- Our Expeditions
- Expedition Travel
- Expedition Travel
- Small Ship Cruises
- Overland Adventures
- Flight Programs
- Expedition Activities
- Why Zegrahm
- Private Travel
- Traveler Info
Best of Indonesia: Voyage I
Published on Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Friday, March 5, 2010 - Manado, Indonesia: Manado is the capital city of North Sulawesi. A morning flight from Singapore brought those who were beginning their journey into Manado. Having collected luggage, everyone went off for lunch, followed by a visit to the North Sulawesi Provincial Museum and Chinese Temple. For those continuing on from the Best of Indonesia I voyage, there was an all-day tour into the highlands visiting the Tomohon Market with its extraordinary culinary delights, not for the faint-hearted, and giving a new spin to the term ‘doggy bag.’ Then, we took a bendi (horsedrawn cart) ride through the rice fields near Lake Tondano, followed by a wonderful local lunch at Lokan Boutique Resort. The day concluded with a visit to Woloan Village for a little shopping and a stop at Lake Linau’s sulfurous hot springs to enjoy a local coffee and fried banana served with Manadonese hot-chili sambal.
Saturday, March 6 - Bunaken National Marine Park: The waters and the phenomenal biodiversity of Bunaken are world renowned; over 300 types of coral and 3,000 species of fish have been recorded here. As a result, Bunaken has been protected as a national park since 1991 and incorporates some 300 square miles. Our first day in the water began off-shore from Bunaken Island, the sea was calm and clear, perfect conditions for snorkeling. The divers found a pregnant decorator crab, a boxer crab, robust ghost pipefish, a blue-spotted lagoon ray, a scorpionfish, and a sea moth. Others enjoyed a relaxed morning walk through the very friendly Kampong, or village of Bunaken, which provided some wonderful photo moments and an opportunity to meet the locals. The architecture of the Protestant church of this predominantly Christian community was most impressive. In the afternoon, the Clipper Odyssey relocated to Siladau Island, where people again enjoyed great coral and fish life in wonderful, crystal clear waters. Then, just enough time for a quick change for the captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner.
Sunday, March 7 - Lehaga Island / Bitung / Tangkoko Nature Reserve: Although natural history and cultural programs dominated the day, we had time for an early morning expedition stop for water activities and an inland exploration of the small Lehaga Island. Uninhabited at the moment, this idyllic island has been purchased recently and is slated to become a private resort. However, it remains a local weekend haunt for university students from Manado. We then set sail for North Sulawesi’s commercial hub and port, Bitung.
A small group opted to visit the Tangkoko Nature Reserve—over 30 square miles of land which is home to black macaques, bear cuscus, and the illusive tarsier. To catch even a glimpse of these rare, but indigenous animals, required a fairly lengthy walk through “darkening chigger-infested jungle,” but good sightings made it all worthwhile. The majority of the group opted for the cultural experience at Sawangan Village which is renowned for its unique 9th-century Waruga stone tombs. There are a number of societies which exist in Indonesia with unique megalithic traditions including the Minahasans of North Sulawesi, the Torajans of Central Sulawesi, the Sumbanese, the Batak of Sumatra, and the people of the island of Nias off the west coast of Sumatra. Upon our arrival at Sawangan, we found ourselves amidst a huge welcome party of everyone living within a five-mile radius, including, traditionally dressed and armed Minahasan warriors bedecked in red cloth and headdresses of monkey skulls and hornbills, and the local high school students sporting glamorous ball gowns and suits. The overwhelming welcome continued with the sampling of local fruits, rice cakes, and palm wine. The Minahasan warriors then performed dances, followed by the high school students; and the local community at large. It was hard to tell who took the most photographs, the visitors or the locals. There are 144 Waruga graves located in the heart of the Sawangan village cemetery which provided not only a very interesting site to visit, but a fascinating insight into the history and culture of the Minahasan people.
Monday, March 8 - Togean Islands: The Clipper Odyssey crossed the Equator at 6:40 a.m. and in order to mark the important event AND allow everyone a little more sleep, we received permission from King Neptune’s court to toast his health that evening instead. For those who ventured on deck in the early morning, the Lord of the Sea had arranged sightings of spotted dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, pygmy killer whales, and later pilot whales. Our lecture series began with Bamba Puang – Gateway to the Gods: Torajan Landscape and Culture presented by Kim Saunders, followed by a fascinating introduction to the Jewels of the Sea: Coral Reefs and their Mind-Boggling Diversity from Craig Ward.
