Travel with us from the spice entrepot of Ternate to the shipbuilding port of Bitung in North Sulawesi as we travel around the islands that fringe the Molucca Sea. Not only does this brand-new itinerary have an extended cruise programme of 14 days, it also packages so many highlights in the one journey such as birds of paradise, black-crested macaques, remote island cultures, rare maleo birds, Bajau sea gypsies, exotic birdlife, volcanic peaks, and ample opportunity for snorkelling on fantastic coral reefs and in lakes filled with freshwater jellyfish in what is one of the remotest and least visited parts of the Indonesian archipelago.
Another great feature of this cruise is its proximity to Manado in North Sulawesi, a major hub for Indonesian air travel that allows for much more convenient access from Bali, Jakarta and Singapore. This lets us offer you not only easier easy access to the boats, but also a selection of pre-cruise add-on programmes to places such as the Tangkoko National Park and the Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Centre and the Bunaken National Park, that we are developing to enhance your Indonesian experience.
Starting your adventure today we will have a tour of Ternate’s historical highlights before boarding Ombak Putih ship, meeting the crew and settling into your new home for the next two weeks. Over lunch, we will set sail for for the short journey to Halmahera Island’s Dojinga Village, a pivotal place in scientific history, where the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace first came up with the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. Later that afternoon, we will enter the water for the first time and snorkel and swim on our first coral reef before heading south as the sun sets behind the perfectly conical volcanic islands peaks of the northern Moluccas.
Birds of paradise, snorkelling and a very special martitime ritual are on today’s SeaTrek menu, as we pay a visit to both the tropical forest and the coral reefs and cross the Equator. Waking in the early morning, we will go ashore on Halmahera for a car journey to an eco-resort famed for its natural forest and bird life. Here you will be witness to the early morning mating rituals of the Wallace Standardwing Bird of Paradise, and enjoy the full dawn chorus of the forest’s many different species of birds. We will head back across the island to the ship in time for lunch as we set sail to the south. Once we reach the Equator you will be in for a treat as the crew welcome you to the middle of the planet with some fun and games and a most unique ocean swim. Late in the afternoon we will snorkel once more before heading to the island of Bacan.
Today we will be searching for some very special species of butterfly, some unique birds and some quirky mammals. We will explore the deep forest and rivers of Bacan Island, where Wallace first saw what he called ‘the most beautiful butterfly in the world, the Golden Birdwing. During our trek the other species that we might see here include cuscus, the black-crested macaque and some hornbills. After lunch we will spend the afternoon snorkelling and swimming on the nearby reef and beaches.
Culture and spice will fill our day as we find ourselves off the coast of the white sand island of Obi Laut, a place filled with clove and nutmeg plantations. Obi Laut’s steep hillsides are covered in clove and nutmeg forests, reaching back to the rich and heady days of the spice trade, which saw many a European power vying for control of the East Indies. While the spice trade might not be what it once was, the growers can still make a good living on this remote island in the Banda Sea. We will go ashore and walk through the villages and plantations and see the fruits and spices growing on the trees and drying in the sun ready for market, in the same way it has for centuries.
Today wil be a day for snorkelling, culture and history as we find ourselves in the middle of the Banda Sea in the remote and breathtaking Sulu Archipelago. We will spend the morning exploring the beaches and reefs of Mangoli Island, where the reefs are teeming with fish and other marine life. True to the desert island locale, we will also kayak, paddle, swim, explore and relax on the white-sand beaches. Later that day, we will feast on some history and culture as we visit the local village market and visit the ruins of a 17th century Dutch fort, which once protected the spice trade along these routes.
The cultural experiences ratchet up a notch today with a war dance performed in our honour, while the night time will be filled with Indonesian music. We will go ashore on Talibau Island, where we will be treated to a traditional dance known as the ‘cakalale’, by local warriors. We will also have a chance to explore the local village and meet the people of this remote isle. The afternoon will see us snorkelling on a reef teeming with fish before moving to another deserted island, where we can swim, kayak and relax. This evening the crew will prepare a beach bbq for us, and they will regail us with traditional Indonesian folk songs and sea shanties as we party by firelight late into the night.
