We tendered from the ship at Komodo Island but the operation was much smoother than at the other places we had tendered. Even though we had arranged a private tour the ship did a great job of making sure everyone got to their tour on time. At this port stop you had to have a scheduled tour in order to get off of the ship. You cannot wander around the island because the island is inhabited by Komodo Dragons which can be very dangerous. This is a large 6 to 8 foot lizard that can weigh up to 600 pounds. The dragons have a poison in their system that immobilizes their prey when they bite them. They can be dangerous to humans and last year there was a death of a tourist who saw a Komodo Dragon around one of the local villages and began taking pictures of it. What he didn’t see was the other 3 dragons with the one he was taking a picture of that attacked him. The poison and bacteria in his system turned out to be too much for him and he died 3 days later. Besides the poison in the Komodo Dragons bite there is also a significant amount of bacteria that also goes into the bite area which will kill some of the prey they bite. The dragons are strictly meat eaters and will even eat other dragons. They are very fast and can move as quickly as a world class sprinter.
As you can imagine each of the excursions at this stop was to see the Komodo dragons. We decided to do a private excursion since it also included a beach/snorkel trip to a pink sand beach. As it turned out, everyone basically does the same dragon viewing excursion along the same paths to see the Komodo Dragons. They space the people out so that it doesn’t get too crowded but there are a lot of people walking along these paths. The guides are very knowledgeable and you learn a lot about the dragons. You get to see the large nests where the females lay their eggs each year and guard them for 3 months. After the rainy season the females leave the nests and the eggs get covered by mud. If other Komodo Dragons find the eggs, they will eat them. The eggs hatch after 9 months and the babies are on their own to find food and survive. If adult Komodo Dragons find the babies, they eat them. I guess this is why Komodo Dragons are on the Endangered Species List! During our walk we got to see two dragons at a watering hole. They were not very active and just laid there hissing at us. There were probably 50 people around them about 20 feet away taking pictures. If they did attack, we were protected by some guides who had poles to poke at the dragons. Although there are about 1500 dragons on the island, seeing them while walking on the paths was not too likely. Just after our guide told us how unlikely it was for us to see any more, he spotted a young Komodo dragon, just off the path. We were told the best time to see the dragons was early in the morning and sometimes you would even seem them come down to the ocean. Although we didn’t see many of these creatures, it was pretty neat to see them in the wild on their home island.
The second part of our excursion was a boat ride to a pink sand beach where we could snorkel. It was only a half hour ride to the beach but during the ride we were served some Balinese food which was delicious! The boat ride itself was very enjoyable just to look at the great scenery around you. This was truly one of those beautifully exotic South Pacific islands that you always hear about. Komodo Island is part of Indonesia which is a country about the size of Australia on the map but with only 5% of the people and land mass. It is made up of hundreds of islands and has more volcanoes than any other country in the world. The whole country was created by the volcanoes and the ice age when the ocean water levels rose. Due to the large amount of rain, the island is covered in dense vegetation although when we were there they were actually having a dry spell. Regardless of how this island was created and what inhabits it, the island itself was a picture perfect South Pacific island.
The beach they took us to was a pink sand beach and the pink color seemed to roll in with the waves and then roll out again as the waves receded. You could see the pink the best when the water was still glistening in the sand. The pink color came from some beautiful red coral that was located in the reef. Chris snorkeled the reef and told us how beautiful the coral looked and how much fish life was there. He said it was a night and day difference than the Great Barrier Reef. He saw a shark, barracuda and even a school of Barramundi. To get to and from the beach we took small boats from the larger boats. It was a nice addition to the Komodo Dragon portion of the excursion. This island was definitely worth the port stop and we enjoyed our time here.
We arrived in Bali on February 27th and had an overnight stay here. We had arranged for a tour through Tours By Locals whom we have used many times. Our tour started a little later than hoped because of the slow tendering process from the ship and the lack of prioritization for passengers that had independent tours. This is often a problem when having to tender to a smaller port. Our guide, Putu (Gede Kardiasa), met us at the terminal and we began our drive out of the port. Traffic in Bali is very busy and it seems to take an hour or longer to get to anywhere on the island. We were originally going to head to the famous terraced rice fields but our driver asked if we were interested in seeing monkeys. Chris wanted to check it out.
We arrived at the Sangeh Monkey Forrest and paid the $1.50 admission fee. Our guide took us inside with one of the park staff workers to view the monkeys who are believed to be sacred and indeed will approach anyone paying respects at the temple. We were advised not to make contact with the monkeys, as they were certainly willing to jump on our shoulder or lap as long as someone was giving the monkey a few peanuts. The park had a pool of water for the monkeys. Originally we thought this was for drinking water but it turned out to be their swimming pool. It was hilarious to watch these monkeys swim around in this pool or do belly flops jumping from a nearby column. They played and had a great time. There were many baby monkeys hanging on to the bellies of their mothers as the mothers ran around. It was a very fun time in the Monkey Forest and very inexpensive (1.50 per person)!
