Best of Indonesia Photo Diary

_DSC5829

In anticipation of my trip to the Galapagos with Zegrahm Expeditions next week, I have finally put together a comprehensive photo diary from my fantastic journey through some off-the-beaten track parts of Indonesia with the very same expedition cruising company (what a terrible delay, I know!).

_DSC6968

An archipelago of over 17,000 islands, the country of Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world, as well as the most populous Muslim-majority country. However, since so much of it is remote and accessible only by boat, it’s easy to find wild and off-the-beaten-track gems, where the friendliness of the local people is unrivaled anywhere.

_DSC5693

Culturally, Indonesia is an incredible melting pot of people, with influences ranging from Indian to Arabic to Chinese. With over 300 different ethnic groups, Indonesians speak over 700 different languages or dialects; but, the fact that shines through when you meet any of them is their kind and welcoming nature.

_DSC6250

We spent most of our time exploring the nooks and crannies of contorted shape of the Island of Sulawesi, a massive island consisting of a mountainous, almost impenetrable centre with four peninsulas radiating from it. We dove and snorkelled amongst vibrant and some of the most beautiful coral reefs I have set my eyes on, we ventured inland to immerse ourselves in the craziness and elaborate funeral rites of Tana Toraja for a couple of days (full article here), as well as setting foot on some of Sulawesi’s little neighbouring islands, followed by a day amongst real-life dragons on Komodo Island, and finishing with a welcome dash of tranquility in Bali.

_DSC5556
Our first stop was Bunaken National Park in the North of Sulawesi, known for its exceptionally rich coral ecosystem, a habitat to nearly 400 species of corals as well as a colourful array of sea creatures of all shapes and sizes!

_DSC5604

These pictures below were taken in the fishing community on the island of Bunaken, one of the five islands within the constraints of the marine park (only 3% of the park is terrestrial). People living here participate in maintaining the area as marine protected area. This harmonious Christian community was a joy to wander about in the morning, before going diving amongst a dizzying and exuberant array of corals and fish in the afternoon.

_DSC5563 _DSC5645_DSC5564_DSC5554_DSC5568_DSC5657_DSC5582_DSC5587_DSC5551

Our next stop was in port city of Bitung, a starting point for our road trip inland to see the elusive nocturnal tarsiers, also known as the smallest primates in the world, in the Tangkoko Nature Reserve. Bitung is the gateway to the indigenous Minahasa people, and their warriors greeted us with their menacing energetic dancing with a belligerent look in their eyes. They bodies were adorned with elaborate headdresses and clothing made of feathers, cuscus, macaque and tarsier skeletons, along vibrant (mostly blood red) textiles.

_DSC5688 _DSC5697Tarsiers, named for the very long bones in their feet, are fascinating primates, only seen as dusk falls and they come out looking for their supper. Found only in Southeast asia, tarsiers are the only entirely carnivorous primates still alive today (feed mostly on insects). They are absolutely tiny – perhaps slightly larger than the size of my palm!

_DSC5719_DSC5736 _DSC5741

These tiny creatures are known for their huge eyes for night time activity – each eye is as large as their brain! In fact, their eyes are so big, they cannot rotate them within their sockets.  Luckily their heads can be rotated nearly 360 degrees, which means that they vision is not compromised. _DSC5795

The following couple of days were spent acquainting ourselves with Bajau people, or the sea people.  Following their heritage, the Bajau prefer to live away from the land and who spend most of their lives at sea.

First, we visited a small Papan village, a fishing community consisting of the Bajau people set over crystal clear waters.  Many houses are on stilts veering off the main boardwalk, and surrounded by fishing boats.
_DSC5796_DSC5819_DSC6002 _DSC5817_DSC6005

We came across a couple butchering a freshly caught giant guitarfish and marbled stingray, whose fins will later would have been sold to the Chinese for a good price. The local people often struggle for money, so this catch will bring in much needed extra income. _DSC5829 _DSC5834_DSC5870

An evil looking child…
_DSC5884_DSC5880We then walked across the brand new boardwalk to Merengi Island, with quaint houses lining the idyllic sandy beaches.

_DSC5928Where I came across a local rather rustic supermarket selling island-grown produce… _DSC5978_DSC5981_DSC5999_DSC5994_DSC5931

The next day we came across a unique stilt village, constructed over a reef platform miles away from land. Bajau people, sea people more comfortable with crystal clear waters around them, live in this unusual settlement, often weeks at a time without setting their foot on land. They were delighted to see us, showing off their recent catch of many different types of fish and molluscs.