The Bokan Islands are an area of unsurpassed beauty and today will a day of marine exploration and relaxation as we snorkel, swim, paddle and kayak around the glorious reefs, beaches and islands with many caves and snorkelling spots. We also have the rare privilege to swim in a small marine lake filled with stingless jellyfish, the exotically named Danau Piasu Botangan, one of only 20 lakes of its kind in the world.
A trio of unique experiences await us today involving culture, conservation and wildlife. We will visit the bustling Indonesian island port town of Bangaii, a place filled with activity and commerce. Here on Banggai Island we will visit the local market, explore the neighbourhoods, the sultan’s palace and the maleo bird egg ‘museum’, and all from our fleet of brightly-coloured motor rickshaws, which will be on the dock awaiting our arrival. We will pay a hands on visit to LINI, an NGO doing great work with coral restoration on the surrounding reefs, in addition to working with local fishermen in finding sustainable solutions for supplying fish for overseas markets and the live aquarium fishing trade. The last of the day’s highlights will be a snorkel on a local reef where we will see the most elegant, but very threatened, Banggai Cardinal Fish – a darling of saltwater aquarium lovers worldwide.
Today you will have the chance to see possibly one of the strangest and most unique flightless birds found in the world – the Maleo. After a morning snorkel, we will sail north to visit the endemic Maleo in their beachside environment, the symbol of the province within which it lives. We visit a conservation project on the mainland where scores of Maleo live and breed. Entering in twos, we can watch them at their sandy nesting sites from a camoflagued hide as they go about their business. Later that afternoon, we set sail for the Togean Islands National Park, for some island hopping and spectacular snorkelling, wildlife and culture.
The Bajau sea gypsies of Southeast have a very uqique way of life living in harmony with the water, and today you will get to see it up close. We will go ashore to Kabalutan Village, where a population of about 2500 Bajau call home, and we will be welcomed into their world to meet and talk with them about their lives. In the afternoon we will snorkel and swim on some pristine coral reefs before moving on further into the park.
Some great wildlife experiences await us today both in the water and the air, with birds, fish and invertebrates as the main features. We will enjoy a snorkel on the lush reefs near the island of Malenge, before taking our snorkels and masks for a rare second swim with stingless jellyfish in nearby Lake Mariona, the second jellyfish lake on our route. We will visit a local village and meet the people, and enjoy a late afternoon walk in the local forest before being witness to a most amazing show of nature as flocks of hornbills come flying in to roost in the trees – a once in a lifetime sight only accessible with SeaTrek.
Waking up in the east of the park, we will go snorkelling and visit a local village before setting sail on a long crossing towards the Sulawesi mainland, where we can relax, watch the world go by and take in the beauty of the sea from the decks of our ship. In the afternoon, our chef will offer a cooking class for those interested in learning how to prepare some traditional Indonesian dishes. For the rest of us, it’s sunbathing, reading, relaxing and reflection. To finish the day, cocktails will be served on the back deck before a specially prepared dinner is served, followed by a party with the crew’s band providing the music and entertainment.
This morning we are on the outside ‘elbow’ of North Sulawesi and we will have the chance for some more cultural exchanges and some impressive snorkelling. After breakfast we will go ashore to a remote village and meet the local people as they invite us into their village to share in their way of life. We will also go for a walk in the nearby forest on the look out for birds. We will snorkel a local reef before we head north, stopping off en-route for another snorkel and a swim towards the end of the day before the crew throw us a final beach BBQ, where we will dance and sing into the night under the stars next to a roaring bonfire.
Waking up just off the coast near the Tasikoki Rescue Centre, we will go ashore and have a short tour of the impressive facilities at this NGO and hear all about their conservation programme and also have the chance to see orangutan, tarsiers, hornbills, monkeys, and other endangered wildlife. After a final swim and snorkel on the beach and then a short sail into Bitung Harbour, we will say a fond farewell to our crew and tour leaders and head to Manado City for either your onwards flights. Whatever your schedule, it will have been our pleasure having you on board.
The route and dives are always organized according to the weather conditions, the currents and tides.