Written by Junanto Xu
Edited by Beverley Lennon
There may be no better place to island hop than in Indonesia. After all, the South East Asian country is made up of well over 17,000 islands dotted over its archipelago.
Most visitors to Indonesia arrive in busy Jakarta, the capital city located on the island of Java. From there, they usually branch out with inter-island flights and boats to other areas of the country, like the pristine, Komodo Islands or another paradise-on-earth, Raja Ampat.
Now, we bet you’re a travel lover but if long transit hours from one destination to the next sound daunting to you, you’ll be happy to know that there are some Indonesian islands that are closer to home than you think!
Gone are the days of long planning hours as to help inspire your spur-of-the-moment getaway, we compiled a list of 8 great, hassle-free Indonesian islands, all within a direct flight and short boat ride away from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. They include tried and true destinations such as Bali and Lombok, but also some you may not have thought of for a quick break.
So what are you waiting for? As from now you get to enjoy spontaneous travels during the long weekends!
Feature images by: mybuenalife, michelledoreen, trizambrana and malvava
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1. Bali’s offshore islands
Explore beyond the Island of Gods
Of course, there is no denying that Bali is a wonderful island with numerous natural wonders, a tried-and-true beach destination in Indonesia that’s beloved by honeymooners, backpackers, and families alike but that means there’s a crowd too!
Whether you’ve been to Bali a million times or want to break from the chaos of the island, why not explore its beyonds? With equally impressive natural wonders, beautiful lagoons and powdery beaches, these nearby islands let you beat the crowd in peace and serenity (with a little party too!).
Getting to Bali
From Singapore: Direct flight (Total cost: From SGD 175)
Take Tigerair, AirAsia, Garuda Indonesia, Jetstar, Scoot, SilkAir or Singapore Airlines from Singapore Changi Airport to Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali. Flight duration: 2 hours 40 minutes
From Malaysia: Direct flight (Total cost: From RM 400)
Take Malindo Air, AirAsia, Batik Air or Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali. Flight duration: 3 hours
1-a. Discover the triplet islands – Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida
What to expect: Ocean view restaurants, groovy beach clubs, stunning natural wonders and more.
Much less of Bali’s overly-touristy scene, the Nusa Islands remain partially untouched, giving the trio a very nature-friendly, authentic laid-back ambience.
The three little islands are located about a 40-minute boat ride away and are ideal for a day trip or an overnight stay, all depends on how much of the islands you want to see and experience (some even spend over a week discovering the islands!).
While the biggest island of Nusa Penida offers principally rugged landscapes and sceneries out of sci-fi movies, know that you’re in for equally bumpy roads and that it might take you over an hour to travel from on side of the island to the next. Also, forget glamorous beach clubs, organic cafes or trendy restaurants as the island is rather undeveloped. However, it does house some of the most majestic natural sights, we let the pictures speak for themselves!
The middle child is the island of Nusa Ceningan, where life looks like Bali some 30 years ago. The island is the smallest of the trio, and is nestled in the middle of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan. Here, you’ll find a quiet ambience with dazzling clear and blue water as well as a few funky open-air bar and restaurants and crazy cliff jumping spots.
Another alternative is to explore Nusa Lembongan, where you’ll also find some crazy things to do. In between dreamy beaches, spectacular natural phenomenons and a dazzling underwater world, you sure will come to realise you’ve made the right choice by exploring beyond just Bali!
Getting to Nusa Lembongan & Ceningan:
Take a fast boat via Perama Tour & Travel (90 minutes) or Scoot Fast Cruises (35 minutes) from Sanur beach Harbour to Nusa Lembongan. Prices start as low as Rp. 165,000 (Approximately SGD 15/ RM 47) for Perama Tour & Travel and Rp. 523,056 (Approximately SGD 50/ RM 152) for Scoot Fast Cruises. To travel from Nusa Lembongan to Nusa Ceningan, you can simply cross the yellow bridge that connects the two islands.
For more options, click here
Getting to Nusa Penida:
Take a fast boat via Mola Mola Express or Maruti Group (30 minutes) from Sanur beach Harbour to Nusa Penida. Prices start from Rp. 225,000 (Approximately SGD 21 / RM 65) for Mola Mola Express and Rp. 275,000 (Approximately SGD 26 / RM 80) for Maruti Group. For more options, click here
Everything you need to know about Nusa Islands: The complete guide to the Maldives of Bali – the Nusa islands (Lembongan, Ceningan and Penida)
1-b. A secluded island-scene straight out of a fairytale – Menjangan island
What to expect: Lush mangrove forests, spectacular caldera views, lively underwater world, glamping experiences and more.
