Reports / Kayak and Climb Indonesia

By Sasha DiGiulian

Rural Indonesia is geographically stunning and offers the promise of world-class rock climbing. Recently pro climber Sasha DiGiulian and writer/photographer Chris Brinlee Jr. used sea kayaks to explore and develop climbing on different islands, including Timor and Sumba. This was a part of the larger goal of the trip which was to bolster ecotourism as an alternative, more sustainable form of economic infrastructure. They hoped to bring attention to the outdoor recreation possibilities in the area and to start developing an economic alternative to mining—sustainable tourism.

The trip was essentially a scouting mission to develop an understanding of the area and consider the feasibility of sustainable tourism.
—Sasha DiGiulian

Where did you go and what was your objective?
Sasha: We split our time between the eastern Indonesian islands of Sumba and East Timor; the trip was essentially a scouting mission to develop an understanding of the area and consider the feasibility of sustainable tourism there.

What is the potential for sustainable travel on these islands?
Sasha: The islands possessed many characteristics that would lend themselves toward sustainable tourism and travel, including both cultural and adventure activities and interests, such as tapestry weaving, local markets, beautiful waterfalls, rivers, and lagoons, beaches, etc. However, very little infrastructure—viable transportation options, extensive lodging, etc.—existed on either island.

How good was the limestone good for climbing? How good is the access to it?
Sasha: The limestone that we encountered, notably on East Timor, was in great shape and remains virtually undeveloped. Though it took four hours to reach the area by truck from the airport, the approach from the local community center was a mere minute’s walk.

The area in East Timor could become a climbing destination because of the proliferation of quality rock walls and potential lines in a concentrated area.
—Sasha DiGiulian

How could sustainable tourism be a solution?
Sasha: Though the mining has stopped, the threat still looms. But if sustainable tourism could be developed in the area, it would provide jobs for locals, boost the economy, and give the people additional reasons to protect the land.

What can you tell us about the beaches you found?
Sasha: Indonesia is a country known for its hundreds of islands; each island contains innumerable beaches. The beach-visiting possibilities are endless!

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