One of the top diving sites in Indonesia, Bunaken Island (Pulau Bunaken) is unsurprisingly very popular with divers around the world.
The Bunaken Marine Park is not only rich with marine lives, but it is also mesmerizing for its water so clear it is truly transparent. It includes the islands of Manado Tua, Siladen, Mantehage, Nain and Nain Kecil.
Come visit here for diving and snorkeling, as it boasts a rich marine life in its Marine National Park. It has an amazing diverse marine life such as 70 different corals, five species of sea turtles, many fish species and even white tip and black tip reef sharks, the almost extinct dugongs, barracuda and even saltwater crocodiles!
Indonesia being a tropical climate of only two seasons, dry and wet, it is best to visit during the dry season to maximize your marine visibility. The dry season is from May to September. Bear in mind though this would be the peak season with a crowd and it might get really hot in the day.
Reefs and fishes during the dive. Photo by mattk1979
What to do
The main thing to do here is to dive! Here you have 20 dive sites to choose from where you can expect to enjoy many hard to find marine lives. Beware that some walls are steeps and current may be strong and sudden in change.
Snorkel at many of the sites above if diving is not your thing, you’ll be pleasantly delighted that there are many marine lives as well in the shallow area.
Hiking to some of the secluded areas is possible but trails are not well marked, so please check with the locals.
Dolphin and whale watching can be arranged along with dive trips or else you may hire a boat privately for this.
Just chill at the beach and enjoy the beautiful sun, seas and the wind.
Some people choose to stay in Manado and do day trips to Bunaken Island but if you have the time, staying on the island itself is well recommended. There are many hotels and dive resorts to choose from and if you are into diving, it is the best way to explore the sea here.
One of the most popular resorts here is the Bunaken Cha Cha Nature Resort *, a luxurious villa by the sea with its very own private beach. Diving can also be arranged from here.
Fly into Manado and then take a boat for to Bunaken, which takes around 45-60 minutes. You may arrange the boat with your resorts or else there is a public boat that leaves every day (except Sunday) at around 2-3pm from Manado to Bunaken. Catch the public boat at the north side of the Manado market. It costs 25,000 Rp one way for foreign travelers while 10,000 Rp for local travelers. You may return with the boat as well via the Bunaken village jetty at around 8-8.30 am.
Get back to Manado for your city fix and then head west for example the world-famous diving site Raja Ampat or onwards to the beautiful Maluku Islands. Else head south to the Togean Islands for more diving opportunities.
Take note that there is a Marine Park fees of 50,000 Rp per day (or 150,000 Rp per year if needed). Please pay at dive resorts, dive shops or resorts wherever applicable and get your pass that would be checked from time to time.
Sunset at Bunaken Island, Indonesia. Photo by d_mcplum
Bukit Lawang is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Indonesia, on the eastern side of Gunung Leuser National Park which is one of the three National Parks in the UNESCO listing for Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra.
With its name literally means “door to the hills”, Bukit Lawang is an Orangutan sanctuary, therefore, many people come for trekking in hope to have sightings of the rare Sumatran Orangutans.
Most times in the year would be a decent for a visit to Bukit Lawang. You may want to take note of rainy seasons at the end of the year but the rain is mainly only in the evening or at night, so do not worry about it impeding your trip.
You may want to check out local Indonesian public holidays, which means that many local tourists will crowd the village, especially on weekends.
Orangutan Viewing Platform where there are twice a day feeding (8 am and 3pm), therefore you will be able to see the Orangutans for sure. Attending the feeding would cost 20,000 Rp though and there is a surcharge for camera at 50,000 Rp. This is usually a good opportunity to learn more about the Orangutans as the national park staff are well qualified and also to take great pictures as the Orangutans normally hang around while munching away the bananas.
What to do
Jungle Trekking Bukit Lawang is one of the best place for jungle trekking as not only you get to bask in the natural jungle that is full of wild flora and fauna that will wow nature enthusiasts. You may have a chance to sight the Orangutans in their natural habitat, though not guaranteed, but possible if you follow your guides’ advises. There is also a nice waterfall on the way to relax and swim. During the trek your guides will also provide you with nice Indonesian food and fruits!
It is not permitted to go into the jungle without a guide but don’t worry as there are many good reliable guides around. Just make sure to ask questions and choose properly to get a quality guide. It would be wise also to check with your guesthouse for recommendations. The price for a jungle trek is 32 USD per day; 80 USD for a 2 days trek with extra of rafting and 3 days trek with rafting can go up is 110 USD. If going for multi-day treks, please make sure you are in a fit condition.
Community note: Please try to make sure your guides do not feed the Orangutans or other wildlife with common food as it may make them sick and in some cases die. Also please try not to get too close to the Orangutans as this would increase the risk of passing viral infections and diseases to them, which will endanger their chance of survival. Do your bit to protect the Orangutans and other wildlife!
There are guest houses dotted along the river in Bukit Lawang that are affordable and reasonably priced, therefore choices are aplenty. Availability of accommodations in Bukit Lawang * here is easy to arrange except during the busy tourist season which is June – August.
Try the local Indonesian food which normally would not disappoint. There are a few restaurants or cafes around that serve good home cook style of Indonesian food. If you want a variety from local food, there are choices of pizza or even vegetarians.
