The Scents of the Spice Islands: A Voyage from Ambon to Ternate with ‘SeaTrek Sailing Adventures’

15 Sep – 26 Sep 2020

  • Region:
    • Asia
    • Indonesia
    • Spice Islands
  • Status: open
  • Code: 22053
Your leaders

“Clothed in mystery and lost in uncharted seas, the Spice Islands of the early sixteenth century tantalized European imagination to the point of obsession. As the only place on Earth where grew the “holy trinity” of spices – cloves, nutmeg, and mace – these minuscule islands quickly became a wellspring of international intrigue and personal fortune, occasioning the rise and fall of nations across the globe.”

Charles Corn, The Scents of Eden: A History of the Spice Trade.

Tour Highlights

  • Seafarer, maritime historian-ethnographer and Indonesian speaker, Jeffrey Mellefont, shares a lifetime’s knowledge of this beautiful archipelago, its peoples and seas.
  • Sail on spacious Ombak Putih (‘White Wave’), a magnificent Bugis sail-trader outfitted in air-conditioned luxury, with water-sports craft and all modern safety & navigation gear.
  • Cruise glittering seas to beautiful islands that are inaccessible to most travellers, and snorkel abundant reefs of the Coral Triangle, home to the world’s greatest diversity of marine life.
  • See the Commonwealth War Cemetery on Ambon, its tranquil setting a memorial to ANZAC, British and allies’ sacrifices of WW2 including Australians of the ill-fated Gull Force.
  • Explore the beautiful, remote but intensely historic Banda archipelago, once the world’s only source of nutmeg and mace – quite simply one of Indonesia’s loveliest gems.
  • Witness unchanged methods of harvesting and processing spices, and enjoy them in delicious local cuisines, condiments and preserves you’ve never before tasted.
  • Learn why the Spice Islands were a key node of mediaeval and Renaissance world trade, linking Asia with Europe and leading to 500 years of Western expansion and imperialism.
  • Centuries-old forts and colonial remnants illustrate the contest of Moluccan chiefs and sultans, Portuguese, Spaniards, Dutch and English to control priceless spices at their source.
  • Relive the adventures of Nathaniel Courthope (of ‘Nathaniel’s Nutmeg’ fame) on tiny Run Island, later exchanged by the English for Dutch Manhattan under the 1667 Treaty of Breda.
  • Visit the residence-in-exile of Mohammad Hatta, the philosophical driving force of Indonesian independence
  • Cross paths with Alfred Russel Wallace, whose famous ‘Letter from Ternate’ to Charles Darwin set out his own theory of evolution by natural selection.
  • Encounter the rich Indonesian tapestry of island communities of diverse religions and languages that are united by a heritage of seafaring, maritime commerce and migration.
  • Meet the sea gypsies or Sama-Bajau, formerly boat-dwelling marine nomads now settled ashore in stilt-house communities built over water on unclaimed island fringes.
  • Witness the spectacular seascape where a line of perfect volcanic-cone islands emerge from the sea, brilliant green and clad in clove plantations, right next to the Equator.


A gorgeous schooner from a bygone era, beautifully refitted, cruising tranquil waters!  Our visits to isolated islands with fascinating histories provided an insight into Australia’s closest neighbour, whilst at the same time we shared beautiful Indonesian meals, snorkelling and the companionship of other ASA travellers in the expert hands of experienced and friendly guides and crew.  An optimum blend of intellectual stimulation and total relaxation.  Peter, VIC.

12-day Cruise from Ambon to Ternate

Overnight: 11 nights cruising aboard the Ombak Putih


Discover the Moluccas on the luxuriously appointed Ombak Putih (‘White Wave’), based on a traditional Indonesian sail trader. These are the original Spice Islands, a chain of largely volcanic islands stretching across the Equator in the eastern Indonesian archipelago – exotic, remote and unspoiled yet historically significant. Little has changed in the lives of their people who harvest nutmeg, mace and cloves in the same way as they have for millennia. Once these fertile isles were the world’s only source of these rarest of all spices, worth their weight in gold. Traded along ancient monsoon sea routes that stretched from China to India, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, they enriched Moluccan rulers, bold seafarers and distant merchant-middlemen such as the Arabs and Venetians. Huge profits lured Europeans onto the world’s oceans to find the spices’ mysterious source. Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English fortune seekers wrote a violent history of treaties and treachery among these islands and their rajahs and sultans. The Moluccas were torn, too, by Indonesia’s struggle for independence and the more recent transition from dictatorship to democracy. Today they bask in peace and a natural beauty that you will enjoy below the water as well as above – for all this lies in S.E. Asia’s Coral Triangle, with the world’s greatest diversity of underwater life. Your Indonesian-speaking guest lecturer Jeffrey Mellefont is an expert on this unique maritime world. He relates their stories as we visit abandoned forts, colonial buildings and churches, sultans’ palaces and lovely spice plantations. We also visit unspoiled villages and wilderness that can only be accessed by our ship’s tenders. From Ambon with its gracious Commonwealth war graves we sail to the charming Banda islands, original source of nutmeg. Following historic spice routes through the Lease islands we cross the Equator to the clove sultanates of Tidore and Ternate.

