The country of Indonesia is located between Australia and South East Asia and consists of more than 13,000 islands. Such is the vastness of the world’s biggest archipelago this is just an official estimate – even the government isn’t completely certain how many there are. With only 6,000 islands inhabited, it leaves a staggering number (roughly the same as the entire number of islands in the Philippines) which remain uninhabited… it goes without saying that the potential for surf exploration is insane.
Indonesia is a paradise in every sense of the word. World-class waves, bath-warm water, tropical climate, rich history and environment, unique biodiversity, varying cultures, ethnicities and peoples, cheap living, great food, and a staggering swell consistency. The problem isn’t whether you should go to Indonesia, it’s for how long. With so many islands receiving surf, you could truly spend a lifetime searching the archipelago’s distant islands for the perfect wave … and, amazingly, you’d be guaranteed to find more than you’d be able to remember.
Indonesia is revered as the home of the perfect warm-water barrel. A distant swell-pumping machine, Antarctic storms generate almost non-stop corduroy lines out of the south Indian Ocean from April to October, quietly travelling for thousands of miles before striking the pristine reefs of Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Java, Sumatra and the Mentawais. Holding some of the finest waves ever surfed, these islands have naturally become popular destinations for travelling bodyboarders, but with a little adventurous spirit uncrowded perfection is still very attainable.
There is a huge population of travelling bodyboarders and surfers in Indonesia, the allure of that perfect wave has long had riders the world over saving their pennies to book tickets to paradise. This of course has led to crowding problems on the more popular spots, but that is unfortunately the nature of the beast. Bali is the main destination, and although you can find a little basic sponge gear in shops here your best bet is to bring a couple of boards and spare kit with you. As it is pretty much the hub of the action you will no doubt meet many travelling bodyboarders here to hook up with and share boat costs if you want to escape the carnage and find your own slice of the Indo good stuff.
The dry season is from May to September, when there is consistent swell and seemingly endless offshores. Indonesia is also ridiculously cheap, it is very easy to live on a minimum budget very comfortably for your whole stay. Food, accommodation and transport are all inexpensive, so depending on your budget you can kick back like a king on a fraction of the living costs of back home.
Things which happen in Bali’s party town Kuta stay in Kuta, but be sure to escape – it can suck your money away before you ever get to step out of the craziness and experience the real Bali. It is distinctly different from the other islands, and is home to the vast majority of Indonesia’s Hindu population. Bali’s nightlife is the main drive of its economy, and since the awful terror attack in 2002 it has recovered well and quickly – there are now even more bars, clubs and ladyboys to tickle your fancy.
Indonesian transport is seemingly devoid of rules, structure or safety, yet it somehow flows without too many problems. You can hire most forms of transport, and they’re Cheap with a capital C. If you are hoping to put in the hard yards to find new spots it might be worth splashing out on a 4×4, but the numerous little 110cc chicken-chasers are usually enough to burn you about from local spot to spot.
If you are expecting to be spending a bit of time on the road, expect the Balinese police to be on you like jungle mozzies. Carrying a full international driving license might help, but they have a reputation for hounding foreigners and never miss an opportunity to fine you for the smallest of things (even if they don’t exist). Earmark some US dollars aside as your bribe fund. Your best bet is to try and avoid eye contact with them, their corruption is well known and even stories of drug dealers teaming up with police to plant, catch, and fine foreigners on the spot are not unheard of. Scammers and conmen are common, especially in the tourist trap Bali, so be vigilant. Only change your cash somewhere official, and don’t get caught with drugs on you – this is a major deal here and can result in long prison sentences and even the death penalty.
Expect a fair amount of market hustle-and-pester whenever you are out and about in Bali – if you show the slightest crack of interest it’s game over. You need to be firm with your ‘no’ to be left alone. Food is extremely varied and cheap, but despite your best attempts to monitor your diet the obligatory ‘Bali Belly’ is almost guaranteed. Stocking up on immodium is advised, and, as with everything, meds are cheap. As with most developing countries, only drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes.
Don’t wear green boardies when you are in Bali – myth has it that a local sea god doesn’t like the colour green and most surfers who’ve met sticky ends have been donning the colour, so you’ve been warned!