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Enjoy the views from Lengkuas Island’s historic lighthouse (Sumatra)
A tiny slip of an island smaller than most AFL grounds (or approx. the size of a rugby field), Lengkuas Island lies off the coast of Belitung Island southeast of Sumatra. With a white-sand beach shaded by palm trees and bookended by boulders, the lighthouse dominates the island.
The 57m tall white-painted Pulau Lengkuas lighthouse has been guiding ships on safe passages through the Karimata Strait since the 1880s, back when Indonesia was known as the Dutch East Indies.
Fast fact: The 16-sided cast-iron tower, which flashes white with a range of 20nm (37km), was prefabricated in The Hague and shipped from the Netherlands.
Don’t miss: Climb the 12 floors to the top of the tower for a bird’s eye view of Lengkuas Island.
Remember the crew of HMAS Perth (Java)
Nearing midnight and bathed in the silvery light of a waxing moon, the HMAS Perth was one of two Allied casualties during the 1942 Battle of Sunda Strait. Having already fought off the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Battle of the Java Sea, a handful of torpedo blows incapacitated HMAS Perth which sank in the Sunda Strait with the loss of 353 lives.
It was a tragic end for a tireless workhorse whose early peacetime years were spent in South African waters and representing Australia at the World Fair in New York before WWII broke out.
Fast fact: In 1967 the wreck of HMAS Perth was discovered almost intact lying in 21m of water. The ship’s bell now resides at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Don’t miss: With Coral Adventurer positioned in the same location where HMAS Perth was torpedoed, Captain Gary Wilson conducts a remembrance service in tribute to lost crew.
Meet Krakatoa and her volcanic ‘offspring’ (Java)
Poking out of the sea between Java and Sumatra, Krakatoa spectacularly vented her caldera in the cataclysmic 1883 explosion. The effects of this eruption were felt as far away as New York where fine ash fell and Central Australia where booming thuds echoed around Uluru. The resultant tsunami was estimated at more than 30m high, destroying hundreds of villages and towns with a devastating loss of life.
But, like any tempestuous volcano with a fierce reputation, Krakatoa’s rumblings have long influenced the landscape. Around 500AD she gave birth to new islands when carving the Sunda Strait to divide the islands of Java and Sumatra which Coral Adventurer steams through on the way to Ujung Kulon National Park.
Fast fact: New islands have emerged from the sea through Krakatoa’s maternal rumblings, one of which is the active Anak Krakatau (Son of Krakatoa), as eruptions irrevocably change the shape of the seabed.
Don’t miss: Admire the view of Krakatoa and her ‘offspring’ as Coral Adventurer steams past at a safe distance on the way to Ujung Kulon National Park.
Explore Ujung Kulon National Park (Java)
Like much of the landscape in these parts, the peninsula where Ujung Kulon National Park sits bears the scars of Krakatoa’s geological activity. As the 1883 tsunami receded, having stripped the land of villages and vegetation, a thick layer of ash settled upon the headland.
This ‘new’ landscape soon became a repository for much of Java’s flora and fauna and became Indonesia’s first national park. Ujung Kulon National Park is home to several rare and endangered species of plants and animals – the Javan rhinoceros, Javan leopard and silvery gibbon are all critically endangered. Java’s last remaining lowland rainforest is found in the park, which is protected under UNESCO World Heritage status.
Fast fact: The last likely sighting of the fishing cat was in Ujung Kulon National Park , despite researchers placing hundreds of camera traps in the hopes of confirming the cat still exists on Java.
Wander historic Batavia-era streets of Jakarta
Indonesia’s capital Jakarta has been claimed by sultanates, kingdoms and various administrators as far back as the 4th century when the first Hindu settlement rose from the banks of the Ciliwung River.
But the city’s strongest influence was during Dutch occupation when the city was named Batavia. As the spice trade between the East Indies and Europe developed, merchants were lured by tales of wealth and prosperity thanks to an abundance of exotic treasures. Many architecturally significant buildings in the Old Town remain, offering an intriguing insight into the city’s history.
