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Adventure Cruises in Indonesia
Explore the Indonesian archipelago's tropical islands, with friendly locals and untouched by mass tourism.
Indonesian cruises will take visitors through one of the most beautiful yet comparatively unexplored countries in the world. Though Bali has a well-developed resort culture, the rest of the country is largely untouched by tourism and ripe for explorations and discovery. With over 13,000 islands, Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic country and best explored aboard a small boat cruise. A cruise of the Indonesian islands takes visitors from the beaches of Bali and Sasak villages of Lombok, to the dragons of Komodo and the stone spires of Raja Ampat, not to mention the volcano-studded Spice Islands and the remote isles of Southeast Sulawesi.
A luxury small ship cruise in Indonesia will take visitors to some of the archipelago’s best and most beautiful islands. Sailing through the Indonesian islands on a traditional Indonesian phinisi ship will give visitors the opportunity to indulge in some of the best snorkelling in the world, to explore remote islands and hike through jungles to spectacular waterfalls and a chance to interact with locals. Meanwhile, for the more adventurous traveller, thrill at the chance to explore sea-flooded caves and visit the islands Rinca, Komodo or Padar to encounter the famous Komodo dragons.
Bali is arguably Indonesia’s best known island and the starting point for many Indonesia cruises. Small boat cruises typically focus on the outlying, less-visited Nusa Penida islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida itself. Here, visitors find the Bali they dreamt of, studded with secluded beaches and karst caves. From the uninhabited island of Pulau Menjangan, visitors can snorkel with clownfish and angelfish.
Lombok is considered one of Indonesia’s best islands, given its gorgeous beaches, mighty waterfalls and the unique culture of the Sasak people. Visitors to Lombok will hike through the jungle to the spectacular Sindang Gila, a 40-foot tiered waterfall, before visiting the village of Senaru to delve into the Sasak people’s unique blend of ancient Animism and Islam. Much of Lombok’s beauty, however, is found off the main island and under the waters surrounding the nearby Gili Islands, including beautiful Gili Sulat, site of some of the best snorkelling in the region.
Komodo is famous for its Komodo dragons, but this driest of the Indonesian islands has so much more to offer than its monsters! Arid and hot, Komodo island and its sisters, Rinca and Padar, are rife with wildlife, from large mammals such as deer, buffalo and wild pigs, to sulfur-crested cockatoos, jungle chickens, and the white-breasted sea eagle, while sharks and sea turtles cruise undersea. But, let’s be honest, most visitors come for the Komodo dragons, the largest lizards in the world. Komodo National Park, which encompasses all three main islands, is home to over 3000 dragons, giving travellers plenty of opportunities to spot one of these near-mythical beasts—from a distance, of course . . .
Raja Ampat is a series of hundreds of islands, with most Indonesian sailing cruises visiting the islands of Misool, Batanata and Waigeo. Visitors will drift through the mushroom-shaped karst spires of Misool in search for cave paintings and undersea graveyards, hike through the mangrove forests of Batanata to splendid waterfalls, and visit traditional fishing villages on Waigeo. Meanwhile, animal lovers can scan the canopy for birds of paradise and snorkel the crystal waters in search of sharks, manta rays and seahorses.
The Spice Islands, also known as the Moluccas or Maluku Islands, played an important role in the spice trade. For over a thousand years, the islands have been the source of spices such as cloves and nutmeg, which were then valued nearly as highly as gold. Indonesian cruises to the islands include a deep dive into the history of the islands, the spice trade and the opportunity to visit the nutmeg plantations still in use today. In addition, the Moluccas feature spectacular palm-lined beaches and towering volcanoes, including the still active Gunung Api.
Southeast Sulawesi is especially untrammelled by tourists and Indonesian cruise itineraries including this region are often new, giving travellers an opportunity to feel like real explorers and pioneers. Sulawesi cruises travel across the Flores Sea, stopping along the way to explore the area’s many islands and atolls while watching for manta rays and whale sharks. In the area of Botubarani, visitors may get the chance to swim with these gentle giants. Village visits will allow visitors to engage with the locals and experience the unique cultures of this remote land.
Kalimantan, also known as Central Borneo, has been called Southeast Asia’s Amazon, due to its thick jungle, meandering rivers and varied wildlife. Among its many animal species, though, Kalimantan’s most famous resident is without question the orangutan. Certain Indonesia cruises will include an initial stop and river cruise through parts of Kalimantan, allowing visitors the opportunity to experience a true jungle adventure, complete with face-to-face encounters with the red-pelted orangutans.
