Derawan, East Kalimantan
Few tourists go to East Kalimantan to dive. Some go for the wildlife experience of strolling in its natural and well-protected forest; while some go for its rich gas, coal, and mining bonanza (as it is considered one of the wealthiest provinces in Indonesia and many mining companies run their businesses here). If only divers know something about Derawan, a band of small islands scattered in the province of East Kalimantan. In Derawan, there is an island named Kakaban, where a single lake is home to 4 world's most unique stingless jellyfish species; and Sangalaki island, whose immaculate white sands is Southeast Asia’s largest nesting grounds for endangered green and hawksbill turtles. Derawan is also reportedly to have more than 50 manta ray species and various seahorses and squids. Boasting the most unusual of marine species any diver could ever behold, Derawan is a must-place visit for divers who want to confirm the richness of marine biodiversities that Indonesia inherits.
Komodo Island, Flores
What could be a crucial factor for a place to become a perfect ecotourism destination? Is it because of its pristine coastline and astonishing underwater scenery? Or is it a divine landscape that matters most? But when one possesses both, plus its status as the only place on earth where the remaining Jurassic species wanders, there you have Komodo Island. Formerly nominated as the new 7 wonder of the world, Komodo Island boasts not only its Komodo dragon, but also a Lord of the Ring–like, beautiful meadows. Indeed, Komodo dragon is its main attraction for tourists, but because of that its beach and underwater scenery are underrated. In fact, divers should know that Komodo Island is located at the juncture of Pacific and Indian oceans, which is why hundreds of colorful coral reefs are present under its water. If Komodo Island is not considered a perfect ecotourism destination; I don’t know what else is.
Lore Lindu National Park, Central Sulawesi
Alfred Wallace, a renowned 20th century naturalist, once said: “The life of wild animals is struggle for existence. The full exertion of all their faculties and all their energies is required to preserve their own existence and provide for that of their infant offspring.” Of all the wild animals he ever encountered during his voyage, he wrote in his journal that the uniqueness and the richness of animal species in Sulawesi region is unrivaled –and that’s how the famous Wallace line was established. Deep in the thick forest of Lore Lindu in Central Sulawesi, live 227 bird species, 77 of which are found nowhere else on earth. Besides, the forest is also the shelter of Sulawesi’s endemic species such as mountain anoa, giant butterfly (a butterfly that is bigger than human hand), dwarf buffalo, babirusa, and three species of tarsier (the world’s smallest primate). Visiting this national park, therefore, offers its visitors a rare experience to encounter various endemic and rare animals in Sulawesi which have been struggling for existence.
Morowali, Central Sulawesi
What Morowali hides beneath its thick forest is similar than one could encounter in Lore Lindu, except one thing: it is a Nature Reserve, not a National Park, which means Morowali has higher protection from the government because of its status. The vegetation is somewhat different, as the still-virgin forest of Morowali is the only wet lowland forest in Sulawesi and, different from other forests in Sulawesi, is bordered by the sea. Morowali Nature Reserve possesses the uniqueness of various Sulawesi’s endemic faunas, which are hardly found anywhere else in the world.
Nusa Penida, Bali
Tourists could be forgiven for overlooking Nusa Penida when they visit Bali, as the island is blessed with various sparkling tourist attractions already: from Kuta Beach, Tanah Lot, or Mountain Agung. But heading west, there’s another thing to do beside watching sunset or surfing. Nusa Penida is the best in diving business in Bali, offering divers various diving spots, each with their unique characteristics. Other diving spots usually only provide the magnificent view of their coral reef collections, but here in Nusa Penida there are unusual diving spots like Crystal Bay, which offers an underwater cave system in your diving experience, or Manta Bay, which is rich of Manta Ray and Tuna fish species below its water.
Raja Ampat, West Papua
In local language, Raja Ampat means “Four Kings”, and it terms of marine biodiversity the facts justify the name precisely. When an expedition was first carried out in obscure islands on west side of Papua in 2001, its shocking result struck the conservation world: Indonesia’s Raja Ampat is the place with the richest marine biodiversity in earth. Almost ten years later with countless explorations, roughly 70% of world coral species –that’s 10 times than the coral species from the entire Caribbean island combined– and more than 1,000 fish species are found in this area. With continuing support from the government to protect and develop the area, the rich marine biodiversity that this area possesses could soon eclipse the popularity of its counterpart in the south, the Great Barrier Reef, as a famous diving spot.
Savu Sea, Flores
There are few sea in the world that become migratory area for whale species which human could visit, Savu Sea in Flores is among those rare spots. Located in the rendezvous of Indian and Pacific ocean, deep beneath the water of Savu live many endangered whale species such as Sperm Whale or even the gigantic Blue Whale. Whale hunting tradition still persists among locals and could be an exotic show for tourists, yet it rarely occurs today. This site offer a unique diving experience as beside its role as major migratory area for whales, it is also home to other endangered and rare animals, such as Green Sea Turtle.
Segah, East Kalimantan
Compared to its counterparts in East Kalimantan, access to this area is a bit tricky and orangutan is rarely seen here, as the forest is located in higher altitude than Wehea and Lesan. But as it is pitted in the area of small mountains and hills, the landscape of Segah is simply amazing. Here Dayak people in Segah are far from modern as they are scattered up on the hills instead of on densely populated lowland.
Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi
One lecturer in my university once said during his class, “Have you ever been to Wakatobi? The place’s great, it’s more beautiful than Hawaii.” He was mistaken, of course, because what Wakatobi has below its water is as beautiful as what can be found above. Its white sands and unspoiled beaches are awesome, but just like Raja Ampat, Wakatobi is prominent among divers for being the home to one of the richest marine biodiversities in the world. While there are 300 coral reef species in the entire Atlantic ocean, there are reportedly more than 600 coral reefs found in Wakatobi alone. Moreover, beside possessing one of the richest reef complexes underwater, Wakatobi is also home the longest atoll structure in the world. Somebody should tell my lecturer about that.
Wehea and Lesan, East Kalimantan
Indonesian forest is among the biggest, the healthiest, and the most diverse in earth, equal to huge forests in Brazil and Congo. The richness of biodiversity in rainforest in forests at sub-district Wehea and Lesan (both at East Kalimantan province) is staggering: it is said that new species will be discovered every time a new ecological expedition is conducted on the areas. Besides, forests in Wehea and Lesan are both home to the endangered orangutan, arguably the most intelligent mammal on earth whose population continue to decline to the critical tally of 2,000 in the world. Ecotourism in these two forests presents great experience not only because of its natural wild adventure, but also the cultural picture that tourists can behold from the local Dayak tribe.
This article will be published in the magazine of American Chamber of Commerce. This article represents The Nature Conservancy, a US-based NGO working in conservation issues. All the 10 places here are among the marine and forest sites that TNC protects in Indonesia.