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.
Island of Ambon, Central Maluku Archipelago
Day 1: Tuesday 15 September, Arrive Ambon
- Arrival Airport Transfer
- Board Ombak Putih: Welcome & Briefing
- Orientation tour of Ambon: the Commonwealth War Cemetery, Hitu Lama (the ancient port of the Spice Trade), Waipauwe Mosque, Immanuel Church and Fort Amsterdam
Upon arrival at the Ambon airport cars will be waiting to take you to the Ombak Putih at her mooring in the harbour. After you have settled in on the vessel, had a safety briefing and freshened up, we will take an (optional) short tour of the surrounding area. We will start with a visit to the Commonwealth War Cemetery, where many Allied troops from World war II are buried. We will then head to the north of the island and visit Hitu Lama, the ancient port of the Spice Trade that was in use for centuries before Europeans made it to the Indies. We will visit the market and see a traditional Balieo house. Also on our tour will be the Waipauwe Mosque (1414), the Immanuel Church (1512) and finally to Fort Amsterdam (1514) one of the first European forts built in Maluku. After this we will return to the boat for lunch before heading out and on our way to the Banda Islands. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Banda Islands, Central Maluku Archipelago
Day 2: Wednesday 16 September, Banda Archipelago
Today we will reach the renowned, remote Banda archipelago. Famous for natural beauty and cultural heritage, and their well-preserved remnants of an extraordinary history of imperialist rivalry, these islands are quite simply one of Indonesia’s highlights. Banda was originally the world’s only source of nutmeg and mace, valued for their rarity and high cost by aristocrats and elites. Today Banda’s quiet and charming ambiance belies a dramatic and often tragic history, including war, massacre, earthquake and eruption. This is a very special destination. Since conditions of wind and tide will determine the order in which we visit various Banda islands, our activities here can’t be assigned to a particular day. Here’s what we aim to cover. In the capital Bandaneira, on the biggest island, Neira, we land near the elegant arches of Hotel Maulana – a little slice of Somerset Maugham. It’s a pleasant stroll through the quaint colonial outpost’s characterful streets, inspecting notable residences, a museum, churches and a waterfront market. Brooding over all is the medieval-looking Fort Belgica, its five crumbling bastions now solidly rebuilt. The population is a handsome mix of Malay, Arab, Dutch and Melanesian. 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 ascent up a challenging track to the top for stunning views. Or we can snorkel over the black lava stream of its last eruption. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Days 3 & 4: Thursday 17 September & Friday 18 September, Banda Archipelago
- Fort Revenge, Island of Ai
- Nutmeg plantations & Fortress Hollandia, Island of Lonthoir
We choose from some of the other small islands of the Banda archipelago – Lonthoir, Ai, Run, Hatta – each of them with its own remnants of old plantations, Dutch cemeteries and fortifications. The tiny outlying island of Run was the subject of an unbelievable real estate deal when in 1667, under the Treaty of Breda, it was ceded by the English to the Dutch in exchange for Manhattan. Yes, the Manhattan where New York stands. On the island of Ai we can visit Fort Revenge, built by the English before being captured by the Dutch. On Lonthoir you can enjoy the tranquil beauty of nutmeg groves, where the shapely fruit-bearing trees grow in the shelter of towering, gigantic kenari or native almond trees. You can observe the age-old technique of harvesting by hand, and can taste (and buy) baked goods, condiments and jams flavoured with fresh mace, nutmeg or their fruit casing. We will climb up to fortress Hollandia and go on to meet the last of the ‘perkeniers’ – the small-holder farmers who managed the plantations for the Dutch, on land parcels known as ‘perken’. You’ll learn of more recent wars and eruptions that shook these lovely islands, and value even more their current peace and tranquility.
