gaze west over a plateau of lush rice fields and palm groves to the plume of smoke rising from the summit of Gunung Merapi. Ash from the volcano buried the mighty stupa until the early 19th century, when British and Dutch officials re-discovered the site. It’s now Java’s most visited attraction, and an active place of worship and pilgrimage hub of UNESCO World Heritage status.
Just west of the stupa, Candirejo is a typical Javanese village where you can experience rural life at close quarters. Cycling around the fields with your guide you’ll see local farmers at work in their fruit orchards and rice terraces. In the course of the tour you’ll sample some traditional local snacks and try your hand at gamelan, Java’s ancient musical form.
Re-join your driver after breakfast for the two-hour drive north to Semarang airport, where you’ll catch a flight across the Java Sea to Pangkalan Bun, on the south coast of Kalimantan. A car and driver will be waiting for the short transfer to Kumai Port where you will board your houseboat. Spend the remainder of the day cruising the Sekonyer River.
Covering 4,000 square kilometres of tropical heath and swamp forest on a low-lying peninsula jutting into the Java Sea, Tanjung Puting is Kalimantan’s premier nature reserve. The reason for its great popularity is its 1,000-strong population of orangutans, who live semi-wild around three feeding stations deep inside the park – part of the famous Camp Leakey rehabilitation programme, which helps the animals adapt to life in the wild if they have been orphaned or captured. As well as the ginger-haired ‘Man of the Forest’, Tanjung Puting supports viable populations of gharial crocodiles, proboscis and red-leaf monkeys. If you’re extremely fortunate, you may even spot a clouded leopard – a creature so rare and elusive it was only identified as a separate species in 2006.
After breakfast on board, you’ll arrive at Pondok Tanggui Rehabilitation Centre in time for the morning feeding session at 9am. Later, return to your houseboat and continue to Camp Leakey, where you’ll spend the afternoon jungle trekking and watching the resident orangutans in action.
As Tanjung Puting is a roadless park, the only way to explore the area in comfort is by cruise boat. As the journey unfolds, the Sekonyer river narrows and its banks fill with spiky pandanus bushes, with vivid yellow gardenia and ranks of stately dipterocarp trees behind. Orangutans nesting in the trees, gibbons swinging through the branches, crocs drifting through the still and hornbills flitting through the tropical canopy are common sights as you glide deeper into the jungle. Night-times on board, with the nocturnal sounds of the forest filling the air, are no less memorable.
Head back down the river to Kumai after breakfast to catch your onward flight to Surabaya, where you’ll spend the night.
You will arrive in Surabaya in the late afternoon with the evening at leisure to explore if you so wish. Perhaps visit the warrenous Arab Quarter, or ‘Kampong Arab’, which sprawls around the city’s oldest and most revered mosque, the Mesjid Ampel, stopping for a spiced coffee and samosa in a local café.
Today you’ll fly from Surabaya to Bali – an hour’s flying time. Your guide and driver will be waiting at the airport to transfer you to your hotel, a three-hour journey north through the island’s interior.
With so much of Bali these days over-developed, we prefer to whisk clients up into the mountains, where you’ll experience a much more sedate, traditional and authentically Balinese way of life – as well as some of the most wonderful scenery and monuments in the region.
Munduk is a rural village surrounded by extinct volcanoes, swathed in tropical forest and coffee plantations, and drained by sparkling rivers that flow over numerous spectacular waterfalls. The area also holds Bali’s most beautiful temple, a multi-tiered pagoda that rises from shimmering Tamblingan Lake, which you’ll visit the following day.
For now, relax and savour the sublime tropical scenery surrounding your resort from the comfort of your bungalow balcony and hotel pool.
Spend the day exploring the wonderful landscape around Munduk by a combination of four-wheel drive ‘Fin Komodo’ buggy, mountain bikes and walking, in the company of our expert local guide. Highlights include the Lembah Jinn Waterfall and a visit to a typical Balinese rice-farming village.
Our signature experience in Munduk is a full-day’s expedition by 4WD buggies, which are stable and great fun to drive! You’ll also have the option of a mountain bike ride (85% of it downhill) and a choice of walks to various waterfalls. A visit to Tambilangan Lake at sunset to see the much photographed Water Temple is another possibility.
After breakfast, re-join your driver for the return trip to Bali airport, where you’ll pick up a flight to Labuan Bajo, a small harbour settlement on East Nusa Tenggara. The town serves as a springboard for Komodo dragon safaris on the surrounding islands and holds a good selection of hotels and restaurants.
