Best of Indonesia: Voyage I - Bali to Manado

Published on Tuesday, May 07, 2013

  • Toraja, Sulawesi Island

  • Bali

  • Sumbawa Island

  • Sumbawa Island

  • Sumbawa Island

  • Komodo Island

  • Komodo Island

  • Komodo Island

  • Selayer Island

  • Toraja, Sulawesi Island

  • Toraja, Sulawesi Island

  • Toraja, Sulawesi Island

  • Toraja, Sulawesi Island

  • Toraja, Sulawesi Island

  • Lewutokidi Island

  • Lewutokidi Island

  • Bau-Bau, Buton Island

  • Bau-Bau, Buton Island

  • Bau-Bau, Buton Island

  • Kokoila Island

  • Kokoila Island

  • Kokoila Island

  • Kokoila Island

  • Lunasualu Island

  • Lunasualu Island

  • Lunasualu Island

  • Maringkie Reef

  • Maringkie Reef

  • Maringkie Reef

  • Maringkie Reef

  • Malengi, Togean Islands

  • Malengi, Togean Islands

  • Malengi, Togean Islands

  • Malengi, Togean Islands

  • Malengi, Togean Islands

  • Malengi, Togean Islands

  • Malengi, Togean Islands

  • Dondola

  • Dondola

  • Dondola

  • Tangkoko Nature Reserve

  • Tangkoko Nature Reserve

  • Tangkoko Nature Reserve

Monday, February 25, 2013 - Bali, Indonesia: From across the globe we gathered at Sanur Beach Hotel in Bali where we were treated to a welcome dinner and a traditional Balinese dance performance out under the stars with the full moon rising in the background. What a great way to begin our upcoming adventure!
 
Tuesday, February 26 - Sanur / Ubud / Benoa / Embark Clipper Odyssey: We enjoyed a full-day Bali experience which began with a home visit to the traditional Balinese compound belonging to Wayan Sila, including the family temple or pura. Next we visited the Arma Museum of painting in Ubud, followed by a quick stop at Ubud Palace in the heart of the artist center of town. We arrived at Laka Leke Restaurant, owned by the legendary Ibu Wayan of Café Wayan fame, and enjoyed Balinese music and beautiful dance performances while feasting on our traditional lunch. The afternoon included a quick shopping stop at a local open-air market, before embarking the Clipper Odyssey, and setting sail across Lombok Strait.
 
Wednesday, February 27 - Sumbawa Island / Satonda Island: It was a sporting start to our first expedition day due to big waves pounding the black sand beach; but it was well worth it for a visit to the small Muslim fishing village of Kenanga. The village is comprised of a wide range of ethnic groups, and we were introduced to the indigenous people of Bima, the Mbojo, as well as migrants from Bali and Lombok who work in the coffee plantations. It is a village of mostly women and children as the men have migrated out to find employment. We were treated to several performances including the young Bima girls’ Rice Dance, a Balinese dance, male musicians from Lombok, and the seductive Fan Dance. A circumcision ceremony was held; and the young boys of the village had fun competing at the pole climbing game called the Ua Pua. 
 
Our afternoon was spent snorkeling, diving, or walking to the caldera crater lake of Satonda, a submerged volcano. Highlights included the kaleidoscopic diversity of coral gardens, living and feeding pollops with Moorish idols, regal angelfish, and damselfish to name just a few. Back onboard we enjoyed the captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner.
 
Thursday, February 28 - Komodo Island: Our morning began with the opportunity to snorkel, dive, or walk along Pink Beach. We saw lots of plankton-feeding fish including fusiliers, fairy basslets, and numerous damsel- and angelfish. Highlights included tomato anemonefish and false clownfish.
 
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 viewed several Komodo males, as well as rusa deer and wild boar, which often feature in the dragons’ diet. Walkers also spotted the green imperial pigeon, yellow-crested cockatoo, helmeted firebird, and jungle fowl. Our afternoon ended with running the gauntlet of the highly competitive pearl and craft vendors, before heading back to the Clipper Odyssey.
 
Friday, March 1 - Selayer Island: A spectacular morning spent admiring the corals and marine life off the shore of a small resort was enjoyed by all. We saw tremendously steep walls with a variety of gorgonian fans and beautiful soft corals teeming with brightly colored small fish.
 
The island was a picturesque, lush backdrop to the snorkeling and dive drop-off sites and many people went ashore to explore the tiny resort and walk along the beach. A highlight for many were the juvenile spadefish under the long jetty, and the otherworldly experience of swimming with a giant school of jacks. 
 
Our afternoon at sea was occupied by academic teaching on Indonesia’s history and culture by Leksmono Santoso and Kathy Robinson.
 
Saturday, March 2 - Palopo / Toraja, Sulawesi Island: The name Toraja means “people of the high country” and refers to the people who occupy the core of central Sulawesi. Bugis legend explains that their ancestors arrived on eight ships from the north in a terrific storm. Today, their ancestor’s ships are remembered in the unique, traditional Torajan architecture. Although now mostly Christian, the Torajans still practice their old religion, called Aluk Todolo (worship of the spirit ancestors) which divides the world of ritual between life and death, or light and darkness. As a significant part of the ancestor spirit’s journey, elaborate funerals hold great importance in Torajan ritual life.
 
