Summary : On this voyage from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to Papua, the Banda Islands and the Lesser Sunda Islands you will not only have a variety of corals and fish, but also an outstanding cultural experience. Each village or island visited has a different approach to culture and traditions and you will be able to see exceptional artistic expressions, be it as paintings, carvings or weavings. This voyage is sure to be an interesting kaleidoscope of culture and nature. Be accompanied by a canoe flotilla in the Asmat Region and marvel at the famous Asmat woodcarvings, immersing yourself in the ancient Asmat culture. Visit Banda Naira, the original home of nutmeg. Look for the Komodo Dragons, the largest living lizard in the world. See the traditional Pasola, a ceremonial fight on horseback in Kodi.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
$10,100 to $20,850
Embark the ship and meet your Expedition Team. Enjoy time to familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, and meet fellow travelers.
Silver Discoverer will sail north while you will have time to unwind after your travels to join the ship. Perhaps you would like to have a leisurely breakfast next to the Pool or in your suite. Then attend one of the informative lectures, spend time on deck looking for seabirds or make an appointment in the Spa.
In the evening the Captain would like to invite to you the welcome cocktail party.
Silver Discoverer will arrive in the afternoon to have a look at this former pearling center at the top of Australia. Populated for thousands of years by the Melanesian Torres Strait Islanders, Thursday Island has a population of slightly more than 2,600.
World War II arrived in Australia at the top end and for your tour today you will take a private ferry to Horn Island and walk in the forgotten footsteps of the indigenous and non-indigenous soldiers who served in the area to experience an unmatched personal interaction with your specialist guides. On your journey you visit the original gun emplacements, an underground command post, slit trenches, a WWII aircraft wreck with an unbelievable story, WWII airstrip, dispersal bays and taxiways and listen to the eerie sound affects the airstrip provides today. The tour travels on actual WWII roads and tracks laid down by the military.
Apart from WWII impressions another aspect of Australia’s northernmost islands will be of interest: local artists will discuss their art and stories with you as morning tea is served and you visit the Torres Strait Museum before your ferry returns you to Thursday Island.
You can use your time at sea to relax, unwind on the open decks looking for seabirds or marine mammals, attend a lecture about Papua, or perhaps taste one of the local delicacies prepared by the Executive Chef and the Galley Team.
If you have not had enough exercise ashore or in the water, the Gym would be a good choice. Team Trivia in the Explorer Lounge and a cool drink at the Pool Bar will while your time away before a briefing will prepare you for the adventure waiting in the Asmat.
The Asmat region, an area of lowland swamp and rainforest, has long sheltered the Asmat tribes from outsiders -and our visit is an expedition highlight.
As you make your way upstream, Asmat villagers—whooping and chanting in elaborate warrior gear and war paint—paddle vigorously toward us in dozens of intricately carved canoes.
Be escorted to the village of Syuru, near Agats, the capital of the Asmat region, where an enthusiastic welcome awaits. Once ashore, walk along elevated wooden boardwalks to a men’s longhouse. You will be invited to witness a local meeting and ceremony.
From the men’s house walk to the Catholic Cathedral with its interesting carvings. Opposite the cathedral is the Asmat Museum. The Asmat have one of the most renowned and vibrant woodcarving traditions in the Pacific. Elaborate and superb displays of ancestor poles, drums, body masks, shields, daggers, and skulls, will remind us that headhunting and cannibalism were practiced here until the early 1970’s.
During your visit Zodiacs will take you through this remote riverine, cruising along narrow waterways lined with the entwined branches of thick mangrove forests, home to dozens of species of parrots, lorikeets and other birds including the spectacular bird of paradise.
Asmat culture has remarkable ritual objects based on an intriguing interpretation of life and death. Asmat woodcarvings are known for their powerful lines and coarse, expressive motifs, and are widely considered to be among the world’s finest. You will have the opportunity to purchase carvings directly from village artisans or at one of the galleries in Agats.
In 2008, the Kaimana Regency declared a 6,000 km² Marine Protected Area around the waters of Triton Bay. Conservation International maintains an office in Kaimana and a field station out in Triton Bay where visiting scientists can do their work. The marine biodiversity is second to none and the area offers everything from the tiniest pygmy seahorses to large and graceful whale sharks.
Triton Bay is one of three regions in Indonesia’s West Papua province that comprise the Bird’s Head Seascape. This is considered to be the epicenter of the Coral Triangle, containing more fish and coral species than anywhere else on the planet. Triton Bay is best known for its beautiful soft coral gardens as well as having nesting grounds for green turtles, a population of coastal Bryde’s whales, and whale sharks.
Land at a nice beach to relax with the hope to be able to swim and snorkel with whale sharks.
Silver Discoverer will be in the Watubela Group and during the morning you will be looking for good swimming and snorkeling sites. Some of the islands have small communities and you might visit one of the small villages. The raised coral islands have interesting cliffs and picturesque limestone islets located offshore.
During the afternoon, cruise the Banda Sea and lecturers will have interesting topics to prepare you for the island of nutmeg.
When coming close to the channel separating Banda Neira and its neighboring island Gunung Api, have a look at the lava flows on the northern side of Gunung Api. They are signs of a recent volcanic eruption and the volcano might still be steaming!
Depart the ship for a morning walking tour of the historical and formerly quite rich city of Banda, the main town and administrative center of the Banda Islands – a group of ten small volcanic islands. Several colonial buildings, the protestant church and the remains of two impressive forts built by the Dutch, one of which has been are found near the harbor. One of the forts has been restored and is on UNESCO’s “Tentative List” to become a World Heritage Site – as are the Banda Islands themselves. Stops include a visit to the local market and a tour of the clove and nutmeg plantation. Until the mid-19th century, the Banda Islands were the world’s only source of nutmeg. Visit the two forts before returning to Silver Discoverer.