Read more: Our Menjangan Dynasty Resort Review: 11 Romantic beachfront experiences with glamping in secluded West Bali!
A 4-hour drive from busy Kuta brings you to the wild West Bali, an untouched hidden paradise tucked far away from the main touristy areas in the South, away from all the bars, beach clubs, shops and crowds.
As if that wasn’t enough to make you skip the chaos, it happens that West Bali also homes a marine reserve with Menjangan Island sitting right in the middle of it.
The beautiful and unspoilt island with extraordinary marine landscapes is a secret gem among divers and snorkelers. You’ll be welcomed by creatures such as hawksbill turtles, garden eels and manta rays, with a herd of deer walking up to your boat, yes they come right into the water!
Recommended day trip snorkelling/ diving tour for Menjangan Island: Sea Rovers
Price of day tour: From Rp. 600,000 (Approximately RM 172/ SGD 57), excludes Menjangan Island entrance fee of Rp. 200,000 (Approximately RM 57/ SGD 19)
Contact: +62 811 385 7118
Getting there: If you choose to go with Sea Rovers, they will provide all the transportation you need for the trip. Otherwise, you can rent a car with driver from Central Bali (Contact Pak Wayan: +62 812 3673 3969) for around Rp. 500,000 per day (Approximately RM 146/ SGD 48) to head to Labuhan Lalang harbour in West Bali (4 hours’ drive).
Then, rent a boat at the harbour which costs around Rp. 500,000 (Approximately RM 143/ SGD 47) per person for a return boat trip. The trip to Menjangan Island will take around 30 to 40 minutes.
Recommended place to stay: Menjangan Dynasty Resort, Made Taro – Menjangan HomestayWebsite
2. Look out for Bali’s sister island
Though Bali is a perennial destination that continues to enchant travellers around the world, there is no denial in saying that sometimes, all you want is to find white-sand beaches slightly less travelled and away from the crowd.
A 30-minute flight from Bali brings you to its sister island – Lombok, a real stunner that is as exciting as idyllic. And what is even better is that this island also hides some secret gems of isles clustered on its west coast; take a trip to paradise at the Gili Islands (there aren’t only three of them!).
Getting to Lombok
From Singapore: Direct flight (Total cost: From SGD 324)
Take SilkAir or Singapore Airlines from Singapore Changi Airport to Lombok International Airport. Flight duration: 2 hours 45 minutes
From Malaysia: Direct flight (Total cost: From RM 272)
Take AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Lombok International Airport. Flight duration: 3 hours 10 minutes
2-a. The not-to-be-missed trio – Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno
What to expect: Party vibes, car-free alleys, honeymoon idyll, laid-back vibes (Each island is different!).
Hop from paradise to paradise and discover the unique charms of these three islands. If you’re craving for some crazy good times with your friends, the best bet here is to settle at Gili Trawangan, the party island that never sleeps!
Once you’re ready to go all barefoot, explore Gili Meno, the most untouched of the three Gili islands which is still a little on the rugged laid-back side but has it all to unplug from reality. It makes a good option for honeymooners on the lookout for privacy and almost-empty beaches.
Looking for something in between? Drop by Gili Air. This little paradise is an off-the-beaten-path destination for couples and families alike. It offers calm turquoise waters and slow-paced everything!
TripCanvas Tip: To avoid getting scammed by the locals, head to the Gili Islands from Bali instead of Lombok’s Bangsal Harbour.
How to get to Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno (From Bali):
From Amed, take a fast boat via Freebird Express to reach your prefered Gili Island. It will take around 1 hour 15 minutes to reach the islands and cost Rp. 500,000 (Approximately SGD 47/ RM 144) for one-way trip.
From Padang Bai, use Blue Water Express, for Rp. 671.500 (Approximately SGD 64/ RM 195) to reach your prefered Gili Island. It will take around 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes for a one-way trip.