After a splendid BBQ lunch on deck, we found ourselves anchored alongside a picture-perfect coral sand island shaded by casuarinas trees, called Dondola, where we enjoyed warm waters (on the hottest day to date), great swimming, and fantastic snorkeling and diving. Conrad Field and Pepper Trail were on hand mid-afternoon to give interpretive island walks. The day was rounded off with our first recap session which indluded illustrated reef fish identification from Giovanna Fasanelli; a great look at what is under our feet from Conrad, including obsidian, volcanic glass, and pumice, a timely reminder of the volcanic activity in the area; and a very lively presentation on the tarsier from Kevin Clement (and very able illustrated by John Yersin). Leksomon Santoso and Mike Messick negotiated a wildly successful mid-evning expedition stop at Malenge Village, where the locals had never had a passenger ship stop at their village before.
Sunday, March 9 - Togean Islands: The tenacious birders were well rewarded for their 4:30 a.m. start. After negotiating the undulating terrain, they reached a fruiting fig tree and established their look-out spot. The little known Togean white-eye was spotted first, followed by the vibrantly colored knobbed hornbill, then the indigenous Maleo bird, green imperial pigeons, Sulawesi hanging parrots, finch-billed mynas, ivory-backed wood swallows, and to cap it all off, Celebes black apes. Although the island is home to the unique Babi Rusa (aka pig deer), and is protected by the local community, it remained elusive. However, it was very clear that we were experiencing the diverse fauna of the Wallace transition zone that spans the island of Sulawesi.
At the somewhat more respectable time of 7:30 a.m., we began disembarkation for the village of Malenge. The local school incorporates both elementary and junior high school classes and the students gave a rousing rendition of the national anthem Indonesia Raya, followed by some local songs. Then, a game of volleyball against the new visitors and an exploratory walk through the very well-organized and tidy village—home to some 2,000 nomadic Bajau Laut, the roving sea people of Malaysia and Indonesia; the great seafaring Bugis; and the local Togean Islanders. The villagers here fish, raise goats, and process coconut into copra.
In true expeditionary spirit, the scouting team located a wonderful snorkel site and a very unique Bajau Laut village, just three miles south of Malenge. So, by mid-morning the ship pulled up the anchor and moved positions so that we could further explore the village, the beach, and the bay. Traditionally, the Bajau Laut live on boats; however, in order for the children to attend government schools they have settled on the little stone island of Pulau Papan, known locally as Bajau Island. Here they have built simple stilt houses over the water, a mosque, and a very long wooden bridge so that the children can walk for one hour each way to a school located on the neighboring island.
During lunch, the ship repositioned again near Atoll Number Five, as recommended by Rudi at the local diving lodge. The afternoon activities offered the “best and most colorful coral seen thus far on the trip.”
Wednesday, March 10 - Banggai Islands: Due to some administrative red tape and localized clearance, everyone except those on duty on the Bridge, enjoyed the luxury of a leisurely start to the day. The scouting party was in the water first thing and found good sites for snorkeling and diving, plus a very good beach and birding walk at Pulau Kulutan. Lunch on onboard was accompanied by a few rain squalls with thunder and lightning, but they cleared up just time for us to get in the water to enjoy yet another fascinating reef. Some of the local fishermen paid us a visit. They were so surprised to see a big ship in the area that they wanted to check that we were alright and not in need of any assistance. They came from nearby Pulau Sago, a community of some 200 Bajau Laut, Bugis, and other locals and were as intrigued with our water activities as we were with them.
Thursday, March 11 - Padeo Basar:Two hours of scouting in the rain was rewarded with great snorkeling and diving and a very interesting and authentic nomadic seafaring settlement on the tiny island of Koloila. Here around 80 Bajau Laut people, some of whom said they were as from as far away as the Phillippines, live together. The community makes their living by fishing and selling their surplus catch on the mainland. This has enabled them to buy a small generator for electricity and some fuel for the boat engines. We donated some first aid supplies, along with a soccer ball, pump, and some reading glasses for the senior islanders. As this is a nomadic settlement there was no designated head of the village so Leksmono distributed the supplies to each family individually, thus ensuring equality and harmony within the community.
