Tag Archives: Holidays

Bali to Barrier Reef continued: Triton Bay, Karang Island and onwards towards Thursday Island – 1996

We left the interesting and friendly Banda Islands and headed for Triton Bay on Tuesday 26th of November. It was a lovely sunny morning as it often was during the cruise.  One of the lecturers gave an illustrated talk about the area we were approaching. Triton Bay is an unusual scenic group of small mushroom-shaped islands with steep cliffs covered with jungle foliage. The shallow bay  is a haven for birds and fish – birds like Hornbills, Cockatoos and Birds-of-Paradise.                                                        As soon as the Caledonian Star dropped anchor the zodiacs were lowered and off we went – all 120 passengers – to explore these fascinating islands. We set off in convoy but soon lost touch with other boats as we found all kinds of interesting plants and birds to admire on shore. We didn’t actually set foot on land, but there were signs of life. Several times we passed small fishing huts and dug-out canoes. Our ‘driver’ stopped from time to time to give us a chance to  just sit there and absorb the jungle sounds and the unusual place it was, without the noise of the engine. I have never been anywhere I felt so relaxed and in awe – it was like entering a different world. Triton Bay lies on the Indonesian side of New Guinea, named Irian Jaya,and  it reminded me of the  fabulous exploration films we see on TV when the experts go in search of the world’s least visited spots. All the passengers were quite excitable that evening as we gathered on deck for a barbecue dinner, and watched the sun set over the ocean. It would have been great to see more native fishermen and people, but that was not to be. It is very humid in this part of the world, but the rain is warm and comes in short, sharp bursts.

Wednesday 27 November: Our next, and last, stop before leaving Indonesia was an island named Karang. This little uninhabited island lies within the Aru archipelago, and the islands are spread across the  sea between Timor and Irian Jaya.  We went ashore in the usual zodiacs, watched by fishermen and pearl fishers! It was not expected to find people there, but it was an added bonus I felt, although I thought (we all did really) that the men looked rather hostile. 

When we came ashore we found there were three boats which had come from Buton, near Sulawesi in order to catch sharks. They remove the fins and tails, which we could see drying onboard their ships. These would then be taken to a trading centre and exported to Hong Kong. Their journey took 10 days and they remained in these waters for a month. It is a journey only undertaken once a year. The little boats didn’t look very sturdy for these, sometimes, wild seas, and they didn’t bring much water or food. A tough life!

The pearl-divers came from Aru and was part of a fleet of five – the same man owned all the ships. They were fishing for oysters which were brought to a farm for cultivated pearls. It takes about two years for a pearl to grow inside the shell. They normally catch 100 a day. The oysters are kept in wire cages alongside the side of the ship – to prevent the shells from damage.

The men seemed to find these ‘odd-looking’ old people from the west peculiar! They kept looking and laughing at us and shaking their heads – as if they wondered why we suddenly appeared.

This is a close-up of their rather flimsy boat and the shark fins and tails drying.

 

Sandy beaches everywhere. Just perfect to walk barefoot and feel the warm sand under your feet.                    

During the evening there was a cocktail party, hosted by the Captain. A jolly time was had by all. As the sun set we caught a last glimpse of Indonesian islands before heading for the Barrier Reef and Thursday Island.

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Bali to Barrier Reef. Kakabia and Banda Islands

On the 23rd of November 1996 the Caledonian Star dropped anchor off the little Kakabia island. It was time to fit in a cruise around this interesting island, and a fleet of small black zodiac, seating about eight people, began the tour. It was a hot and humid day but the rain stayed away. Overhead we saw a frigate bird in all its glory, looking fit and healthy. We felt quite privileged being there and having a knowledgable expert in the boat with us. He knew all about the birds and wildlife in these waters.

Red-footed boobies were spotted on the island. We went ashore for a rather brief visit before heading back to the ship, lunch and a snorkel session for those interested (I was – and saw lots of brilliant coloured fish). It was a wonderful experience. I am no strong swimmer, but we all wore life vests  and simply floated on top of the water admiring the brilliant under-water life we don’t even realise is there.