About the Islands

The Moluccas form a chain of largely volcanic islands on the Halmahera Plate within a geological ‘collision zone’, which accounts for current tectonic activity. They lie to the east of the ‘Wallace Line’ that separates two very different ecosystems. There are over 1,000 islands spread over an area of 80,000 square kilometres, with a current population of around 2.5 million. The main islands we visit are in the South Moluccas (Ambon and the Banda group) as well as those 600km to the north (Halmahera and Ternate).

History of the ‘Spice Islands’ (Moluccas)

There can be no more exotic, isolated, yet historically significant groups of islands than the ‘Spice Islands’ (Moluccas) in the eastern Indonesian archipelago. Today they remain as remote and mysterious as they were to Europeans in the 16th century. They are situated off major transport routes, and little has changed in the lives of their peoples who harvest nutmeg and cloves in essentially the same way as they did 2,000 years ago. It was the same nutmeg and cloves, indigenous only to this island group and valued throughout the world like gold, that underpinned the Arab-controlled maritime ‘spice routes’. These trade routes distributed the spices to Europe and acted as the stimulus to Western Europe to develop the navigation systems and ships that undertook incredible voyages, to establish a continuous sea route in order to access eastern spice markets.

This trade played a key role in the emergence of the first truly global economy, in which, for example, spices in the Moluccas could be paid for by silver mined in Mexico and carried east to the Philippines by the Spanish ‘Manila Galleons’. Over 400 years this trade raised the wealth of the world, was the focus of global conflicts, saw the transition from a stable trade based on the entrepôts of Malacca and Makassar, controlled by local sultanates, to an era of colonial conflict. The earlier phase saw a hectic mix of eastern traders using Malay as their ‘trading’ language whilst spreading Islam to the coastal East Indies. Western traders from the Iberian Peninsula destroyed this stable system when they conquered Malacca, took control of sea routes and established their own bases in the east.

Far more successful were the Dutch, whose exploratory expedition in 1599, using Portuguese charts stolen by Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, determined that the Portuguese had only an unstable, tenuous control over the area and its trade. The Dutch formed the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie – VOC) whose strategy was to displace the Spanish and Portuguese, to establish a major base at Batavia on the north coast of Java, to exert influence over the traditional entrepôts of Malacca and Makassar and, most importantly, to control completely the island sources of nutmeg and cloves. They formed alliances with the local sultanates and brutally replaced indigenous plantation workers with an imported workforce under Dutch masters; the VOC was responsible for the migration of some 1 million Europeans to the area. The commercial success of this strategy can best be understood in terms of an average annual dividend paid by the VOC to its shareholders of 18% for 200 years.

Trade was broadened to include luxury goods that had sustained the ‘Silk Road’ from Xi’an to the Venetian and Genoese ports on the Black Sea. This was achieved from Batavia by following Portuguese patterns of trade with China at Macao and with Japan at Nagasaki. European imperial power struggles crystallised in the Seven Years War of the 1750s and the Napoleonic Wars. These led to a new order of international commerce and with a focus on colonisation and greater influence in the ‘Far East’ by England, which now dominated the world’s oceans. The English East India Company had, in fact, established a presence on the islands of Run and Ai, part of the ‘nutmeg island group’ in 1603. The Dutch overwhelmed these islands in 1620. Such was the value of the Banda Islands that following the Second Anglo – Dutch War, at the Treaty of Breda, the island of Run, first British colony in the region, was exchanged for the island of Manhattan.

