We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Nita, the head tour leader for our SeaTrek boats in Indonesia.
Originally from North Sulawesi province in Indonesia, she has been with the team since 2017 and spends her time coordinating tour-leading operations, preparing for trips and making sure that guests have a great time on our trips throughout Indonesia.
In this first of a two-part series, we spoke to Nita about authentic Indonesian experiences, incredible wildlife and cultural encounters, and what you can look forward to on our trips.
What Do You Mean by Indonesia Through Indonesian Eyes?
Our motto is ‘Indonesia through Indonesian eyes’ and that you can definitely see when you step on board because all of our crew are Indonesians, from the engineers, the deck crew, the captains, and the officers, as well as an all-Indonesian galley crew, which produces amazing food, amazing Indonesian Asian food, and also Western food (but mostly, Indonesian local delicacies).
Our two pinisi boats are originally from the Bugis and it’s built by the Kunja people. And that’s where our captains and officers are actually from. So it is the perfect Indonesian experience. You’re not just coming here and seeing all the beautiful nature of Indonesia and the culture, but you are also experiencing it when you step on board. When you talk to each and every one of us. We have different cultures, different backgrounds. It is truly Indonesian through Indonesian eyes.
Tell Us About Your Team
We have about 40 people, and about 30 both on the Ombak Putih and the Catarina boats. The rest of the people are at the office who do the bookings and the logistics, preparing everything behind the scenes.
Everyone comes from different backgrounds. From the west to the east of Indonesia, from Sumatra all the way, to Papua, it feels exactly like the Indonesians’ motto, which is “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika”. It means unity and diversity, and that’s exactly how you feel when you get on board because everybody comes from different places in Indonesia.
We have different cultures, we have different customs, we have different stories, and we also speak different languages – but we speak one language when we’re on board, which is the Indonesian language.
When Did You Join the Team?
I got involved with SeaTrek back in 2017. That’s when I decided to move to Bali. Previously I was working in corporate in Jakarta and I started to go diving and that’s where I fell in love with the ocean. I was also sick and tired of working for these big corporations, so I made the move to Bali and I met the right people, which eventually led me to SeaTrek.
On my very first trip, we had all the important people of the company on board. I talked a little bit about manta rays and all of this cool coral stuff and they asked me to do a little bit of a presentation about some of the marine life.
That’s how we started to do all of these little talks and presentations and all the things that we see on our trips, especially when we go out snorkelling and see all the cool stuff related to the ocean.
How Do You Create the Itineraries?
We find new locations or destinations to bring our guests to in two ways. First, we scout for places. Usually, when we hear of a cool new place we send out our tour leaders to scout the area to see what are the highlights of the cool things that we can do and experience when we visit these places.
We also keep our ears open when we are sailing. When we go somewhere and the locals say, why don’t you check it out? There’s a pretty good reef over there or, there’s actually a jellyfish lake over there, or these guys, they do some production somewhere.
We also do scouting while we are on a cruise so guests can experience something new, something spontaneous on that day as well.
We definitely try to also stay away from the crowds. We want to be the first ones there and we want to be the only ones there. So if we take you to some places that nobody else goes there, it’s because that’s what we do, we don’t like to mix up with other people.
Why Are Your Boats Snorkelling Specialists?
We are snorkelling specialists. We don’t do scuba, we snorkel, we do it often and we do it really well. We have 30 years of experience in bringing snorkellers to a lot of amazing reefs across the Indonesian Archipelago.
We have our very experienced crew who know how to handle snorkellers, and where to go, and we also have all the gear to help you snorkel. Our tour leaders are more than happy to be your guide during the snorkelling, to watch over you. We do headcounts and we give a briefing of what the snorkelling sites are like and how long we stay and things like that.
If you’re an avid snorkeller and you want to stay long, you are more than welcome to do so. If you’re a beginner and you would like to learn, we also offer snorkelling lessons so that you can be comfortable in the water watching all of this amazing stuff that we get to see from the surface, like, amazing, diverse, rich, healthy coral reefs, all these beautiful fish and turtles, mantas, whale sharks, and more. That’s what sets us apart from all these other boats in Indonesia.
