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:
- 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
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
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
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
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