Itinerary Alterations and Alternatives
Our written itineraries must be approached with reasonable flexibility. When touring at sea, weather, currents, and even harbour masters don’t always co-operate with our planned itinerary, which sometimes make our planned schedules challenging or even impossible to carry out. Your tour leader and ship’s captain are always working hard to create an itinerary that best suits each situation and the needs of each guest onboard. Sometimes this means suggesting additional or alternative activities and destinations that they believe would be an improvement to your original itinerary. The flexibility to make these kinds of alterations (in addition to those due to circumstances beyond our control) in the best interests of all are part of the adventure.
The tour price includes breakfast daily, lunches/picnics and evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch/packed picnic and D=evening meal.
Indonesia is known for its “jam karet” or rubber time, meaning that time and schedules are considered flexible. However, your Captain and Tour Leader will do their best to provide an accurate time schedule for land activities. Your Tour Leader will keep you updated on departure times and procedures.
Motoring and Sailing
The Ombak Putih is a motor Bugis gaff ketch. In order to adhere to our planned itinerary, the ship depends on motor cruising. The itinerary is scheduled so that the boat usually begins its longer journeys in the afternoon or during the night, so that you can fully enjoy land activities during the day. The seven beautiful sails are raised when it is beneficial, and the wind and weather are in our favour.
Each night during your cruise Jeffrey Mellefont will give a richly illustrated lecture delving into the following topics:
- Silk, Spice and Gunpowder – the world’s most ancient and valuable trade: how nutmeg and clove from Maluku drew traders from all over the world to explore and conquer, leading to the beginnings of globalisation and the first multi-national companies.
- Tanah Air Kita – Indonesia, this ‘land of water’, and the early mariners who burst out of mainland Asia to settle this huge, wide archipelago before conquering all the other adjacent oceans – and the brilliant sailing technologies they pioneered.
- Mighty Maritime Empires – how great Indonesian mercantile states arose through control of the Indonesian archipelago’s sea lanes, and fell in turn; how maritime trade brought currents of world history swirling through the islands introducing Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity and the cultures of China, India, the Middle East and Europe.
- A Tapestry of Seafarers – Indonesia’s many different sailing cultures and their brilliant innovations – the Sea Gypsies (Sama-Bajo); the Madurese, the Mandar, the Butonese, the Bugis and Makassans – and Bali’s secret, hidden fleet!
- Celebes Ships – the story of our own ship Ombak Putih and her lineage, developing from the unique maritime traditions of the famous Bugis and Makassans of South Sulawesi, down the turbulent centuries as their sultans fought colonisers and their sailing fleets dispersed them throughout these islands.
- Great Guest Voyages – many Europeans have been inspired by Indonesian sailing traditions. Sail the Moluccas with Captain Thomas Forest on a native kora-kora in 1775; Alfred Russel Wallace searching for the bird of paradise on a Bugis prahu in 1856; colonial administrator G E P Collins ordering his own Celebes palari cruiser in the 1930s.
- The Best Language – Bahasa Indonesia: this fascinating, user-friendly language unites an incredibly diverse maritime world. The history of the language is a maritime history of this archipelagic nation. After this simple introduction you’ll be trying it out yourself ashore, with guidance, help and cheat-sheets at hand.
Ternate, North Maluku
Day 1: Tuesday 30 January, Arrive Ternate
- Arrival Airport Transfer
- Board Ombak Putih: Welcome & Briefing
- Orientation tour of Ternate incl. Royal Mosque, Grand Palace, House of English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace & Fort Tolukko
You’ll be escorted from Ternate airport to board our ship Ombak Putih in her spectacular anchorage beneath towering Mount Gamalama. Your tour leader will brief you on all the activities and safety aspects of the cruise and introduce your friendly and helpful crew, recruited from all round Indonesia. Meals are usually enjoyed in fresh air beneath the awning on the main deck of this traditional timber pinisi.
One of the four, historically powerful Moluccan spice sultanates, Ternate is still a vital trading outlet for fragrant cloves, nutmeg and mace. From here the great 19th-century English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace sent Charles Darwin his crucial ‘Letter From Ternate’ offering his own theory of evolution. We visit the 17th-century, pagoda-style royal mosque and the grand keraton (palace) of Ternate’s surviving sultan. Attractively restored Fort Tolukko introduces the turbulent centuries of spice wars fought by Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English rivals. Near old lava flows, a spectacular volcanic crater lake is a source of local legends and home to an elusive white crocodile!
