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The excitement was in the air as Coral Adventurer undertook her first ever guest voyage cruising from Singapore to Darwin. Expedition leaders David Keech and Jamie Anderson kept us up-to-date with the daily trip report, and Photographer David Li captured these beautiful shots. Explore the Coral Adventurer and follow their exciting shore excursions with the trip highlights below.
Our last day of land-based and in water activity took place at and around Banda Naira and Gunang Api. First to depart were the divers and snorkelers who were taken around to the Lava Flow Dive Site. This is an incredible experience to view corals which are only 31 years old. Divers and snorkelers alike had a great time. Rachel and Seb took the divers. Ian Kathryn and Jamie took guests ashore to again wander Banda Naira markets. Guests had the chance to purchase pearls and other trinkets, and the opportunity to wonder at own leisure or with local guides. The “Mad Hatters Tea Party” took place at the Maulana Hotel. Signature Papua did a great job of ensuring Cinnamon tea and coffee were available to all. The sweetmeats were extravagant and the cinnamon twists were very tasty. The hotel donated a beautiful traditional drum. Mita the manageress is a direct descendant of Des Awai a very well-known local who wrote the history of Banda. After lunch, Gary gave a presentation on Banda & Australia. Its an oldy but a goody and guests enjoyed it. Afternoon tea was followed by a documentary Off the Fence Indonesia’s Volcanic Islands.
It was an early start this morning with a birdwatching walk at 0630 on Hatta Island. There were a number of species seen including the Nutmeg Imperial Pigeon, Collared Kingfisher, Hatta Island Red Myzomela and the local white-eye amongst others. In the cool of the morning the guests enjoyed the lack of noise. We were back on board for breakfast. Divers and snorkelers were taken to Hatta Reef. The other Xplorer made its way to the beach and guests either went for a walk with Ian or stayed on the beach and snorkeled or swam. Later we arrived in Zonnergat Strait and the Kora Kora Canoes were waiting to receive us and escort us into town. The guests egged on the two war canoes and the boys put on a great show. Paul and Jamie picked up the officials and we made our way to the anchorage. At 1415 the first Xplorer made its way towards the Hotel steps on Bandanaira. Two guests were selected randomly to lead us in and be presented with gifts. The large group were split into 5 groups for the well-worn historical tour. Guests met up on the parapets of Fort Belgica where there were local canapes and Champagne & orange available to guests. The local girls danced for us and the gong band also played. It was a wonderful end to the day.
I awoke very early (0530) to a beautiful day. This would be the best day I have seen at Molana Island. The dive and the snorkel was exceptional. Clarity of water was brilliant and fish & coral life excellent. There was little rubbish to talk about on the reef but as the tide changed a few plastic bottles started to sweep past. By 1100 most guests were out of the water. We made our way to Saparua and anchored in the bay just off the Duurstede Fort. At 1500 we started to make our way over to Saparua. We were met by the Christian crowd as it is Ramadan and the Lenso dance was performed at the gates to the soccer stadium. Then we were escorted to the bottom of the Fort stairs by the boys who performed the Cakelele (Warriors dance). This was a fine Traditional Dance with much movement and incredible precision. 4 guides took groups around the Duurstede Fort. Guests enjoyed the views from the parapets and Coral Adventurer looked good from this position in the sunny conditions. The museum was a historic diorama and many guests enjoyed the wander around although it is very dark. A final dance and some incredibly beautiful choral pieces made this a true highlight. When we departed we had the King of Saparua and his entourage join us for pre-dinner drinks and canapes. There were presentations to Captain Gary and his wife Wendy, and reciprocal gifts for the King and his wife. The guests were very happy with this interaction and the kids again sang some songs accompanied by Ken (a local) who played the guitar presented to him by Dave Smith. It was a great night. As the group depart there was wild applause. According to many this was the best day yet.
