For this 12-day adventure, we to combine a gentle river cruise on a traditional wooden riverboat through the forests of Kalimantan, Central Borneo, with a sea cruise on a traditional pinisi schooner through the turquoise waters of the Komodo National Park and Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands. Kalimantan’s meandering rivers remain the best way to travel through the hinterland of Borneo, with its wealth of ecological and cultural treasures that survive deep within the rainforest jungle. Here, we will see proboscis monkeys and witness the fascinating Dayak culture, as well as experiencing the ultimate encounter with Asia’s only great ape, the Orangutan. Meanwhile, a sea cruise through a panorama of islands is the only way to see the legendary Komodo Dragons, stopping at remote beaches, quiet coastal villages, waterfalls, and a mysterious volcanic lake along the way, with ample opportunity to snorkel and view the kaleidoscopic beauty of the underwater world.
Note: Depending on the chosen start point, guests will meet and stay overnight in Jakarta or Bali, from where we will fly to Palangkaraya to join the riverboat. The river cruise also ends in Palangkaraya from where will fly to Bali (changing planes in Jakarta). After one night in a hotel in Sanur, Bali, we will meet the boat and embark on our sea cruise, which will end in Flores. Guests will return to Bali by air from Labuan Bajo in Flores. All flights, hotels in Jakarta and Sanur, Bali (one night each) are included in the total price.
You will arrive in Jakarta or Bali, where you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel for an opportunity to rest up after your long journey for the adventures ahead.
This morning we will fly to Palangkaraya, the capital of the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan. After meeting your fellow travellers, we will transfer to Palangkaraya Harbour, and board our river boat to start our journey, cruising upriver past stilted and floating houses and small villages. In the early evening, we will take a canoe through the shimmering black water lakes, keeping an eye out for proboscis monkeys, red langurs, hornbills, and brahmini kites. We will then return to the boat for a quiet dinner in the midst of the jungle.
The boat moves up the Rungan River as we enjoy breakfast. On arrival at Bapallas Island, we will take a motorised canoe to observe the orangutans in their natural habitat as seen in Animal Planet’s ‘Orangutan Island’ series. At the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) Education Centre, we will see the adult orangutans that are waiting to be placed on the pre-release islands. We will then have a leisurely lunch onboard while cruising to Kanarakan, a tiny village on the Rungan River. Arriving in the afternoon, we will be greeted by the village elder with a Dayak Ngaju welcoming ceremony before strolling around the village with a local host for a glimpse into the daily lives of the local people in this isolated community. We will see the village home gardens, rubber fields, and a rubber tapping demonstration, as well as visiting the elder’s house to enjoy traditional spiced coffee while sharing stories about the Dayak culture.
Returning to the boat, we will cruise down to Lake Tahai and spend the night onboard.
At dawn, there will be the option for canoeing to Lake Tahai for bird watching, followed by a leisurely breakfast onboard as the boat passes the orangutan pre-release island of Pulau Kaja. Next, we will visit the village of Sei Gohong to meet the traditional medicine expert after which we will take a short walk to the nearby forest to find several of the plants that are used as traditional medications by the Ngajus. Returning to the village, we will be shown a larger collection of the traditional medicines and we can discuss their functions with the locals. Back on the boat we will cruise downstream to Muara Rungan passing Katimpun village before overnighting near Muara Rungan.
After breakfast, the boat cruises to Tanjung Sangalang for check out and transfer to Palangkaraya Airport, from here will fly to Bali via Jakarta and spend the night in a hotel in Sanur (Bali) in preparation for Part Two of the adventure.
We will meet in Sanur in the morning and depart for Amed, on Bali’s eastern coast respectively, where the vessel will be anchored and waiting for us. This is a pleasant and beautiful drive of approximately 2.5 hours and a great opportunity to see a little bit of the island, and we will stop on way the to visit either Goa Lawa cave, Tenganan village or Tirta Gangga water palace (to be decided) to know a little more of the Balinese culture. After we board the vessel you will have a chance to settle in and have lunch. In the afternoon will have the opportunity to go snorkelling in the lovely clear waters of Jemeluk Bay, and then enjoy the sunset, before the captain gives the orders for the anchor to be lifted prior to crossing the Lombok Strait. This deep trench of water between Bali and Lombok marks part of a very important ecological boundary, which was first described by Sir Alfred Russel Wallace, the British naturalist. Wallace noticed that the flora and fauna of the islands to the west are home to Asiatic animal and plant species, whereas the islands to the east of the invisible ‘Wallace Line’ have a greater similarity to species found in Australia.
Moored off the coast of Northeast Lombok, we will enjoy a hearty breakfast before going ashore and boarding air-conditioned cars for a trip into the interior of the northern side of the island and the traditional village of Senaru. Here, we will be taken on a tour, by one of the local women-guides, of the simple thatched houses and gardens of fruits and spices, which will give us an insight into the culture of the indigenous Sasak people. Our mellow adventure will then lead us down a well-trodden flight of steps through the tropical forest to Sindang Gila, a roaring 40-metre tiered waterfall. The small gravel beach and flat rocks at the base of the falls are a meeting place for the local people, and if we want we can take a dip under the full force of the intense flow. Our walk will continue alongside an old irrigation canal offering panoramic vistas of rice fields stretching towards the sea. The area around Senaru and Bayan was the birthplace of Lombok’s unique Wektu Telu belief system in which ancient animist practices are combined with Islam. If we have time, we will visit Bayan Beleq, a grass-roofed mosque with woven bamboo walls. Said to have been founded in the 16th century, this is the oldest mosque in Lombok. We will also see some weavers and spinners demonstrating their age-old skills. After re-embarkation, we will explore one of the coral reefs near Gili Sulat, which is a marine conservation area.