How to get there from Lombok:
There are two ways for you to get to the Gilis. You may choose to take a public boat from Bangsal Harbour which costs Rp. 15,000 (2 hours, Approximately SGD 1.44/ RM 4.39) or simply opt for a private charter boat via online booking to depart from Teluk Nara (10 minutes to Gili Trawangan; 5 minutes to Gili Air and Gili Meno).
For private boat charter from Teluk Nara, we recommend Lombok Network. Please book your boat ticket prior to your departure date. Some hotels on Gili Trawangan provide private boat transfers from Lombok too, so you might want to check with them.
TripCanvas Tip: We highly discourage taking the public boat if you have limited time and are carrying luggages. These humble public boats are packed to the rafters with people and island supplies, leaving you shoulder-to-shoulder with the crowds.
Do note that there are no public boats departing from Teluk Nara (which is only for private charters), you can only take them from Bangsal Harbour.
Everything you need to know about the Gili Islands: The complete guide to Gili islands (Trawangan, Meno and Air)
2-b. These two islands are almost unknown! – Gili Kedis and Gili Nanggu (From Lombok)
What to expect: Isolated islands, untouched beaches, unexploited nature, plenty of starfishes and more!
There’s more than just the three Gilis!
A boat trip to any Indonesian Island is likely to be a pleasure, but Gili Kedis and Gili Nanggu – with their brilliant navy blue seas to the lightest, clearest turquoises imaginable – offer iconic landscapes, making them ideal for spending the day relaxing in the sun.
Needless to say, they are the best places to snorkel in. But the real steal is this – the giant starfish in the shallow waters around the two deserted islands!
Boat transfer to Gili Kedis and Gili Nanggu: Boat transport Gili (Anji)
Price: From Rp. 250,000 (Approximately SGD 24/ RM 73) for 8 people
Boat Rental Service Address: Sekotong Barat, Central Sekotong, West Lombok Regency, West Nusa Tenggara 83365, Indonesia (5 minutes’ boat ride)
Contact: +62 852 3704 1873
Stay at: Silver Fern Beach Retreat, The Suites Lombok
Interested in a Gili Kedis + surrounding islands private day tour (including boat transfers)? Book this package from KLOOK!
Everything you need to know about Lombok: The first-timer’s guide to Lombok: Best of things to do, attractions, beaches, islands and hotels!
3. Belitung Island
Giant granite stones like in Seychelles!
What to expect: Beaches with stunning limestones and untainted islands!
Long weekend? School holidays or simply a treat? Time for an island getaway somewhere close by! We want something with great weather, nice beaches and unique places to explore!
Does that sound like what Batam, Bintan or Langkawi have to offer? Oh no, not again!! See and do what others have not! You will definitely want to skip Langkawi’s usuals when you get to know that a mere 2.5-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur can take you to a cluster of lesser-known exotic islands – Belitung!
With pure and pristine beaches, Belitung is gaining exposure and is now ready to welcome tourists with attractions, landmarks and resorts! The main island is surrounded by numerous offshore islands with matching charm and beauty!
Don your swimsuit, but also your greed and hunger for seafood as Belitung is a real feast for both your eyes and stomach! Just picture your next seafood feast by the beach… rhymes with perfect island getaway doesn’t it?!
Some of the islands’ beaches are dotted with massive granite stones, and other isolated islands feature the clearest sand and waters, the main island has equally beautiful natural wonders to explore too!
This paradise is a great alternative for those who want to escape from the crowds of Langkawi or the Thousand Islands.
Getting to Belitung
From Singapore: Take a flight to Kuala Lumpur International Airport via
Tigerair, Scoot, Jetstar, Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia or Singapore Airlines and a direct flight to Belitung via AirAsia. (Total flight time: 2 hour 40 minutes, total cost from USD $93/SGD 129)
From Malaysia: Take a direct flight to Tanjung Pandan (Belitung) via AirAsia. (Total flight time: 1 hour 40 minutes, total cost from USD $45/MYR 190)
Getting around Belitung: Belitung Car Rental Website
Price of day tour: From Rp. 300,000 (Approximately SGD 29/ RM 87) for car rental without driver and Rp. 400,000 (Approximately SGD 38/ RM 116) for car rental with driver.
Contact: +62 878 9647 8835
Eat at: Sahang Beachfront Cafe & Resto, RM Batu Garuda
Stay at: BW Suite Belitung, Bukit Berahu Resort
Everything you need to know about Belitung Island: The complete guide to Belitung Island – an affordable island paradise you never knew existed
4. Pulau Weh (From Banda Aceh)
An island for divers and in-the-know backpackers
What to expect: Laid-back vibes, lush greenery, gorgeous turquoise waters, jungle trekking, hidden waterfalls and more.
