10 things expats need to know about the wildlife and weather in Indonesia - Tourism Indonesia

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Monday, January 1, 2018

10 things expats need to know about the wildlife and weather in Indonesia

As beautiful as Indonesia is, much of the natural environment will take new expats some time to get used to. To help you understand what to expect and better prepare, here are some tips on what you need to know about Indonesia’s wildlife and weather.
(Source: Wikimedia)
1. The climate
Indonesia has a tropical climate, which means it’s hot and humid all year round, with temperatures averaging 28°C (82°F) in coastal regions and 26°C (79°F) in inland and mountainous areas. Generally speaking, April to October is the country’s dry season. This is followed by monsoon season from November to March. Lightweight clothing should be sufficient throughout the year, but be sure to carry an umbrella and/or raincoat during the long months of rain.

2. The rainy season
Flooding is common during monsoon season, and can lead to water-borne diseases becoming more prevalent. Typhoid and cholera vaccines are available if you are planning to live in, or travel to, remote areas of Indonesia, where there is poor sanitation, or to areas often affected by natural disasters or flooding. You will need to get boosters every two or three years if you continue to be at risk.

3. The dry season
The dry season brings its own set of health issues. Industrial and urban pollution levels in Indonesia often rise during this time, and forest fires can be widespread, creating a smoke haze across parts of the country. Poor air quality can cause sinusitis, throat and eye irritation, and respiratory problems – especially for those who suffer from asthma. Be sure to take advice from your doctor before relocating, and pack inhalers or any other medication you might require. Many locals wear masks when pollution levels are high – a tradition you may choose to adopt.

4. Medical care
The standard of medical care in Indonesia can be poor, especially outside of the main cities. But treatment can also be expensive, with some hospitals demanding up-front cash payment or evidence of insurance cover. More serious injuries or illnesses may even require medical evacuation to Australia or Singapore, costing tens of thousands of pounds. Many governments, including those in the UK, Canada, and Australia, recommend taking out a comprehensive international health insurance policy to cover all medical costs, including medical evacuation, before heading off for your new life in Indonesia.

5. The heat
At all times of the year, the strong sun and high temperatures can cause problems for expats who are unaccustomed to the Indonesian climate. The country is located right on the equator, which means sunburn can occur rapidly, even on a cloudy day. The heat can cause swelling of the feet and ankles, muscle cramps due to excessive sweating, heat exhaustion, prickly heat, and heatstroke. You can help to prevent these by using sun block or high-factor sun cream, wearing a hat and sunglasses, seeking shade whenever possible, avoiding excessive activity, and staying hydrated with clean, bottled water (never tap water!)

6. Injuries
Even the most innocuous cut or scratch can easily become infected in a tropical climate, so be sure to observe good hygiene practices. Wash any scrapes or wounds in clean water, apply antiseptic, and cover with a clean plaster or dressing. Seek medical help straight away if you notice any signs of infection, for example if the wound is swollen and increasingly painful, has pus forming, or if you have a fever.

7. The animals
Rabies is common in both wild and domestic animals across Indonesia, especially dogs (and related species), cats, monkeys, and bats. It’s usually spread through the saliva of infected animals by way of a bite or scratch, but even a friendly lick can transfer this potentially deadly infection through broken skin. It’s therefore best to avoid contact with all native animals while you’re in the country.

If you are taking your family pets to Indonesia, make sure they are vaccinated before you travel. You should also consider getting rabies vaccinations for you and your family – particularly if you’re heading to a remote area with limited access to medical care. Even if you are vaccinated, always seek medical advice straight away if you’re bitten or scratched by an animal.

8. The insects
Indonesia’s insects – especially mosquitoes – can pose several health threats. A vaccination, recommended for those spending more than a month in rural areas, is available to protect against the rare but incurable Japanese encephalitis. As yet, there are no vaccines available for Zika virus, Chikungunya, Lyme disease, dengue fever or malaria (although there are some antimalarial drugs available). So, it’s well worth taking steps to minimise your chances of getting bitten:
  • Make sure your accommodation is insect-proof, and sleep under a permethrin-treated mosquito net if necessary
  • Apply (and regularly reapply) DEET-containing insect repellent to exposed skin
  • Wear long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, preferably treated with insecticide
  • Keep your home and outdoor areas free of standing water.
Yellow fever is not an infection risk in Indonesia, but you must present a vaccination certificate if you are arriving from a country that does have a risk of yellow fever transmission.

9. The birds
The H5N1 virus, better known as ‘bird flu’, has caused more than 150 human deaths in Indonesia since 2003. Although the annual rate seems to be declining, and the risk is relatively low, it’s best to take the following measures:
  • Ensure poultry and egg dishes are well cooked
  • Clean hands and work surfaces thoroughly after preparing poultry meat
  • Avoid live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with birds – domestic or otherwise.
10. Close encounters of the wild kind
The Indonesian islands are home to many of the world’s rarest species of mammal, bird, and reptile – some of which have the potential to be very dangerous. So, if you fancy exploring the habitats of the Borneo elephant, Indo-Pacific crocodile, or Sumatran tiger, be sure to opt for an organised tour with an expert guide. You could also read up on some of the animals you’re likely to encounter - and the best course of action to take should you find yourself face-to-face with any of them! Long sleeves, full-length trousers and sturdy boots are essential for exploring, to help protect against insect and snake bites.


The most important thing is to embrace these differences in environment. Dealing with them day-to-day is as much a part of Indonesian culture as food and festivals. Planning ahead and learning about these aspects before travelling can help to keep you safe and make it much easier to settle into your new life.

(Contributed by Terry Hearn)

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