The eastern part of Indonesia is a magical place where peepers can find plenty of surreal sceneries. Mount Kelimutu is not an exception. Located in Flores island, Kelimutu is famous for the three lakes at its crater. They were turquoise, darker turquoise and black when I was there. However, due to geological phenomenon or weather condition, the colors are always changing. Some sources said that the colors can even turn to red, blue and white—very interesting!

In the local language, “keli” means mountain and “mutu” means boiling. The literal meaning is quite representative since some parts of the national park is forbidden for visitor due to geothermal instability. The safest trekking path, about one to two hours walk, lies between Moni (the entry point to Kelimutu) and the mountain.

Kelimutu is 66 km from Ende, or 83 km from Maumere. There’s a bus service, called “oto kol”, from Ende to Maumere that passes through Moni. The best time to go there is in July and August. Peepers are advised to wake up before dawn to walk the trekking path so you won’t miss the early sunrise—it will leave you breathless.

Derawan Islands

Being an archipelagic country, islands hopping is one of the must have journeys for travelling in Indonesia. Derawan Islands is a spot in Borneo – in the coast of East Kalimantan – that has heavenly islands including the famous four: Derawan, Sangalaki, Kakaban and Maratua. Pristine seascape is in the main menu. The turquoise sea with fishes, coral reefs, manta rays and sea turtles are within vicinity. Most people will always be tempted to jump and roam the ocean in these islands, either by snorkeling, diving or just by swimming.

Yet the place is heaven not just because of the landscape and the seascape, but also the warm tropical sunshine and the calm atmosphere of the village life. Derawan and Maratua are the only islands that are inhabited. Peepers usually fly to Berau or Tarakan (where it will be the last stop to collect cash as there will not be any ATM in Derawan Islands) and travel 3 hours by speedboat to Derawan or Maratua island. There are more options to stay in Derawan while Maratua offers more of private/honeymoon-type lodges. From these two islands, peepers can rent a boat to go to the other islands or to certain dive spots.

Another points for Derawan Islands is the unique ecosystem. The entire area is considered as a Marine Protected Area due to its rich biodiversity. Some say that the diversity of underwater life in Derawan Islands is among the top five in the world. In addition, Sangalaki is the nesting site for the endangered green turtles, where everyday there will be turtles laying their eggs in the sand or swimming to the sea. As for Kakaban, this island is very unique because it has a large pond of brackish water inhabited by thousands of non-stinging jellyfish. Swimming surrounded by jellyfish? Definitely sounds like something you must do before you die.

Sunrise at Borobudur Temple

Borobudur Temple, Central Java, never fails to reap admiration from both domestic and international visitors as the center of many points of interests. From architectural side, the temple was built in 9th century as a single complex that represent Buddhist cosmology, with 72 Buddha statues seated in the perforated stupa and spread around its circular upper platforms. From religious side, Borobudur is the center of annual gathering during the full moon in May or June, where the Buddhists in Indonesia observe Vesak, the day when Siddharta Gautama attained the wisdom to become the Buddha. These are some of the reasons why it is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Among many ways available to explore the temple, it is best to see at dawn where the sun is still favorable and the place is not too overcrowded with tourists. Borobudur is officially open at around 7 AM. For earlier visit, there are two spots to experience the sunrise. First, is from the upper location such as from Amanjiwo Resort and Stumbu Hills, Karangrejo Village, 2.5 km from southwest Borobudur where the entire complex of this gorgeous monument will be visible gradually among the mist. The other one is from Manohara Hotel that is located inside the complex.

To see the sunrise, visitors must come to Manohara Hotel lobby at around 4.30 AM. Bring along a warm jacket and comfortable footwear for this trip. After checking in at the lobby, each guest will be given a flashlight to climb up Borobudur until the top of Arupadhatu. Do not be discouraged after climbing in dark and find only blackness. Find the best spot to view the sunrise and wait for some minutes. Then, the dramatic and exotic view of the sun rising and peeping through Merapi Mountain, shining on the stupas of the temple, will surely take your breath away. After a while, go around the temple on its each four sides to view different kinds of landscapes. Enjoy the morning sunlight while taking a closer look at the dewy historical sculptures and statues. The unique tranquility of the temple at the early hours may also be used for meditation. These are indeed luxury most people will not have during official opening hours due to the crammed tourists and hot daylight.

The experience of visiting Borobudur at sunrise will surely give visitors more insight and appreciation for this world heritage, left by our ancestors centuries ago.

Segara Anakan Lagoon

Lagoon, a body of shallow sea water separated from the sea by certain form of barriers, is one of the unique landscapes that can always make people gasp. Among its thousands islands, Indonesia is lucky to have amazing lagoons, including this Segara Anakan lagoon that located in Sempu Island. This 900 hectares island can be reached by 20 minutes boat ride from Sendang Biru beach, 70 km away South of Malang, East Java. Sempu is uninhabited and claimed as nature reserve due to its unspoiled tropical rainforest and biodiversities. There are two trekking paths on this island and the most favorite destination is the one heading to Segara Anakan lagoon through Semut Bay entrance. The path is also recommended because the path is less challenging and the view is more rewarding.

