Capturing ‘In the Wake of the Makassans’

Photography by Mark Daffey

Voyage log written by Ray Andrews, Ian Burnet, Erin O’Brien

Award-winning travel writer and photographer Mark Daffey recently joined us onboard Coral Geographer to capture the experience of our expedition ‘In the wake of the Makassans’. Through his lens he truly captured the essence of our journey – from the vibrant spirit of the local people sharing ancient cultural practices to the unique wildlife and natural beauty of the aquatic and island landscape.

This was a long-awaited voyage series with our inaugural program in 2020 cut short with the rapid onset of the pandemic. They say that good things come to those who wait – and with many of the original passengers taking part in this trip we were thrilled with the experience that was delivered for all.


Day: 3 – Tablolong Bay – 22.03.2024

“Our Xplorers landed us in the middle of the traditional village, and we were greeted by Oswald, our Indonesian agent and a group of immaculately dressed men and women in traditional batik dress all dancing and singing to welcome us ashore. The men were wearing these special hats called Ti’i langga made from the lontar palm (Borassus flabellifer). We all sat in the shade and were entertained with the most unusual stringed instrument called a Sasando. Its semicircular shape amplified the plucking of the strings and we were privileged to have a master Sasando player on hand, Mr Zacharias Pah.”


Day: 4  – Alor Kecil – 23.03.2024

“We were ushered into the heart of the village, an area of flat, heavily trampled ground. A ceremonial rock called a “Mesbah” was the focal point which appears to hold particular cultural significance in their ancient animist beliefs. They performed a Lego Lego Dance where everyone forms circles in an arm in arm embrace. The girls jangled around with brass bracelets. A very insightful look at the contrast between Modern Indonesian Alor and the ancient Austronesian cultures that previously existed here.”



Day: 5  – Lamalera – 27.03.2024

“After the later part of the morning the nearby village had completed the Sunday church service they launched a number of their traditional sail boats called Paledangs and headed out to demonstrate their skills with a mock whale hunt. From the close proximity of the Xplorers we were treated to a display of their techniques with the lead harpoonist known as a ‘Lama fa’ diving into the water from the prow of the boats with the long heavy harpoon.

After lunch we headed into the village of Lamalera to explore and were greeted warmly by the locals and were treated to a wonderful song and dance performance by some of the young people that was rich in the rhythm that represents the rowing of the whale boats.”

Day: 7  – Padar Island – 26.03.2024

“After Ray’s talk we loaded into the Xplorers and set out on a scenic cruise around the bays and jagged hills of Padar Island. When we reached the far side of the Island we navigated into a small sheltered beach with white sands. The clear water revealed a healthy coral reef alive with fish and the occasional green sea turtle. After some chilled time, snorkeling and relaxing on the beach we headed back to the ship for lunch.”


Day: 8  – Komodo Island – 27.03.2024

Walking though the early morning savannah we could feel the humid heat as we listened to the bush sounds of wild jungle fowl, yellow crested cockatoos and helmeted friarbirds. We did not have very far to go before encountering some Komodo dragons with a nearby watering hole providing a central focus point for the scaly reptiles.

Tasty lunch on board before we set off in the afternoon to the nearby Pink Beach known locally as Pantai Merah. The beach is named for the pink-coloured sand. The sandy substrate containing ground up foraminifera or organ pipe coral, known for its bright red pigment within the calcium structure. The coral reefs surrounding the beach were rich in both healthy coral communities and abundant fish species providing a delightful spectacle for those that ventured out for snorkeling in the cool waters.”

Day: 12  – Palopo & Tana Toraja  – 31.03.2024

“Palopo is a port town and the second largest city in the province. The town sits at the foot of a steep winding road, which leads into the highland regions and Toraja Land. We had an early departure from the ship for a welcoming ceremony and to meet the King (who was a woman) of this region. They told us how welcome we were as we were the first cruise ship to land in Palopo.


After  reaching Toraja Mislliana Hotel, which will be our home for a night, and enjoying a delicious lunch we visited the megalithic funeral site of Bori Parinding. More than 100 Menhirs stand in the burial grounds, each representing a person of high status and then burial remains have been interred in stone chambers carved out of the surrounding rock faces. We then visited the traditional village of Ke’te’ Kesu’, which consists of a compound of six Tongkonan houses and twelve granaries, laid out facing each other.”


Day: 14  – Tana Beru  – 2.04.2024

“The iconic wooden bugis phinisi are built on the beach here in Tana Bera by traditional Bugis boatbuilders who used these vessels to trade across the archipelago and even as far as Arnhem Land to collect trepang.

In the afternoon we went ashore to inspect the construction of these wooden vessels. The first surprise was how many vessels were under construction and we were told there were seventeen vessels along the beach. The other surprise was just how large some of the vessels were, as big as a four story building. Some of us also got to visit a traditional house built up on stilts.”


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