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Maumere to Menado 1250 miles 14 days
A voyage northward bound across the equator.
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 Maumere to Menado covers about 1250 miles and requires a minimum of 14 days but of course it could be amended depending on your personal interests and preferences. It could also be followed in reverse.
On the first day you start with an overnight crossing to the Island of Lembata. Your first sunset and your first dinner at sea.
Drop anchor in Waienga Bay shortly after sunrise on the second day. We suggest you go ashore near the village of Jontona on the Southeastern flank of the Ile Ape volcano and walk up to the old traditional village. The Northwestern peninsula is the cultural heartland of Lembata Island and the scenery is exceptionally beautiful. The villages in this area are famous for their fine ‘ikat’ cloths and we will be able to witness how these remarkable textiles are made, following tedious, age-old techniques of spinning, dying and weaving. You could even trek a bit further up the Ile Ape Mountain. Do go underway again in the course of the evening for an overnight crossing to one of the most remarkable sights in Eastern Indonesia.
By sunrise you reach the Island of Kumba, a smoldering volcano in the middle of the Flores Sea. If the conditions allow you to do so you may want to go ashore on one of the pebble beaches or go snorkeling ‘under the volcano’. Do leave again in the course of the morning for the 120 miles passage across the Flores Sea.
On the fourth day you reach the first islands in the Tukang Besi archipelago, southeast of Sulawesi. This group of islands stretches over about 30 miles and there are many pleasant anchorages to choose from. On these islands you will make your first acquaintance with the Bajau people. These ‘Sea gypsies’ live in houses on stilts over the water. Formerly they were fully nomadic, living on their boats, but nowadays they often occupy more permanent settlements. The Bajau use trident harpoons and bamboo spears to hunt the giant stingray, sometimes employing its poisonous spine as a point for daggers. The government tries to resettle these people in villages ashore but the Bajao resist. They consider themselves as the ‘children of the sea’ and do not feel at home on the land.
On the fifth day you steer for Bau-Bau, on Buton Island. Bau-Bau was an important harbour on the trade route between Sulawesi and the Moluccas and infamous as an important center of pirates and slave traders. In the old days the sultan of Buton was a powerful potentate who ruled over a large area of the surrounding islands. We suggest you go ashore to visit the palace at Wolio, where two-meter-high stone fortifications still encircle the hilltop kraton. Inside the palace is one of the oldest mosques in eastern Indonesia, dating back to the 15th Century.
With the first daylight of the sixth day you should enter the narrow Strait between Buton and Muna. Navigate carefully between the islands and you will reach the main town of Raha on Muna Island around noon. If you go ashore near the village of Bolo you will be able to visit limestone caves with ancient wall paintings.
On the seventh day follow the east coast of Sulawesi all the way up to Tolo Bay. Your destination is Kolonodale, a town nestled deep into the narrow, but enchanting Bay of Tomori, the westernmost indentation of Tolo Bay. You reach this quaint little harbour in the course of the eighth day and tie up to the pier for the night.
We suggest that on the ninth day as one of the major highlights of this cruise you visit to the Morowali National Park. It is best to charter one of the local boats in Kolonodale in order to cross Tomori Bay and go upstream on one of the small rivers into the virgin rain forest of Morowali. Here you will be able to meet members of the Wana tribe. The Wana comprise about 600 families who follow a traditional prehistoric lifestyle. They still hunt with blowpipes and survive by gathering forest products. Morowali is also known as a unique habitat of unusual beetles, butterflies, babirusa and equally rare maleo birds. Try to be back on board in the late afternoon to sail out of the Bay again. It is necessary to navigate with extreme care remindful of the fact that it was right here off Morowali that in the year 1580, Sir Francis Drake ran aground on a reef.
On the tenth day you reach the Banggai Islands, an archipelago of two major islands and approximately 100 smaller islets about 20 miles offshore. These are remote islands rarely visited by tourists. The chief town and port of the group is Banggai, which is on the western coast of Banggai Island. The sultanate of Banggai dates back to the 13th century and the palace of the former sultan is still intact. After you visit the town proceed to Peleng and look for a good anchorage for the night in one of the bays.
Spend the eleventh day to explore the largest island of the Banggai group. Peleng has dense forest cover, high mountains and the mangroves are teeming with bird life. Raise the anchor again in the afternoon to go on a Northerly course across the Gorontalo Basin. You will cross the equator during the night.
We suggest you visit Gorontalo, a friendly town on the southern coast of Sulawesi's northern peninsula on the twelfth day. Gorontalo is the capital of the Province of the same name. There are many old colonial houses and horse carts are still used as public transportation.
On the thirteenth day you could drop anchor in front of the village of Nuangan, a small fishing village with a nice beach, a superb spot for a last day of swimming and snorkeling.
On the fourteenth day you reach Bitung, the deep water harbour of Menado, on the extreme north-eastern cape of Sulawesi. Here you say farewell to the crew of the vessel. Top Indonesia will arrange your transfer to Menado airport and assist you with all further travel arrangements.