Located on a half-moon bay surrounded by steep hills, Labuan Bajo is the region’s main transport hub, and has a pleasantly lively feel, particularly in the evenings, when its bars fill with visitors from the nearby resorts. If you can tear yourself away from your luxury villa, we’ll arrange transport back into town at sunset time, when the restaurants on the harbourside do a roaring trade. The Paradise Bar has a particularly fine view over the bay and hosts live music most evenings. The restaurant at your hotel, Atlantis on the Rock, has equally good sunset views from its raised terrace – and a reputation for serving fine local seafood straight off the boats.
Check out of the Plataran Komodo Resort to begin your live-aboard cruise, which starts with a ‘welcome aboard’ drink with the crew of the Pinisi Felicia, your floating home for the next three days and two nights. Once the formalities are concluded, you’ll sail for three hours to Rinca Island for your first dragon safari of the trip.
The world’s largest lizard, the legendary Komodo dragon, survives on 5 islands in eastern Indonesia – the most accessible of them Rinca. Like neighbouring Komodo, it’s starkly beautiful, with parched, undulating hills of bleached grass and spindly lontar palms falling to turquoise bays and pale, pink-sand beaches.
In order to ensure your safety while observing the dragons, expert guides and rangers will accompany you throughout your safari. Sightings are almost guaranteed: around ten of the lizards congregate at a feeding point near the park station on Rinca, so you’ll probably get to see them in your first ten minutes. Also commonly sighted during wildlife treks here are cockatoos and megapodes, a rare bird resembling a turkey.
Later, continue to Kalong Island, where the Felicia will moor for the night in a secluded bay. ‘Kalong’ means ‘bats’. Tens of thousands of the creatures live in the mangroves lining the island’s coastline and at sunset they all they leave their roosts to search for food – a superb spectacle against the saffron skies at dusk.
If you’re wondering where “that” million-dollar view is featured in all the tourism literature and travel blogs on the Komodo National Park, today will provide the answer, as the Felicia sails to beautiful Padar Island.
Lying midway between Komodo and Rinca Islands, Padar is an outcrop of sharp-ridged hills fringed by turquoise water. The red-brown of the bleached grass contrasts to spectacular effect with the cobalt and lapis colours of the sea water and brilliant-white and pink coral sand beaches. The perfect place from which to admire this spectacle is a hilltop 45minutes’ climb up from the bay where the Felicia will moor. The cove is lined by exquisite soft sand and offers some of the best snorkelling and diving in the region, with well-preserved coral reefs and a wealth of colourful sea life.
In the morning, the Felicia will anchor off Kanawa Island, another wonderful place to swim and snorkel. Later, you’ll return to Labuan Bajo for your return flight to Bali, where you’ll be transferred on arrival to your hotel in Sanur for a three-night stay.
Kanawa is encircled by well-preserved reefs that support an impressive array of sea life, from soft corals to manta ray and marine turtles. The latter nest on the island’s beaches, which are some of the loveliest in the Komodo National Park. You have ample time to savour its charms before the 90-minute cruise back to Flores in the afternoon.
Relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of the beach today. A range of cultural activities are also on offer for more restless souls, from traditional Indonesian cookery to circus skills!
Sometime dubbed ‘Snore’ by its (mostly youthful) detractors, Sanur is the most laid back of the main resorts on the south coast – one of many reasons why we like it so much! The others are the spellbinding views of Gunung Agung’s conical top to the northeast, excellent diving sites and facilities, and the abundance of space on the beach itself – a beautiful, 5-km spread of golden sand fringed by palm trees and vivid turquoise water.
Spend the day at leisure, snorkelling, scuba diving, visiting local temples and lazing on the beach. In the evening, consider a visit to Sindhu Night Market – a great place to sample tasty Balinese cuisine.
Sanur’s popular night market is one of the best places on the island to sample traditional street food. Look out for ‘martabak’, a soft pancake stuffed with spicy veg and chicken, the sweet version, ‘martabak manis’, is an equally scrumptious, buttery treat often featuring chocolate and peanuts, and Balinese-style ‘satay’, where minced chicken is mixed with a spicy paste of shallots, chillies and lime, barbequed over hot coals and served on fresh banana leaves.
Time to bid farewell to Indonesia as you transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK.
✓ International flights from London
✓ 17 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers
✓ English-speaking guides
✓ Breakfast daily
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
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