By midday, the rain had stopped, the skies had cleared, and the sun was pushing through. Having repositioned over lunch, everyone enjoyed more water sports and the opportunity to visit another fascinating fishing village. This one was located on the slightly larger island of Luna Swalu and was home to more Bajau Laut and locals from the much bigger island of Manui. Here again the community makes their living fishing and their catch included squid, puffer fish, which were spear hunted, and blue-spotted eagle ray. At the center of the island was a 200-year-old banyan tree and the area was shaded with coconut palms. The community of 30 people are all Muslim so they have built a small mosque in the center of the village. In addition to the coconuts and fish, the local diet consists of shellfish, seaweed, and papaya. Once again, we donated a soccer ball, pump, medical supplies, and reading glasses which were gratefully received.
To round off a very authentic Indonesian experience, cocktails were served on the pool deck followed by a dinner of Indonesian Rijsttafel, prepared by our wonderful Indonesian Chef Indra and his superb team. Rijsttafel means “rice table” and consists of a variety of dishes infused with spices presented on one table, in separate dishes, and accompanied with rice.
Friday, March 12 - Buton Island: A regal and sacred welcome was awaiting us on the dock at Bau-Bau, capital of one of the oldest and strongest sultanates in Indonesia, that of Buton. Everyone was formally blessed and purified with incense and water and then greeted personally by the guard of honor from the Keraton Fortress. The guards were wearing hand-woven, multi-colored jackets over plaid sarongs with a batik scarf headdress and the essential keris dagger tucked into their belts. The Palace Fortress is recorded as the biggest fortress in the world at a length of 1.5 miles. There are 12 entrance gates that are easily defended and were traditionally guarded by Butonese warriors. It is believed that the fort was built by the Butonese in the 15th century, originally in wood and then in mountain stone a century later. The Mayor of Buton gave an official welcome speech followed by a dance displaying martial arts and a very well-timed rendition of the ubiquitous stick dance. Then, a sumptuous feast of tasty local delicacies, followed by a fashion show featuring costumes used in important rite-of-passage ceremonies such as the first haircut. It was evident that an enormous amount of planning and preparation, not to mention pride, had gone into the festivities honoring our visit. Alas, the time to depart came all too soon, but everyone continued smiling and there was time to peruse the locally made handicrafts, including very colorful textiles and explore the fort both on foot and by bemo, little local buses, before returning through the city, with the Holy Friday midday call to prayer resonating through the busy streets.
The afternoon water activities were located around the topographically interesting Lewtokidi Island, which had both a limestone jungle forest and a large peninsula of sand which was being cultivated with coconuts. Throughout our odyssey in eastern Sulawesi, the locals all seemed as interested in us as we in them and several boat loads came out to join us on the island and have their picture taken with us.
Saturday, March 13 - Toraja: Bugis legend explains that eight ships sailed from Pongko and, in a terrific storm off the coast of Sulawesi (near to modern Pare Pare), the ships were swept into the mouth of the Sa’dan River and continued their journey to the Sa’dan highlands where they eventually settled. Their ships are remembered in the unique, traditional Torajan architecture. The Torajans believe that their ancestors descended to earth on Erotic Mountain and that the shape of the houses reflects the rising and setting of the sun. Today, Toraja retains its fragile culture in the globalized 21st century and is still deeply rooted in ritual and tradition, especially death rituals.
This is why we got up at 4:30 a.m. and took a two-mile Zodiac ride to disembark at Watampone. Our planned disembarkation at Palopo had been dashed by news that the mountain road had been washed out in 17 places and was most definitely impassable. Determined to enjoy this cultural highlight, Zegrahm secured overnight accommodations in Toraja and an alternative route, albeit a marathon drive, was in place. Armed with snacks, puzzles, cameras, overnight bags, and a thirst for a new experience, we drove for six hours to reach our destination. We refueled on our way with freshly roasted cashews, Torajan coffee, and lunch at the Hotel Misiliana.
The afternoon encompassed many of the key Torajan highlights: Lemo, famous for its Tau Tau galleries cut into the cliff face; Kambira, to see the Passilliran (baby graves) in trees; and Londa, where the highest graves in the world are located. Ke’te Ke’su is designated a Heritage Village; people still live there and it is renowned for very fine traditional wood carving. This village gives a very clear view of the Tongkonan (traditional ancestral houses of origin) and Alang (rice barn) architecture. The house in the middle of the village is one of the oldest in Toraja. Behind the village there are some hanging graves, a communal tomb, and the final resting place of a village chief. There is also a megalithic rante circle (used for sacrifice of buffalo) at the funeral ritual known as Rambu Solo. We enjoyed dinner and a cultural performance, featuring the Pa’bas and Pa’pompang bamboo instruments played by schoolchildren, at the Toraja Heritage Hotel.
