Traveling solo in Indonesia? Bali is best.

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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Traveling solo in Indonesia? Bali is best.
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Traveling solo in Indonesia? Bali is best.
Question: I am a woman traveling alone and am currently ticketed to Dempassar August 16 for three weeks, with a goal to visit and photograph the Tanya Toraja area of Sulawesi and to scuba dive off Manado at the northern end of Sulawesi. I am reluctant to proceed with the unrest in Indonesia. Do you have any comments, reassurances, or alternate ideas?

Idell Conaway
New York, New York

Bali's Lovina Beach has lush trees and vegetation along its shoreline.
Adventure Adviser: Your instincts are right on. I wish I had some reassurances, but it seems that no one is truly safe in Indonesia right now, especially a solitary female foreigner. As much as I hate to sound alarmist, it's probably advisable to forgo your plans for a little while, unless you're willing to make a few adjustments. Here are some suggestions:

According to a July 14 State Department public announcement on Indonesia, there is still unrest and disturbance throughout the country, with the exception of the island of Bali, which means that Bali may be the place to go. Besides its relatively peaceful existence, Bali right now is outrageously inexpensive, with the average hotel costing around $7 per night. Right off the northwest corner of Bali is tiny Menjangan island, a.k.a. "the island of the gods." It boasts one of the richest tropical marine populations on earth, where, among rugged reefs you'll find damselfish, angelfish, pufferfish, butterflyfish, yellowbacked fusiliers, reef sharks, and leaping dolphins. As if the undersea life weren't spectacular enough, the beaches are practically deserted because Menjangan is part of Bali Barat National Park. Spice Dive (011-62-362-41305) in Lovina can arrange charter dives. Stay at the beachfront hotel Nirwana Cottages in the Kalibukbuk area of the town of Lovina. The cost for a bungalow is approximately $10 per night (011-62-362-41288).

If independent travel is out of the question, which I think it very well may be, consider signing up with a group. Though this option is more costly and not as whimsical as solo travel, the added bonus is obviously the security. Asian Pacific Adventures (800-825-1680) offers a 20-day ($3,383) cultural tour of Sulawesi, Bali, Flores, Komodo, and Sumba, but you'd probably have to leave your scuba gear at home. Bolder Adventures' Asia Transpacific Journeys (800-642-2742) offers a North Sulawesi diving tour with a stay at the Kungkunan Bay Resort. The trip requires a minimum three-day stay.

Before you make a decision to stay or go, I'd do a little investigating. Call both of these tour operators, tell them your original plans, and ask them to give you an honest assessment of the safety of travel in Indonesia. If even the tour operators tell you to stay home, you should probably go to Hawaii.

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