Bali to Fiji

Lindblad and National Geographic have partnered on a number of interesting voyages around the world. We have taken several of these voyages, including one that took us from Bali to Fiji through Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Melanesia. This was one of the most interesting trips we have taken. Here is a series of blog posts, with lots of pictures, that Suzan wrote during the trip.

Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia

Our two days in Bali were memorable, not only for the beauty of the countryside, the temples, and the people, but also for the number of showers we took! It is incredibly hot and humid in Indonesia and although I drank bottles of water, not much came back out in the normal fashion. I had a teacher in high school who always said that horses sweat, men perspire, and women glow. Well, all I can say to that is “Neigh”! I packed enough clothes to get us through 14 days - we have been here 4 days and have already sent out half of them to be laundered. This may be the first trip where my laundry bill exceeds my bar tab!

Sumbawa Island, Indonesia

Sumbawa Island, Indonesia

This was a very interesting day! We had the opportunity to visit a village where the villagers were very friendly and welcoming and put on a cultural display for us. I enjoyed wandering through the village and seeing how the people there lived. We were shown how they wove the cloth for the clothes they wore, how they pounded the rice with poles to break it down and then sifted it, and how they dried their meat in baskets hanging from their porches.

Komodo, Indonesia

Komodo, Indonesia

Today was a big day - it is the day I got to see the world’s largest living lizard, the Komodo dragon! I think that everyone on the ship has been looking forward to this, and we were not disappointed. 

Larantuka, Flores Island, Indonesia

Larantuka, Flores Island, Indonesia

Larantuka is the capital city on the island of Flores, which was a Portuguese colony at one time so 90% of the population is Catholic. They still speak Portuguese here as well as 7 other local languages. We have been warned that the further east we go on this cruise, the less comfortable the coaches we use will be, so no more air conditioning on our days out.

Kalabahi, Alor Archipelago, Indonesia

Kalabahi, Alor Archipelago, Indonesia

Kalabahi is the only town on Alor Island and has a population of about 60,000 out of a total of 145,000 on the island. Given the small population, it is amazing that more than 15 different indigenous languages are spoken here. This is a rugged, volcanic island that the Dutch once governed and valued for its vanilla, tamarind, sandalwood and almonds. 

Lucipara Islands, The Banda Sea, Indonesia

Lucipara Islands, The Banda Sea, Indonesia

Today was an easy relaxing day as we sailed through the Banda Sea on the way to the Spice Islands. Our big excitement of the morning was the sighting of about 5 to 10 Blue Whales, the largest animals that have ever lived on earth!

Under the Sea

Under the Sea

Here are a few photos that will give you an idea of what awaits us when we go snorkeling or diving, generously supplied by Mike Greenfelder, our undersea specialist. 

Banda Neira, Spice Islands, Indonesia

Banda Neira, Spice Islands, Indonesia

Banda Neira is one of ten volcanic islands in the Banda Archipelago which are best known as the fabled Spice Islands of ancient times. They were once the sole source of two rare and lucrative spices - mace and nutmeg, which both come from the Myristica tree. The spices are well known for their preservative qualities and were once thought to be a cure for the bubonic plague.

Triton Bay, West Papua Province, Indonesia

Triton Bay, West Papua Province, Indonesia

Triton Bay is one of three regions in Indonesia’s West Papua province that comprise the Bird’s Head Seascape which is now considered to be the epicenter of the Coral Triangle, containing more fish and coral species than anywhere else on the planet. We started the morning with a great lecture on The Top 10 Families of Reef Fish, so we were all anxious to get out there to see how many we could identify. So the snorkeling here must have been fantastic, right? Wrong!!!

Kajumerah Bay, West Papua

Kajumerah Bay, West Papua

Today started earlier than any civilized human would expect with a wake-up call at 5 fricking 30. Someone with some authority thought it would be a good idea to do the zodiac cruise at dawn, before breakfast. I dutifully went to bed by 10 pm but was wide awake at 1:30 until about 3:30 am, so I wasn’t my at my best when I stepped in the zodiac. Ralph, one of our photo gurus, took one look at me and let me sit in the front, probably thinking that I wouldn’t be able to focus all that well with only one eye open!