After the British defeated Napoleon they occupied the Moluccas, leading to the migration of nutmeg production to British colonies such as Ceylon and Grenada. The Moluccas were returned to the Dutch as the colony of the ‘Dutch East Indies’ that remained until Indonesian independence in 1945. Mohammad Hatta, intellectual catalyst for independence, was imprisoned by the Dutch on Banda in the 1930s and it was here that he developed many of his ideas that were then disseminated from the island. Thus the Moluccas retained their pivotal role in world history right to the 20th century. Of equal importance was the residence of Alfred Wallace within the Indonesian – Malay Archipelago between 1854 and 1862 that led to two incredibly important ideas – evolution and continental drift; the latter formed the basis of our understanding of ‘plate tectonics’. His famous ‘Ternate Essay’, which he sent to Charles Darwin in 1858, outlined his independent conclusions regarding evolution by natural selection was based largely on his observations in the Moluccas and written on Ternate (‘On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type’). Wallace contributed to later notions of continental drift and plate tectonics through his observations of zoological ‘clustering’ either side of a line as narrow as 35 km, passing through the Indonesian archipelago (the ‘Wallace Line’), leading to the idea that ‘earth and life evolve together’.


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.

Trip Schedules
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.

Lecture Program

Each night during your cruise Jeffrey Mellefont will give a richly illustrated lecture delving into the following topics:

  • Sultans, Spice and Gunpowder – the world’s most ancient and valuable trade: how nutmeg and cloves from the Moluccas drew traders from all over the world, 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, with unique sailing technologies and boat-building traditions.
  • Mighty Maritime Empires – how great Indonesian and Malay mercantile states arose through maritime trade and control of the archipelago’s sea lanes, and fell in turn.
  • Maritime Melting Pot – currents of world history swirling through maritime South-East Asia introducing Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity and the cultures of China, India, the Middle East and Europe.
  • Alfred Russel Wallace – Victorian naturalist and author of the classic travel book The Malay Archipelago voyages 22,400 kilometres through the East Indies in 1854–1862 collecting 125,660 specimens and independently discovers the theory of evolution by natural selection.
  • Great Guest Voyages – Sail the Moluccas with Captain Thomas Forest on a native kora-kora in 1773–5; colonial administrator G E P ‘Pat’ Collins drops out to go sailing with the natives in the 1930s, commissions his own Celebes-style palari cruiser and sails to off to study the dragons of Komodo Island.
  • A Tapestry of Seafarers – Introducing Indonesia’s many different sailing cultures and their brilliant innovations – the Sea Gypsies (Sama Bajau); the Bugis and Makassans; the Madurese, the Mandar, the Butonese – and Bali’s secret, hidden fleet!
  • Floating Art Galleries – Many Indonesian sea craft are richly decorated with carved and painted symbols and motifs expressing complex beliefs and rituals, functioning as protective magic talismans while representing historical layers of cultural and aesthetic influences.
  • Celebes Ships – the story of our own ship Ombak Putih and her lineage in 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.
  • The Best Language – Bahasa Indonesia: this fascinating, user-friendly language unites an incredibly diverse maritime world. The history of the language is a history of this archipelagic nation. After this simple introduction you’ll be trying it out yourself ashore, with guidance, help and vocab/phrase sheets at hand.

Ambon, Capital of Maluku (Moluccas) Province

Day 1: Tuesday 15 September, Arrive Ambon
  • Arrive Pattimura Airport Ambon, transfer to Ombak Putih
  • Welcome & briefing
  • Ambon town tour incl. Commonwealth War Cemetery

Ambon’s huge, sheltered harbour has long made it a hub for sea-borne commerce. The Portuguese arrived in 1513, but never achieved their goal of controlling the spice trade. The Dutch drove them out in 1605, and made Ambon an early capital of the United Dutch East India Company (VOC). An English trading presence ended in 1623 with their shocking massacre by the Dutch, who controlled Ambon for the next three centuries except for a brief period of British rule after the Napoleonic wars, and the Japanese occupation of 1942–45. We catch a glimpse of Ambon’s deep history after picking you up from the airport – named for an anti-colonial martyr – and introducing you to your floating home, Ombak Putih. Though time is short in Ambon City, we won’t miss its truly beautiful Commonwealth War Cemetery. Magnificent rain trees (Albizia saman) shelter the grave markers of Australian, New Zealand, Indian, British and other imperial forces of World War 2 – including the 694 ill-fated soldiers of the tiny Australian Gull Force landed to resist the unstoppable invading Japanese. After lunch we’ll be setting course for the Banda Islands. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) LD

