|Cruising on the Dunia Baru|
Relatively little has changed since naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) explored the East Indies, collecting over 125,000 specimens ranging from large mammals to tiny insects, exotic butterflies and spectacular birds of paradise. In The Malay Archipelago (1869), one of the great classics of natural history and travel, Wallace describes his journeys, discoveries of varieties of animals and plants he collected and his experiences with indigenous people with a wealth of detail.
The Malay Archipelago, also called the East Indies or Indonesian Archipelago, lies between mainland Southeast Asia and Australia, between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It has such an incredible diversity of marine life, flora and fauna and attractions, and covers such an extensive region, it would be nearly impossible to see it all in one lifetime.
Recently I was lucky enough to be invited for a cruise on 51m /167' luxury sailing yacht Dunia Baru ('New World'), through the Indonesian Archipelago from Bali to Komodo National Park, a trip of about 200 nm.
Our fine ship is the dream come true of her American owner Mark Robba, who spent about seven passionate years to finalise his 'labour of love' project. Mark spared neither time, effort nor expense to create a safe and reliable as well as a most luxurious vessel with a stylish and exceptional finish. His enthusiasm and drive were infectious; many of Dunia Baru's master carpenters from the village of Ara in the region Bulukumba south of Sulawesi, an area famous for generations of Indonesian shipwrights, didn't want to say goodbye after Dunia Baru's launch in January this year. Although they had never sailed before, they ventured to stay on as crew! A radical decision none of them regrets!
So, here I found myself in Bali in my lovely, spacious cabin, gearing up for a blissful and luxury cruise of a lifetime! Captain Sam and his crew put out to sea, hoisted the sails and we smoothly cruised along to Gili Trawangan, a picturesque island with trendy coffee bars and restaurants visited by young and adventurous jetsetting backpackers. On 'Gilli T', as she's affectionately called, you walk, take a horse cart 'cab' or you rent a bicycle. Eco allover, local care for the environment is also noticeable in a 'save the turtle' initiative, and a 'no littering' campaign. There was not a car or motorbike, McDonald's or KFC in sight. Bliss!
We had foregone the local fare ashore to be treated to a delicious Teppanyaki meal on board, the first of many delicious surprises of our young and enthusiastic Chef Harry! It would be hard to name my most favourite dish. It changed with each new Indonesian, western, or fusion creation artfully prepared and served each mealtime. Double bliss!
Stops along the way to Flores provided a different delight each time. We spent several leisurely hours on Pulau Satonda's beach, snorkeled in search of marine life amongst the sea grass near the shore (pipefish and razorfish … check!) and kayaked and paddle-boarded on its ancient salt water crater lake with no one else around but a group of curious macaques watching us from ashore. The next day we dived 'Bubble Reef', a magnificent dive with alluring soft corals, stingrays, sea fans and pygmee seahorses - thanks to our capable and wonderfully sharp-eyed dive guide Ramon …check again! We swam over black volcanic sand through warm, gas-bubble vents of the live volcano on Pulau Sangean, off Sumbawa. It was eerie! It was awesome! Quelle experience!
Other underwater highlights included snorkeling with 7-8 manta rays at Takat Makassir (Komodo). It was quite funny to see the interaction between mantas and a group of divers down below. Naturally not looking up towards the surface, the divers had no inkling of the massive mantas gliding right over their heads!
At Takat Besar (Komodo) we were snorkeling along the reef, drifting with the current where we spotted two shy hawksbill turtles. At the end of the reef we got into the dinghy, were driven back to the starting point and jumped right back in for a repeat drift. By the fifth time the hawksbills were quite used to us; my snorkel buddy was allowed near enough to take some snappy close-ups.
Last but certainly not least we came eye to eye with a couple of Komodo dragons on Rinca Island. It seemed to be just past their lunchtime but to be sure we still kept a rather safe distance. A local village guide took us for a spirited hike over the uninhabited, savannah-like island, pointing out wildlife, special flora and sharing useful information, like how to brew the mean local drink, a fermented toddy derived from the lontar sugar palm. Thanking Mark and our cruise director, Courtney Robba, for our most relaxing and at the same time invigorating week, a winning mix of luxuriating on board, leisurely beach time and adventure-packed activities, we saluted Dunia Baru with a toast on our wonderful voyage of discovery. And, no… it wasn't the local toddy J
THE WALLACE LINE
"… I brought away with me more than nine thousand specimens of natural objects, of about sixteen hundred distinct species. I had revelled in the delights of exploring new fauna and flora, one of the most remarkable and most beautiful and least-known in the world……"FROM NOVEMBER: DESTINATION RAJA AMPAT
Dunia Baru also sails to the equally stunning 'new' hot travel destination Raja Ampat, a group of four main islands, off the northwest tip of Bird's Head Peninsula on the island of New Guinea, in Indonesia's West Papua province.
Scuba diving here is even more spectacular. Marine surveys of Conservation International, a NGO headquartered in Arlington, Virginia suggests the marine life diversity in the Raja Ampat area is the highest recorded on earth (1,508 fish species) and is possibly the richest coral reef ecosystem in the world with 537 coral species. Mind you, in comparison, the Caribbean has a recorded 70 species only.
Other attractions include hornbills, the exotic Birds of Paradise, of which there are over 40 stunning and flamboyant species, jungle flora reminiscent of Jurassic Park, a scull-cave village, exhilarating kayak rides on tide streams, wreck diving, rock paintings, a natural pearl farm, and in general spectacular scenery everywhere and a seemingly unlimited number of islands to visit.http://duniabaruadventures.wordpress.com