Syuru Village, The Asmat - Our Welcome

Syuru Village, The Asmat - Our Welcome

I think that today has been the highlight of the voyage for me! We were treated to an incredible experience, where I feel that we saw the real deal in terms of a welcoming ceremony, or as close as one can come to it these days. We arrived in the Asmat region of New Guinea in the early morning after traversing a sandbar at the mouth of the Eilanden river at high tide. With just about 9 feet of water under the keel, we entered the river and sailed towards the village of Syuru and dropped anchor. 

Syuru Village, The Asmat - Pole Ceremony

Syuru Village, The Asmat - Pole Ceremony

Once we arrived in the village, we were taken to the Long House where the villagers gathered outside, males at one end of the house and women at the other. The women were beating drums and dancing and chanting in unison.

Syuru Village, The Asmat - Village Life

Syuru Village, The Asmat - Village Life

After the excitement of the ritual ceremonies, we took a break for lunch and some rest before going along the river in zodiacs to take some photos of village life. These people live an incredibly simple life in houses that are not much more than wooden shacks, but they all seem happy and satisfied.

Agats, The Asmat

Agats, The Asmat

We stayed anchored overnight and then took zodiacs the next morning into Agats, the capital city of the Asmat region. The first colonial post was established here in 1938 but closed after the onset of World War II. In 1953, Father G. Zegwaard, a Dutch missionary, re-established the post in Agats and it became the government headquarters and the base for Roman Catholic missionaries. 

At Sea and Great Barrier Reef

We had a two-day stretch at sea steaming across the Arafura Sea which lies west of the Pacific Ocean overlying the continental shelf between Australia and New Guinea. It is a fairly shallow tropical sea, and its waters are a breeding ground for tropical cyclones. Fortunately, we did not encounter one. 


Thursday Island and Cape York, Australia

Thursday Island and Cape York, Australia

Thursday Island may be the administrative and Commercial center of the Torres Strait Islands, but it is definitely not the center of the universe! My take on this stop is that it is between where we were and where we want to be and it was a chance for us to get off the ship and stretch our legs a bit. The best things about the island were the people who shuttled up to a fort on the top of the highest hill for a view of the beautiful turquoise waters and a small art museum/gallery that had some very interesting pieces in it, all done by artists who live on the islands

Orion Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Orion Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Yippee skippee! Today we reached the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef system, and the day was filled with opportunities to go snorkeling, diving or out in the glass-bottom zodiac. Mike and I went snorkeling in the morning and it was quite incredible! The multi-colored corals were a marvelous sight, as were the equally colorful fish that inhabit them. 

Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef

Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef

Lizard island is a granite island about 6 square miles in size. Captain Cook gave it its name when he landed there in 1770 and saw all the lizards that inhabit the island. They are related to the Komodo dragons we saw what seems like eons ago, but they are not as large as those bad boys.

Alotau, Papua New Guinea, Part 1

Alotau, Papua New Guinea, Part 1

This part of the trip really began when we docked at Alotau, the capital of Milne Bay Province in Papua New Guinea. Within this province, there are more than 600 islands, 160 of them inhabited, and about 276,000 inhabitants speaking about 48 languages! Alotau is a sleepy little town built on the hillsides of the northern shore of the bay, but we were lucky enough to hit it on the weekend of the annual Canoe Festival, so the place was jumping. 

Alotau, Papua New Guinea, Part 2

Alotau, Papua New Guinea, Part 2

At the end of the day, the dancers all paraded into a huge central area that was divided into quarters. Here the tribes performed their final dances of the day en masse, parading into the ring a group at a time, and it was quite a sight to see them all swirling and singing in their brightly-colored and feathered costumes. 