Armed with a thirst for a new and truly unique experience, we set off on the windy, scenic drive from Palopo and headed for Toraja in small but comfortable vans, stopping to explore various sites along the way. Determined to make the most of this cultural highlight, we stayed overnight near the town of Rentepau at the beautiful Toraja Heritage Hotel.
 
The afternoon encompassed many fascinating Torajan highlights: Londa, where we explored cave graves with offerings of money and cigarettes; Lemo, famous for its Tau Tau galleries cut into the cliff face; Kambira, to see the Passilliran (baby graves) in a tree; and Ke’te Ke’su, a designated Heritage Village 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. 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 where buffalo are sacrificed, at the funeral ritual known as Rambu Solo. At our hotel we enjoyed dinner and a cultural performance, featuring the pa’bas and pa’pompang bamboo instruments played by schoolchildren.
 
Sunday, March 3 - Toraja: Not wishing to lose a moment, we started the day early with a natural history walk through the grounds of our hotel before setting off on the morning’s cultural tours. Our stops included Sa’Dan Tobarana, the center for Torajan ikat weaving and a fantastic opportunity to shop and purchase a few beautiful pieces; Palawa Village to photograph the classic north-south layout of Tongkonan and rice barns; and a stop at Bori Village, a megalith complex and burial site for the noble family.
 
After lunch we made a quick stop at the Rantepao Market, enjoying the sights and smells of local produce and daily life in Toraja.
 
Monday, March 4 - Lewutokidi Island / Buton Island: A welcome morning at sea allowed for some educational time with a lecture from Kathy and Rich Pagen. After an early lunch, we had time to enjoy water sports around the topographically interesting Lewutokidi Island, which had both a limestone jungle forest and a large peninsula of sand which the shore walkers enjoyed, sighting quail and brush chat. Snorkeling was phenomenal with well over 80 feet of visibility and calm seas that allowed us to view a large lobster in a shallow cave, spotted rays, tube anemones, tube worms, hawkfish, and even a sea snake.
 
In the late afternoon, a regal and sacred welcome was awaiting us on the dock at Bau-Bau, capital of one of the oldest sultanates in eastern Indonesia—Buton. Everyone was formally blessed and purified with incense and water, and greeted personally by the guard of honor from the Buton Keraton (Palace), some of whom performed a martial dance for us. 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 sits within the biggest fortress in the world; 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 stone a century later. The Mayor of Buton gave an official welcome speech followed by the very well-timed rendition of the ubiquitous Lulo Alu, or bamboo dance. Then we enjoyed a sumptuous feast of tasty local delicacies, followed by a fashion show featuring costumes used in important rite-of-passage ceremonies, such as circumcision. Our guides were charming young students from the English department of the local university. 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 taking photographs of us; they were just as entertained by us as we were of them.
 
Tuesday, March 5 - Kokoila Island / Lunasualu Island: We anchored off tiny, picture-perfect Kokoila Island and selected our activity options for the day. The shore party landed on the beach and met the Bajo people from Masadiang Island who were there to fish with nets and hand lines during the east monsoon. The snorkelers enjoyed a wide variety of soft corals and brightly colored angel-, parrot-, and anemonefish in calm, clear waters teeming with life. The divers spent most of the time at a depth of 15 feet, spotting redtooth triggerfish, green moray eels, and even a tiny, centimeter-long nudibranch.  
 
In the afternoon we offered more water options and visited Lunasualu Island which is used by people from nearby Menui Island as a base for catching fish and drying it. The small population was very welcoming and served us freshly grilled fish; we were shown how they collect fresh water, make octopus lures, and prepare the fish for sale.  
 
Wednesday, March 6 - Maringkie Reef / Bulukan Island: Our morning was dedicated to exploring the underwater wonders of Maringkie Reef, but soon turned into a fun cultural exchange when local fishermen brought their boats out to see what we were up to. Surrounding our Zodiac snorkel platform, the wooden fishing boats were happy to pick up snorkelers for a ride and we were as entertained by their make-shift diving set-up and antics as they were by us. One of the fishermen was determined to try and trade his freshly caught octopus for one of our snorkel masks and another was fascinated by our glass-bottom boat. Excellent snorkeling and diving was also enjoyed by all, highlights included the crown of thorns, large schools of jacks, and triggerfish that were changing color, exciting Jack Grove beyond belief with thoughts of hybridizing.
 
The village on Bulukan Island is a Bajo community that lives off the sea, exploiting the maritime environment with fishing nets, line, traps, and spears. The Bajo live on credit/trade relationships where the boss provides the villagers with credit and commercial services while they are farming the sea. The village had a small dilapidated mosque and a variety of dried fish for sale. The men fish and the women are responsible for curing and preparing the fish, and explained the importance of grinding the salt down so that it is really fine for drying the fish correctly. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming.
 
