Interview with our local partners in Indonesia
By Kati Taylor
A land of scattered islands and diverse wildlife, the memories of Indonesia last long after you return home. A vast country, it can be tricky to know where to start, but our local partners focus on sending travellers to the best bits, both on and off the beaten track. Founded in 2002 by Danny and Jacqueline (an Indonesian-Dutch couple), they have welcomed thousands of visitors to the magical island of Sulawesi. Far from bustling Bali and Java, Sulawesi and its surrounding islands are not a part of the usual tourist itinerary. We caught up with Jacqueline to talk culture, food and unmissable experiences.
What is life is like in Indonesia?
Life in Indonesia is warm weather, friendly local people and being surrounded by beautiful places to explore. It's also living at a slower pace and taking into account that many things take a bit longer than you might expect. It is called jam karet or ‘rubber time’!
With so many beautiful islands, it must be difficult to choose, but do you have a favourite place?
I have so many favourite places in Indonesia, it is hard to choose! A few soft spots are the forests of Sumatra and Kalimantan; the Baliem valley with its ancient tribal customs; and the amazing diversity of Sulawesi.
One of my fondest memories is of trekking through the amazing forest of Seram, Moluccas. It was filled with colourful parrots and cockatoos. Another was staying together with the Mentawai people on Siberut and joining some of their daily activities: fishing, cooking and dancing.
What three words most represent Indonesia for you?
Spiritual: There are deep spiritual beliefs in Indonesia that affect culture and way of life.
Diverse: Indonesia is amazing. Different islands, cultures, environments, languages, and wildlife. Every visit provides a completely different experience.
Welcoming: The people of Indonesia are very open and as a tourist you're made to always feel very welcome.
There are lots of different ethnic groups in Indonesia, is it possible to define the culture?
The islands of Indonesia are home to more than 300 different ethnic groups, each with their own identity and appearance. Because these groups all have their own religions, customs and habits, Indonesia has a very special culture. It’s beautiful to see the differences and hard to pinpoint ‘Indonesian culture’, it’s just too diverse - that’s one of the best things about it!
What is your favourite food?
Rendang, originally from West Sumatra, made from beef simmered in santen and spices. When we have travellers in West Sumatra we always include a Padang dinner at our guide’s house; his wife makes the best rendang in Indonesia! When we travel to West Sumatra we order kilos of extra rendang to take home with us.
Do you know any cool facts about Indonesia that most people wouldn’t know?
There are so many! Indonesia has the most active volcanoes in the world, the Sumatra forest is home to the world’s largest flower and half the islands in the archipelago don’t even have names.
Are there any experiences that visitors definitely shouldn’t miss?
Contact with local people. It is a great experience no matter where you go in Indonesia. That’s why we always include lunches at local houses in our itineraries, so travellers can experience the local way of life. Indonesian people are always happy to welcome others in their home and it is, in our opinion, the best way to get to know the culture.
Do you have any top tips?
Do not try to visit too many islands or areas during one trip. It is better to focus on a smaller region but explore this thoroughly and in detail.
What is the story behind your company?
Since the late eighties we have organised and guided tours for several Dutch and English-speaking organisations as well as for individual travellers. In 1994 we also wrote an extensive travel guide in Dutch and the project took us to the farthest corners of the country. We expanded our knowledge of the archipelago and our personal contacts across the nation, so other travellers could discover the real spirit of Indonesia as we have.
Having operated since the eighties you must have a lot of memorable experiences as a tour operator...
Yes! It's impossible to choose a top one. My favourite experience (fortunately there are quite a lot of them) is simply seeing guests returning to Indonesia and booking their next trip with us. We also filmed a Dutch travel programme in Sulawesi and Kalimanatan - that was definitely memorable.
There is still so much more to discover in Indonesia and itineraries to create. We want to explore more of East Kalimantan, the North Moluccas and East Sulawesi. These are still quite unexplored areas and we feel they would make great tour spots.
Fancy trekking the Sumatran forest or experiencing the tribal customs of the Baliem Valley? Or just have questions about this incredible country? Head over to our destination pages or fill out an enquiry form - where our local partners are ready to plan your Indonesian adventure.