The difficulty of this trekking path depends much on the weather. It can get extremely muddy after rainy seasons. Visitors are advised to get accurate weather information before the trip. In good weather condition, it will take around 2 hours to get into the Segara Anakan, which can double for after-rain trekking. At certain spots, the mud might be knee-deep thus it is necessary to befriend all of the branches and twigs along the path to balance oneself in the walk. All of these efforts will be worthy after viewing the beautiful lagoon. Indeed, this will be a perfect journey for adventurous group travellers.

Segara Anakan is a place similar to lake where people can indulge their lust of snorkeling due to its extremely clear visibility for viewing the underwater scenery of small fishes and coral reefs. Swimmers should not worry of being dragged by the sea current since the wave is very serene thanks to the gigantic coral stones that guarding the lake from big waves off the sea. The water of this ‘lake’ come and go from a large hole on one spot of the stones, giving another memorable scene of splashing waves into the corals before it gets into the lake.

The turquoise calm water lay in contrast with beautiful white-sand beach. The beach also functions as a camping ground for visitors who want to spend the night. There is no fresh water and food sources in this area, thus make sure to bring them for the journey. After swimming or just floating in the lagoon, people usually like to relax in the beach, play with plastic balls, or go around the lagoon. There is one spot in the highest cliff where the border between the ocean and the lake can be best viewed. It is a short track, yet it is not easy. It is advised to bring a friend along for help. If it is possible, bring along a tumbler of coffee for it will taste better to be sipped while enjoying the picturesque scenery.

The Marvelous Landscape of Molo

Not many people know Molo, a rich area managed by indigenous people in the southern part of Mutis Mountain Sanctuary, Timor Tengah Selatan, Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT). The area possesses abundant valuable mineral resources including marble, manganese, gold, oil, gas and many more. One indigenous tribe, Molo, lives in the upstream, while the other indigenous tribes; Amanuban and Amanatun, live in the downstream area.

Unlike the stereotype of NTT that is often perceived to have dry lands, this area is highly fertile and thick with primary forests. Many native biodiversity reside in this eastern part of Indonesia including various birds, butterflies, forest honey, sandalwood and the unique homogeneous forest of Ampupu (Eucalyptus urophylla) that can only be found in Mutis Mountain. It also holds a prominent role as water catchment area since at least three watersheds and 13 rivers are flowing from the mountain to water many areas in Timor Tengah Selatan.

Having a beautiful pretty landscape and super friendly people, this area holds high potentials of tourism that are is still left untouched. High marble mountains and thick-dark-green forests laying under the blue sky reinforce the remarkable scenery in Nausus, one of the peaks in Mutis Mountain where people can capture all of these heavenly view. Green grasses over the pretty lines of Eucalyptus forests seem to invite everyone to gather, camp, play guitar, set bonfires and to sip some ginger tea.

People with excessive adrenaline who love to go on challenging journeys would certainly love Molo. It is one of the most exotic and untouched places in Indonesia. The area can be reached in 2-3 hours by using public land transportation from Kupang to Soe, and another 2-3 hours trip uphill usually by using ojek (motorcycle taxi). One note need to be taken; don’t forget to bring along a sleeping bag, or even take some friends and loved ones to cuddle with, as they will help preserve body heat. It’s cold outside and it’s getting extra colder during the night. However, stargazing on a clear night will be rewarding since people can literally see all the stars in the sky from the marvelous Molo.

Belitung Island

Belitung, an island about 380 km north of Jakarta, is an emerging area that quickly established its position as a most-visited destination, especially after the publication of a best-seller fiction novel, Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Warriors). The novel, written by a native Belitung young man Andrea Hirata, tells about an inspiring struggle of underprivileged elementary school students in the island. What actually exists in the island is far beyond what is stated in the novel.

The place is a natural beauty with its rocky and white sand beaches that are exceptionally unique, spread across the main island and in nearly two hundred surrounding small islands. Belitung island has Tanjung Binga classic pier where the fishing boats are docking. Seeing the dramatic sky while fishing in the wooden pier can indeed be a relaxing moment. Still in the main island, Tanjung Tinggi is a must-see spot due to its gigantic granite rocks and clear white-sand beach.

What should be boldly printed in any Belitung itinerary is islands hopping. Rent a small boat then go to some highlighted islands such as Lengkuas Island, Kepayang Island and other unnamed small islands nearby. The main island itself is best explored by renting a car. Altogether, Belitung is very suitable for group trips. Don’t forget to bring a pair of sunglasses, sunblock and snorkeling gear. Both the upper and underwater views are amazingly pretty and worth every penny.

Belitung is now a heaven for beach-lovers, sunrise and sunset-seekers, photographers and anyone who enjoys beautiful landscapes. Considering its relatively cheap flight (around USD 80 return) and short distance (less than an hour flight) from Jakarta, the place can surely be an appealing option for a long holiday or a quick getaway.