In the morning we will all meet at a café in South Bali for a quick breakfast before boarding 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 at Goa Lawah Bat Cave Temple, which is one of Bali's key nine directional temples serving as a guardian against dark spirits from the ocean. This large temple complex is built around the entrance to a cave that’s home to thousands of bats. We’ll also visit the royal water palace of Tirta Gangga, a fabled maze of spine-tinglingy, cold water pools and basins, spouts, tiered pagoda fountains, stone carvings and lush gardens. The final part of our scenic the journey 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.
Guarded by the mighty volcano, Gunung Agung, your charming beachside hotel welcomes you with warm Balinese hospitality and traditional architecture, rich with hand-carved ornamentation. After checking in, 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, take time to get better acquainted with your fellow guests in preparation for our voyage ahead withsunset drinks in the seaside bar and a Baliniese-style welcome dinner.
Waking up early at the resort, we can enjoy our first sight of the beautiful Katharina as she makes her grand entrance, cruising into view in Jemeluk Bay. We will then have a leisurely breakfast and maybe a swim before being transported the short distance to the boat, which will be waiting at anchor. After we board the vessel, we will have a chance to settle in before the captain gives the orders for the anchor to be lifted prior to crossing the Lombok Strait. 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 and entomologist who spent eight years in what is now known as the Indonesian Archipelago. 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. As we cross the Wallace Line, Ray will introduce us to the world of this remarkable man, who also had an “inordinate fondness for beetles!” During his time here, Wallace collected over 126,000 specimens, many of which were unknown to scientists, and many of which were beetles. We’ll be meeting some of them during this adventure. In the afternoon, we will make our first stop at one of the three Gili Islands, a popular holiday destination just off Lombok’s northwest coast. We will spend a few hours here, during which time we can choose from a number of water activities: swimming, snorkelling, paddle boarding, kayaking, or simply enjoying the beautiful white-sand beach. In the evening, Ray will tell us about the different species of animal that have evolved either side of the invisible barrier. Species found only on the Asian side include tigers and rhinos, whilst marsupials and monotremes are only found on the eastern side of the Line. Such anomalies stretch to insects, and every island has its own endemic species that differ from their neighbours. It can reasonably be concluded that it was an ocean barrier that prevented the migration of species, as the physical aspects of the separated islands are very similar.
Moored off the coast of North Lombok, we will enjoy a hearty breakfast before going ashore and boarding a private bus for a trip into the interior of the northern side of the island and the traditional village of Senaru. Here, we will be taken on a tour, by one of the local women-guides, of the simple thatched houses and gardens of fruits and spices, which will give us an insight into the culture of the indigenous Sasak people. Our mellow adventure will then lead us down a well-trodden flight of steps through the tropical forest to Sindang Gila, a roaring 40-metre tiered waterfall. Here, it’s possible to find a myriad of iridescent bugs, a colourful floating pallet of butterflies as big as our hands, and spectacular spiders that sit and wait patiently in supersize webs. But there is nothing to fear. Last year 90 new species of beetle were found right here in Indonesia, wouldn’t it be great if we could up that number to 91. Our walk will continue alongside an old irrigation canal offering panoramic vistas of rice fields stretching towards the sea. After re-embarkation, we will explore one of the coral reefs near Gili Sulat, which is a marine conservation area.
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 refreshingly cool water. During this walk there will be more opportunities to spot bugs, butterflies and spiders. Geckos and Flying Lizards scurry along the branches high above our heads, occasionally gliding from tree to tree in the midday heat. 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. At certain times the island becomes awash with hundreds of the most beautiful butterflies of the region. Here, we can still find an entomological marvel with its own unique species. The seas surrounding Satonda are rich with soft and hard corals and colourful tropical fish, so we will spend the afternoon swimming and snorkelling. Island fauna has evolved independently and that of the enigmatic Satonda is no exception. The flying foxes that make Satonda their home differ from other island species. Unlike their smaller cave-dwelling cousins, these large fruit bats hang out in camps high above the rainforest floor, keeping cool by fanning themselves with their huge wings, which can measure up to 1.7 metres from tip to tip. Immediately after sunset, we can marvel at the sight of thousands of these flying foxes commuting from the island to feed on the mainland. The Katharina will then 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. We can 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. Later, we will cruise to the island of Banta and its pinkish-white sand beach, for an afternoon of swimming, snorkelling and hill climbing for the fit. In the evening we will proceed 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 for an early morning ranger-led trek. Islands are natural laboratories where we can study evolution in situ. The fact that islands are isolated from the mainland by the sea makes their ecology present spectacular adaptations, sometimes resulting in giant or dwarf species in comparison with their mainland relatives. One of the most famous examples of island gigantism are the dragons on Komodo where evolution without apparent predators or competitors has triggered the appearance of larger species. Similarly, insects with few predators can evolve to larger sizes whilst larger mammals with limited food resources begin to decrease in size. Within Komodo’s savannah-like setting of dry, rugged landscape, we will encounter, at a safe distance, these awe-inspiring, giant lizards – Indonesia’s living dinosaurs. The island is also home to hundreds of other unique species. In addition to deer and wild boar, we may spot the critically-endangered lesser sulphur-crested cockatoos, butterflies, rare orchids and jungle chickens among the strangle-figs and lontar palms. Endemic to the island are a number of nephila species of the giant golden orb weaving spider; their webs can measure two metres across but don’t panic these guys are friendly. After returning to the Katharina, 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. Rinca is also well known for its diverse wildlife, so we may spot monkeys, wild buffaloes and the giant swarms of honeybees that inhabit this beautiful place. From the top of the hills, the scenery is breathtaking. In the afternoon we can go snorkelling off Siaba or Kelor, where both on the land and in the sea, we may be fortunate to identify yet more of the amazing residents of this far flung paradise. 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.
Today’s early risers will have time for one last swim and snorkel before we cruise into Labuan Bajo Harbour. At about 9am, we will leave the boat for a trip to the 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 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 lunch on the boat before transferring you to the airport for your onward journey.