Each day you enjoy sunset cocktails and dinner on board, as we continue our journey southwards and westwards towards the island of Sulawesi. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) LD
Tidore, North Maluku
Day 2: Wednesday 31 January, Tidore
- Tidore: Local Blacksmith, handicrafts market, Palace of the Sultan & Seashore monument
Tidore, a major producer of cloves, has a highly significant and complex history of interactions between the Sultans of Tidore and Ternate and the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch. The powerful Sultanate of Tidore aligned itself with the Spanish, who aided it against its rival, the Sultanate of Ternate. The Spanish, for their part, wanted access to Tidore’s clove exports, which constituted 25% of the world market. Portugal, on the other hand, allied itself with the Sultanate of Ternate against Tidore and the Spaniards. However, Ternate, expelled the Portuguese, who ultimately returned to Ambon. When Portugal came under the control of the Spanish king Philip II in the 1560s, the Spaniards and Portuguese joined with Tidore to defeat Ternate; this gave the Iberians control of the Northern Moluccas. The Dutch, who were well aware of the value of the clove market, began their conquest of the area between 1606 and 1663. They allied themselves with Ternate against Spain and the Sultanate of Tidore, which ultimately resulted in the Spanish withdrawing to Manila. The Spanish, Portuguese and later the Dutch built a number of fortresses on Tidore, whose ruins survive.
The neighbouring island of Tidore is another perfect volcanic cone rising from tropical seas, with graceful clove plantations adorning its slopes. Originating only in these few islands, cloves were so rare and precious that local sultans and European powers fought for centuries to monopolise them. Today it’s a picturesque island of gaily painted village houses. We visit a blacksmith working ancient piston-bellows, a vibrant market for local handicrafts, and the rebuilt palace of the Sultan of Tidore with stunning views across the strait to mountainous Halmahera Island. Nearby are two more restored colonial strongholds: Portuguese Fort Torre and Spanish Fort Tahula. A seashore monument marks the 1521 visit of Magellan’s battered fleet on the first-ever circumnavigation of the world. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Bacan Island, North Maluku
Day 3: Thursday 1 February, Bacan Island
- Goro-goro village & trek to view waterfall, black macaque monkeys and hornbills
- Snorkelling at Kusu Islet
We sail by night across the equator and you awaken in the southern hemisphere at Bacan Island, another seat of the historic spice Sultanates where outsiders like us rarely if ever venture. On every island people speak a different mother-tongue, but our guides communicate easily in Bahasa Indonesia, the old seafarers’ and traders’ language that’s become the national language. Going ashore at Goro-goro village, we’re led up a riverbed winding through steep, jungle-clad limestone karst formations to a spectacular waterfall, looking out for black macaque monkeys and hornbill birds. After lunch we motor around the coast to uninhabited Kusu Islet, snorkelling from our ship’s tenders. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Obi Islands, North Maluku
Day 4: Friday 2 February, Obi Islands
- Snorkelling at Belang Belang Island
- Obi Latu Island: Manatahan Village
We anchor off deserted, white-sand Belang Belang Island to spend the morning swimming, snorkelling crystal waters or playing on the ship’s paddle boards and kayaks. Over lunch we sail to nearby Obi Latu Island, going ashore at the isolated village of Manatahan. Settled just a few generations ago by roaming Butonese mariners from their islands to the south-east of Sulawesi, its steep hills are covered with attractive groves of clove trees. We’re sure to see cloves, nutmeg and mace drying on mats laid on village pathways. The surrounding seas, once dotted with the sails of spice trading galleys, Portuguese caravels, Spanish galleons, Dutch jachts and English pinnaces, are now plied by locally built outrigger dugouts, sampans, island ferries and a few old trading sloops still working under sail. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Taliabu Island, Sula Archipelago, North Maluku
Day 5: Saturday 3 February, Taliabu Island, Sula Archipelago
- Taliabu Island: Waikoka village
Today we reach the remote Sula Archipelago, where you are least likely to encounter a single foreign visitor! These islands were once plagued by formidable, swift raiding galleys called kora-kora, favoured by pirates and slavers. Today the name kora-kora is given to large ceremonial canoes propelled by banks of paddlers. We sail along the southern shore of Mangoli Island to Taliabu Island, going ashore at the small Muslim village Waikoka. Generally the entire village takes an interest and hordes of children will likely accompany us. This village was hit by a tsunami a 15 years ago, and many relocated inland. We reach the new settlement by a picturesque path winding through extensive coconut groves. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Day 6: Sunday 4 February, Taliabu Island, Sula Archipelago
- Taliabu Island: Mantarara Hamlet
Local boats can find quiet seas on either side of the Sula Archipelago, depending on the season… some still carry spices and valuable forest or sea products such as damar resin, rattan, beche-de-mer and pearl shell on their way to larger trading centres. We can expect a warm welcome at the Christian hamlet of Mantarara on the southern shore of Taliabu, as they’re unlikely to have had foreign visitors since our ship’s last visit – when they told us we were the first foreigners ever to visit! The whole village turns out to present dances with origins in their pre-Christian past, including the dramatic mock-battle of the cakalele war dance. With the right tides we can visit a hot spring or explore a forest river that flows over sand bars into the sea. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Banggai Archipelago, Central Sulawesi
