Ecotours are emerging across Indonesia. They offer an alternative way of travel for those seeking more responsible travel for their vacations. Several non-profit organizations have created tours that help their cause directly or simply want to help the forests, oceans, beaches, animals, children, and the air we breathe. Voluntourism, meanwhile, allows travelers the chance to give back while on vacation.
Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra: The Gunung Leuser National Park is home to orangutans, Sumatran tiger and rhinoceros. Locals practice responsible tourism that aims to protect the forest and its inhabitants. Many of the rainforest regions of Indonesia are destroyed by deforestation and although some are protected from logging under federal law, illegal logging practices still occur. Tourism acts as an alternative income for many people here who have moved away from illegal means of income.
By visiting the region and participating in ecotourism activities such as trekking, tree planting and water rafting you are supporting the guardians of the Gunung Leuser, and you have the chance to get up close with the beautiful orangutans that call this place home.
This unique adventure in North Sumatra offers an exclusive opportunity for you to get hands-on with ongoing conservation efforts in remote villages and forest restoration sites. In addition to soaking up the culture and discovering the breathtaking beauty of this friendly and welcoming Indonesian island, you will also be involved with a number of tasks such as permaculture, restoration of former palm oil plantations, preparing new tree nurseries or identifying and recording native plant life in newly flourishing areas.
You also have the opportunity to visit the superb Leuser Nature School which aims to incentivize local farmers to become guardians of the forest by providing free education for their children in exchange for their involvement in forest restoration and protection efforts. All your hard work is rewarded with three relaxation days in Bukit Lawang including a jungle walk in search of wild orangutans.
Bali Sea Turtle Society, Bali: The Bali Sea Turtle Society or BSTS is a charity group that aims to protect sea turtles. Six out of seven sea turtle species around the world are threatened or endangered by either getting caught in fishing gear or plastics in the sea or consumed by curious foodies around the world. Their eggs are also consumed in a lot of developing countries due to the false belief that they are an aphrodisiac. Shells are also turned into jewelry while the plastic in the ocean and global warming is always a threat.
BSTS has organized tours that directly support their efforts to save the turtles. Visitors volunteer alongside local researchers, supporting a variety of activities in Bali. Researches move the eggs to a fenced-off hatchery, which is guarded to keep them away from poachers and once they’ve hatched, they will release the turtles into the ocean. Volunteers walk the beach with researchers. Volunteers also help measure sea turtles, collect and move eggs and release baby turtles to the ocean. Since BSTS began its efforts in 2001 they’ve helped save more than 800,000 hatchlings in Bali.
Unfortunately, sea turtles are still being hunted and sold in certain parts of Indonesia, despite laws that protect these gentle creatures. BSTS works with local communities and tourists all over the island to protect sea turtles by educating communities about the dangers of hunting turtles into extinction for illegal trade. Anyone can join hatchling releases for free and you can also donate by purchasing their documentary DVD, “A Journey Back to the Sea” for Rp 100,000. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to BSTS’ conservation efforts. www.BaliSeaTurtle.org
Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF): In 1997 a Balinese ornithologist founded the Friends of the National Parks Foundation. FNPF protects the wildlife, restores habitats, and educates local communities through projects that protect the forests in the Kalimantan region in Bali’s Mt. Batukaru as well as forests in the Nusa Penida Island. Dr. Wirayudha and his conservation group are working painstakingly to breed the critically endangered Bali Starling. If you’re interested in supporting the FNPF, take your family on one of the FNPF’s eco-tours. The volunteer component offered by the FNPF, designed for travelers, is a way to showcase the work being done by Sustainable Harvest and its local partner families. During the trips, volunteers work alongside small scale farmers, supporting their efforts and also helping to build solar latrines, plant trees, or construct wood-conserving stoves. All proceeds from guests are “donations” and 100 percent of the money is used to fund FNPF’s project work.
FNPF takes groups on traditional Klotok boats into the Tanjung Puting National Park, the optional choice of camping in tents in the rainforest. You will visit the rainforest and see orangutans, hornbills and other wildlife as you cruise gently up the Sekonyer River into the National Park. FNPF encourages tourists to take walks into the rainforest and see their reforestation projects, meet the local village communities and to see how mining and palm oil plantations are threatening the region.
The FNPF Centre is located on a beach on the north side of Nusa Penida, close to the village of Ped. They have 3 twin rooms, 1 single room, and a dormitory for larger groups which is nestled directly in the middle of the forest. Expect to be visited by wild birds, visit their nursery or snorkel at an amazing coral reef. There are plenty of interesting things to see and do on Nusa Penida, you can rent a motorbike and tour the rest of the island while there. If you would like to stay at our Centre in Nusa Penida, please CLICK HERE TO APPLY and send the application form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bali Sharks, Serangan Island: Bali Sharks was founded by Hawaiian surfer Paul Friese in 2011 and was initially known as the Serangan Shark Project. Friese started his mission to protect sharks after learning about the prevalence of poaching in the area. Together with his friends, Friese helped turn poachers into tour guides, giving the local community a source of income without destroying wildlife.
Today, Bali Sharks offers one of Bali’s most unique fundraising projects: swimming with the sharks! Bali Sharks’ marine tour is perfect for kids of all ages and is 100 percent ocean-friendly. Wouldn’t it be a fun excursion to let the kiddos swim with juvenile sharks? Of course, guests swim in a safe and controlled environment to observe these magnificent creatures in all their glory. The facility also offers a free nursery tour to kids under five years old. Together with Gili Eco Trust, these sharks are kept in a nursery for rehabilitation until they are ready to be released again into the wild.
Bali Sharks Ecotour is three hours with transportation and meal provided. Tour includes the Turtle Conservation Center, Marine Garden, and the Shark Nursery. Guests are allowed to feed and swim with sharks. Baby turtles releasing is seasonally from June into October. This is a family-friendly activity for all ages. Species include Black & White Tip Reef Sharks and sometimes Bambu and Wobbegong (carpet sharks.) Visit Bali Sharks
Raja Empat Biodiversity Resort: Raja Empat is an archipelago of islands, located just off the tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula in Indonesia’s West Papua province. It is an important ecotourism destination as it is pristine because it is difficult to get to, but entirely worth the effort. The Nature conservancy and Conservation International claim that 75 percent of the world’s marine species live here on the islands. Raja Empat is one of the most beautiful destinations in Indonesia and one of the greatest ecotourism places in the world. It is very popular with divers and has a lot to offer any traveler wanting to travel off the beaten path.
Biodiversity is a passion for the team at Eco Resort in Indonesia, they are passionate about the environment, minimizing their impact and developing a sustainable future. There are currently no formal rules regarding Sea Turtle capture or nesting area protection in the Raja Empat Regency, but Biodiversity is trying to change that. They continue to educate the local community about alternative proteins in their diet other than sea Turtle meat and eggs. Sea turtle monitoring programs are a high priority and they hope the data they collect will provide key information to help establish an official ruling for the protection and conservation of Sea Turtles in the area. Coral reef conservation is another priority, therefore they:
Promote safe diver and snorkeler practices;
Do not sell shell or coral local crafts;
Promote the use of reef-safe sunscreens;
Safely dispose of our rubbish;
Regularly do beach cleanups;
Do not anchor on reefs, we use mooring lines here on our house reef;
Only buy Line-caught fish and no reef fish;
Have set up and are maintaining a Coral Nursery to help with reef restoration; and
Are planning an artificial reef.
Soul Surf Project, Legian Beach, Bali: There are hundreds of surf lessons all around the coast of Bali but why not help a great cause while you’re learning how to surf at Legian beach! In this experience, you will learn your basics of surfing in a safe way, together with our partner and sponsor RipCurl School of Surf. The class lasts approximately 1.5 hours and they provide a standing guarantee, meaning that they guarantee that you will be able to stand on your board by the end of the lesson. This is a chance to support a local NGO working with local underprivileged children and leave a positive impact behind after your holiday.
Westerlaken foundation focuses on improving human and children rights in Indonesia. At this moment the foundation finances impactful research especially on children’s rights within orphanages on Bali. In cooperation with other foundations, movements, NGO’s and GO’s Westerlaken foundation finances research and initiatives to protect the coastal and marine environment by raising public awareness, campaign, research and fight against captivity.
Westerlaken foundation finances the work of Yayasan Bali Bersih, the Indonesian counterpart of Westerlaken Foundation, which is actively engaged in providing first response to standings and emergencies of stranded dolphins, whales and sea turtles and actively campaigns against dolphin captivity in Indonesia. Westerlaken Foundation assists Jakarta Animal Aid Network and Dolphin Project in the savings and relocation of the ex-Melka resort captive dolphins. Westerlaken foundation actively finances relief to people affected by the 2018 Lombok earthquakes. Their surf school is usually booked so make sure you pre-book way before you arrive in Bali. Contact them at https://www.soulsurfprojectbali.com/contact
Wakatobi, Sulawesi, Bunaken, Sulawesi: Wakatobi (pronounced WAHK-kah-TOH-bee) features a luxury dive resort in southeastern Sulawesi, Indonesia. The area includes 143 islands, but only four of them are inhabited. Since 2005 the park has been listed as a tentative World Heritage Site. In 2012 it was added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Wakatobi was established following an extensive search to identify the perfect location for a dive resort in terms of geography, climate, oceanic topography and marine biodiversity. To ensure its future, the developers created one of the largest privately protected marine reserves in the world.
Wakatobi is the third largest marine park in Indonesia. It hosts 942 fish species and 750 coral reef species, versus 50 in the Caribbean and 300 in the Red Sea. Wakatobi covers 1.4 million hectares. It includes the highest number of reef and fish species in the world.
The islands form the largest barrier reef in Indonesia, second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Jacques Cousteau called the Wakatobi area an “Underwater Nirwana.”
Having identified the premier location, the developers built an island paradise with the essential facilities and comforts to make an unforgettable dive trip. From shore or by boat, you have exclusive access to 50 dive sites, miles of pristine reefs, where diverse and dramatic undersea landscapes harbor the highest level of marine biodiversity on the planet. New and undocumented species continue to be discovered at Wakatobi.
The House Reef is a cornucopia of marine life, which you can enter directly from the beach or the jetty. The coral top is host to sea grass offering refuge to species such as filefish, blue ringed octopus and bumphead parrotfish, while the corals are home to numerous colorful juveniles of many species. The dramatic drop off where the wall begins offers glimpses out into the blue and down the wall – turtles, bumphead parrotfish, rays, mild mannered triggerfish, box fish and puffer fish can be seen among many other species.
The incredible white sandy beach is home to two types of sea turtles, Honu (green turtles) and Koila (hawksbill turtles). Depending on the timing of your trip, you might get to see the turtles spawn, hatch and migrate to sea. The optimal time to observe spawning is during the full moon where green turtles usually gather at the shoreline in preparation to lay their eggs in the early hours of the morning. This enchanting beach is also a popular spot for divers and sun loungers.
Adventurers also enjoy the majestic Lakasa cave, which is is filled with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. The cave descends 120 meters. Locals believe that it has mystical properties. East and West come together at Wakatobi’s spa, which blends the best of Indonesian and European traditions. For more information, visit https://www.wakatobi.com/
Komodo National Park, Komodo and Rinca: Komodo is a small island of 280 square kilometers. It is located between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores. The Island has about 800 human inhabitants and double that number of dragons. Most of the other islands where the dragons live have no permanent human residents at all.
Visitors to this area also should see the island of Rinca, which is just south and east of Komodo. It’s also part of Komodo National Park, but offers a slightly different landscape and good dragon populations. Rinca is just a short boat ride from Komodo island and is even closer to the island of Flores. In addition to wildlife viewing, Komodo National Park offers some of the best diving and snorkeling in Indonesia. The waters are clear and the marine life is spectacular. Whales and dolphins travel through the area regularly.
Camp Leakey, Tanjung Puting, Orangutans, Borneo: At Camp Leakey, we see up to 15,000 a year from all over the world. The local people saw them coming in and built up the tourism industry. The good thing is that the money stays in the area. The cooks are local. The guides are local. The boats are local. That’s one of the reasons the local people are so supportive.
After you go into the education center, you can walk to the feeding station. Once a day, the orangutans are provided with fruit and they usually come through the trees to the feeding platform. The feeding lasts two hours and some people watch them the whole time. You get very intimate encounters with the orangutans at Camp Leakey.
The tourism is controlled. Visitors can only observe the feeding at Camp Leakey. You’re not allowed to wander alone in the forest. It enhances the value of the park to the local people and then they will fight for it. Tourism directly benefits the orangutans. It makes the local people want to protect them. The main issue for orangutans in Southeast Asia is palm oil plantations. The forest needs to be cleared completely for the plantations. Orangutans spend 90 percent of their time in the tree canopy. When you cut down the trees, they have nowhere to go. We’re headed toward a point where most of the orangutans we see will be in captivity or at Tanjung Puting.
Indonesia is the fourth-largest nation in the world with more than 267 million people. The country is comprised of more than 17,500 islands, including Bali, Borneo, Java, Lombok, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Learn more about Indonesia. Learn about where to go, what do and what to say.
Indonesia is the fourth-largest nation in the world with more than 267 million people. The country is comprised of more than 17,500 islands, including Bali, Borneo, Java, Lombok, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Learn more about Indonesia. Learn about where to go, what do and what to say. Experience more of Indonesia than the average traveler by speaking Indonesian. Simple courtesies and greetings will make your trip more productive and rewarding. Our phonetic style makes it impossible to mispronounce important words. Order your hard copy. Indonesians will sparkle with delight when you speak just a few words in bahasa Indonesia. Watch our Indonesian tutorial.