Panapompom Island, Papua New Guinea

Panapompom Island, Papua New Guinea

Panapompom - it’s fun to say and what a great name for a tiny island in the Louisiade Archipelago east of New Guinea. Louis Antoine de Bougainville, of the flowering plant Bougainvillea fame, named these islands in 1768 for Louis XV, King of France. This visit was very low key in comparison to the day we just had on Alotau, but was quite genuine and interesting in its own way.

Samarai Island, Papua New Guinea

Samarai Island, Papua New Guinea

Today is Sunday and we have zodiaced in to another tiny island located in the China Strait. Samarai Island was once an important trading port and stop-over between Australia and East Asia, and once the thriving administrative capital of Milne Bay Province. Back in the early 1900s, it was described as one of the most beautiful places in the South Pacific, but it was evacuated and its infrastructure destroyed in WW II to prevent it falling into Japanese hands.

Honiara, Solomon Islands

Honiara, Solomon Islands

We docked at Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands on the northwestern coast of Guadalcanal Island. We had the option to tour the Guadalcanal Memorial and historic WWII sites around Honiara, including Henderson Field and Bloody Ridge, or to drive up into the hill country outside the city to see if we could find some native birds. We chose to go birding and I’m glad we did because we saw some really interesting and colorful species.

Owa Raha (Santa Ana), Solomon Islands

Owa Raha (Santa Ana), Solomon Islands

Today we visited Santa Ana, a small island that is known for preserving ancient traditions. They had some beautiful craft work that included carved fishing floats, ceremonial black bowls inlaid with shells, and intricate carved animal designs. I was so busy taking photos that I forgot to check out the merchandise and was rather envious when I saw what others had purchased for some very good prices. But seeing as I have two carvings, a woven basket and a carved ebony walking stick to get home already, it is probably just as well. 

Espirito Santo Island, Vanuatu

Espirito Santo Island, Vanuatu

We reached Vanuatu on November 14. Captain Cook named these islands the New Hebrides because they reminded him of the rugged isles off Scotland’s coast, but the resemblance was totally lost on me. Espirito Santo Island is the largest of the islands and is quite green and forested. There are also lots of coconut plantations and also open areas that looked like meadows with cattle grazing. I even saw a corral with the cattle ready for market (a lot are sent to Japan) and the horses and cowboys standing outside. It seemed a bit surreal on a tropical island.  


Lelepa Island, Vanuatu

Lelepa Island, Vanuatu

We were off the ship early to take a zodiac ride over the incredibly blue waters around Lelepa Island. I can hardly find the word to describe how rich and beautiful the color was but I guess sapphire would probably be the closest. See for yourselves. 

Beqa Island, Fiji

Beqa Island, Fiji

In 1789, Captain Bligh and his remaining loyal crew members sailed past the islands of Fiji following the infamous mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty. Numbering more than 300, the islands are known for their pristine coral reefs. Our stop today was the island of Beqa, located just off the southern coast of Viti Levu. We had the option to dive or snorkel the surrounding coral reefs, go on walks in the jungle, or paddle sea kayaks along mangrove-lined channels.

Fiji Orchid Garden

Fiji Orchid Garden

As the saying goes “All good things come to an end.” and the end of our cruise was the main island of Fiji, Viti Levu. Before we were taken to our hotel in the beautiful resort area of Denarau for a 3-night stay before flying back to the US, we were given a tour that took us to lunch and to a beautiful orchid farm, the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, in the mountainous area near Nadi. The gardens were lovely and the variety of orchids was quite impressive.

Westin Resort at Denarau, Fiji

Westin Resort at Denarau, Fiji

The Westin resort was just a lovely place to stay. We had a nice room with a terrace that looked across the beach to the sea, and the grounds and pools were very lovely. It was a good place to relax before heading home on an evening flight on the 20th. We didn’t do any sightseeing but decided to just read, walk on the beach down to the next resort for dinner by the water one night, lay by the pool and drink a few fancy concoctions, etc.


© Michael Alexander 2015