The next day was spent at sea – just relaxing by the little deck-pool, eating and drinking and chatting with newfound friends. Very pleasant indeed.

On Monday 25th of November we dropped anchor off the Banda islands, in the Banda sea. The Gunung Api volcano overshadows Banda and has erupted many times. The latest eruption took place in 1988. We all gathered on deck as we approached Bandaneria. This is where the majority of the population live, and the active volcano is only 650 metres away! There are ten small attractive island which make up the 60 square km archipelago. The sea here is very deep, more than 6500 meters of ocean water.

We felt very honoured indeed as we approached shore and were met by traditional war canoes. They circled our ship several times. It was a wonderful welcome. Theses colourful little boats and  singing and happy-looking crew seemed glad to see us. Not many visitors come this far. (I really wonder if that has changed now, all these years later?) Little boys dived from the boats and were so at home it the water I felt quite envious.

We went ashore for a guided tour. The oldest couple onboard were presented with gifts, consisting of spices grown on the island. A brass band (not very good!) played for us. Their only ‘properly presented’ tune was ‘Onwards Christian Soldiers’.But it was a great experience. The band followed us around town, and played the same tune over and over again.

 Ron and I walked around the market and chatted with some of the locals, The children were lovely and eager to be photographed.  The parents didn’t mind at least to have their children’s photos taken.   The market was scruffy and the fish on sale full of flies, but people looked fit enough.  The climate here is hot and humid all the year round.

These isolated islands were discovered by the Dutch in 1512  when they went in search of spices. They found an abundance of nutmeg and mace growing there which brought great profits to those who were able to control production and trade. Now a days they hope that tourism and fishing can stop people from leaving. The islands have great potential and will hopefully benefit by  increased tourist trade and the excellent fishing and diving facilities.

An exotic holiday – from Bali to Barrier Reef

After all this writing about the Second World War I think it is time I try to produce a more cheerful story. Ron and I made up our minds some years ago that we wanted to ‘see the world’ and visit foreign lands while we could still afford it and were fit and well. After all, seeing new places and meeting people with different customs and outlook would  be exciting and beneficial we felt. I always dreamt about tropical countries  as a child so this would be ‘a dream come true’ for a lass from Norway. The book that made me want to travel was one called ‘Betty on a Coral Island’ which I read as an eleven year old girl. Fancy that – I still remember, and in my mind I can  picture this girl and wanting to experience her adventures.

 We lost our beloved dog Mac in 1996 and felt sad and upset. So we decided to treat ourselves and have a very expensive and different holiday. The Daily Telegraph had an add in the travel section about a cruise on board a small 120 passenger ship. This cruise originated in Bali and ended up in Cairns, Australia sailing through Indonesia. (It was quite safe at that time). I don’t like the big ‘monster-ship’ they have these days – too big and impersonal for my liking.

 In late November, when the weather was horrible and wet in England, we flew to Bali from London. Hilton Hotel, in the exclusive resort of Nusa Dua, was our home for three nights. What luxury!! It was so grand and big and warm. Yes, we thought, we like this! Various trips were arranged from the hotel and we saw as much as possible. We sat under the palm trees and listened to the birdsong and enjoyed a drink or two. Bali is full of temples and shrines and the people worship many Gods. Everywhere we went  people were welcoming and friendly.

This was our route – sailing through Indonesia and entering the Barrier Reef. 

On Wednesday the 20th of November, late afternoon, we boarded our ship MS Caledonian Star  and were escorted to our little cabin. I must say, this ship was quite old and not  as grand as some, but the places we visited made it all worth while. Many of the passengers had come straight from the airport and were tired after the long flight. We were served coffee in the lounge,  had the lifeboat drill, and relaxed for the evening.

As you know, Indonesia is full of islands, small and large. We left Bali and headed for a tiny island called Medang. In the next instalment I will carry on with our various stops!