Cruising by air-conditioned riverboat along Kalimantan’s meandering rivers is the best way to travel through the forested landscape of Borneo, with its wealth of ecological and cultural treasures. Along the Kayahan and Rungan Rivers, we pass islands managed by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation to see orangutans in their natural habitat, visiting small villages along the route that give the opportunity to experience the culture of the indigenous Dayak people firsthand. Followed by a sea cruise on a traditional pinisi boat from Bali to Komodo through the myriad islands of East Nusa Tenggara (as the region east of Bali is known) you will get to see up close the legendary Komodo dragons, stopping at remote beaches, quiet coastal villages, waterfalls, a mysterious volcanic lake, and have ample opportunity for kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkelling and swimming along the way. This truly is a trip to excite all the senses and tick so many boxes – not least the mighty ‘man of the forest’, the orangutan.
This morning we will fly to Palangkaraya, the capital of the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan. After meeting your fellow travellers, we will transfer to Palangkaraya Harbour, and board our river boat to start our journey, cruising upriver past stilted and floating houses and small villages. In the early evening, we will take a canoe through the shimmering black water lakes, keeping an eye out for proboscis monkeys, red langurs, hornbills, and brahmini kites. We will then return to the boat for a quiet dinner in the midst of the jungle.
The boat moves up the Rungan River as we enjoy breakfast. On arrival at Palas Island, we will take a motorised canoe to observe the orangutans as seen in Animal Planet’s ‘Orangutan Island’ series. At the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) Education Centre, we can see the adult orangutans that are waiting to be placed on the pre-release islands. A leisurely lunch will be served on board while cruising to the remote village of Sei Gohong for a glimpse into the daily lives of the community, who work mainly as farmers and fishermen. We then continue upstream to the orangutang pre-release islands of Kaja and Bangamat where we transfer to small canoes for closer observation of the orangutans. We’ll end the day with a refreshing swim in the black water lake.
In the early morning, we transfer to Tangkiling by car to see traditional Dayak spirit houses and make the 30-minute ascent up Tangkiling Hill. After breakfast, we cruise downstream, passing the orangutan islands again before stopping at Kanarakan, where we will be met by the village elder with a Dayak Ngaju welcoming ceremony before strolling through the village home gardens and watching a rubber tapping demonstration. We then visit the elder’s house and enjoy traditional spiced coffee while sharing stories. After returning to the boat, we cruise to Muara Rungan for dinner and overnight in a quiet location.
After breakfast, the boat cruises to Tanjung Sangalang for check out and transfer to Palangkaraya Airport, from here will fly to Bali and be transferred to your beachside resort in Bali, where you can relax by the pool, take a walk through the colourful local neighbourhood, or have a stroll along the sand before enjoying sunset drinks and dinner in in the resort’s beachside restaurant.
After breakfast and meeting our fellow guests for the cruise portion of our programme, we will board our minibus for our destination of Amed in the eastern regency of Karangasem – an exotic royal Balinese kingdom of forests and mighty mountains, emerald rice terraces, mystical water palaces and pretty beaches. With our tour leader providing information along the way, we will stop Tenganan Village, a community that still holds to the ancient ‘Bali Aga’ culture with its original traditions, ceremonies and rules of ancient Bali, and its unique village layout and architecture. We’ll also visit the royal water palace of Tirta Gangga. The final part of our scenic the journey to Amed takes us through a magnificent terrain of sculptured rice terraces followed by spectacular views of a fertile plain extending all the way to the coast. After checking in to our hotel, you can relax and unwind with a swim in the pool or in the calm, clear waters lapping the shore just footsteps from your room. Or you may prefer a gentle walk, in the surrounding village and hillsides. This will also be an opportunity for those unfamiliar with snorkelling to have a lesson with our tour leader. In the evening, we will all meet in the restaurant for a Balinese-style welcome dinner.
Upon waking, your boat will be anchored and waiting for us just off shore. After a leisurely breakfast we board the vessel you will have a chance to settle in as we head off ih the direction of Lombok across the Lombok Strait to the Gili Islands where we will snorkel and swim. This deep trench of water between Bali and Lombok marks part of a very important ecological boundary, which was first described by Sir Alfred Russel Wallace, the British naturalist. Wallace noticed that the flora and fauna of the islands to the west are home to Asiatic animal and plant species, whereas the islands to the east of the invisible ‘Wallace Line’ have a greater similarity to species found in Australia. Later that evening we will head off to the west as we watch the sun go down over Bali as we enjoy cocktails on the back deck.