Thursday, March 7 - Malengi, Togean Islands / Reef Number Five: The nature lovers and hard-core hikers set out early on an exploratory hike in search of a bat cave we’d heard about from the locals. After negotiating the undulating terrain, the lush foliage, and several fleeting glimpses of green imperial pigeons and ivory-backed wood swallows, we decided to abandon our quest for the cave and return to the shore.
 
The beautiful, stilted Pagan Village welcomed everyone for exploration of this fascinating Bajo village on their own. We were invited into homes and were able to walk along the boardwalk that was built to give children access to the schools on the main island. The villagers here fish, raise goats, and process coconut into copra.
 
In true expedition style, we also managed to get great snorkeling and diving into the morning as well. The divers went on a dive through the mangroves and the snorkelers were treated to fantastic views of two cuttlefish.
 
After a well-earned lunch, we repositioned again to Reef Number Five, for an afternoon dedicated to snorkeling, diving, and glass-bottom boat cruising. Highlights included tridacna clams; damsel-, cardinal-, and lizardfish; and two black-tipped reef sharks were spotted by a few.
 
A fantastic day ended with an Indonesian buffet prepared for us by Ziggy and enjoyed out on the pool deck, under the stars.
 
Friday, March 8 - Dondola: An early morning start found us anchored alongside a picture-perfect coral sand island shaded by casuarinas trees, called dondola; this was to be the site of The Great Zegrahm Fish Biodiversity Count! With everyone in the water shouting out the names of every fish they spotted, it became quite the adventure to record all names as quickly as possible and a great time was had by all. The site was spectacular and absolutely teeming with color and life, our expedition team couldn’t have picked a better spot for us!
 
Back onboard we packed our afternoon at sea with a review of all the notes and photos from our Marine Mega Diversity challenge and a lecture by Peter Zika on the plants of the rain forest.
 
At 6pm we marked our crossing of the Equator with a delightfully amusing ceremony by King Neptune’s court, and several fishy kisses for the pollywogs, with a champagne toast enjoyed by all. The fun and revelry continued after dinner with a very special talent show performed for us by our fabulous Clipper Odyssey crew.
 
Saturday, March 9 - Lihaga Island / Bitung / Tangkoko Nature Reserve: We had time for an early morning expedition stop for water activities and beachcombing along the shores of Lihaga Island.
 
Our afternoon offered two exciting options. A small group opted to visit the Tangkoko Nature Reserve—over 30 square miles of land which is home to crested-black macaques, bear cuscus, and the elusive tarsier. To catch even a glimpse of these rare, but indigenous animals, required a hike through “darkening chigger-infested jungle,” but good sightings of crested black macaques, hawk eagles, Sulawesi white-throated minors, as well as roosting tarsiers made it all worthwhile.
 
The majority of the group opted for the cultural experience at Sawangan Village. Leaving dockside, we were escorted by a police car flashing its blue light to usher us through the comparatively large town of Bitung with its large harbor, the biggest in northern Sulawesi. We drove from the coastal lowlands where “people eat fish” to the highlands where “people eat meat,” the local distinction between fishermen and manioc, corn, and sweet potato cultivators. The villagers were waiting for us and upon arrival we were met by magnificently dressed warriors wearing massive headdresses of hornbill feathers, hornbill beaks, and the skulls of tarsiers and monkeys. The villagers entertained us with a war dance, and an exceptionally ‘western’ dance by the school girls and boys, with some dressed in white satin and others in formal Spanish-style red dresses and white pearls. We sampled several kinds of fruit, sweet potato, corn, manioc, and special deep-fried ‘cookies,’ and some of us even tried palm wine of various strengths. After the performance we were shown the waruga, or traditional graves sculpted from dressed stone with unique cappings on top, featuring distinctive qualities of their deceased relatives. Pressure from colonial powers ended the tradition of keeping their loved ones close to the dwellings and these interesting graves were moved into specified cemeteries and people buried in graves much like those found in Europe.
 
Sunday, March 10 - 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. The healthy coral gardens and diversity of fish made for a spectacular culmination to this voyage of incredible marine environments.
 
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. We were invited on an impromptu tour of the solar power plant and got to see their recycling initiatives – a great sign of changing times and investment in the environment.
 
Sadly our voyage had drawn to an end and we enjoyed farewell cocktails and dinner, bidding our wonderful travel companions a fond farewell.
 
Monday & Tuesday, March 11 & 12 - Manado / Disembark / Singapore: Manado is the capital city of North Sulawesi and for those departing there was time to enjoy a quick morning tour of the North Sulawesi Provincial Museum and a local market. An early afternoon flight took us to Singapore where we enjoyed the refuge of our hotel and a grand buffet dinner before setting off on our various flights back home.
 
For those continuing on for our second Best of Indonesia voyage, there was an all-day tour into the highlands to visit the Tomohon Market with its extraordinary culinary delights, though not for the faint-hearted. Then, back to the Clipper Odyssey, where new adventures were awaiting!