Picture a tropical archipelago of steep, jungle-covered islands, glittering white-sand beaches, hidden lagoons and luminous turquoise waters. Now throw in pristine coral reefs inhabited by clouds of tie-died fish. Place it in a remote corner of Indonesia largely unknown to foreign tourists, and you end up with the Raja Ampat islands: the ultimate tropical paradise. Why go? It’s a big call, but the collection of 1500-odd islands and islets scattered off the northwest tip of Indonesian Papua that comprise Raja Ampat is truly one of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful archipelagos. If that isn’t a good enough reason to put Raja Ampat on your must-visit list then consider the diving, which many authorities on the matter claim is among the world’s best. Little-known outside hardcore off-the-beaten-track travel circles until the last few years, Raja Ampat’s huge, largely pristine coral reef systems and staggering marine diversity are a diver’s dream. Described by scientists as a ‘species factory’, this region nestled in the heart of the Coral Triangle is home to more than 10 times the number of hard coral species found in the Caribbean. When to go Raja Ampat is a year-round destination, although many diving outfits cease operations between July and … Continue reading Raja Ampat: a quick guide to visiting the idyllic Papuan archipelago

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Sinuous ribbons of green unfold on all sides as you wind your way through the rugged central mountains of Bali. It’s a timeless tableaux of tumbling rice terraces, the kind of vista that causes hands to go searching for the camera-phone, even before the brain says ‘that would make a great picture’. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about this scene is what is not in it: mobs of other tourists. That’s because this road, which runs to the north coast of Bali from the small town of Antosari in the west, is one of the island’s best travel secrets. That alone would be reason enough to enjoy the ride, but here the journey – spectacular as it is – is just a means to the actual reward: the hideaway beach resort of Pemuteran. Tucked away in the far northwest corner of Bali, this peaceful getaway has avoided the crowds and over-subscribed appeal of places such as Candidasa, Lovina and Ulu Watu through clever planning and a community-wide commitment to avoiding the ravages of over-development. Pemuteran on land The waves breaking on the coast of Pemuteran barely qualify as surf, since the shore here is protected by reefs, like the … Continue reading Rediscovering Bali in laid-back Pemuteran

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