November 16, 2018 – Komodo Island, Indonesia

Enter the Dragon’s Lair!  Komodo island, part of the Lesser Sunda chain of Indonesian islands, is the rugged habitat of the 3m-long Komodo dragon monitor lizard. Komodo National Park covers the entire region and is home to more than 4,000 dragons, and is made up of rusty-red volcanic hills, savanna and forests. Its surrounding waters of seagrass beds, mangrove shrublands and coral reefs are famous for diving.

Originally established to protect the giant lizards that share its name, today Komodo National Park preserves all species of vegetation and wildlife found on its 29 islands, where the biodiversity has earned it World Heritage Site status. On the rugged slopes and open savannas of the three largest islands, Komodo dragons live alongside buffalo, deer, monkeys, snakes, and many colorful species of birds. Many of the local islanders still live in traditional stilted dwellings, around which goats and chickens scratch.

We have a short stop on Komodo Island with the only purpose to see the Komodo Dragon.  We anchor off shore and around the ship are several small “boats” manned by small boys who are supposed to be learning to be fishermen but are actually just begging.

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The ship used some of the lifeboats to tender into shore arriving at a rickety, old wooden dock.  Not sure how many people could be on the ramp at any one time, but it held.  From here we met our guides, one of whom carried a long stick with a fork in it (see below).  This was the protection from the Komodo Dragons.  Apparently, they are very sensitive around the head area.

Komodo Island 5

The weather was extremely hot and very humid, so hydration was key to staying upright.  I had opted for the long trek around the island in search of the elusive lizards.

Known as oras to the roughly 2000 local Muslim Bugis fishermen, this prehistoric monitor lizard pretty much has the lay of the land. Because the locals don’t eat the abundant Timor pigs – the dragons’ main food source (alongside deer and water buffalo) – the reptiles have been left to flourish. It also helps that the Komodo dragon is enshrined in ancient folklore, stemming from an old legend that tells of a man falling in love with a dragon princess, who gives birth to twins: a human boy and a female komodo dragon. The story paints the animals and native humans as kindred spirits, and thus should live in harmony. The fact the Indonesian government banned hunting them in 1915 may have also had something to do with the reptile’s long-term survival

The island itself is very arid, almost desert like and we saw no dragons during the hike until we arrived at the man-made watering hole.

They pipe in water quite away for this.  So, seeing the Komodo Dragons is really a staged event.  However, even so, it was quite impressive to see these prehistoric animals.

Despite all the warnings to stay hydrated, there was one passenger that collapsed and had to be carried out on a stretcher.  She was fine once she cooled down but it happens quite frequently on this tour.

Back to the rickety old dock, onto a tender and settled back aboard the ship.

That ends the “Asia” section of our cruise.  Next stop is Darwin, Australia and the start of the “Pacific” segment.


November 16, 2018 – Bali, Indonesia

Yes, Bali has beaches, surfing, diving, and resorts, great and small, but it’s the essence of Bali – and the Balinese – that makes it so much more than just a fun-in-the-sun retreat. It is possible to take the cliché of the smiling Balinese too far, but in reality, the inhabitants of this small island are indeed a generous, genuinely warm people. There’s also a fun, sly sense of humour.

This is certainly the case with all the Indonesian staff and in particular our dining room host and waiters.  They are so willing to talk about their homeland and what to see and do and in the end, we hired our waiter’s brother Agus, to tour us around Bali.  He is a tour guide on Bali complete with his own lovely 7 passenger Mazda vehicle and since there were 4 of us on our own private tour, the $150 he charged for the entire day was a good deal!

We gave him a list of a few things we wanted to see on Bali but a must for us was Tanah Lot Temple, one of Bali’s most important landmarks, famed for its unique offshore setting and sunset backdrops.

Really not all that far from Benoa where the ship docked, we were lucky that it only took us an hour to reach the temple.  The traffic was incredible and not as bad as it can be!