Banda Archipelago

Day 2: Wednesday 16 September, Banda Islands
  • Ashore at historic Run & Ai islands according to tides
  • Introduction to Banda Neira township & Fort Belgica

The very beautiful, remote and little-visited Banda archipelago is quite simply one of Indonesia’s gems. There’s nowhere better than legendary Banda – once the world’s only source of nutmeg and mace – to begin the stories of the Spice Islands. The first Europeans to reach these fabled isles were the Portuguese, in 1512. Banda’s fiercely independent sea-traders, ruled by chiefs called Orang Kaya, resisted them and the Dutch who, with the English, followed a century later. Ferocious and tragic struggles for domination and monopoly, earthquake and eruption, are the dramatic backstory of today’s peaceful landscape of natural beauty. It’s dotted with centuries-old forts, spice warehouses and offices, residences and places of worship. Its welcoming people are now a handsome mix of Indonesian, Melanesian, Arab and Dutch.

Tide and wind will determine the order of our visits to various Banda islands over the next few days. The islands’ capital is Banda Neira where we land near the elegant arches of Hotel Maulana – pure Somerset Maugham. Strolling characterful streets, we inspect well-preserved colonial buildings, a museum, church and a waterfront market. Brooding over all is the mediaeval-looking, Dutch-built Fort Belgica, its five crumbling bastions now solidly rebuilt. Just across the harbour is Banda’s perfect, jungle-clad volcanic cone Gunung Api (‘Fire Mountain’, 640 metres). The fit and ambitious might make an early morning scramble up a challenging track to the top for stunning views. Later we’ll snorkel over the black lava stream of its last eruption in 1988, where a flourishing coral reef has already re-established itself. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD

Days 3 & 4: Thursday 17 September & Friday 18 September, Banda Islands
  • Nutmeg plantations, Fort Hollandia – Lonthoir Island
  • Snorkelling in coral groves
  • Ashore at historic Run & Ai islands according to tides
  • Local-cuisine dinner ashore at Cilu Bintang Estate, Banda Neira

Lonthoir, Banda’s largest island, introduces the tranquil beauty of shapely nutmeg groves (Myristica fragrans) in the shelter of gigantic kenari or native almond trees (Canarium indicum). We observe the age-old technique of harvesting by hand, taste (and can buy) baked goods, condiments and jams flavoured with fresh mace, nutmeg or their fruit casing. Climbing up to unrestored fortress Hollandia reveals an incomparable view of the key navigation channel the Dutch called Sonnegat (‘Sun’s gap’) between Lonthoir and Gunung Api. We meet the last of the ‘perkeniers’ – hereditary small-holder farmers who managed the plantations on land parcels known in Dutch as ‘perken’. You’ll learn of wars and eruptions that shook these lovely islands, and value even more their current peace and tranquillity.

On each of the smaller islands of the Banda archipelago – Ai, Run, Hatta – the gaily painted houses and mosques of fishers and spice harvesters are set amid remnants of old plantations, Dutch cemeteries and fortifications. Tiny outlying Run was the subject of an unbelievable real-estate deal when, under the 1667 Treaty of Breda, it was exchanged by the English for Dutch-held Manhattan (New York). We may snorkel the wonderful reef off Run’s outlier, tiny Nailaka, where English forces led by Captain Courthope (of ‘Nathaniel’s Nutmeg’ fame) made their last desperate stand against the Dutch. Leaving the Bandas we are escorted by kora-kora – big Moluccan dragon boats propelled by banks of warrior-oarsmen, used traditionally for ceremony and warfare. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD

Lease Islands

Day 5: Saturday 19 September, Lease Islands
  • 1719 Eben-Haezer church & 1654 Fort Beverwijk, Nusa Laut
  • 1691 Fort Duurstede, pottery making, Saparua island
  • Lunch ashore, Moluccan home cuisine

Overnight we have crossed the Molucca Sea to the Lease Islands (pronounced ‘lay-ah-say’). Nusa Laut is home to a Christian community after early missionaries planted their faith here around the same time that Islam was spreading through the archipelago. We visit Eben-Haezer church founded in 1719. Nearby is the restored Dutch Fort Beverwyck, built from 1654 in a distinctive architectural style we’ve not yet encountered. On Saparua island we land beside Dutch Fort Duurstede (1691), stormed in 1817 in a revolt led by Ambonese Kapitan Pattimura. The story of this and other national heroes and martyrs is told in vivid museum dioramas next door. Brightly painted bemo mini-buses take us on an island tour that includes local pottery making. A lunchtime feast of Ambonese-style dishes is freshly prepared from forest, garden and sea produce by our villager hosts. It’s your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try papeda, the most famous and unusual of the many sago dishes. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD

Manipa Island

Day 6: Sunday 20 September, Manipa Island
  • Village technology incl. sago & tea-tree oil production, Uwe town
  • Coral-reef snorkelling

Manipa Island is said to have magical powers, because none of the Portuguese, Dutch or WW2-Japanese who occupied the surrounding islands ever landed here. The spell doesn’t apply to Indonesian ships, so ours lands us at remote Muslim township Uwe for lessons in village technology. Its gardens produce cashews, spices and fruits, while the leaves of a forest tree, Melaleuca cajuputi, are pot-distilled to make a volatile oil called kayu putiih or cajeput. It’s famed throughout Indonesia as a universal panacea: cosmetic, antiseptic, insecticide, decongestant, analgesic, expectorant, anti-spasmodic, stimulant and tonic! We also view production of the traditional Moluccan food staple, sago, a nutritious flour washed from the fibrous trunk of the cycad-like sago palm Metroxylon sagu. Sago, which Europeans know mostly as tapioca, can be consumed in many edible forms such as papeda, and durable, easily transportable hard-baked cakes like ship’s biscuit. The palm also provides natural tongue-in-groove building panels and thatch. In the afternoon we will find a place for snorkelling. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD

Obi Islands

Day 7: Monday 20 September, Obi Islands
  • Manatahan village visit
  • Snorkelling, kayaking & paddle-boarding, Belang-Belang

At Obi Latu island, mountains clad in forest and plantations of shapely clove trees (Syzygium aromaticum) plunge spectacularly into the sea. We go ashore to the isolated village Manatahan (‘Where shall we endure?’), settled just a few generations ago by roaming Butonese people from their islands south-east of Sulawesi. We’re sure to see cloves, nutmeg and mace drying on mats laid on village pathways. A visit to the village school, where our tour leader hands out educational materials, brings lessons to a halt – but we are always welcomed by pupils and teachers alike since our ship brings the only foreign visitors they ever meet. Migration is not unusual in this island world where everyone and everything moves by boat. The surrounding seas, once dotted with the sails of spice trading prahus, Portuguese caravels, Spanish galleons, Dutch yachts and English pinnaces, are now plied by locally built outrigger dugouts, sampans, island ferries and a few old Butonese lambo trading sloops still working under sail. Nearby, the deserted, white-sand coral cay Belang-Belang is a real beachcomber’s paradise, for snorkelling or using the ship’s flotilla of watercraft, kayaks and paddle boards. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD

Dowora, Patinti Strait

Day 8: Tuesday 21 September, Dowora, Patinti Strait
  • Dowora Sea-Gipsy village visit
  • Coral-reef snorkelling

By today you will have lost track of time and place, but your crew don’t. They will deliver you on schedule to the Patinti Strait off the big Moluccan island of Halmahera. On the small island Gane Barat Selatan we visit a village called Dowora, home of the famous sea gypsies known here as Sama-Bajau. Scattered widely through South-East Asia, sea gypsies were the last of the true marine nomads. For centuries they belonged to no nation and lived afloat, from birth to death, on their small sailboats called lipa-lipa. 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 sea people, fishing, reef-gathering, farming seaweed, harvesting sea cucumbers or trochus pearl-shell, and boat building. The excitement of the children on our arrival, and the friendly interest of everyone as we stroll around their village, will be one of your enduring memories from this voyage. After lunch back on board our ship, its tenders will take us out for some fine snorkelling on a nearby reef with a spectacular oceanic drop-off. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD

Bacan & Kusu Islands

Day 9: Wednesday 22 September, Bacan & Kusu Islands
  • River & forest walk to Gam Konora waterfall, Bacan
  • Coral-reef snorkelling, Kusu