We had a sleep in today as we were at sea again. Guests had a chance to relax and refresh. Captain Gary led off this morning with his favourite topic The VOC and Tasman’s Voyages. At 1130 the Astrolabe series continued. Those that attended loved the session. After lunch Kathryn gave her presentation House, Boats and Textiles: material culture in Eastern Indonesia. An Engine Room tour was taken by Frank and guests really enjoyed the experience. After afternoon Tea, Ian gave a presentation Natural Secrets of Sulawesi. This was enjoyed by guests. Sunset pre-dinner drinks were spectacular.
There was quite a gathering on Baubau wharf and it was all for us. Local ladies beautifully dressed in traditional costume, and officials. We visited the Sula Weaving Village where women use hand looms to make beautiful sarongs and bags. The whole village has been colourfully painted, featuring some beautiful murals. This gives the village a real bright and happy look. The woven material was excellent and quite reasonable in price. The Wameo Market is the largest market in Baubau with incredible fruit & veg. The variety of fish species was also phenomenal. Guests had been interested in a market experience, so they were thrilled. We all ended up at Wolio Buton Palace which was exceptional for the magnificent walls of limestone stuck together egg white. The Sultan’s Meeting House was where we sat with the locals and they fed us tasty morsels. We were all given a snack box to take with us. The people of Baubau went out of their way to make this a memorable morning. After lunch a group went for a cruise around Pulau Makassar Bau Bau. This was the earliest settlement for the Buginese dating back to the late 1400’s. We had Mr Lucman a very good local guide on the Xplorer to explain the history. Jamie, Rachel and Seb took guests to Malige Palace. This was an old, well built, timber, 4 storey Sultan’s Palace. It is a little museum and still very sturdy. We were then dropped off at the town square where we photographed the dragon whose tail was under the ground according to legend. At 1800 tonight this square was going to be alive with the Ramadan Festival. Small food stalls were getting things ready for the 1800 feast. We arrived and bought banana fritters, sweet potato fritters, rice balls, tofu fritters and Cups of Tea with ginger & condensed milk. The stall owner thought all his Christmases had come together.
After breakfast and Guest Lecturer Presentations, Chief Engineer Sayed held two engine room tours and guests had a great experience. After brunch, headed ashore, with one Xplorer having scuba gear loaded for the divers. Both Xplorers landed on the beach close to the Marine National Park’s headquarters. The head ranger gave us a rundown on the importance of the island and some interesting statistics. There were many locals from the 13 inhabited islands in attendance as it was a special day for them. The rangers then led us on a short walk of 200m to the seaward side. Along the way we planted 50 Casuarina trees and guests were able to put their names on the boards at each tree. It was then time to release a small number of Hawksbill Hatchlings. Once everyone was back at the jetty it was a free for all in the turquoise water. There were a large number of guests snorkelling, and the Dive Instructors guided the divers. All divers had a good time when asked, Snorkellers also had a wonderful water experience with quite a number watching 7 large Cuttlefish playing. Mike went for a snorkel and came back with a number of invertebrates to show guests. The sunset was magic, and many photographs were taken. Jamie gave the recap and the briefing and dinner service started at 1830. After dinner the Spice Trail – Vanilla was shown in the Bridge Deck Lounge. See More Photos Here.