During lunch the ship repositions a few miles to Pulau Ai, an isolated low lying island to the west of Banda Neira. It has some small limestone cliffs on its southern coastline and some pretty beaches on its northern shores. Remains of an old five-sided fort, Dutch tombstones and graves next to a modern cemetery can still be seen.
Due to its isolation, walls and deep waters, when the current is running, Pulau Ai is one of the top dive sites in the Banda Islands for shark encounters. Hammerhead sharks, thresher sharks and silvertip sharks are occasionally sighted, while wahoo, giant trevally, Bluefin trevally and chevron barracuda appear in good numbers. Sometimes groups of up to 25 rays are seen.
A day at sea always gives good opportunities to assess the things seen so far and to prepare one for the different islands still to be visited. Enjoy a lecture about culture and natural history, or perhaps about the more modern influences on this remote part of the world. Help our birders spot some of the seabirds found far away from their nesting grounds. A refreshing drink, a visit to the Spa and the participation of a seminar are other choices. There are many ways to enjoy the day while Silver Discoverer cruises the Banda Sea.
This morning arrive at Kalabahi, the capital and port for Alor Island. Set inside a peaceful bay of white sandy beaches, and overlooked by two old volcanoes, Kalabahi is your starting point for an excursion into the rugged interior and to meet the indigenous Abui.
Have a look at a local market and Kalabahi’s museum, which houses interesting textile exhibits and drums, before a visit to the traditional hilltop village of Takpala where you are welcomed by the Chief and enjoy a cultural performance of dancing and chanting. Afterwards you will be able to have a look at how the Abui live, get to see their homes and how food is prepared. You might want to taste some of the manioc or the freshly brewed local coffee. Handicrafts and textiles will be on sale before you return to Silver Discoverer around noon.
One of Flores’ attractions is the Kelimutu National Park northeast of Ende. Landing on the southern side of Flores, you will almost completely circle the Kelimutu National Park in order to get to Mount Kelimutu, an active volcano. The site is spectacular, as Mount Kelimutu has three summit crater lakes, located one next to the other, each with varying colors. The lakes are even featured on the Indonesian 5,000 Rupiah bill.
During the late afternoon be on deck to watch the Lesser Sunda Islands passing by before you attend the briefing for tomorrow’s activities on Komodo.
Early risers may spot whales as we approach Komodo. Silver Discoverer will anchor close to the National Park Headquarter, and Zodiacs will bring you ashore onto a floating jetty to reach the starting point of our hike. Walk along forested pathways in search of Komodo dragons. These enormous reptiles weigh up to 300 pounds. The surrounding forest is also home to ornate orchids, elegant Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Helmeted Friarbirds, Orange-footed Megapodes, and Javan deer. Each walking group is accompanied by two local rangers who provide interpretation and help maintain a safe distance between the dragons and the visitors.
During lunch, Silver Discoverer will reposition to the spectacular Pink Beach for an afternoon of snorkeling or relaxing on the beach. You can see shimmering tropical fish such as the striped clown fish nestled among the protective tentacles of its sea anemone host, or a spotted grouper lazily swimming by a flamboyant sea fan. In addition to tropical fish at Pink Beach, rays have regularly been seen close to the neighboring island of Pulau Punya.
Known for its intricate ikat fabric, distinctive architecture and sculptured stone tombs, Sumba has resisted the advances of the modern age. It is therefore a fascinating island to explore, especially West Sumba where ancient tribal rites are best preserved.
The local culture revolves around fortified villages where ancestors are worshipped by extended families living in enormous clan houses with high-pitched thatched roofs. The Sumbanese honor the dead by dragging massive stones a great distance to construct mausoleums for the departed.
On your visit to a traditional village, witness a welcome ceremony, as well as a “pasola”, a fierce martial arts performance on horseback. Observe the process of making Indonesia’s famous ikat textiles, including the opportunity to purchase ikat directly from the weavers.
During the afternoon have a chance to watch our Photographer/Videographer’s presentation of the Voyage-DVD, hopefully bringing back fond memories of different cultures, customs and peoples seen during this spectacular voyage across Indonesia.
Following breakfast, disembark the ship.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
The program is complimentary; however, space is limited and thus booking early is recommended. Dives are dependent upon the conditions. Divers must have a current Advanced Open Water Dive License or equivalent from an accredited Certification Agency which will need to be provided before embarking the vessel. Certification must be active and logbooks must show evidence that each guest has been diving within 12 months prior to the voyage. Medical Dive Travel Insurance for evacuation, medical treatment and repatriation is required. Guests must bring their own BCD vests and regulators. Weight belts, tanks, masks and fins will be provided free of charge onboard Silver Discoverer.
Suite accommodations; onboard meals and entertainment; snorkeling gear; diving; butler service; gratuities aboard ship (except spa); complimentary beverages aboard ship (including select wines, champagnes, spirits, soda, water and coffee); 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Explorer and View Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Vista, Veranda, and Medallion Suites. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; optional shore excursions; government fees and taxes; passport and visa expenses; some champagne, premium wine and spirit selections, caviar, cigarettes and cigars; laundry or valet services; items of a personal nature such as boutique purchases, medical care, and spa services; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Creative Services of Silversea Cruises, © Bruno Cazarini (reef)