We wake up off the sparsely populated north shore of Bacan, another seat of Indonesia’s historic spice sultanates. Ashore near the village of Goro-Goro, villager-guides lead us up a rainforest-clad river valley. At our destination Gam Konora, a high waterfall falling into a rocky forest glade, everyone usually swims. Bacan is where Alfred Russel Wallace discovered the golden birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera Croesus) and the very rare, giant mason bee (Chalicodoma pluto), the world’s largest. It’s only just been rediscovered for the first time in a century, so we’ll keep a close watch for these! Other species we might see include parrots, cockatoos, lorikeets, hornbills and the elusive cuscus. We may even see the rare crested black macaque (Macaca nigra) – the only monkey species this side of the Wallace Line, introduced from North Sulawesi. Later in the day we snorkel off uninhabited Kusu Island. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD

Makian & Halmahera Islands

Day 10: Thursday 23 September, Makian & Halmahera Islands
  • Snorkelling off Makian or shore trip (depending on tides)
  • Bastian village & waterfall, Halmahera

After crossing the Equator overnight, sunrise finds us in Indonesia’s most stunning seascape. Perfect, brilliant-green, volcanic-cone islands emerge from the sea in a straight line stretching south to north, parallel to the rugged, forested spine of the long island Halmahera. The largest conical islands are Makian, Moti, Tidore and Ternate. Makian is dominated by volcanic Mount Kiebesi (1357 metres) towering over its palm-fringed, white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters. There are interesting expeditions ashore or good places to snorkel. Today we land for the first time on the mainland of Halmahera, which was another of the Spice Sultanates, formerly called Gilolo. Here at Payahe Bay is a remote beach of outrigger fishing craft, where we land for an easy afternoon trek towards another forest waterfall. At the newly established Christian village Bastian, we are welcomed with refreshments and a village sing-along accompanied by guitar and tea-chest bass. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD

Tidore & Halmahera Islands

Day 11: Friday 24 September, Tidore & Halmahera Islands
  • Blacksmith, palace, fort & shipwreck relics, Tidore
  • Dodinga village, Halmahera

Tidore’s perfect volcanic cone, Kiematabu (1730 metres), is extinct, but its slopes feature plantations of the clove trees that were once found only upon this and a few adjacent islands. This was Spain’s foothold in the Spice Islands, beginning in 1521 when the battered remnant of Magellan’s fleet landed to buy spices during the first circumnavigation of the world. A seashore monument marks where they landed. In a caravan of cars, we visit a specialist village where blacksmiths work an ancient design of piston-bellows to forge knives and machetes. Picturesque port Soa Siu is dominated by two strongholds: Fort Torre (1570s) and Fort Tahula begun in 1610, to protect ships loading spices in the port below. They overlook the palace of today’s Sultan of Tidore. Nearby, fascinating relics of a 17th-century Iberian shipwreck include a mountain of ceramic jars and a huge, baroquely decorated bronze Portuguese cannon cast in Macau in 1627.

After lunch we land across the strait on Halmahera, to walk through groves of clove trees to the pretty little riverside village of Dodinga. Here the great 19th-century English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, in a fit of malarial delirium, hit upon his own concept of the theory of evolution by natural selection, independently of Charles Darwin. Still visible is the crumbling remnant of a Dutch-outpost fort that Wallace visited. The last full day of our cruise ends with a big farewell party featuring traditional festive fare, and song and dance led by the crew. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD

Ternate, North Maluku

Day 12: Saturday 25 September, Depart Ternate
  • City historic highlights, Ternate
  • Transfer to Sultan Babullah Airport or your chosen hotel, Ternate

Your voyage ends at a spectacular anchorage beneath Ternate’s towering volcano Gamalama (1715 metres). One of the four historically powerful Moluccan spice sultanates, it’s where Portugal first allied with a Moluccan ruler in 1513; murdered a sultan; were besieged and expelled by his son Sultan Babullah (for whom the airport is named); and returned with the Spanish after the Iberian unification of 1580. They were then were ousted for good by the Dutch in 1606! Here Alfred Russell Wallace penned his famous ‘Letter from Ternate’ to Charles Darwin, setting out his own theory of evolution. We will visit a colonial house like Wallace’s, near the splendid 17th-century, pagoda-style royal mosque and the Sultan’s palace with its rich collection of heirlooms. For a final glimpse of turbulent spice history, on this island bristling with forts, we might recommend perhaps the prettiest of them all: little Fort Tolucco (1540) in a garden setting, with its very fine views of surrounding islands and waterways.