It was a beautiful day that we woke up to and there was little wind to speak of. After a late breakfast we put on the incredibly beautiful Planet Ocean, a French Cinematography documentary. Guests really enjoyed the show and it presented many issues which created many questions. Mike was on hand to answer the guest’s inquiries. We arrived at Satonda at 1230 and the Xplorer departed for Labuhan Kenanga Village. The welcome was beautiful under a magnificent shade tree on black volcanic sand. The Ale-Ale dance was performed and this is a very special traditional Sumbawanese dance only done on very special occasions. Costumes were traditional and very ornate. We were introduced to our guide, they were local guides from this village and they were certainly proud of their position. We were led into the main street and mixed with the goats as we entered the school. The students were there to show us that they were learning English and Oswald had the kids getting up and counting in English, welcoming in English etc., They did a wonderful job. They also sang the Indonesian National Anthem which brought tears to a few eyes. Guests donated some money to the principal, in front of teachers and others so it will be used for the right purposes. We walked further down the main road to a meeting house where we were given tastes of local foods such as banana fritters (to die for), peanuts, cashews, hot coffee (delicious) and boiled cassava. We watched women grinding the coffee and cooking the coffee beans (drying). We experienced the art of Alang-Alang Roof making. The woman doing this was an expert. We went back to the beach and made a presentation to the Clinic of towels, blankets and sheets. The Sister/Nurse was incredibly happy. We then departed for Satonda and dropped a few off at the beach so they could walk to the crater lake. Seb gave guests a little history about Satonda which assisted guests to understand the reasons for the saltwater lake. Guests had a number of options on Satonda including a walk to the crater lake. Some guests swam in the lake and found they were floating higher in the water. Others instantly started to snorkel. Ian was ashore taking a bush walk up onto the rim of the crater and found an emerald viper to show guests. After dinner The Spice Trail Episode two was shown. It has been a great day and guest enjoyed everything they did. The village shared everything with us and were very thrilled that we came in numbers.
We made our way ashore, landing at Tanjung Jetty with locals waiting to assist as we stepped off the Xplorers. We boarded air-conditioned coaches and made our way through the narrow village roads. First stop was Great Mosque, one of the 10 oldest mosques in Indonesia. Since it was Friday we could only enter the first arch and look towards the main building. The front entrance was extremely ornate and beautiful to see. From the Great Mosque we walked across the road and explored the park. We were accompanied by the Tongtong music which was colourful, loud and dramatic. There were kids on a variety of drums and a few playing trumpets. It was a slow 20minute walk to the Kraton Palace where on entrance we gave guests a chance to wander the palace grounds with guides. The Palace Museum was very interesting, and the grounds beautifully looked after. We had a welcome speech from the MC Aris. Then it was time to experience the special Muangsangkal dance. This traditional dance is only performed in the palace. We had a wonderful lunch at the Pendopo of Kraton Palace. The food was superb and most guests really enjoyed authentic Madurese Cuisine. During lunch we were very lucky to see the Mask Dance. There was a story that was told by a Leader while local music backed it up. The masks were sensational and the commentary was comical at times. It was a great experience.
It was a beautiful morning as we came to anchor in Sangkapura Bay, Pulau Bawean. At 0745 the first Xplorer departed and made its way into the jetty. We had comfortable 25 4/5 seater Toyota vehicles awaiting for guests for the journey to the Bawean Hog Deer Reserve. It was a 30min drive through narrow laneways past very neat houses surrounded by rice paddies to the reserve. From the parking area it was 50m walk to the viewing area and it was great to view these critically endangered animals. There was a good number to be seen and everyone had their fill. It was at this time that we divided the groups up – those walking to Lake Kastoba and those walking to Pudakit Village. Those going to Lake Kastoba got back into vehicles and it was about an hours’ drive to the entrance to the walk. At Pudakit Village there was a beautiful spread awaiting. The walk up to Lake Kastoba was an experience. When we were almost at the lake, the thunder and lightning started and then torrential rain fell making for a fun but muddy downhill walk. The expedition team assisting many down the track. By the time we were down at the vehicles, everyone was soaked. We dried off back on the CA, and after lunch, we were off to Gunangtegah Village where we were regaled by performance, welcome and a village walk to the arts and crafts area. We watched the women weaving bags and mats. It was a full day and very adventurous. Most guests enjoyed it all. The storm was the major talking point. It just rained on the lake nowhere else.