Day 7: Monday 5 February, Banggai Archipelago
- Banggai Port: Tour by rickshaws incl. local market & Sultan’s Timber Palace
- Snorkelling, Banggai Islands
Approaching the big island of Sulawesi, the scenic Banggai group of islands small and large are still remote and very little-known. Banggai’s main port is a lively hub for colourful interisland ferries. Here we enjoy a tour in chartered bentor – raffish two-passenger motorcycle rickshaws that will turn heads as our flotilla of foreigners motors through town. Visits include a bustling market and the modest timber palace of the local sultan. There’s an unusual, sacred community gathering-house whose revered elders guard its pre-Islamic rituals and cult objects – happily co-existing with the mainstream mosques of this Muslim port town. Nearby is an island that’s something of a beachcomber’s retreat, where we enjoy paddle boarding, kayaking or snorkelling from its beaches. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Baturube, Central Sulawesi
Day 8: Tuesday 6 February, Central Sulawesi
- Bay of Tolo
- Ranger-led tour of the Peo River: In search of the maleo, (megapode scrub fowl)
The Bay of Tolo is our first stop on the forest-clad east coast of mainland Sulawesi. The fancifully shaped island, that some liken to a spider or a human figure, drifted together a mere 3 million years ago, during the great Pliocene collision of the South-East Asian and Australasian tectonic plates. Ranger-guides of the Morowali National Park accompany us to the Peo river to look for maleo, the megapode scrub fowl, in their casuarina forest habitat. They dig deep burrows in the hot beach sand to incubate a large, single egg. Up-river, the banks are lined with luxuriant mangroves on a scale you’ve probably never seen. Nearby Baturube is a neat coastal town with a mixture of churches and mosques, proud winner of a regional ‘tidy town’ contest. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Day 9: Wednesday 7 February, Central Sulawesi
- Morowali National Park & the Indigenous Wana Tribe
We leave early with the ship’s tenders to visit the Morowali National Park, hoping to meet the last indigenous tribe of Sulawesi. The semi-nomadic Wana people have a shamanistic, animist culture that’s unique in Indonesia. It’s based on shifting agriculture, hunting with blowpipes and snares, fishing and harvesting forest products such as rattan and damar. Morowali comprises lowland alluvial forest, mountain forest, swamp forest, mangrove forest and moss forest. Our Wana guides lead us up-river and through dense forest – thankfully flat going, and with crew members carrying our pre-packed lunches! Note: we always advise of likely walking conditions, leaving guests the option of choosing a quiet day at anchor. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Padea Islands, South East Sulawesi
Day 10: Thursday 8 February, Padea Islands
- Sama-Bajo Village, Saaringa Coral Cay
- Snorkelling at Labengke Island
Down the mountainous eastern shore of Sulawesi we reach the isolated, offshore Padea Islands to visit the Sama-Bajo village on the coral cay Samaringa. Our cheerful hosts are the famed sea-gypsies, who in the past spent their entire lives on their small sailing boats, from conception and birth to death. Landless, they belonged to no nation and lived exclusively from the sea. Now they’ve settled on uninhabited scraps of islands or built their stilt-houses on reefs or over tidal zones. They’re still exclusively sea people, fishing, farming seaweed, harvesting beche-de-mer or trochus pearl-shell. At nearby Labengke, in a pretty cluster of hilly, jungle-clad islands, we can snorkel, kayak and paddleboard from a deserted white-sand beach. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Pulau Wowoni, Konawe Islands, South East Sulawesi
Day 11: Friday 9 February, Pulau Wowoni
- Seaside town of Kekea
- Farewell Party
Reaching Pulau Wowoni, a big island just in front of the Bay of Kendari, South-East Sulawesi, we step ashore to the seaside town of Kekea for a final ‘meet the people’ stroll around the town. Among other produce of the gardens and forests are breadfruit, copra and cashews, while on the beach the catch is landed from locally built koli-koli – the local word for a dugout canoe or sampan. Depending on the weather and wind we may have a final chance to get Ombak Putih’s lovely blue sails up again, to experience the joy of sailing and to ensure everyone goes home with great photos our Bugis pinisi under full sail. The final night of our cruise always brings a great farewell party as a fitting celebration of a fantastic voyage. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Kendari, South East Sulawesi
Day 12: Saturday 10 February, Depart Kendari, Sulawesi, TOUR ENDS
Today we reach Kendari, the small city and busy port that is the capital of South-East Sulawesi. We have now entered the homelands of the Butonese people – one of the noted seafaring groups of Indonesia (along with the better-known Bugis and Makassans of South Sulawesi). Their sailing sloops called lambo roamed widely around Indonesia, carrying anything and everything from copra and live turtles to lumber and groceries for remote eastern islands like the ones we’ve been sailing through. After farewells to the tour guides and crew, you will be transferred to the airport. BL