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: Thursday 6 February, Arrive Ternate
- Arrive Sultan Babullah Airport, Ternate, transfer to Ombak Putih
- Welcome & briefing
- Orientation tour of Ternate incl. royal mosque, sultan’s palace, Fort Tolukko, Ngade crater lake
After being met at Ternate Airport, or your hotel, you will be escorted to our ship, Ombak Putih, at her spectacular anchorage beneath towering Mt Gamalama (1715 metres). On board, you’ll be given a safety briefing and meet your fellow guests before going ashore to explore Ternate City.
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 Russell Wallace, penned his famous ‘Letter from Ternate’ to Charles Darwin on the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. We will visit a colonial house like his, near the splendid 17th-century, pagoda-style royal mosque and the Sultan’s palace with its rich collection of heirlooms. There’s a choice of forts to visit, such as well-restored Fort Tolukko (Portuguese from 1540, Dutch from 1610), signifying the turbulent centuries of spice-related alliances, treacheries and wars between the sultans and Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English rivals. Towards sunset we visit spectacular Ngade, a volcanic crater lake, with the stunning view of perfect volcanic-cone islands emerging in line from the Equatorial sea. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) LD
Tidore, North Maluku
Day 2: Friday 7 February, Tidore
- Toloa Blacksmith village & island market
- Forts Torre & Tahula, Spanish shipwreck artefacts
- Soa Siu Sultan’s palace
- Magellan expedition landing place
Tidore is another perfect volcanic-cone island rising from the tropical seas. Kiematabu (1730 metres) is extinct, but its slopes feature plantations of the graceful clove trees that were once found only upon this and a few adjacent islands. On this island of gaily painted village houses and tropical blooms, we visit a specialist village where blacksmiths work an ancient design of piston-bellows to forge knives and machetes. An island market introduces other handcrafts and produce of the Moluccas. Picturesque port Soa Siu is dominated by two strongholds: Portuguese Fort Torre established in the 1570s, and Fort Tahula, begun by the Spanish in 1610 (after the Iberian Union of 1580) to protect their ships loading spices in the port below. The forts overlook the palace of today’s Sultan of Tidore, a one-time rival to Ternate’s sultan. Nearby, fascinating relics of an Iberian shipwreck include a mountain of ceramic jars and a huge, baroquely decorated bronze Portuguese cannon. Elsewhere a seashore monument marks the 1521 visit of the battered remnant of Magellan’s fleet on the first circumnavigation of the world. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) LD
Bacan Island, North Maluku
Day 3: Saturday 8 February, Island of Bacan
- Labuha Sultan’s residence, Barneveld Fort & green-stone bridge
- Afternoon snorkelling
An overnight passage crosses the Equator and brings us to Labuha, a small port town in a perfectly sheltered bay on the island of Bacan. This is another seat of the historic Moluccan spice sultanates. Here, we can visit the Bacan Sultan’s kedaton or residence in a Dutch-colonial era mansion. Nearby Fort Barneveld, begun by the Portuguese in 1558 and recently restored, encapsulates turbulent colonial times. It was taken over by the Spanish who lost it in 1609 to the fleet of Dutch Vice-Admiral Simon Hoen in alliance with the Sultan of Ternate. The Dutch added the present four bastions and renamed it Barneveld. We stroll riverside promenades where a picturesque footbridge is paved with famous Bacan green-stone, a lovely colour-changing gemstone known as chrysocolla chalcedony. With luck we’ll find it for sale as affordable jewellery from street vendors on our way to the vibrant seafood and produce market. In a forest at the edge of town live some rare black macaques – the only monkey species this side of the Wallace Line, introduced from North Sulawesi.