Today was another day at sea and so we had a later start to the day with an 0800 breakfast. Guests and crew alike were able to sleep in. Ian started proceedings with Wallacean Wildlife – the Aussie Connection. Guests enjoyed his talk and find him so enthusiastic with his subject matter. Captain Gary was ready for his Astrolabe session prior to lunch. After lunch we had we had two Engine Room Tours run by Frank and two Bridge Deck tours run by Rob. They were enjoyed by all who attended. There is definite interest in both tours so more will be held in coming days. Chocolate chip cookies, made by Chef Barbara, were a big hit for afternoon tea. Kathryn gave a presentation Princes, Sultans and Saints – Religion and Politics in Madura. Kathryn is extremely intelligent and speaks much from experience. Guests love her knowledge. During the day guests were able to exercise by walking around decks and hitting the Guest Gym. During pre-dinner drinks David Li gave us a look at some of his photos. Jamie gave the briefing and tonight the documentary showing is Bill Bailey’s Jungle Hero – Wallace in the Spice Islands. It has been a relaxing day.
Jakarta Old Town, formerly Batavia, is a sprawling metropolis of a city bearing silent witness to the occupation of the Dutch colonial era. Referred to as “Kota Tua”. In the 16th Century, the Dutch established as base here that was the centre of commerce in the region and quickly became an important hub across the Indonesian Archipelago. Onshore, we boarded buses, enjoying interpretation from Signature Papua guides as our convoy made its way through the city’s bustling streets. Once in the main Old Batavia City Square we visited the Jakarta History Museum and the Fine Arts & Ceramics Museum. We were guided through the museums by our impressive guides who gave us an extraordinary amount of information. There was plenty to look at and there was a feature display of Australian Muslim history of Afghan camel herders and Australia’s first Mosque. Eventually, we headed for Wayang museum for a real treat – Wayang Kulit Performance. This was the shadow puppet show with a difference. The Senior Puppet Master (Dahlang) came out to do a special performance just for us along with traditional percussion instruments give an interesting and authentic experience for the guests. At the end guests were given an opportunity to meet the performers. We then all made our way to The Batavia Café. The building was superb. The photographic displays of world leaders and film stars really was impressive and of course most of us oldies knew who they all were. The coaches took us to the Maritime Museum (Museum Bahari) before getting back to the Marina. This museum was extremely interesting. After a late lunch we took a cruise of Sunda Kelapa Harbour. With very threatening skies and huge lightning strikes over the city as a backdrop we quietly made our way into the canal system to view the incredible Phinisi boats. Built in Sulawesi these traders ply the waters of the Indonesian Archipelago. They are extremely stable and the produce they carry to small islands and villages is vital. These vessels were lined up bows to the wharf, either ready to depart or being loaded.
It was another beautiful morning to visit the Cidaon Grazing Grounds. We had a cruise along the coast and Ian and Kathryn took the cruisers out to the fishing bagans. There were a few of the larger birds seen again such as Rhinoceros Hornbill, Striated Heron and White bellied Sea Eagle on the cruise. Kathryn was able to talk about the people of the bagans. Those that went for the walk enjoyed the stroll through the grazing grounds spotting birds including Fire tuft Barbet, flowerpeckers, scarlet myzomela, collared kingfisher amongst others. The walking was good exercise and we took time out to stand in the crystal clear spring waters often used by the Javan Rhino during dry times. They come to this crossing to drink and swim. Back onboard Ian gave a presentation Part Two: The Wallace Line which guests really enjoyed. Gary took over with the Astrolabe series. After lunch Mike gave a presentation: The Making of Anak Krakatau. Guests also enjoyed this presentation. At 1500 we arrived at the Krakatoa Islands and slowly entered the region that has caused so much destruction since 1883. As recently as December 2018 Anak Krakatau flexed its muscles and the area was again changed. Guests were in awe of even being close to it. There was no greenery on the island at all and seems to have added a great deal of solid ground while blowing its stack and losing a good deal of height. Leaving the volcanic region, we ran into foul ground where fishermen had put down nets almost blocking us in. It looked like lines of rubbish but in actual fact they were bits of foam and plastic with nets below. Kathryn gave a presentation: From Old Batavia to the Nation’s Capital. People enjoyed this talk. Gary gave his Abel Tasman Diary reading and Ian gave many facts about Bird’s Nest Soup up on the Vista Deck. The weather was very good and the sunset was to die for as we departed Krakatau. Guests seemed to be enjoying their experience.
