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Bali to Kupang-West Timor 650 miles -10 to 14 days
Top Indonesia sea voyages are meant as suggestions for the interesting courses that ships may follow through the archipelago. The routes are for planning purposes only and one must keep in mind that the itinerary and program may have to be modified as a result of unfavorable winds or other circumstances. This itinerary from Bali to West Timor covers about 650 miles and depending on your personal interests and preferences could take anywhere between 10 and 14 days. It could be stretched, shortened or made in reverse.
The voyage starts with a crossing of the Lombok Strait. This stretch of water between Bali and Lombok marks a very important ecological boundary, first described by Sir Alfred Russell Wallace, the British naturalist. He 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 that “line” have a greater similarity to species found in Australia. Leaving Bali in the morning it is possible to make a first stop at the small island of Gili Trawangan, just off the Lombok coast, for a couple of hours of swimming and beach-combing. Our suggestion is to leave again in the late afternoon for an overnight passage to the Sumbawa region.
On the second day, as the sun rises you make your landfall at the island of Moyo. Go ashore to hike through the monsoon forest to a lovely three-tiered waterfall for a dip or a swim in complete wilderness. Raise the anchor around noon to proceed around the north coast of Moyo towards Satonda Island. Located just a couple of miles off the north-west coast of Sumbawa, Satonda is what remained of an extinct volcano of which the caldera was filled with water when nearby Mount Tambora erupted in 1815. This was the biggest volcanic eruption in the collective memory of mankind, much larger than Krakatoa. With an estimated volume of 160 cubic kilometers of rocks and ash ejected from the volcano the following year became known as the "year without a summer" because of the effect on North American and European weather. The slopes of Satonda are now covered in lush forest. Go ashore to take some pictures of the huge crater-lake just a few minutes from the beach. The reefs around the island are spectacular and mostly in pristine condition, excellent for snorkeling. A highlight of a visit to Satonda is the sight of many thousands of flying foxes that commute at dusk from the island to feed on the mainland, returning before first light the next day. At sunset do head eastward again for another overnight passage. The next morning it is worthwhile to drop anchor at the village of Wera on the east coast of the island of Sumbawa. Wera is a Buginese settlement famous for its boatbuilding. Here you see all kinds of wooden craft in various stages of construction. If weather would not allow a smooth landing at Wera an alternative would be to make a stop at Sangean Island, an active volcano towering 1800 meters above the surrounding waters. Next we suggest to proceed to Gili Banta, an island uninhabited by humans. Banta Bay is a wonderful place for some excellent swimming and snorkeling and a perfect place for a quiet night at anchor.
On the fourth day you enter the Komodo National Park, which is in fact in fact an archipelago of about eighty islands in between Flores and Sumbawa. Most islands of the National Park are uninhabited, except for just four small settlements of Bajo people, ‘the sea gypsies’ whose livelihood depends entirely on the sea. Formerly they were fully nomadic, living on their boats, but nowadays they also live in houses on stilts over the water. They consider themselves as the ‘children of the sea’ and do not really feel at home on the land. It is certainly worthwhile to briefly anchor off the Bajo village on the island of Meesa but the list of suitable anchorages in the archipelago is endless. There are hundreds of fantastic spots for snorkeling and the park offers a universe of spectacular underwater beauty, one of the very richest in the world in terms of diversity, host to more than 1,100 different species of fish and over 250 types of corals. It is important to know that ninety percent of reef life lives in the top 10 meters of water, so snorkelers do not miss out on anything by not diving. We suggest that at the end of the day you drop anchor in the bay of Rinca, the second largest of the islands and the richest in terms of fauna. Spend another night under the blinking gaze of a million stars. In the morning you can go trekking through spectacular scenery of savannah, looking for wild horses, water buffalo, wild boar, monkeys, and of course the famous Komodo dragons. Rinca’s unsurpassed savannah scenery is accentuated by deep blue coves and inlets. In the course of the day sail over to the island that has given the dragon as well as the National Park its name. After a third night at anchor go ashore on the morning of the fifth day, shortly after sunrise, and again in the company of a ranger you find a landscape of steppe and forest. A few of the wild beasts are always seen, as are deer and monkeys. The ranger shows you the dens and nests of the dragons and you learn a lot about this mysterious creature. Once the heat of the day hits the island, do escape to one of the postcard-picture beaches of Komodo Island: Red Beach, its name derived from the fact that it is red-colored by pulverized coral. Spend some more time beachcombing and snorkeling. In the course of the afternoon lift the anchor again and sail out through the Linta strait on a southerly course to cross the Savu Sea.
On the seventh day do go ashore at Waikelo in West Sumba. In the traditional villages of West Sumba, time seems an irrelevant factor and it seems as if life has not changed for ages. The cultural life of Sumba is distinguished by spectacular rituals, huge megalithic grave sites, unusual peaked houses and beautiful ikat cloths. It is one of the most culturally interesting places to visit in East Indonesia. Because of its position south to the other islands of Nusa Tenggara, Sumba managed to escape the influence of Hindu, Muslim and Christian religion. Today, more than 50 % of its population still adheres to a traditional religion of animism and ancestor worship. Try to make your way to one of the numerous megaliths but head back to the boat in the late afternoon so during the night the ship can go on an easterly course along Sumba’s north coast.
On the eighth day you reach the main harbor of Waingapu. First make your way to one of the nearby villages that are considered to be the center of contemporary Sumbanese weaving, Prailiu or Kwangju where you can witness all the phases of making traditional cloth: preparing the cotton, spinning it into thread, tying the design into the thread, dyeing and the final weaving on back strap looms. It is also worthwhile to go on the twenty minute drive to the Prainatang valley. Here you walk fifteen minutes uphill to Prailiang, a perfect example of an old Sumbanese fortified hilltop village with ten huts in total, the six largest neatly aligned on the top. When you return to Waingapu you find there is a lively harbour front dining scene. During the night we suggest you make the 110 nautical mile crossing to the Island of Savu.
The ninth day you reach the island where James Cook landed in 1770. Savu is one of the most precious islands of all of Indonesia. The inhabitants of this rugged and dry island are extremely friendly and hospitable and the girls are famous for their beauty. Make your way to Namata, a traditional village about three kilometers from the capital where there are megalithic stones and traditional houses. For those with an interest in Ikat there is an art and craft workshop two kilometers from Heba, at the village of Rai Lolo. Adjacent to the harbour is a long white sandy beach good for snorkeling and swimming. In the late afternoon we suggest you sail onward to the island of Roti.
On the tenth day you arrive in Baa, the capital of Roti, the southernmost island in Indonesia. Roti has long been under the influence of Portugal, which is clearly demonstrated by the local handicraft. In Roti one finds silver ornaments, distinctive Rotinese ikats, and pinnacled hats plaited from lontar leaves. Roti is also famous for the music and dances produced by the sasando, a 12-string lontar-leaf harp that originated from this tiny island. The music is reminiscent of the Fado music of Portugal.
Leave at the right time for the last overnight passage of 45 miles from Baa to Kupang so you arrive early in the morning in the traditional harbour of Temau, Kupang. Here you say farewell to the crew of the vessel. Top Indonesia will arrange your transfer the airport. Depending on the flight schedule you may visit the museum of West-Timor on the way to Kupang airport.