You will be transferred to the airport for your onward flight, or your hotel if you wish to remain for additional independent sight-seeing accompanied by your guest lecturer (not included in ASA tour price). BL


12-Day Cruise from Ambon to Ternate

  • SeaTrek Cruise (11 nights): Aboard the Ombak Putih –  a traditional Indonesian gaff ketch custom built from ironwood by Buginese shipbuilders. Her keel was laid in Batulicin Kalimantan in 1995, and she became operational in 1997. The Ombak Putih is 42m long, and provides accommodation for up to 24 guests in 12 comfortable cabins. With approximately 400 square metres of public space divided over 2 main decks, the Ombak Putih offers both open and covered space in abundance, allowing for privacy and serene relaxing. All cabins are located below deck and offer private bathroom, portholes, individually controlled air-conditioning, and ample storage space including safety deposit box. The gaff ketch is led by Captain Feri and 14 dedicated crew members coming from all regions of the archipelago.

Ombak Putih Deck Plan. Courtesy: Sea Trek

Ombak Putih Deck Plan

Practical Information: Ombak Putih

  • 12 superior cabins
  • Overall length: 36 metres (118 feet)
  • Beam: 10 metres (33 feet)
  • Draught: 3.5 metres (11.5 feet)
  • Rig: Gaff rigged ketch – 600 m2 sails, 2 mains, two tops, three jibs
  • Cruising speed: 7-10 knots
  • Maximum speed: 12 knots
  • International Standard Navigation & Safety equipment (with satellite phone)

En Suite Facilities
Each cabin contains a private toilet, a hot/cold water shower and locally produced shampoo and soap. The Ombak Putih provides a modern marine toilet system, which functions just like any western toilet.

Air-Conditioning and Electricity
Each cabin has an individually controlled air-conditioning unit. Each room is equipped with an electrical outlet suitable for round, 2-pinned European plugs that are compatible with 220 Electric Voltage. The salon has additional sockets for charging, and a large power strip that accepts most plug styles. Additional adaptors are available onboard.

Towels and Linen
Beach and bath towels are provided for each guest. In order to conserve water, bath towels will be changed after 3 days and beach towels will be changed after 5 days. Bed linen is changed mid-trip.

Valuables and Care for Personal Belongings
There is a small safe in the Captain’s cabin for stowage of your valuables or documents should you need it. There is a lockable cabinet in each cabin that may be secured with your personal luggage lock.

A limited laundry service is available to guests, free of charge. To conserve water, guests are limited to two pieces per day.

Communication & Internet
A satellite phone is available for passengers on board for a fee of US$ 3.00 per minute for international calls and US$ 1.00 per minute for local calls. Local mobile phone signal may be available at certain times during your trip. Internet access is NOT available on board ship, however you may be able to access the internet via your mobile phone when the Ombak Putih arrives at port (the speed of internet connection may vary).

Meals can be taken either in the salon or on the open air dining area on the foredeck. A breakfast buffet is offered in the salon between 7:00 and 9:30, or before the morning’s land excursions, while lunch and dinner times are announced by the salon bell. Between meals local fruit, crackers, biscuits and assorted nibbles are made available at the bar. The Ombak Putih offers a fresh, healthy menu full of local specialties that should suit the varied tastes of our guests. The crew sources the freshest local fruits, vegetables, and fish available and a trip to the local market with them can be real adventure. If you have any dietary preferences or restrictions, please advise ASA well in advance of your trip. 

Coffee, cocoa and a variety of teas, as well as soft drinks and fruit juice are all complimentary and available at any time. Wine and spirits are heavily taxed in Indonesia, therefore generally fairly expensive by international standards. The bar menu offers a limited selection of imported and local wines as well as a range of spirits and delicious cocktail creations at reasonable prices. Alcoholic beverages are provided at an additional charge to our guests. You should feel free to bring your own favourite beverages. 

Although we sometimes cross channels that provide us with some exciting waves, most of your cruise should experience calm seas and sunny days.

What to Bring 
Your Tour Leader will usually arrange most essentials for your land excursions, however, a bottle of water, a hat, sunscreen and insect repellent are items you should bring with you at all times. Don’t forget your camera (with charged batteries and ample memory) as well as some money for souvenirs if you wish.

Footwear/ Shore Landings 
Flip-flops or sandals are usually sufficient footwear for most land tours, but in some cases sturdier shoes, sports sandals, or water booties might be more appropriate. Landings on shore from the tenders may be either dry or wet due to fluctuations in tidal levels. In the case of a wet landing, water might come as high as the knees, therefore suitable sandals or carrying your shoes to be put on upon land (as well as rolled up pants or shorts) might be recommended. Your Tour Leader will try to make recommendations for appropriate footwear for each occasion.