Leaving Banda we will navigate through the Sonnegat (‘Sun’s gap’) between Neira and Gunung Api, possibly escorted by kora-kora – the big Moluccan galleys used traditionally for ceremony and warfare, propelled by banks of warrior-oarsmen. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Lease Islands, Central Maluku Archipelago
Day 5: Saturday 19 September, Saparua and Nusalaut Islands
- Dutch Fort Duurstede & town market, Saparua Island
- Eben-Haezer Church & Dutch Fort Beverwyck, Nusalaut Island
On Saparua we land beside Dutch Fort Duurstede (1691), stormed in 1817 in a revolt led by Ambonese Kapitan Pattimura, a national hero and martyr. His story is told by vivid museum dioramas. Brightly painted bemo mini-buses will take us to a morning market before we sail to nearby Nusalaut. Rarely visited by outsiders, this island is home to a Christian community after early missionaries planted their faith here at the same time that Islam was spreading through the archipelago. We will visit the Eben-Haezer church founded in 1719. Nearby is the restored Dutch Fort Beverwyck, built from 1657 in a distinctive architectural style we’ve not yet encountered. A highlight here is a lunchtime feast of wonderful local dishes – freshly prepared by villager hosts from forest, garden and sea produce. It’s your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try papeda, the most famous and unusual of the many sago dishes. Our next destination is the Island of Manipa. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Manipa Island, Central Maluka Archipelago
Day 6: Sunday 20 September, Manipa Island
- Town of Uwe, Manipa Island
- Afternoon 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 we land at Uwe township for lessons in village technology. Its gardens produce cashews, while the leaves of forest Melaleuca cajuputi are pot-distilled to make a volatile oil called kayu putih 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. Sago can be baked into easily transportable cakes, while the palm also provides building timber and thatch. After an afternoon snorkelling, we will cruise on towards Belang-Belang. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Obi Islands, Northern Maluku Archipelago
Day 7: Monday 21 September, Belang-Belang
- Snorkelling at Belang-Belang Island
- Manatahan village, Obi Latu Island
Deserted, white-sand Belang-Belang is a real beachcomber’s paradise, where we can launch our full flotilla of watercraft, kayaks and paddle boards. At Obi Latu, mountains clad in forest and clove plantations plunge spectacularly into the sea. We will visit isolated Manatahan, a village of migrant Butungese from Sulawesi hundreds of miles to the west. Migration is not unusual in this island world where people are accustomed to moving by boat, and islands are sparsely populated or uninhabited. In past times the picturesque channels around Obi were dotted with the sails of local spice traders, Portuguese caravels, Spanish galleons, Dutch jachts and English pinnaces. Now we encounter friendly fishers and their outrigger dugouts, colourful timber island-trading craft and sometimes little lambo sloops still trading under sail. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Bacan Islands, Northern Maluku Archipelago
Day 8: Tuesday 22 September, Doworalamo Island
- Village of sea gypsies, Doworalamo Island
- Swimming & snorkelling
By today you will have lost track of time and place, but your crew won’t have. They will have delivered you on schedule to the Patinti Strait and Doworalamo, where we visit a village of the famous sea gypsies, known in Eastern Indonesia as Sama-Bajo. Scattered widely through South-East Asia, sea gypsies spent their entire lives from birth to death on their small sailboats called lipa-lipa. Now the modern world has pushed them ashore. Landless, their homes are always built on stilts over coral reefs or the tidal margins of remote islands such as this one. We will also have opportunities for swimming, snorkelling and beach-combing before our ship continues on its northerly course. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Day 9: Wednesday 23 September, Bacan Island
- Get or Goro-Goro village & trek to view waterfall, black macaque monkeys and hornbills
We will wake up off the north shore of Bacan, another seat of Indonesia’s historic spice sultanates. We go exploring ashore at the isolated village of Geti or its neighbour Goro-Goro, walking up a rainforest-clad river valley. Bacan is where Alfred Russel Wallace discovered the golden birdwing butterfly and the giant mason bee, Chalicodoma pluto. We’ll keep a close watch for these and a host of species, some of them endemic, including parrots, cockatoos, lorikeets, hornbills, the elusive cuscus or a rare black macaque – the only monkey in Maluku. It’s the wrong side of the Wallace Line for monkeys; these ones were introduced from North Sulawesi. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Makian & Halmahera Islands, Northern Maluku Archipelago
Day 10: Thursday 24 September, Islands of Makian & Halmahera
- Volcanic-cone islands of Makian, Moti, Tidore & Ternate
- Trek to forest waterfall, Halmahera Island
Sunrise finds us in Indonesia’s most stunning seascape. Four 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 big island called Halmahera. They 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 and good places to snorkel. Later we cruise towards Payahe Bay on the mainland of Halmahera, which was another of the Spice Sultanates, formerly called Gilolo. Our landfall is a remote beach full of outrigger fishing craft, for an easy afternoon trek towards a forest waterfall. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Day 11: Friday 25 September, Halmahera Island
- Village of Dodinga – Birthplace of Wallace’s Theory of Natural Selection, Halmahera Island
- Afternoon snorkelling
Today we will wake up just across from Ternate off the coast of Halmahera, with the mighty peaks of Ternate and Tidore as our dawn backdrop, ready to head ashore to the village of Dodinga after breakfast. This is the very place where Alfred Russel Wallace was staying when, in a fit of malarial delerium, he came up with the idea for the mechanism for evolutionary theory. He promptly wrote to Charles Darwin when he recovered and set in motion the formalization of the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. Dodinga is a pretty little riverside village with friendly people, colourful houses and the ruins of an old Portuguese fort, and its importance in the history of science icannot be understated. After spending some time with the villagers, sharing some fresh coconuts and enjoying thier hospitality, we will head back to the boat for lunch and then go off for an afternoon of snorkelling and relaxation. (Overnight: Aboard Ombak Putih) BLD
Ternate, Northern Maluku Archipelago
Day 12: Saturday 26 September, Ternate, TOUR ENDS
- City tour of Ternate
- Departure transfer
We reach the island of Ternate and our final destination. This colourful city has been the centre of the spice trade for several centuries, where the imprint of the Dutch and the Portuguese can still be seen. In fact, its warehouses are still filled with fragrant piles of clove and nutmeg. Nearby is 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, introducing the turbulent colonial era, such as well-restored Fort Tolukko (Portuguese, 1540). After that we will go back to the Ombak Putih to say goodbye to our expert guide, the captain and the crew, and you will be transferred to the airport and your flight to Jakarta or Bali. BL