What Wildlife Can You Encounter in Indonesia?
We see so much wildlife during our trips. It ranges from under the sea and also above the water, such as the Komodo dragons, orangutans, fruit bats, whale sharks, manta rays, dugongs, butterflies, stingless jellyfish, and also giant clams, dolphins, whales, and the black crested macaque.
It is such an amazing experience to be able to see them, especially when some of them are only found in those particular areas, so you really need to go there to be able to see them. We check all the boxes to see all of this amazing wildlife, not to mention all the amazing coral reefs that we get to see from our snorkelling activities.
Tell Us About Swimming With Whale Sharks
One of my favourite things to do on our trips is swimming with whale sharks. We do it 11 months a year in three different locations across the Indonesian Archipelago. We usually wake up very early in the morning, just before sunrise, when it’s still a little bit dark and then we will jump in the water with these whale sharks and we swim. How long you swim with them is up to you. If you want to swim with them for an hour, you can do that.
Then usually, after sunrise, we get back on board, we have our breakfast and we don’t need coffee because swimming with whale sharks already gives you that adrenaline to start the day. Usually, after we swim with whale sharks and have breakfast, we have quite a long distance to go to our next destination. That’s when we usually get all of our sails up and turn the engine off and just sail. In the afternoon, we do something else. It could be hiking, it could be snorkelling or swimming in a lake.
Usually just a little bit after sunset we also do our briefing. Our briefing contains what we are doing for the next day and some of the interesting things related to the next day.
For example, if we are going to set foot on a volcano, we’ll talk a little bit about the volcanoes during a fire. If we are going to see a pinisi boat building, we will get a video of how the pinisi boat building is actually being done, et cetera. We like to call it “the more you know, the more you see” and we would like you to know what we’re actually going to see, and what we’re going to experience so that it opens up your eyes.
What Are Your Top Three Trips?
The first one would be the whale sharks, corals, and dragons. That’s a nine-day trip. It starts and ends in Komodo. There is so much wildlife we can see, beautiful corals, whale sharks, everything, bats, and also swim in the crater lake.
See how a pinisi boat just like ours is built and also see a few cool volcanoes. Actually, we do step on one of the still active volcanoes, so maybe we’ll be able to see them, puffed up from the comfort of our ship.
The second one is Jewels of Raja Ampat, but that one is for 10 days. I love that trip. On that trip, you see a lot of nature, like the birds of Paradise, which are native to that area, and we swim with jellyfish, but they are not stinging. They accidentally became trapped in this lake and because there are no predators in the lake, they lose their stinging ability. So yeah, we will be able to swim with so many of them, the birds of paradise, snorkelling in one of the most marine, biodiverse places in the world, Raja Ampat. It is just mind-blowing.
My third favourite would be the longest trip that we do, which is 16 days. It starts from the Spice Islands all the way to Dragon Land. It starts in Ternate, which is in the north of Maluku. We get the cultures, we get the history of the Spice Straits and then we cross a little bit and go to these areas where you’ll be able to see the black crested macaque. You can also see Wallace’s Golden Birdwing butterfly, which is endemic to the island called Bacan Island.
We will also be able to see the maleo birds in the sea and also swim with the stingless jellyfish in the lake, and do a lot of amazing snorkelling. We end the trip in Komodo National Park, where we will be able to see the Komodo Dragon. So this 16-day trip is long, but wow, it’s so worth it. It is definitely one of my favourites.
Speaking to Nita it is clear that she is passionate about Indonesia and providing guests with authentic, truly unforgettable experiences sailing around the Indonesian Archipelago. Snorkelling in idyllic lakes, swimming with majestic giants of the ocean and encounters with unique wildlife and cultures are all on Nita’s itinerary and she can’t wait to share it with you.