An ancient Hindu shrine perched on top of an outcrop amidst constantly crashing waves; Tanah Lot Temple is simply among Bali’s not-to-be-missed icons. The onshore site is dotted with smaller shrines alongside visitors’ leisure facilities that comprise restaurants, shops and a cultural park.

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After centuries of large waves persistently crashing at its rock base, Tanah Lot faced the constant threat of erosion, reaching a significant decline in 1980. The authorities carried out preservation efforts to Tanah Lot and other historical sites island-wide. Fully restored, a third of the present Tanah Lot is actually artificial rock. At high tide, waves flood the causeways making it impossible to cross.  We were lucky that we were there at low tide.

It was at this point when my camera stopped working.  I think it was a combination of both the heat and humidity that took its toll.  I am only hoping that somewhere along the line I can get it repaired!

At low tide, which was the case when we were there, we crossed to view the rock base to the Tirta Pabersihan fountain. This natural spout is the source of holy water for all the temples in the area. Priests at the fountain bless visitors by sprinkling holy water over their heads. You can cup your palms and take a sip to prove it is apparently fresh water.  I didn’t drink from the fountain but was welcomed to wash my face with its holy waters.

I thought perhaps this was something arranged for the tourists but our guide also performed the same ceremony.  Also, because of the low tide, we were able to visit a small cave where a sacred snake was being kept.  For a small “donation”, we were able to touch the sacred snake and be blessed with good fortune…I should have done that before my camera crapped out!  Pictured below is our friend Margaret touching the snake and then, I followed suit.

Onshore temples include the Penyawang, a spiritual proxy to Tanah Lot that hosts pilgrims when the main offshore temple is inaccessible during high tide. Other smaller temples around the site host prayer sessions for various aspects of the villagers’ agrarian life, from good rice harvests to rites of passage.

North of Tanah Lot is Batu Bolong, similarly built on a rock formation with a ‘hollow’ overpass linking to the mainland.

Convenient pathways and well-kept tropical gardens line the grounds from Tanah Lot to Batu Bolong, with resting spots offering shades and good viewpoints to both outcrops.

From Tanah Lot, we had really wanted to go see the Tegallalang Rices Terraces north around Ubud, but given the amount of traffic (now even worse), we opted to stop at some of the roadside rice paddies for a look.

When I think of Bali, I think of beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters.  So, off to the beach at Nusa Dua we went.  It was a lovely beach but honestly, I expected nicer. We have access to nicer beaches in the Caribbean and Hawaii without travelling the distances from Canada.  Having said that, Bali does have much to offer.

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Lunchtime!  We did not want to go to a tourist restaurant but rather an authentic Indonesian restaurant for some local food.  After some time driving, we ended up at Warung Bakas for the traditional Babi Guling (suckling pig) that came with spicy soup, rice and spicy beans.  A large, cold local beer was needed to put out the fire!  We asked for local and got it!

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We are now in search of a Batik shirt that I need for supper in a couple of nights.  While I was not able to find shirt to fit me in two different markets (I didn’t think I was that large), Karen was able to find lots of different things to buy!

Our time is running out, so we do a quick stop at what our guide said was their largest monument for a couple of quick pictures, then one last market to try at Kuta Beach (a very busy tourist beach and market).  Success!  A shirt that fit for a hefty price tag of $10 (lol).  Pictures of new shirt to follow after Komodo Island.

Our final stop in Bali was for a traditional Balinese massage.  We were greeted with cups of cooled green tea before going up to the treatment room where we both had our feet Bali 41cleansed/massaged in aromatic water.  Up onto the table for an exceptional full body massage although it freaked me out when she climbed onto the table to get better leverage.  An hour of bliss and then washed down with a wet towel.  Finally, a cup of ginger tea before heading back to the ship to sail away from Bali.

Thanks again for travelling along with us.  Read about our dragon experience in the next blog!

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