Once struck badly from the 2004 tsunami, this little island known as Pulau Weh poking off Sumatra’s northern coast is quickly catching up on tourism so head there before everyone else does.
The tropical paradise is surrounded by the Andaman Sea and is home to an incredible marine life – you’ll find whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins and much more!
In fact, some experts refer to it as “the best diving spot in Indonesia”, so with such a title, you are guaranteed extraordinary times underwater.
Find your way through rusty shipwrecks, underwater canyons and coral reef walls as you join the school of fishes drifting away with the lazy current. Though small, the island also houses the unexploited Pria Laot Waterfall and Goa Sarang Bay Cave where you get to explore beyond just sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Indeed, this is a good excuse to go jungle trekking!
Getting to Banda Aceh
From Singapore: Transit Flight (Total cost: From SGD 147)
Step 1: Take Malaysia Airline, AirAsia, Garuda Indonesia, Jetstar, Scoot, SilkAir or Singapore Airlines from Singapore Changi International Airport to Kuala Lumpur. Flight duration: 1 hour 10 minutes. Return flights from SGD 77
Step 2: Take AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport, Banda Aceh. Flight duration: 1 hour 35 minutes. Return flights from SGD 70
From Malaysia: Direct flight (Total cost: From RM 215)
Take AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport, Banda Aceh. Flight duration: 1 hour 35 minutes
Getting to Pulau Weh: Take fast ferry that costs Rp. 80,000 (Approximately RM 23/SGD 8) for a 45-minutes trip or a slow ferry that costs Rp. 25,000 (Approximately RM 7/ SGD 3) for a 1 hour 30 minutes’ trip from Ulee Lheue Sea Port to Gapang Beach. The trip will take 45 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes respectively. Website
To-do: Snorkeling, Diving, Jungle Hiking
Recommended tour for diving: Bubble Addict
Price: Diving from Rp. 300,000 (Approximately SGD 29/ RM 87). Check out different packages here
Contact: +62 852 9690 4984
Eat at: Olala Cafe
Stay at: Pulau Weh Resort
5. Thousand Islands (From Jakarta)
Island escapes right within Jakarta!
What to expect: Exciting watersports, clear waters, an underwater tunnel, mangrove forests and more!
The next time you’re packing for a trip to Jakarta, think of bringing some tropical island essentials too! Yes, less than a 3-hour boat ride away from the hustle and bustle of the city, you can find the serene pristine Thousand Islands where powdery sands and clear blue waters rule. The islands make great escapes during the long weekends with friends and family!
Though it might be hard to find islands with clear waters due to their proximity to the city (islands closer to Ancol Harbour tend to be rubbish depositories), you can still find some that are untouched and easily accessible for a day trip or even an extended weekend break. Paradise isn’t so far away after all, check out the romantic Pulau Macan for a barefoot affordable luxury stay that comes in various options, with some of the huts ideally placed overwater!
With so many islands in the archipelago, there are bound to be some gems. That’s certainly the case for Pulau Pelangi, a playground for snorkeling enthusiasts and the ideal location for sensational sea-to-table delicacies!
And while a stretch of white sand fringed by reefs and turquoise waters may be the first image that comes to mind when you picture an island getaway, not all of Thousand Islands most beautiful isles come with palm trees and cabanas, some are equipped with an underwater tunnel (at Pulau Putri), mangrove forests (at Pulau Pari), turtle and shark conservation centres (at Pulau Pramuka) and many more natural wonders!
TripCanvas Note: It is important for us visitors to help keep the islands clean. Let’s be responsible for our own waste, and preserve the islands’ cleanliness, so they don’t turn into a nasty soup of water bottles, styrofoam cups, cigarette butts and tiny plastic fibers that affect the marine life and biodiversity.
Getting to Jakarta:
From Singapore: Direct flight (Total cost: From SGD 116)
Take Tigerair, Scoot, Jetstar, Lion Air, AirAsia, Garuda Indonesia, Singapore Airlines from Singapore Changi Airport to Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Flight duration: 1 hour 45 minutes
From Malaysia: Direct flight (Total cost: From RM 350)
Take Malindo Air, AirAsia, or Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Flight duration: 2 hours 10 minutes
How to get to Thousand Islands:
Most of the islands can be reached by speedboats from Marina Ancol. To check out the ferry schedule and prices to different islands, click here.
