SEA TREK CRUISE – 6 nights
It’s time to head out on the water again, this time on the Ombak Putih, a traditional Indonesian schooner which offers modern luxury alongside its historic character. The spacious cabins have portholes to enjoy the views from, and there are fantastic excursions every day as well as plenty of time to relax on deck and take in the views and the sunsets.
The Dances, Dragons and Magical Lakes cruise takes you around jaw-dropping landscapes of towering volcanoes, dense jungles and pristine rivers and waterfalls. Along the way, visit remote villages and tribes, experience secluded beaches and snorkel, kayak and paddleboard in the colourful underwater world of the Indonesian archipelago. An undoubted highlight of your week will be seeing the legendary komodo dragon in the beautiful islands of Komodo National Park.
After embarking the Ombak Putih, enjoy the first part of your cruise as you make your way through the deep Lombok Strait, which runs between Bali and Lombok and marks an ecological boundary – the islands to the west are home to Asian animal and plant species, whereas on the islands to the east, these species are more similar to those in Australia.
In the afternoon, stop at one of the three Gili islands off the coast of Lombok, where there will be plenty of time for swimming, snorkelling, paddleboarding, kayaking or simply relaxing on beautiful beaches.
Tuck into a hearty breakfast before heading ashore for a voyage to the north of Lombok and the traditional village of Senaru, where you’ll enjoy a tour with a local guide around the thatched houses and fruit gardens, and learn about the indigenous Sasak people. Watch weavers and spinners demonstrate centuries-old skills. Venture through tropical forest to the impressive Sindang Gila waterfall and enjoy a refreshing dip at the base of the falls. Continue walking along a canal, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of rice fields as they stretch towards the sea.
The area around Senaru and Bayan is where Lombok’s unique belief system, Wetu Telu, which combines ancient animist practices with Islam, first came into being, and there may be a chance to visit Bayan Beleq, a grass-roofed mosque with woven bamboo walls, which dates from around the 16th century and is the oldest mosque in Lombok.
Back onboard, explore the coral reefs near Gili Sulat, a marine conservation area.
This morning, you’ll moor at the village of Labuan Aji on the island of Moyo. After visiting the village, walk to the Diwu Mba’i waterfall, where you can swing on a rope and jump into the deep, pristine pool below, or simply enjoy a relaxing swim. Your next stop is the mystical island of Satonda (the locals believe it to be magical). Walk around the sunken crater lake in its centre, formed when the nearby Mount Tambora erupted in 1815 – one of the biggest volcanic explosions recorded. Along the waterfront are ‘wishing trees’, where you can tie a small stone to a tree and make a wish (if it comes true, you have to return to the island to offer thanks!).
The waters around Satonda are full of colourful coral and tropical fish, which you can make the most of this afternoon with a session of swimming and snorkelling. At dusk, see thousands of flying foxes as they make their way to the mainland to feed, returning before dawn.
Today, visit Wera, a Buginese settlement on the island of Sumbawa, where the men build wooden boats along the black-sand beaches and the women weave colourful cloth. See how the boats (some of them colossal in size) are constructed, using traditional techniques. Then it’s on to Komodo National Park and the island of Banta, passing Sangean, an island with an active volcano towering above the water. Banta is an uninhabited gem and a perfect spot for swimming and snorkelling.
The boat will drop anchor this morning off Komodo Island, which is one of approximately 80 islands in the national park. Go ashore for an early-morning trek through the park with a local ranger, keeping an eye out for komodo dragons. In the distinctive, rugged, savannah landscape, dotted with strangle-fig trees and lontar palms, see Indonesia’s living dinosaurs, as well as deer, wild boar, jungle chickens and rare orchids. There’s an opportunity to purchase local handicrafts at Komodo village, before visiting Pantai Merah, the ‘red beach’, so named because of the particles of red coral which mix with the sand. Swim and snorkel around the impressive marine life-rich reef.
Today, enjoy some more komodo dragon-spotting on Rinca Island, with the help of a ranger, and you may also see monkeys, buffaloes and deer. Take in the panoramic island views from the top of the hills, and reward yourself in the afternoon with another kaleidoscopic snorkelling session – with over a thousand species of fish in these waters, you’re guaranteed a scenic journey underwater as well as above water in these islands.
On your final night, head to another of the many beautiful beaches here to enjoy a barbecue and gaze at the stars.
After breakfast in Labuan Bajo, browse the local markets or visit the village of Melo, where local ‘strongmen’ will perform the Caci, a ritual fight with rattan shields and whips, whose participants try to hit each other while dancing to traditional instruments. There will also be a performance of other traditional dances. After lunch onboard, you will disembark for the next leg of your adventure.