Upon our return to Ombak Putih, we cross to a small island near Bacan harbour for snorkelling. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Belag-Belang & Obi Latu, North Maluku
Day 4: Sunday 9 February, Obi Islands
- Snorkelling at Belang-Belang Island
- Manatahan village, Obi Latu Island
Anchored off the deserted, white-sand Belang-Belang Island, we 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 (‘Where shall we endure?’). 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 shapely 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 Butonese trading sloops still working under sail. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Sulabesi Island, Sula Archipelago, North Maluku
Day 5: Monday 10 February, Sulabesi Island
- City tour: Sanana fort, market, mosque & mangrove walk
- Afternoon snorkelling
Today we reach the truly remote Sula Archipelago, where we are least likely to encounter a single foreign visitor! These untouched islands are the cultural crossroads of Maluku and Sulawesi. In the past, the Sula archipelago was controlled by the Ternate Sultanate, and the southernmost of its three main islands, Sulabesi, became a port of call for spice traders. Going ashore at the capital, Sanana, we land in a colourful port where sail-traders still anchor. We can expect a touching ritual greeting as honoured guests, and a welcome with local spiced coffee, tea and snacks. Impressive Fort de Verwachting, with its history of renovations and name changes starting in 1623, has four bastions, two watch towers and a wall-top walkway around the parapet. Malay inscriptions in an ancient script indicate its use by the Moluccan sultanates as well as Dutch forces. There’s a startling modern mosque, the biggest in Eastern Indonesia, with a back-story that will amaze. We pass our first sea-gypsy village on the way to a picturesque bamboo walkway through a tidal mangrove forest.
There are some beautiful beaches in the area and we will seek suitable places for snorkelling in the afternoon. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Taliabu Island, Sula Archipelago, North Maluku
Day 6: Tuesday 11 February, Taliabu Island, Sula Archipelago
- Waikoka village, Taliabu Island
- Mantarara hamlet, Taliabu Island
Cruising along the southern shore of Mangoli Island, we reach Taliabu Island where we go ashore at the small Muslim village of Waikoka. The entire village takes an interest, and young and old will most likely accompany us. Usually we present textbooks to the isolated village primary school. This village was hit by a tsunami in 1999 and many of the residents relocated inland. We reach the new settlement by a picturesque path winding through extensive groves of the tallest coconut trees you’ve ever seen, and can inspect the copra production which, along with fishing, is the economic mainstay.
Later, we can expect a warm welcome at the Christian hamlet of Mantarara further along the southern shore of Taliabu. Like Waikoka, it’s totally isolated on this remote coast, accessible only by sea. The residents here are unlikely to have had any foreign visitors since we last anchored here. This is a community of Kadai people, the indigenous tribe of Taliabu. To welcome us the youngsters perform the cakalele war dance originating in the Kadai’s pre-Christian past. With the right tides we can also visit a hot spring or explore a forest river that flows over sandbars into the sea. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Banggai Archipelago, Central Sulawesi
Day 7: Wednesday 12 February, Bokan Islands
- Snorkelling off Mbuang-Mbuang
- Swimming with golden jellyfish at Paisu Batongan Lake
Entering the region of Sulawesi, we spend the day at charming Mbuang-Mbuang in the Bokan Islands of the south-east Banggai archipelago. This area is known as the ‘Raja Ampat of Banggai’ for its beautiful island landscapes, caves, beaches, lakes and coral reefs. A highlight of our snorkelling here is the spectacular underwater conservatory of giant clams with iridescent colours, protected by the fishermen who welcome us to their tidy village built over white sand and turquoise waters. It’s the region’s first entirely solar-powered community.
Nearby, the rare saltwater lake, Paisu Batongan, offers us the unique experience of swimming among its thousands of stingless, golden jellyfish (Mastigias papua). Symbiotic algae living in their bodies photosynthesise in sunlight, producing a form of sugar that the jellyfish metabolise to swim, grow and reproduce. The jellyfish have evolved in this completely enclosed, sun-warmed lake of seawater, moving toward the sunrise each morning and remaining in sunlight all day. We enter their fragile environment with the utmost care to observe this extrememly rare phenomenon. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Day 8: Thursday 13 February, Banggai Islands
- Banggai port: Rickshaw tour incl. Sultan’s palace & spirit house
- Snorkelling, Bakakang Island
We spend our second day in the scenic Banggai group of islands, small and large, 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, guarded by two ancient, weathered Portuguese cannon. We’re escorted to an unusual rumah keramat or sacred community house near ancestral, royal burial grounds where a megalithic stone sarcophagus has recently been unearthed. Revered elders guard this ‘spirit house’ and its pre-Islamic rituals and cult objects – co-existing with the mainstream mosques of this Muslim port town.