Sunday, March 14 - Toraja: Not wishing to lose a moment, we started the day early with a choice of a birding hike or cultural tour. Our morning tour included Sa’Dan Tobarana,’ the center for Torajan ikat weaving; Palawa Village to photograph the classic north-south layout of Tongkonan and rice barns; and a visit to Rantepao Market, it is here that pigs and the many different kinds of buffalos are found, among many other items traded regularly. The buffalo is key to Torajan culture, whether it be the work horse in the rice fields or the ultimate sacrifice in a funeral. With a long drive back to the ship, we stopped quickly for lunch in Pare Pare, the second largest city in South Sulawesi, and then continued south reaching Makassar, the capital of Sulawesi, in time for dinner aboard the Clipper Odyssey. The ubiquitous Indonesian questioning greeting of “Hello mister, where you going,” had taken on a completely new meaning in Toraja and everyone who went, agreed it was worth the drive.
Monday, March 15 - Komodo Island: After our marathon drive to and from Toraja, our relaxing morning at sea was a perfect respite. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast followed by two fabulous lectures to put the natural heritage of the whole trip into perspective. As we had been sailing in the wake of Wallace, Pepper set the scene with There are No Moa: Bird Evolution and Extinction in the Pacific, followed by Kevin’s illuminating insight into the intriguing story behind Wallace and Darwin entitled Alfred Russell Wallace and His Dangerous Idea.
At this time of year, the usually arid, dry scrubland around the Komodo National Park appeared very green. Pantai Merah (Pink Beach) beckoned and provided ideal snorkeling and swimming from the beach or from Zodiacs, while the divers were undeterred by the swirling currents. By late afternoon virtually everyone was ready for a close encounter of the dragon kind, and none were disappointed. Enjoying walks of varying lengths, everyone met several members of the family of Varanus komodoensis, who were gracious enough to pose for our cameras. It has often been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if a 120 pound (plus or minus) monitor lizard tells you they have a beautiful body, it’s as well to believe them, especially as they can swim and sprint, albeit short distances, up to 16 miles per hour. But, perhaps more daunting, was running the gauntlet of the highly competitive pearl vendors and trying to decide which gorgeous strand to buy, before returning to the ship for final recap and a wonderful BBQ dinner under the stars.
Tuesday, March 16 - Sumbawa and Satonda Islands: The not-so-little fishing village of Kenanga offers a very authentic and warm social experience. Many of the local people are indigenous Sumbawanese, descended from Bugis, or a transmigrate, such as the Balinese. Quite different with its black volcanic sand beaches and colorful purple medusa jellyfish at the water’s edge, the well ordered village was en fete in anticipation of our arrival. A circumcision ceremony for six boys from a remote and very poor village in the mountains had been arranged. Proud fathers accompanied and comforted their sons with prayers during one of the most significant rites of passage for a young Muslim boy. Our ship’s doctor was impressed with the attention to anesthetics and the sterile procedure for each initiate. The party brought the two villages together and we witnessed traditional martial arts, or silat, and dances in traditional south Sulawesi costume, Baju Bodo, before visiting the local school and walking through the village with the teachers. The Zodiacs, however, proved to be the main attraction for the local children who loved riding on the pontoons and being sprayed with water from the propeller. Our last afternoon was spent snorkeling, diving, beach combing, and walking into the caldera crater lake of Satonda, a submerged volcano. Back onboard we enjoyed the captain’s farewell cocktail party and dinner, followed by G’s fabulous slide presentation encapsulating many of the trip’s highlights.
Wednesday, March 17 - Bali: “Just where did the time go?” was the question on everyone’s lips today. The notoriously rocky Lombok Strait crossing had been kind to us overnight and a good sleep had been enjoyed by all. We disembarked the Clipper Odyssey and enjoyed a full-day Bali experience which included a home visit to the traditional Balinese compound belonging to Wayan Sila, including the family temple or pura. Then, a visit to the Agung Rai Museum of painting in Ubud, followed by a traditional Balinese buffet lunch at Lake Leke Restaurant, owned by the legendary Ibu Wayan of Café Wayan fame. The afternoon afforded a Balinese puri experience at Ubud Palace and a visit to the market, followed by a stop at Celuk, the silversmith’s village and finally check-in at the serene Bali Hyatt, Sanur, known for its beautiful private beach and well-established designer gardens. To round off the evening in true Balinese style, farewell drinks and a Rajalaya grand dinner on the Purnama Terrace.