At Peucang Island, rangers welcomed and guided us through the beautiful dense rainforest. Guests cooled off with a dip in the tropical waters off a beautiful white sandy beach, while others wandered the forest paths for some ‘me’ time. Some guests enjoyed coastal kayaking guided by Expedition Crew member Sebastian, finishing up at the Peucang Jetty. Guest Lecturer Ian took guests wandering into the forest spotting wildlife including the Long-tailed Macaques, plenty of Rusa Deer and the Javan Hairy Pigs. Next stop was the Cidaon Grazing Ground to see the Banteng Cattle and the endangered Green Peafowl. Bird life was plentiful but most spent their time in the canopy. We had a very interesting visit to the Rhinoceros Camp where one of the researchers gave us great insight into life of the Rhino. There were a few Hornbill seen and the giant flying foxes were heading out to feed. Before dinner, many guests enjoyed a night walk for a different perspective of the pristine National Park. Before coming back onboard to enjoy a wonderful dinner service. See more photos here.
Guests joined Kathryn Robinson in the Bridge Deck Lounge for her insightful presentation, “Indonesia….An Improbable Nation”. Later in the day, we joined Ian Morris for his presentation on the Wallace Line, and the biology and history of the region we were sailing through. Both were very informative presentations! After lunch, our Dive Instructor Jade gave a snorkel and dive brief to prepare us for the following day’s exciting water activities. At Sunset, Captain Gary held a Remembrance Ceremony as we were passing over the final resting place of HMAS Perth in the Sunda Strait. HMAS Perth was a modified Leander-class light cruiser, which was torpedoed during the Battle of Sunda Strait in February 1942, with 353 men killed in action. It was a moving moment for all.
Today, we saw the extraordinary Bird Dance with its striking costumes. We were in the fishing town of Sungsang – a speech from the Regent Haj gave us insights into the province, and Jamie gave a reply, thanking the town for the formidable welcome. In groups, we trickled through the village to explore – it was very warm, but the families lining the lanes to say hello and asking for photo selfies was staggering. Smiling faces were everywhere and we enjoyed exquisite food tastings. In the afternoon we cruised along Musi River in the cool shelter of the Xplorers. We found Lesser Adjutants (storks) walking on the mud banks feeding on crabs and mudskippers. Crab-eating macaques were also foraging on the mudflats. The fishing huts on stilts were fascinating to see. The morning was special again for the friendliness and companionship of the locals. See More Photos Here.
Mariner’s astrolabes are a 15th Century navigational tool used to determine the latitude of a ship at sea by measuring the sun’s noon altitude. On Thursday night, Master Gary taught eager guests how to use their Mariner’s astrolabes that were gifted to them as a special thank you for joining us on Coral Adventurer’s Maiden Voyage. See More Photos Here.
The welcoming ceremony was full of life and the dancing exotic. We were greeted by hundreds of smiling locals wanting selfies with the guests and crew. It was an awesome welcome which put smiles on all faces for the rest of the day! After the performances we were taken on a tour of Tanjung Kelian, with the stunning backdrop of a 156yr old 66m tall lighthouse. Many went up the 177 stairs to spectacular views at the top. Stalls were set up around the lighthouse grounds, and we feasted on magnificent local cuisine. Many photos were taken with children, mothers, fathers and entire families – the friendliness was heartwarming. We made it back to Coral Adventurer satisfied and still smiling. We were truly humbled. It was a very special day that the guests and crew who visited Bangka Island will never forget. See More Photos Here.