Cultural Dress / What to Wear 
In the streets of Jakarta or the tourist areas of Bali, revealing clothing may be more socially accepted, but many of the remote villages we visit are accustomed to more conservative dress. In order to both respect our hosts and not draw uncomfortable attention, we usually suggest more conservative clothing when touring a village. This means that ladies should avoid plunging necklines and bare shoulders while both sexes should cover the knees. On board you can feel comfortable in your swimwear as our crew is used to this, however a revealing bathing costume might cause offence in the vicinity of a village.

Exploring the underwater world is a highlight of any trip. Snorkelling equipment is made readily available on board.

Bar and ‘Boatique’ Bill 
At the end of your cruise, you can pay for additional purchases and your bar bill with cash (Indonesian Rupiah or major foreign currency at the current exchange rates) or credit card (Seatrek only accepts VISA).

Triple Stateroom, Ombak Putih. Courtesy: Sea Trek

Twin Stateroom, Ombak Putih

Double Stateroom, Ombak Putih

Double Stateroom, Ombak Putih

Dining area, Ombak Putih

Dining area, Ombak Putih


How to book


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $2500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Gallery Tour Map
Physical Endurance & Practical Information
Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 12-day voyage involves:

  • 11 nights cruising aboard the Ombak Putih involving motoring and sailing on open water from Ternate to Kendari.
  • A moderate amount of walking where many of the sites are large and unsheltered.
  • Visiting sites where you will encounter steps, rocky and uneven ground, slopes.
  • Activities include swimming, snorkelling, village walks and rainforest treks.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Passports and Visas

Please ensure that all necessary travel documents are valid and effective and in your possession. Passports are required for all participants and MUST be valid for at least 6 months after your date of return. Please assume full responsibility for checking and verifying any and all passport, visa, vaccination, or other entry requirements. We may provide information or advice on general matters such as climate, clothing, baggage, and special equipment in good faith as a courtesy to you, however, please ensure that you are properly prepared.

Health Requirements and Medical Care

This trip has varying levels of demands and fitness requirements. To participate, you must complete the ASA Reservation Application Form. Medical care beyond basic first aid, due to the often remote regions visited, is often not immediately available. If you have a physical, dietary, or other condition for which you may desire special attention, please inform us in writing when the booking is made. ASA and SeaTrek assumes no responsibility for any medical care provided to you.

Tour Price & Inclusions

USD $7250.00 Land Content Only Twin-share**

The price for this tour is given in USD. Based on the current exchange rates (1AUD =  .70USD), this is approximately $10,357 AUD. The final tour price will be confirmed 4 months prior to departure.

Note: due to the limited number of cabins available on the Ombak Putih, cabins for single use are not currently being offered. If you are interested in this option please contact ASA for further information.

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares and/or group airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • 11 nights aboard the Ombak Putih in double or twin-share cabins
  • Meals as indicated in the tour itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=evening meal
  • Non-alchoholic beverages during meals and bottled water during site excursions
  • Arrival/Departure airport transfers
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person (not at airports)
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Entrance fees
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Ambon, Ternate-Australia
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Personal spending money
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas (if applicable)
  • Tips for the staff and crew on board the Ombak Putih (estimate of $100.00 US per person)
Terms & Conditions

A non-refundable deposit of $2500.00 AUD per person is required upon reservation.

Cancellation Fees

Payment conditions and cancellation fees that apply to this tour vary from other ASA tours. These conditions have been modified in order to comply with payment & cancellation fees applicable for the Sea Trek Sailing Adventures cruise. If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • Initial deposit of $2500.00 is non-refundable
  • 95-66 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 65-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price.

Cancellations or Changes by Us and Flexibility

We reserve the right to cancel, alter or modify this tour without prior notice for the safety and/or comfort of clients due to local circumstances or events. On rare occasions, a tour cancellation may occur in which case a full refund will be issued to you less any airline ticket cancellation fees and non-refundable deposits. This will constitute full settlement of claims you may have arising out of our cancellation.

Force Majeure

SeaTrek and ASA will not be deemed in breach of this agreement by reason of delay in performance or nonperformance of any of its obligations under this agreement to the extent that any such delay or nonperformance is due to any Force Majeure. “Force Majeure” means any circumstances beyond the reasonable control of SeaTrek or ASA.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 95 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 95 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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