Most recommended islands: Pulau Pelangi, Pulau Pramuka, Pulau Harapan
How about planning a day trip to the Thousand Islands? 8 Untouched day-trip beach destinations in Thousand Islands where you can escape from Jakarta, with 2D1N options!
6. Riau Islands (From Bintan/ Batam)
Explore untouched islands that are just 2 hours away from Bintan/Batam
What to expect: Remote untouched islands, fresh seafood, a giant floating playground and more!
Where do you head to for a short (or long) weekend getaway?
Most of you might say Bintan or Batam (of course, since it’s only a short boat ride away). But did you know that near Bintan and Batam, less than two hours away from these two, there are actually hidden islands that boast pristine white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters?
Yes, beautiful exotic paradise is just within your reach! Forget about joining the crowd at Bintan or Batam and discover the Riau Archipelago instead!
From remote islands scattered across the best diving reefs, to untouched islands off the mainland coasts, the archipelago features underrated tropical sanctuaries to snorkel in, bask in spectacular views, indulge in fresh seafood and just laze on the pristine beaches.
Sign up for a hassle-free island getaway to Riau Islands – whether you would like to experience an overwater-villa experience at Telunas Resorts Private Island or have been dreaming of a powdery beach stretch like the one at White Sand Island, or yet enjoy a fresh seafood feast by the ocean at Pulau Karimun Besar, vacationing here is a real deal!
Getting to Bintan
From Singapore: Direct ferry (Total cost: From SGD 44)
Take a direct ferry from Singapore (Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal) to Bintan. Bintan has three ports, with most ferries arriving at Tanjung Pinang Ferry Terminal. There are several ferry companies travelling from Singapore to Bintan and back daily, such as Sindo Ferry and Majestic Fast Ferry. Duration of ferry ride: 1-2 hours.
If you take the Bintan Resort Ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, the return tickets will cost SGD 57 and ferries arrive at Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal. Duration of ferry ride: 1-2 hours.
From Malaysia: Ferry from Johor Bahru (Total cost: From 192)
Take a ferry via Citra Indomas from Johor Bahru Stulang Laut Harbour to Tanjung Pinang Ferry Terminal. Return tickets from: RM 192. Duration of ferry ride: 2 hours 12 minutes.
Getting to Batam
From Singapore: Direct ferry (Total cost: From SGD 33)
Take a ferry via:
Batamfast (operates from every harbour in Batam and Singapore)
Horizon Fast Ferry (operates from Harbour Bay Batam and Harbourfront Singapore)
Sindo Ferry (operates from Harbourfront Singapore, Batam centre and Sekupang in Batam)
Majestic Fast Ferry (operates from Harbourfront and Tanah Merah in Singapore and Batam centre and Sekupang in Batam)
Price: Return tickets from Rp. 340,000 (Approximately SGD 33). Duration of ferry ride: 1 hour.
From Malaysia: Direct flight from KL or ferry from Johor Bahru (Total cost: Flight from RM 607 / Ferry from RM 141)
Option 1: Take a direct flight via Malindo Air from Kuala Lumpur Sultan Abdul Azziz Shah Airport to Batam Hang Nadim International Airport. Flight duration: 1 hour 20 minutes. Return trip from RM 607
Option 2: Take a ferry from Johor Bahru via:
Bistari Gemilang (Operates at Stulang Laut Harbour in Johor Bahru and Harbour Bay Ferry Terminal in Batam)
Citra Indomas (Operates at Stulang Laut Harbour in Johor Bahru and Batam Center in Batam)
Dolphin Fast Ferry (Operates at Puteri Harbour Ferry Terminal in Johor Bahru and Batam Center in Batam)
Pasir Gudang Passenger Terminal Sdn Bhd (Operates at Pelabuhan Pasir Gudang in Johor Bahru and Batam Center in Batam)
Price: Return tickets from Rp. 487,323 (Approximately RM 141). Duration of ferry ride: 1 hour 40 minutes.
How to get to Riau Islands: There are various ways to get to each of the Riau Islands, you can check out how to get to your prefered island here.