This morning we will moor off Labuan Aji village on the island of Moyo, visit the village and then walk to Diwu Mba’i waterfall, where you can swing on a rope and jump into the deep clear river pool below, or simply bathe in the refreshing cool water. Our next stop will be Satonda, a strange and mystical volcanic island with a sunken crater lake in its centre that was filled with saltwater when the nearby Mt Tambora erupted in 1815, causing a tsunami that flowed into the crater. The eruption was the biggest volcanic explosion in the collective memory of mankind; it had roughly four times the energy of the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, and gave rise to the ‘year without a summer’ because of the effect on North American and European weather. Local people believe Satonda to be magical, and with this in mind, we will walk to the lip of the caldera to view the mysterious lake, alongside which are trees believed to be ‘wishing trees.’ Visitors to the island tie a small stone to a tree and make a wish. If your wish comes true, you are bound to return to the island to offer thanks. The seas surrounding the island are rich with soft and hard corals and colourful tropical fish, so we will spend the afternoon swimming and snorkelling. Another highlight of our visit to Satonda will be the sight of thousands of flying foxes that commute at dusk from the island to feed on the mainland, returning before first light the next day. Immediately after sunset, we leave for an overnight passage on a course due east.
Today we will visit Wera, a Buginese settlement on the northeast coast of the island of Sumbawa, where the men build wooden boats along the black-sand shores and the village women spend days weaving brightly coloured cloth. Here we will visit the village and have a look at the hand-built boats in various stages of construction. Some of these boats are colossal in size, and it is fascinating to see how they are constructed. We will then proceed to the island of Banta, passing Sangean Island, an active volcano towering 1,949m metres above the surrounding waters. Banta Island lies within the boundaries of the Komodo National Park; it is uninhabited and perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
When we wake up, the boat will be anchored off the famous Komodo Island, one of approximately 80 islands that make up the Komodo National Park. We will go ashore at the ranger station in Loh Liang for an early morning ranger-led trek through the park searching for Komodo dragons. In this savannah-like setting of dry, rugged landscape, we will encounter, at a safe distance, these awe-inspiring, giant lizards – Indonesia’s living dinosaurs. We may spot deer, wild boar, sulphur-crested cockatoos, butterflies, rare orchids and jungle chickens among the strangle-fig trees and the distinctive lontar palms. After returning to the boat, we will cruise around the coast and visit Komodo village, where we can buy some local handicrafts. Later we will head to the gorgeous Pantai Merah ‘red-beach,’ which takes its name from the particles of red coral mingled with the sand. Here we will swim and snorkel over one of the richest reefs in Eastern Indonesia, relishing the unforgettable spectacle of the region’s many varieties of coral and marine life.
Today we will visit the ranger station of Loh Buaya on Rinca Island where we will have another ranger-led nature trek in search of more Komodo dragons, which are indigenous to this small group of islands. Rinca is also well known for its diverse wildlife, so we may spot monkeys, wild buffaloes and deer as well. From the top of the hills, the scenery is breathtaking. In the afternoon we can go snorkelling and enjoy some beach time with paddle boards and kayaks. With over 1000 species of fish in the waters of the national park, there is much more to this wildlife reserve than just dragons. In the evening we will go ashore to an island where, with your feet in the sand and the stars rising in the vast Indonesian sky, the crew will build a bonfire and prepare a beach barbecue as a final celebration of our memorable voyage.
After breakfast in Labuan Bajo, we will take private air-conditioned cars to the inland village of Melo. Here, local ‘strongmen’ will perform the ‘Caci,’ a ritual whip-fight between two rivals in which the players, each armed with a rattan shield and a whip, will try to hit each other while dancing to the rhythm of traditional acoustic instruments. The men of Manggarai in Western Flores are famous for this test of daring and skill, requiring lightning quick moves to dodge the infliction of a wound. The winner is loudly applauded and cheered by the village. Besides this, the cultural group will also showcase other traditional dances. After the performance, we will have a light lunch on the boat before transferring you to the airport for your flight back to Bali.
KOMODO NATIONAL PARK
Komodo National Park covers around 170,000 hectares of sea and land. It consists of Komodo, Rinca, Padar and other smaller islands. The rough, hilly, deserted, dry islands are situated between Sumbawa and Flores and surrounded by waters with ferocious currents, riptides and whirlpools. The islands were formed partly by volcanic eruptions and partly by old coral reefs. The climate is very dry with an annual rainfall of about 800 millimetres between November and April. About 70 percent of the land surface is savanna. On the dry hills grow Lontar palms and long tough grass. On Komodo Island there is one village with around 700 inhabitants, most of them fishermen; they are descendants of exiles from Bima in the past century. On Rinca there are two fishing villages. The Komodo National Park boasts more than 150 different species of birds, while its rich waters support amazing reefs and a huge variety of marine life, some coming from the Indian Ocean to pass through the straits, including whales and dolphins.
In 1980 Komodo and other surrounding islands were declared a National Park. In 1991 it became a World Heritage Site. The largest dragon ever measured was three metres long. The mating season is in July-August and the eggs hatch nine months later. Adult Komodo dragons are fearsome predators. The bulk of their diet is made up of large mammals: goats, deer, pigs, horses and water buffalo; these prey are often caught by ambush or surprise. According to the last census in 1999, 1,700 dragons live on Komodo and 2,000 more dragons live on Rinca. The Komodo probably owes its survival to the isolated location of the islands and the forbidding currents between them. The other reason, of course, is that Komodo dragons cannot be eaten and their skin doesn’t make good handbags.