We visit the Jakarta History Museum, housed in the 18th century former City Hall as well as the Maritime Museum on the Ciliwung River waterfront. Here, all that remains of the old wall that once encircled Batavia can be seen outside the spice warehouses where the Dutch East India Company stored nutmeg and pepper.
Fast fact: Dutch explorer Abel Tasman departed from Batavia on his historic 1642 discovery voyage to Van Diemen’s Land and again in 1644 when he landed at Cape York.
Don’t miss: Admire eye-pleasing Dutch and Portuguese colonial architecture of Batavia-era streetscapes in the Old Town.
Visit the orangutans of Tanjung Puting National Park (Central Kalimantan)
Dense jungle closes in overhead as we forge upstream in a klotok (a typical Indonesian riverboat) bound for the Pondok Tanggui orangutan sanctuary within Tanjung Puting National Park. Going eyeball to eyeball with these intelligent primates, which only exist on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, is an unforgettable experience.
As we wander the walking trails of Tanjung Puting National Park, keep an eye out for proboscis monkeys (their unusually large noses are hard to conceal) and long-tailed Macaques in the lush tropical forest canopy.
Fast fact: The word orangutan translates from Malay to English as ‘person of the forest’
Don’t miss: Bird watchers and nature lovers will enjoy potential sightings of striking hornbills, kingfishers and giant Bornean butterflies
Navigate the waterways of the ‘River City’ Banjarmasin
Rising above a delta carved by the rise and fall of two great rivers, getting around the ‘River City’ of Banjarmasin is all about taking to the water.
A labyrinth of canals replace roads and boats replace cars for travelling to and from traditional lantings (floating homes that sit on rafts). Impromptu floating markets form wherever traders congregate in simple human-powered boats piled high with fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and household essentials.
Fast fact: Distinct Bubungan Tingi royal architecture was originally only seen within palace walls but became so popular that it is now common in South Kalimantan.
Admire the crater lake of Satonda Island
Situated in the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, Satonda Island is notoriously difficult to access. A mystical volcanic island with a magnificent sunken crater containing a saltwater lake surrounded by ‘wishing trees’. Colonies of brightly coloured butterflies drift across the lake while hundreds of flying foxes hanging from the trees atop the surrounding hills of this alluring, remote island.
Beyond Satonda Island, massive mountains rise from the sea with oftentimes a plume of smoke streaming from the summit of active volcano Pulau Sangean.
Fast fact: The Satonda crater was formed more than 10,000 years ago and filled with salt water from a tsunami when Mt Tambora erupted.
Don’t miss: This far-flung island offers quiet nature walks, untouched white-sand beaches, wonderful snorkelling and birdwatching opportunities.
Walk with Dragons at Rinca Island and swim at Pink Beach
Beyond the dragon’s lair of Komodo National Park lies the island of Rinca, one of the last locations where large Komodo dragons remain in the wild, surviving on native deer and wild buffalo.
Pink Beach’s location within the fabled Coral Triangle makes it a popular snorkelling spot and is renowned as one of the world’s top dive sites. Strong daily tidal flows combine with nutrient-rich water to create ideal conditions where countless species of coral and tropical fish including sharks and manta rays flourish.
Fast Fact: Rinca Island and Pink Beach are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and among the most important biodiversity treasures found in Indonesia.
Don’t miss: Fantastic snorkelling at Pink Beach, Komodo dragons, trekking and iconic views make for memorable shore excursions.
Discover downtown Dili
This charming, laid-back coastal city suddenly found itself as national capital when East Timor became an independent country in 2002. Adorned with murals depicting Timorese pride, Dili is a city in the midst of reclaiming its national identity.
Each evening the stretch of beach near Pertamina Pier comes alive as street-side vendors selling satay and seafood skewers cooked over makeshift firepits set up beneath the tin awnings. The atmosphere is lively and convivial as locals and travellers mingle beachside as the sun casts a dusky glow over the sea in classic Timorese experience.
Fast Fact: A legacy of colonial times, Dili has a distinctly Portuguese flavour and together with Macau, is probably the furthest east where you can savour genuine Portuguese food and architecture.