Most recommended islands: Telunas Resorts Private Island, White Sand Island, Pulau Karimun Besar
Exotic islands you need to know in Riau Islands: 12 Exotic hidden island getaway in Riau Archipelago less than 2 hours from Bintan and Batam
7. Karimunjawa (From Semarang)
Tick off the ‘swimming with sharks’ experience from your bucket list
What to expect: Turtles (plenty of them), exotic mangrove forests, views of the whole archipelago, friendly sharks.
Karimunjawa is a good option when you just want to unplug from reality. Oh yes, it looks like paradise has an address! The plane, bus, ferry rides are worth it for those who are willing to brave it as you get to enjoy stretches of palm-lined beaches, turquoise lagoons,and a laid-back lifestyle, as well as ample accommodation for such a remote location.
The archipelago is a cluster of 27 islands located in the Java sea and most of them have remained untainted so it is pretty much as if you’re setting foot on virgin islands, touched for the very first time.
And while Karimunjawa does not get as much attention as other popular islands across Indonesia, most of those who came over have claimed that the archipelago is actually better!
Surrounded by lively coral reefs, Karimunjawa is ideal for those who are intrigued by the vastness of the waters and looking to quench their appetite for adventure. How about ticking off an adrenaline-pumping activity from your bucket list? Come and swim with friendly sharks!
Indeed, we bet you’ve got it – Karimunjawa offers more to do than just bumming it at the beach!
Getting to Semarang
From Singapore: Direct flight (Total cost: From SGD 160)
Take AirAsia from Singapore Changi Airport to Bandar Udara Internasional Achmad Yani, Semarang. Flight duration: 2 hours 5 minutes
From Malaysia: Direct flight (Total cost: From RM 332)
Take AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Bandar Udara Internasional Achmad Yani, Semarang. Flight duration: 2 hours 20 minutes
Getting to Karimunjawa: Take a 3-hour bus ride from Semarang to Jepara for around Rp. 70,000 (Approximately RM 21/ SGD 7) per way. Once you’ve reached Jepara, take a 3-hour ferry ride from Jepara Harbour to Karimunjawa Islands for around Rp. 180,000 (Approximately RM 52/ SGD 17) per way. Ferry is also available from Tanjung Mas Harbour in Semarang every Friday for as low as Rp. 350,000 per way (RM 100/ SGD 33), and the ferry ride takes 4 hours 30 minutes. Website
Recommended tour for diving: Tours Karimunjawa
To-do: Snorkelling, diving, island hopping, and water activities
Price: Private tour from Rp. 350,000 (Approximately SGD 34/RM 102) (Minimum of 6 persons is required)
Contact: +62 813 292 007 79
Eat at: Saung Odang, Eat & Meet Restaurant
Stay at: Breve Azurine Lagoon Resort
8. Bunaken National Park (From Manado)
Dive right in the Coral Triangle (with 390+ species of coral)
What to expect: World class diving site, a wealth of marine creatures, radiant barrier coral reefs.
If you weren’t already craving an island escape, then pictures of Bunaken National Park might just push you over the edge. This aquatic kingdom located a boat ride away from Manado is listed on every pro-diver’s bucket list as it is located near the centre of the Coral Triangle.
So the fact that the marine park lies close to over 390 coral species shows that this place seriously isn’t messing! The coral-fringed isle in North Sulawesi offers a heavenly sight of translucent blue waters loaded with miraculous marine creatures.
In fact, it is believed that 70% of all the known fish species of the Indo-Western Pacific can be found here, including dugongs, whales, coelacanths (a rare fish) and many more!
Visitors can expect over 20 scuba diving spots with turquoise waters and underwater caves that are home to a myriad of fish species and with the strong currents come other unique fauna like parrotfishes, wrasses, and turtles.
And I know you’ll think we’re tempting you with wanderlust-inducing pictures but we’ve got all the rights to do so when it is so easy to reach paradise on earth! Mark your leave, dear friends and see you there!