_DSC6189 _DSC6197 _DSC6222We later visited another Bajau village on Kenccil Island. As always, local people and especially little children, the majority of whom had never clapped their eyes on foreigners and fair-skinned people were tremendously excited to greet us. As I wandered amongst the houses making my way to the other side of the island, I was surrounded by myriads of children in my wake, all chatting and vying for my attention. 
_DSC6154_DSC6041_DSC6111

The Bajau people live mostly off fish since the sandy island does not allow them to grow crops. They sell their catch to other communities in exchange for rice and sago. _DSC6045_DSC6102_DSC6066_DSC5996A local rock band…
_DSC6064_DSC6120_DSC6090

One of my co-travellers swamped by the children…that was me many a time!_DSC6053

A girl with local school in the background…_DSC6083
The next morning, we spent a few hours scouting a deserted beach – one of my favourite things about expedition cruising is the opportunity to spend a handful of blissful hours enjoying the quietude of untouched stretches of sandy shores.DSC03786

A few local fishermen came by and sold some freshly caught fish to us, which was later prepared by our Indonesia expert, Leksmono. 
DSC03781We even had a poisonous puffer fish, a beloved delicacy with the Japanese. DSC03784DSC03816DSC03825Can I just say that it was perhaps the most delicious fish I have ever tried?! Simple, grilled, and, most importantly, as fresh as you can get. Three Michelin starred restaurants in NYC or London cannot compare. Slightly gluttonous and somewhat famished, I managed to eat almost two whole fish, as well as a squid. The way to my heart is through my stomach, so I fell in love with Indonesia there and then. DSC03828

A few snapshots from my two-day trip into Toraja Land, where life is all about the celebration of death. You can read a comprehensive article about my fascinating time in the highlands of Sulawesi here.

toraja_land1-16toraja_land1-53toraja_land1-43toraja_land1-70toraja_land1-21toraja_land1-8toraja_land1-24

We stopped at a colourful food market on the way back, as well as a durian stop, where I tried this strange fruit that divides opinion for the first time in my life. Not sure, this is something I will be putting in my mouth again…toraja_land1-55toraja_land1-59toraja_land1-60

Sampling some durian…toraja_land1-66toraja_land1-68Afterwards, we spent a day in Komodo National Parkestablished in 1980 to protect the habitat of Komodo Dragons, and a few years later it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a gorgeous day, and we passed the first few hours of it searching for real life dragons. Our morning of reconnaissance was fruitful, and I spotted about nine or ten, both males and female, as well as a baby!

_DSC7025_DSC7044

The Komodo dragon is the largest living species of lizard in the world, found only on a smattering of small islands in central Indonesia, the most famous of which is the island of Komodo. This enormous monitor lizard can reach lengths of up to 10 feet and weigh 150 pounds!

_DSC7059

Komodo dragons were first documented by Europeans in 1910, when rumors of a “land crocodile” reached the Dutch colonial administration. The first live Komodo dragons arrived in Europe in 1927, to be displayed at the London Zoo.

_DSC7104

Unique among lizards, Komodo dragons often hunt cooperatively, taking down prey as large as deer (and the occasional human even!). They have septic bacteria in their mouths that cause nearly every dragon bite to become severely infected, allowing them to bite their prey and then just wait for it to die.

_DSC7185

Seeing such a massive (and dangerous) creature up close in the wild is one of the great wildlife experiences of a lifetime! Just look at them leisurely prowling about!
_DSC7162

Afterwards I went pearl shopping. There were dozens upon dozens of sellers of pearls, all extolling their wonderful pieces of jewellery, regardless of the fact that their neighbours’ things were practically identical. A chaotic shopping experience resulting in me walking away with half a dozen of strings of large, imperfect pearls…At least, I gave a little boost to the local economy, I suppose…._DSC7191

The day ended with a cocktail party on the Pink Beach named after a noticeable lovely pink tint to the sand…_DSC7230The trip finished in wonderful Bali, where we spent the whole day exploring Ubud and its surrounding areas. Bali and the rest of Indonesia we visited was like chalk and cheese. You can read my full article on Bali here.
_DSC7543 _DSC7500 _DSC7414 _DSC7689

 



4 responses to “Best of Indonesia Photo Diary”

  1. Emma says:

    What stunning pictures! Those tarsiers are so cute too. The Komodos, maybe not so much but they are very impressive!

  2. anna says:

    WOW!! your photos are more and more gorgeous!!

  3. Annika says:

    Beautiful! I am hopefully heading to Indonesia for the first time soon so these were a great inspiration. The picture of the beautiful ray being cut up made me sad though, I understand that they need the money but as an avid diver it just upsets me seeing such wonderful creatures out of the water!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *