It is often said that challenging trips tend to be very rewarding because of the extra excitement - where you feel like you’re on the top of the world after finally reaching the end of the journey.
For those seeking such thrills, The Jakarta Post Travel recommends three activities for end of year traveling in 2014. These trips will take you to the deepest corners of the country and challenge your adventurous side.
Hopefully the challenges will see you emerge refreshed at the end of the trip, ready for the New Year.
October - Swimming with whale sharks in Cendrawasih Bay
How would you feel if, while you were swimming in the sea, a big whale suddenly rose from the waves and then swam over to your boat and simply leaned against it?
This can really happen at Cendrawasih Bay in Papua. It is one of the most majestic moments you can experience.
To be specific, it is not exactly whales that reside in Cendrawasih Bay, but whale sharks – the biggest shark species alive today. A mature whale shark can grow to five to 10 meters long.
Although it might sound crazy going anywhere near such a creature, this is a popular activity in the bay, as plenty of divers seek the chance to swim alongside this gigantic shark.
Using the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system and satellite tagging, people in Cendrawasih Bay National Park have found around 70 whale sharks in the area.
The relatively high population of whale sharks there makes their sightings quite common. They can be seen throughout the year, but the best time to visit is around May to November.
Contrary to popular belief, thanks to Hollywood movies sharks are often seen as aggressive creatures, but the whale shark is pretty tame.
In Cendrawasih Bay, the shark is no stranger to the fishermen. The locals call it the “ghost fish” due to its habit of sneaking up on fishermen’s boats and harmlessly leaning against them.
How to get there:
A big portion of Cendrawasih Bay is located on the coast of Nabire regency. A popular destination for seeing the shark is at Kwatisore village in Nabire.
To get there, you can fly to Nabire Airport via Ambon, Jayapura, Biak or Kaimana.
From there, you can continue to Kwatisore using a chartered boat at Nabire harbor. It will take around two hours to reach the village.
An alternative way of reaching Nabire harbor is by using a public ferry, which also travels through Ambon, Sorong, Manokwari, Biak and Jayapura.
Where to stay:
Villagers at Kwatisore are used to visitors and plenty of their houses are available for accommodation.
As for hotels, Kali Lemon Resort is the only operating lodging business in the village.
You can also stay in Nabire, which offers plenty of hotels, and do a day-trip to Kwatisore. But the boat ride back to Nabire can be quite bumpy as the waves in Cendrawasih Bay tend to get high in the late afternoon.
November - Canyoning in Gitgit village
You can look at ratings on the TripAdvisor website to get a picture of how great it is exploring the canyons of Gitgit village in Bali.
As of December, it is yet to receive a review of less than excellent. It currently has 84 reviews - all of them are five-star.
This exploration activity, called “canyoning”, is organized by the Adventure and Spirit Canyoning Bali, the members of which took around a year exploring the canyons of Gitgit village in 2010 to seek suitable canyoning routes for the public to enjoy.
“We scouted the waterfalls in Bali to find a great place to open canyoning routes, and we found it here in Gitgit village,” said the organization’s general manager Robin Endro.
Waterfalls are essential for a great canyoning route as they will give you the chance to rappel down the stream.
The waterfalls in Gitgit village vary from five to 50-meters high. On some occasions where waterfalls are not too high, you can just jump to the water below.
Some amount of bravery is needed because, even with all the security measures taken by the Adventure and Spirit team, canyoning in Gitgit village is still a highly thrilling experience.
It might not seem much at first, but wait until you make a jump from the edge of a cliff; even if it’s only five-meters high, the rocks will start to look intimidating and the few seconds jump will feel like an eternity.
Amid all the adrenaline-pumping action, don’t forget to look around.
What makes canyoning in Gitgit worthwhile is the chance to see the stunning scenery of the canyon along the route. Once you plunge into the canyon, it really feels like another world – and a very beautiful one at that.
Combine this amazing view with the challenging track and you will have yourself a unforgettable experience.
How to get there:
Gitgit village is quite accessible. Most of the canyoning route starting points are located near the main road that connects Denpasar and Singaraja.
The village is located a few kilometers south of Singaraja, around 15 minutes from the Bedugul area if you are driving from Denpasar.
The canyoning packages offered by Adventure and Spirit include a pickup from wherever you are staying in Bali and the return trip.
Where to stay:
The canyoning trip is mostly a day-trip activity, so you can stay in the usual tourist spots in Bali – like Ubud or Kuta – and the driver will pick you up early in the morning.
If you are interested in trying more than one route and wish to stay the night between each route exploration, Adventure and Spirit can arrange local-house accommodation. Alternatively, you can ask them to take you to Singaraja for a better place to stay.
December - Visiting a local tribe in Wamena
Along with the wonderful scenery, the Baliem valley in Papua is also home to some of the most authentic tribes in Indonesia. These tribes are postcard images of an Indonesian tribe - where the females wear minimum clothing and the men walk around in “koteka” (horn-shaped clothing that covers their private parts).
One of the most prominent tribes in the area is the Dani tribe.
It was not until the 1930s when the Dani tribe made contact with people outside their world, as they met an expedition led by an American explorer Richard Archold.
The area received more people when the city of Wamena was built nearby. But despite the growth that pushes the people of Baliem valley toward modernization, they still manage to hold on to their traditional cultures.
The Baliem Valley Festival, which has been around for decades, is an example of how local tribes still respect their culture.
This year’s festival was held from Aug. 12-15. Visiting during this festival will be the best time.
In the festival, you can see a reenactment of war dances, which simulate battles between the Dani, Yali and Lani tribes.
This ritual signifies fertility and prosperity for local residents.
Aside from the amazing sightseeing activity you get from Baliem Valley in the form of its scenery and local residents, a trip there can also be a life-changing experience as it will challenge your perspective on modern, civilized and comfortable ways of life.
The people of Baliem Valley are living perfectly well being less exposed to the modern world. Visiting them is a chance to marvel at people who live in complete synchronization with nature.
How to get there:
The only way to get to Wamena is by taking a 40 minute flight from Sentani Airport in Jayapura.
You can book flights via Trigana Air, Susi Air, Walesi Air and other local airlines, directly at the airport as most carriers do not yet provide online services.
Where to stay:
Baliem Valley Resort and Hotel Baliem Pilamo is one of the few hotels available in Wamena.
To get to Baliem Valley Resort, you will have to drive for around 50 minutes from the airport.
Plenty of budget hotels are also available in the area, along with local homestays.