Getting to Manado:
From Singapore: Direct flight (Total cost: From SGD 463)
Take SilkAir or Singapore Airlines from Singapore Changi Airport to Sam Ratulangi International Airport, Manado. Flight duration: 3 hours 45 minutes
From Malaysia: Transit flight (Total cost: From RM 1,669)
Step 1: Take Malaysia Airline, AirAsia, Garuda Indonesia, Jetstar, Scoot, SilkAir or Singapore Airlines from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Singapore. Flight duration: 1 hour 10 minutes. Return flights from RM 263
Step 2: Take SilkAir or Singapore Airlines from Singapore Changi Airport to Sam Ratulangi International Airport, Manado. Flight duration: 3 hours 45 minutes. Return flights from RM 1406
Getting to Bunaken: Website
Once at Manado, head to Manado Harbour and take a public boat to Bunaken (Available at 2 – 3 pm daily except on Sundays and Public Holidays). A return trip will cost around Rp. 100,000 (Approximately RM 29/ SGD 10) and will take less than 45 minutes.
If you are travelling on a Sunday or Public Holiday, you can arrange a private boat charter for as low as Rp. 650,000 (Approximately RM 190 / SGD 62) per day (Contact Pak Said at +62-85256436346). Transportation from Manado to Bunaken is usually provided by your stay.
Recommended tour for diving: Thalassa Dive Resort
Price: From Rp. 567,396 (Approximately SGD 54/ RM 165) for dive trip.
Contact: +62 812 4350 0956
To-do: Snorkelling and Diving.
Eat at: Restoran Nelson Bunaken
Stay at: Thalassa Dive Resort, Froggies Divers
9. Samalona Island (From Makassar)
Discover the Maldives of Makassar
What to expect: Maldives-like lagoons, tropical vibes, dazzling underwater world, secluded beach.
This honoured island in Makassar (South Sulawesi) sure has an individual appeal – its coveted qualities include breathtaking beach sceneries where the din of civilization seems a world away.
In fact, this winner has it all. Stepping off from the boat, you’ll find yourself huddled on a beach with little to no crowd around. Ah, finally an island where you can get lost in your favourite book and enjoy intimate time with your loved one. Welcome to the Maldives of Makassar, Samalona Island.
Sure, the island is crusoe-style and has no extravagant amenities but the location‘s incomparable beauty is luxury in itself. The off-the-beaten-path island offers a dazzling underwater world with colourful corals and sea creatures too.
And if you’re a diving enthusiast, you’ll be thrilled to know that hidden underwater lies a majestic shipwreck that dates back to the great World War II!
After all, there’s a lot to uncover here as right behind Samalona Island, you will find yet another hidden gem that that is begging to be explored! Check out Pulau Kodingareng Keke – it resembles a sand bank but it sure possesses one of the world’s most relaxing stretch of sand.
Getting to Makassar
From Singapore: Direct flight (Total cost: From SGD 461)
Take SilkAir from Singapore Changi Airport to Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport, Makassar. Flight duration: 3 hours
From Malaysia: Direct flight (Total cost: From RM 368)
Take AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport, Makassar. Flight duration: 3 hours 5 minutes
Getting to Samalona Island: After reaching Makassar, head to Makassar Harbour at Losari and rent a motorboat from the locals for around Rp. 200,000 (Approximately RM 57 /SGD 19) to Samalona Island (40 – 60 minutes’ trip) Website
Recommended tour: Samalona Superbubur
Price: Rp. 700,000 per person (Approximately SGD 67/ RM 203) for Pulau Samalona + Pulau Kodingareng Keke open trip
Contact: +62 813 5589 4930
To-do: Snorkelling, chasing sunset, relaxing on powdery sand
Stay at: Swiss Belhotel (Makassar) / Samalona Island Guest House (From Rp. 500,000, contact Samalona Superbubur for more info)
Special mention 1: Lake Toba and Samosir Island
Stay on an island in the middle of the World’s largest volcanic lake
What to expect: Chilly weather, mesmerizing lake views, spectacular natural wonders, and unique Bataknese culture.
Waking up to another cloudless morning in Lake Toba means you get to enjoy magazine-approved sceneries and chilly weathers right from your stay. And though we know that lakes are often overlooked in favour of coastal escapes, a trip to Lake Toba is sure to make you skip the beach on your next waterfront vacation as you get to venture to an island formed by a massive supervolcano eruption, some 75,000+ years ago!
The lake itself is bigger than the whole of Singapore and that is impressive enough, but something quite unique to tick off your wishlist is the fact that you’ll be staying on an island that is itself in the middle of a lake! Yes, we are talking about Samosir Island that is smack-bang in the middle of Lake Toba.
Photo Via Uen_sugary, Desiratnasari