We will wake off the beautiful white sands of Kenawa Island in West Sumbawa, where after breakfast we will snorkel, paddle board, swim and explore the island’s beaches, grasslands and corals throughout the morning. After lunch on the boat we will set a course 10 miles further east to Bungin Island, home to a group of Bajau ‘Sea Gypsies’, famous for living in stilt houses above the water and living entirely off the sea. It is the second largest Bajau settlement in Indonesia and will provide you with an amazing and rare opportunity to experience a part of Indonesian culture that is a huge part of the country’s seafaring tradition. Later in the afternoon we will set sail for Moyo Island.
This morning we will moor off Labuan Aji village on the island of Moyo, visit the village and then walk to Diwu Mba’i waterfall, where can swing on a rope and jump into the deep clear river pool below, or simply bathe in the refreshing cool water. Our next stop will be Satonda, a strange and mystical volcanic island with a sunken crater lake in its centre that was filled with saltwater when the nearby Mt Tambora erupted in 1815, causing a tsunami that flowed into the crater. The eruption was the biggest volcanic explosion in the collective memory of mankind; it had roughly four times the energy of the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, and gave rise to the ‘year without a summer’ because of the effect on North American and European weather. Local people believe Satonda to be magical, and with this in mind, we will walk to the lip of the caldera to view the mysterious lake, alongside which are trees believed to be ‘wishing trees.’ Visitors to the island tie a small stone to a tree and make a wish. If your wish comes true, you are bound to return to the island to offer thanks. The seas surrounding the island are rich with soft and hard corals and colourful tropical fish, so we will spend the afternoon swimming and snorkelling. Another highlight of our visit to Satonda will be the sight of thousands of flying foxes that commute at dusk from the island to feed on the mainland, returning before first light the next day. Immediately after sunset, we leave for an overnight passage on a course due east.
We will wake up off the coast of Pulau Sangean, an active volcano that towers 1,800 metres above sea level. After breakfast, we will go ashore to a small hamlet, which, because of the active nature of the volcano, is only inhabited for short periods during the year when the local people come to tend their crops and small herds of buffaloes, which we can see swimming in the sea. We will then snorkel on both a nearby reef and a location on the north of the island where volcanic gasses escape in the form of bubbles from the sea floor among the corals, a most interesting sight. We will then proceed to the island of Banta and its pure white sand beach, for an afternoon of swimming, snorkelling and hill climbing for the fit. Later that evening we proceed on to Komodo dragon country.
When we wake up, the boat will be anchored off the famous Komodo Island, one of approximately 80 islands that make up the Komodo National Park. We will go ashore at the ranger station in Loh Liang for an early morning ranger-led trek through the park searching for Komodo dragons. In this savannah-like setting of dry, rugged landscape, we will encounter, at a safe distance, these awe-inspiring, giant lizards – Indonesia’s living dinosaurs. We may spot deer, wild boar, sulphur-crested cockatoos, butterflies, rare orchids and jungle chickens among the strangle-fig trees and the distinctive lontar palms. After returning to the boat, we will cruise around the coast and visit Komodo village, where we can buy some local handicrafts. Later we will head to the gorgeous Pantai Merah ‘red-beach,’ which takes its name from the particles of red coral mingled with the sand. Here we will swim and snorkel over one of the richest reefs in Eastern Indonesia, relishing the unforgettable spectacle of the region’s many varieties of coral and marine life.
Today we will visit the ranger station of Loh Buaya on Rinca Island where we will have another ranger-led nature trek in search of more Komodo dragons, which are indigenous to this small group of islands. Rinca is also well known for its diverse wildlife, so we may spot monkeys, wild buffaloes and deer as well. From the top of the hills, the scenery is breathtaking. In the afternoon we can go snorkelling and enjoy some beach time with paddle boards and kayaks. With over 1000 species of fish in the waters of the national park, there is much more to this wildlife reserve than just dragons. In the evening we will go ashore to an island where you can enjoy a quintessential SeaTrek experience and a highlight for many guests. With your feet in the sand and the stars rising in the vast Indonesian sky, the crew will build a bonfire and prepare a beach barbecue as a final celebration of our memorable voyage
After breakfast in Labuan Bajo, we will take private air-conditioned cars to the inland village of Melo. Here, local ‘strongmen’ will perform the ‘Caci,’ a ritual whip-fight between two rivals in which the players, each armed with a rattan shield and a whip, will try to hit each other while dancing to the rhythm of traditional acoustic instruments. The men of Manggarai in Western Flores are famous for this test of daring and skill, requiring lightning quick moves to dodge the infliction of a wound. The winner is loudly applauded and cheered by the village. Besides this, the cultural group will also showcase other traditional dances. After the performance, we will have a light lunch on the boat before transferring you to the airport for your flight back to Bali.
The route and dives are always organized according to the weather conditions, the currents and tides.