With its western regions clad almost entirely in UNESCO-protected rainforest, the island of Sumatra is an absolute wonderland for wildlife lovers. Parting the vines, and canoeing downriver with your expert guide, you’ll hunt for signs of the incredibly rare Sumatran rhino and tiger; see extraordinary bromeliads dotting the forest floor; and enjoy a magical up-close encounter with orangutans. Sumatra is also home to Lake Toba, the world’s largest volcanic lake, and here you can hang out with friendly ex-cannibals: the Batak Toba tribe. Most of Sumatra remains undiscovered, and it’s one of those rare places that makes you feel like you’re one of the first to ever set eyes on it – it certainly provides some welcome relief from the frenetic urbanity of Java.
Just 1.5 hours from Singapore by ferry, Bintan is the largest island in the Riau province. The island’s mix of Malay, Bugis, Chinese and the Orang Laut cultures, its mesmerising historical cities and vibrant markets on stilts in the sea make the island truly fascinating. Thrillseekers can turn their hands to a variety of water sports, while those looking for sun, sea and sand can enjoy 100 kilometres of idyllic unspoiled coastline. Spend the day diving or pay a visit to the fascinating 300-year-old temples in the Senggarang, before enjoying freshly-caught seafood overlooking the crystal-clear sea. Rent a thatched-roof villa at the beachside Banyan Tree Bintan, and relax to the sounds of tropical birds nesting in the surrounding trees. Meanwhile, the Anambas Archipelago is home to the Bawah Reserve, a rather special luxury island retreat.