How to get there
Fly in to the nearest city Medan and then from there you can either take a taxi or rent a car/van to get to Bukit Lawang from the airport / hotel.
How to get around
Being a small village, you can cover all around on foot from one side to the other in just 25 minutes. There are three bridges across the river for easy access.
Mount Bromo, which stands tall at 2329 m, is the most iconic and the most hiked mountain in Indonesia. This is one of the top 10 things to do in Java and rightly so. The mountain beckons majestically despite having the entire top blown off and with a crater inside that keeps spewing off-white sulfurous smoke.
Mount Bromo is still one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and some areas are blocked off from tourists due to its imminent danger. It sits inside the massive Tengger caldera (volcanic crater with a diameter approximately 10km), surrounded by the Laut Pasir (sea of sand) of fine volcanic sand.
After an easy hike, travelers are awarded a breathtaking and ethereal landscape during the sunrise.
Myth has it that Mount Bromo is significant to the Tengger people who believe that the site is where their brave prince sacrificed his life for his family. To appease the Gods, the people will offer food and money by throwing it into the crater of the volcano once a year during the annual Kasada (or Kasodo) festival.
Where is it
Mount Bromo is situated inside Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, beside Mount Semeru at East Java, Indonesia.
To be awe in nature’s best combination of beauty and danger, an active volcano that can be so foreboding and desolate yet so beautiful. The view itself is almost out of this world and be the reason enough to go there!
June – August where there is less rain but more tourists. August is also the month for the Kesada / Kesodo festival for the Tengger people if you are interested. With that said, Indonesia has relatively mild weather of just rain or shine. So anytime is a good time to go Mount Bromo. Do check out for local weather when you are there for the best clear sky for your sunrise experience. If you do not have many days, then hope for the best when you are there. Also try to avoid weekends if you do not want the crowd.
Hike up Mount Penanjakan in time to catch the sunrise over Mount Bromo. It takes about 1-2 hours hike to the first vantage point. The sun rises at 5.30 am, therefore, usually, you have to plan when to start hiking depending on your fitness level. Maps and information are readily and easily available at one of the many suitable locations. An extra tip is that you may want to hike earlier to avoid the crowd and get the right spot as you may find a lot of people crowding the vantage point to view the sun rising over Mount Bromo. If you have the time and energy, there is another less-crowded vantage point higher up with an unobstructed view of the sunrise. Find and scale the slope behind the shelter to get to the higher flat land.
Trek down Mount Penanjakan and up to Mount Bromo summit. Here you can trek down and then across 3km sand of sea and then upwards to summit the caldera of Mount Bromo. It takes about 1-2 hours again depending on your fitness level.
Road through Sea of Sand to Mount Bromo’s crater. Photo by dhodie
Where to stay at Mount Bromo
You may find various guesthouses and basic hotels located around Mount Bromo, as that place is popular for tourists. Try to stay nearby so that you can do the morning hike up to catch the sunrise easily. Lots of guesthouses or hotels are situated at the crater rim. Take note that all the prices here, whether hotels or guesthouses or homestays, would be higher than your usual Indonesian ones as it is a popular tourist area.
Cemara Indah I stayed here myself, and it was an overall pleasant stay with a direct view of Mount Bromo. Most important of all is that it is located right behind the trail to start trekking up for the sunrise. Recommended for those who want to do their hike for sunrise independently themselves. After that, come back straight down for the breakfast provided before trekking onwards to the crater rim. Budget to mid-range with prices starting at 50 USD. Check out the latest prices and reviews at Agoda.com *
If you are coming from Surabaya, you are most likely to go via Probolinggo. There are also some options to stay * in this town and take a day trip up to Mount Bromo, such as the good for value Clover Homestay *.
Every lodge, guesthouse or hotel normally serves food as well for travelers. There are also few independent eateries around to choose from, such as Bromo Corner Café and Waroeng Basuki, or you may head on to simple roadside warungs and enjoy basic local Indonesian food. You should also try out the hot Javanese coffee (kopi panas). All restaurants will open by 3 am as that is when most people start to wake for the hike to catch the sunrise.
Fly into Juanda international airport at Surabaya. There are direct flights from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Jakarta, and Bali. If you are flying domestic from Jakarta, you may take Sriwijaya that flies twice weekly. Take note of domestic departures cost is 40,000 Rp tax while international departures cost is 200, 000 Rp tax.
Distance from Surabaya airport to the Mount Bromo national park is about 70km, and the time it takes us around 4 hours due to heavy traffic and congestion. On the way, you would pass Probolinggo town, which lies on the major highway across java. Here is where most backpackers would usually share a transport to take them up to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National park. Or get a complete overnight sunrise tour from Surabaya to Mt. Bromo and back.
How to get around
If you are able, then trekking or walking is the best way to experience Mount Bromo but you may take ponies or horses across the sea of sand to the bottom of the steep stairs that leads to the crater.
Where to go nearby
Malang – Cultural capital of East Java Ijen crater – 6 hours drive away. Magnificent turquoise sulphur lake that exudes flames, blue fire at night and smoky white in the day.
Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru, Java, Indonesia. Photo by Kai Seidler
Bring a jacket and gloves as it may get chilly up there. In a pinch, you can rent a jacket at around 25k rupiah and buy a glove at 20k rupiah.