Nearby Bakakang Island is something of a beachcomber’s retreat, where we can enjoy paddle-boarding, kayaking or snorkelling from the beach. With luck our dive master will lead us to the rare and endangered Banggai cardinal fish (Pterapogon kauderni). (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Baturube, Central Sulawesi
Day 9: Friday 14 February, Central Sulawesi
- Meet-and-greet walk around Baturube township
- Zodiac expedition up Peo River
Some of this morning is spent at sea as we complete our voyage to the shores of Sulawesi, the big island draped like an orchid across the Equator. The rugged, forested peaks of its central ranges loom large as we anchor off the township and small port of Baturube. We go ashore to explore the tidy streets, houses and gardens and chat with the friendly inhabitants of this quiet settlement that’s still far from the island’s main population centres. They’re mostly migrants from other districts, come to open up this remote province. Later we’ll take a relaxing trip in the ship’s tenders up the Peo River, looking out for bird life among its pristine stretches of luxuriant mangrove forests. We may see nesting sites of the beautiful, endangered megapode, the maleo fowl (Macrocephalon maleo), that buries an egg a quarter of its body mass in hot sandy beaches, to incubate. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Morowali National Park, Central Sulawesi
Day 10: Saturday 15 February, Central Sulawesi
- Forest trek to meet the Wana tribe
- Down a forest river by dugout long-boat
Our sheltered anchorage is overshadowed by the towering, forested mountains of Morowali National Park. We leave early with the ship’s tenders, up a scenic estuary to begin our quest to meet the last semi-nomadic tribe of Sulawesi. The Wana (‘forest people’) have a shamanistic culture that’s unique in Indonesia, based on shifting agriculture, hunting with blowpipes and snares, fishing and harvesting forest products such as rattan cane and damar tree resin. Accompanied by some of our crew, we’re lead by Wana guides through dense estuarine forest – thankfully flat going, though the guides’ machetes are often needed to clear the way. (Note: we always advise of likely walking conditions, leaving guests the option of choosing a quiet day at anchor.) We lunch in the longhouse of the village headman and shaman, learning of their life in the forest. To shorten our return trek, we’re ferried part of the way down a small jungle river, a delightful downstream paddle in a fleet of local dugout long-boats. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Salabengka & Padeo archipelagos, South East Sulawesi
Day 11: Sunday 16 February, Umbele & Samaringa Islands
- Umbele village island walk
- Visit the Sea-Gypsies of Samaringa
- Offshore snorkelling at Samaringa
- Farewell party
A big day. After breakfast we explore Umbele Island in the Salabengka archipelago, home to cheerful Butonese, Buginese and Bajau (sea gypsy) migrants… you will never have been asked to pose for so many selfies. With luck we can see more exquisite little Banggai cardinal fish hovering in groups in clear seawater around their stilt houses. Endemic to this region off central Sulawesi, they may soon be gone from the wild because of demand from the world’s aquarium trade.
Cruising down the mountainous eastern shore of Sulawesi over lunch, we reach the isolated Padea Islands and visit the coral cay Samaringa to meet those famed sea-gypsies, the Sama-Bajau. Last of the true marine nomads, for centuries they belonged to no nation and lived afloat from birth to death. In recent times governments pressured them to settle: on uninhabited scraps of islands, often building their stilt-houses over tidal zones or even on offshore reefs. Yet our good-humoured hosts are still exclusively sea people, fishing, reef-gathering, farming seaweed, harvesting sea cucumbers or trochus pearl-shell, and boat building.
After a final snorkel as dusk approaches, on a rich coral drop-off teeming with life, we finish the final full day of our cruise with a big farewell party featuring traditional festive fare, and song and dance led by the crew. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Kendari, South East Sulawesi
Day 12: Monday 17 February, Kendari
- TOUR ENDS Departure transfer to
- Wolter Monginsidi airport, Kendari
Today we reach Kendari, the busy port city that is the capital of South-East Sulawesi province. These are the homelands of the Butonese mariners whose boats fill this busy harbour along with those of their neighbouring Sulawesi seafarers, the Mandar, Buginese and Makassarese. The harbour is developing fast, and is now famous for its huge new floating mosque.
After farewells to the tour guides and crew, you will be transferred to the airport. BL