Best time to cruise Indonesia
Indonesia is a large country, stretching across the equator from Southeast Asia into Oceania. Given this, it experiences a varied climate which will differ from region to region and even island to island. It is essential to plan ahead as the best time to visit Indonesia will depend on your chosen small boat cruise itinerary and the islands included.
October to April in Indonesia is the wet season in Bali and Lombok, with higher humidity and more frequent rains. This period, however, is the dry season in the Spice Islands and Papua.
May to September in Indonesia are the dry season throughout the islands, except in the Spice Islands and Papua, where it will be rainier and more humid.
Note that July and August are the peak season in Indonesia, with far more tourists and higher prices.
It should also be noted that June and July in the Indonesian region of Raja Ampat is unofficially considered windy season, when the waters may be choppier and small boat cruises slightly less comfortable.
How to get to Indonesia?
Flights to Indonesia will typically be to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, in Jakarta, on the island of Java, or to Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, also known as Denpasar International Airport. From either international airport, visitors can fly to their Indonesian cruise departure point. Note that direct flights to Indonesia are rare from Europe or North America. Many cruise departure points will require a connecting flight within Indonesia.
Where do Indonesia cruises depart from?
Indonesia luxury cruises typically depart from Sorong, on West Papua, from Ternate, in the Spice Islands, from Labuan Bajo, on Flores, from the island of Bali, or from Gorantolo, on North Sulawesi.
If your cruise departs from Bali, you will fly into Ngurah Rai International Airport, also known as Denpasar International Airport, and make your way to Sanur, a popular meeting point for Indonesia cruise operators on Bali. From Sanur, a shuttle will take you to Padang Bai (also called Padangbai and Padang Bay) or Amed, approximately two hours from Sanur. This is a common departure point for cruises that include the Lesser Sunda Islands, such as Bali and Lombok.
If your chosen cruise leaves from Labuan Bajo, on Flores, you will fly into Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, also known as Denpasar International Airport, and fly to Flores, with a possible connecting flight in Makassar, on South Sulawesi. This is a common departure point for cruises of Komodo and the islands of Nusa Tenggara
If your cruise leaves from Sorong, on West Papua, you will fly to Jakarta or Bali and, from there, fly to Sorong, with a possible connecting flight in Makassar.
If your cruise leaves from Ternate, you will fly into Jakarta or Bali and, from there, fly to Ternate, with a possible connecting flight in Makassar. This is a common departure point for cruises of the Spice Islands.
If your cruise departs from Gorantolo, you will fly into Bali and, from there, fly to Gorantolo, with a connecting flight in Makassar. This departure point is for Sulawesi cruises only.
If your cruise includes Kalimantan, you will fly into Jakarta or Bali and, from there, fly to the town of Palangkaraya, on Kalimantan. After the Central Borneo portion of your trip, you will return to Jakarta or Bali to continue your small boat cruise.
Indonesia Cruise Tips
- Indonesia cruises offer a variety of experiences and activities so plan ahead when deciding on an itinerary.
- If your arrival includes a connecting flight within Indonesia (in Makassar, for example), it is recommended to arrive at least a day before your Indonesian cruise departure date.
- Indonesia luxury cruises offer ample opportunities for snorkelling so you may wish to bring your own gear.
- Much of Indonesia’s beauty is found underwater, so a waterproof camera is recommended.
- Though each island and region has a dry and wet season, note that a tropical climate means it could rain at any time, so pack accordingly.
- Sunscreen and plenty of water are a must when visiting Komodo’s arid interior.
- Note that passports must be valid for six months to be allowed into the country.
- If you are asked to fill out a disembarkation card, you will need to keep your half so as to hand it back upon leaving the country.
- The 30-day visa is the most common and will likely accommodate any Indonesian cruise itinerary. Visas can be applied for in advance, which is recommended, or upon arrival. Visas on arrival cost $35 US dollars and the exact amount, in US currency, is required.
Please contact our reservations team to book your next small ship cruise to Indonesia.
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Many varieties of tropical fish, warm waters, colourful coral - all seen while snorkeling
Cruising Indonesia in July on the Komodo Cruise Anema