There's bar-hopping. And then there's island-hopping, which you can do in Indonesia. The estimated 17,500-strong archipelago country consists of many underrated scenic islands waiting for both travellers and residents to explore. Thus, AXN Ultimate Challenge Indonesia, an original television and digital travel reality series created in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy of Indonesia (MOTCE) and KC Global Media, spotlights three iconic island destinations that encapsulate Indonesia's essence and beauty.
Presented in six-part 15-minute episodes, it stars award-winning Indonesian celebrities, actor and singer-songwriter Afgansyah Reza (aka Afgan) and London’s Royal College of Music graduate, Isyana Sarasvati—the singer who sang Indonesian soundtrack ‘A Whole New World’, for the 2019 live-action remake of Aladdin.
Pairing with Reza Chandika (#TeamAfgan) and Rara Sekar (#TeamIsyana), the duos embark on an exhilarating journey that includes epic adventures and challenges while discovering diverse cultures, gastronomic treats, and Indonesia's picturesque geography.
Series host Richard Kyle accompanies the teams to Labuan Bajo (known for Komodo National Park, snorkelling points and flying fox bats), Mandalika in Lombok (known for thrilling racing circuits, water parks and water sports activities), and Bali (need we say more?).
We ask Afgan on rediscovering Indonesia as a native and experiencing various tribe cultures first-hand.
ESQ: How did you feel being part of the AXN Ultimate Challenge Indonesia cast?
Afgan: I was really excited about the prospect of travelling around Indonesia when I first got the call. This opportunity brought me to some of the places I've never visited before but always wanted to. (ie. Labuan Bajo).
I was also really ecstatic that I get to travel with my best pal (Isyana, Reza and Rara) to explore wonderful Indonesia and make more travel memories, especially during the pandemic
ESQ: Describe the unique qualities of Indonesia from your perspective as a native.
Afgan: Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world and there are over 17,000 islands. With countless natural and cultural wonders, as well as unique experiences there is so much to explore.
I am truly glad to have this opportunity to explore my home country as a traveller & share my adventures while showcasing Indonesian hospitality to everyone across the world. Do join me on my adventure to explore 3 of Indonesia’s iconic islands in the AXN Ultimate Challenge Indonesia—Labuan Bajo, Mandalika in Lombok & Bali.
ESQ: Are there unexpected discoveries regarding Indonesia’s rich culture and heritage during filming?
Afgan: I was surprised to discover the rich culture when I talked to the local people from places like Sasak village and Labuan Bajo as well. Those are places I have never visited before and since I’m quite familiar with Bali, those 2 places I have never been to really surprised me when I discovered about their culture and their way of life and their history.
Especially with Sasak Village and how they stayed true to their roots on how they lived their lives. it’s just so mesmerising for me to see in this day and age that this group of people still value the old way of living.
ESQ: Tell us the most memorable moment you’ve experienced on AXN Ultimate Challenge Indonesia.
Afgan: The whole trip was memorable as all the experiences across the various locations were unique. One of the key things I took out of the trip was being able to bond with my best pals and explore the remarkable sights together.
Flyboarding was the most memorable challenge. Since I’m afraid of heights, I was initially doubtful but after I conquered that, I’ve come to like it. The adrenalin rush of the entire experience also opened me up to a whole new perspective.
Having the opportunity to explore Labuan Bajo was also very memorable. I’ve always wanted to go there but never had a chance until now. Exploring the magnificent Rangko Cave, a natural wonder that presents its blue water cave lank with sunlight shining directly on it was breathtaking.
One of the challenges of the show also took place here, so stay tuned! Other distinct memories include visiting Labuan Bajo, popularly known as the City of Sunset & sailing on the spectacular phinisi boat while enjoying the sunset.
ESQ: What song of yours would be suitable to represent this adventure and the beauty of Indonesia?
Afgan: If I were to pick my song that’d describe the beauty of Indonesia, it would be 'Brand New Day'. It's one of the tracks from my fourth album, SIDES. Since it talks about embracing life as it is, and leaving all negativity behind. I guess that’s the same feeling you get when you have the chance to experience the beauty of Indonesia.
ESQ: How did you identify with the stories of tenacity and resilience of the everyday Indonesians encountered in the show?
Afgan: Behind all the action and adventure, it was the people who completed the ultimate travel experience. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about the culture of Sasak tribe first-hand.
I got to meet the local people, such as 42-year old Bobby Hanafi, who shared his passion for preserving the rich culture of Sasak Village which has journeyed him from a guide in 1996 to the current-day village manager.
I also had the opportunity to explore the beauty of the Bugis culture with 47-year-old Nisbahuddin, a Pinisi captain of Bugis ancestry who followed in his sailor father’s footsteps, as well as Ni Komang Trisa Dewi, who has been working as a guide at the Bali Turtle Conservation for the past 2 years because of her deep love and dedication to rescuing injured turtles. I am really inspired by the amazing people that brought to life the ultimate travel experience through their heartfelt passion.
All episodes of AXN Ultimate Challenge Indonesia can now be streamed on AXN Asia's YouTube channel.