Indonesia: My Don’t Miss List + Photo Tips

May 1, 2016

Filed in: Travel

–Top ten don’t miss list for photographers and adventurous travelers

10. Stargazing from a remote island. If you happen to be there during summer months – especially when there’s a new moon – make sure you step outside to see the Milky Way stretching across the sky. It varies somewhat with time of year and location, but between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. is primetime to view this astrological wonder. Indonesia has fantastically dark skies on some of the smaller islands or more remote regions. Try Tomia, one island making up part of the collective dive paradise Wakatobi.

*Photo tip: Be sure to bring a tripod and wide angle lens (something in the 10-16 mm range works well).

9. Rent scooters to explore the coast. Motorbikes and scooters are the primary source of transportation in most areas. Be VERY careful and be sure to wear the provided helmet. If you are inexperienced on a moped or similar vehicle or nervous about driving in any way, I would not recommend this for you. The streets can be chaotic, but once you get out of the main town areas riding can be a very fun, freeing and inexpensive way to get around. A rental is usually between 50k to 60k rupiah for the day.

8. Horseback ride on the beach at sunset, Kuta Lombok. There are many horses and tours on Lombok and the nearby Gilis. You can often see children bathing their ponies at sunset in the calm ocean bays. I would recommend going at sunset on the beach and through the shallow waters on a private ride. *Photo tip: Try “tracking” your subject to create a motion blur in the background. This will usually take a number of tries and some fine tuning to get your shutter speed and focus where you want it

7. Explore the Gili Islands. I loved the feeling on the Gili Islands, quaint enough to ride a bike around (there are no cars only horse drawn carts) but still bustling with activities to do. There are numerous opportunities to freedive and scuba dive or simply enjoy the clear blue water. *Photo tip: Visit Gili Trawangan for the afternoon. Although it’s known as more of the party island there are 3 different swings built over the water on the western side that make for great photos at sun down.

6. Hike Ijen, Banyuwangi East Java. Nothing quite like waking up and starting to hike up a volcano at 2 a.m. to see blue flaming lava and a gorgeous, yet deadly, hydrochloric green lake. The blue flames are not actually lava but rather sulfuric gas escapes out of vents at high pressure and extremely high temperatures (around 1,100 F or 600 C) combusting when it comes into contact with air. The bright blue light and cooling liquid sulfur give the impression of flaming blue lava. Gas mask firmly on your face (trust me you WANT a mask, guides at the base should provide one before you start the hike) you can watch from 5 feet away as this crazy process takes place. Sunrise over the lake is stunning. Be forewarned this is a very cool, but extremely popular activity so expect to be hiking and photographing alongside at least 50-100 other people.

5. Meru Betiri National Park, East Java. East Java in general is known to be crowded, but our drive from Banyuwangi to Sukamade in the National Park felt like one of the most adventurous and borderline crazy things we did on our trip. Eight hours of dirt roads and river crossings to reach the Sukamade Turtle Sanctuary where we released baby turtles in the morning. We passed miles of tree farms and forests without seeing another car. Green Bay was our favorite stop, with a cliff jump and bright blue crescent bay of water. Best to bring your.. GoPro or other small waterproof action camera.

4. Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep Waterfalls, Lombok. Located in Senaru near the base of where the trek to Mt. Rinjani begins stand two incredibly photogenic waterfalls. They are on the same hike with the first just a slight detour 10 minutes into the trail. Wear water shoes if you have them as you need to cross the stream a few times. Make sure you pack your trash out.

Best to bring your… tripod and ND filter for some gorgeous slow shutter captures. I’d throw in mosquito spray too.

3. Surf at G-land, East Java. An absolute heaven for anyone who likes to surf and get off the beaten path. After spending almost 5 weeks in Indonesia and surfing on Lombok and Bali, I have to say G-land was unanimously a group favorite. Even though it has a reputation for having waves of consequence (which it does), there are also a few mellower spots where you can still surf perfect head high lefts with not another person in sight. Best to go during the dry season April – October. Photo tip: Wild deer make their way out onto the exposed low tide reef at sunrise and sunset making for a really unique and surreal photo opportunity.

2. Diving in Wakatobi Sulawesi Tenggara Province. Second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Wakatobi has the highest number of reef and fish species in the world. This 1.4 million hectare marine park has undeniably some of the clearest water and best diving in the world. As someone who freedives and scuba dives I was beside myself. The water is warm enough where I didn’t even wear a wetsuit on some of my deeper dives (80-90 ft). The highlight for me was swimming with a giant bait ball of jack fish. Underwater photography chances abound. Best to bring your … underwater housing and fisheye lens. *Photo tip: Getting low and angling up towards your subject and being as close as possible usually get the best results.

1. Summit Gunang Rinjani, Lombok. This 3-4 day trek was one of the most memorable and incredible hikes I’ve ever done. The diversity of environments left all of us speechless. From lush forests, crater lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, steep volcanic cliffs, and rolling hills Mt. Rinjani has it all. Physically quite challenging, but well worth the effort and time. Best to bring your… warm clothes and rain jacket. The weather changes quickly especially in the start of the dry season.  

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