From there we went to Uma Luang Sari for lunch. It was a local Balinese buffet restaurant that was very good. We were seated at tables that overlooked some of the famous rice terraces of Bali. It was interesting to look out over these truly unique terraces as you enjoyed an authentic Bali lunch.
After lunch we made a quick stop at a coffee plantation where they made Luwak coffee. This was a very special (and expensive) coffee where their animals (Luwaks) bite into and swallow the coffee beans. The beans are then collected the following day and processed to create a very smooth (yet strong) tasting coffee. We watched them roasting the beans in a kettle and tasted the coffee. We also tasted some different flavors of coffee and tea.
After the coffee plantation we went to Jatiluwih Green Land Rice Terraces which are an UNESCO site. This area is basically a small village with 230 people who have their own rice terraces spread out across their land. Each small family land plot is interlinked with each other to create fields of rice paddies that stretch out as far as the eye can see. They are located on some rolling hills and the terraces are needed to grow the rice on a level area. Rice must be grown on completely level ground in order to flood each small rice area with water. The rice plants must be constantly covered in water as they grow. Each terrace is completely level in order to hold the water while the rice grows. The edges of each terrace are dammed to hold the water in the area. What is even more fascinating is the irrigation system used in these rice fields. Bali gets a lot of rain throughout the year and the water is focused to these rice fields via small rivers, creeks and manmade canals. The small man made canals that does the last re-direction of the water to the fields are only about 2 feet in width but are deep enough to contain a steady water flow. As the water flows to a small rice field, another smaller canal is made to redirect some of this water. All fields of water redirected from these rivers and creeks. The beauty of the terraces is that the water fills the top terrace and then there is a small trench dug down to the next terrace level which allows that small area to be filled with water, and then there is another trench dug from that terrace to the next lower terrace and so on until every terrace is fed water from the top water source. All the irrigation is done be gravity! There are no pumps or sprinklers or any other forced way to get water to their crops. In some of the rice terraces you will see little water falls from one terrace to the next terrace. The water flowing down these canals flows at a very fast rate and the volume of water coming into these terraces is quite deceiving. These rice terraces are very fascinating!
Our next stop after the rice terraces was to visit the Temple Tanah Lot. We had hoped to arrive at the temple at sunset but arrived just a little later due to traffic and posted the best photos we were able to obtain. The temple is one of Bali’s most unique landmarks famed for its unique offshore setting and sunset backdrop. You can only walk to the temple during low tide. When the tide rises the temple is surrounded by water. This is a very famous and popular temple that Bali’s people go to during some of their religious holidays. The religious activities are all scheduled around the tides and when people can actually go to the temple. When the tides are too high to get to the temple, the people wait on the mainland where there is music and other activities to keep the people occupied until the tides lower and they can visit the temple again.
On our return back to the cruise port, we stopped at the local Benoa (the cruise port city in Bali) market where they sell fruits, vegetables, fish and meats almost 20 hours of the day. The market is currently located along a small river that runs through the city. This is a temporary location until the market building is completed. The original market place building burned down last year but it is supposed to re-open later this year. Although the river itself is very dirty the government has spent some money to beautify the area. They have added nice walk ways, lights and seating for the people. It is really a quite nice river walkway. The market place on the other hand is pretty dirty looking and smells pretty bad with the various fish sellers mixed in with the other vendors. It was very busy at 9PM when we walked through it.
Our last stop of the first day was at a local Spa where we made appointments for massages on the following day. Putu then took us back to the ship at around 10PM. It was a very full and enjoyable tour day. We made arrangements with our guide to pick us up the next day to take us to ride some ATVs in the rain forest as well as through town and rice fields.
The next morning we got up with the plans to be go on ATVs through the rice fields, rain forest, town, waterfalls, etc. The ride itself was very enjoyable. We drove along some of the rice paddies in some areas and into the rain forest in other areas. Much of the paths went up and down some very steep paths. The highlight of the trip was riding down a river bed with water flowing all around you. The river took us by a beautiful waterfall which you got a little wet when driving by it. The paths were well kept up for this ATV ride and would have been more difficult to ride on if there had been any fresh rain. At the end of the ride we were taken to a rice paddy filled with water where we raced around in a circle trying not to get too wet. For an hour and a half ride it only cost $50 a person.
After the ATVs we headed back to specialized spa for our massages! It was a good massage in a more traditional Asian method for only $50. It was the ideal relaxation after spending two days in Bali.
We made one additional stop in Indonesia to Semarang. Although we originally booked a temple tour through the ship we decided to cancel it. We had seen a lot of temples and the famous temple they take you to is a good 3 hour ride from the port. We couldn’t find any other excursion either through the ship or independently that looked interesting. The one thing the port did have was great internet and we took advantage of it to publish one of our blogs. Even walking around on the top deck of the ship to take photos, we couldn’t find anything too interesting. If anyone goes to this port in the future, you might just want to consider this another sea day unless you want to look at some temples.
This was our last port and we will be in Singapore after one sea day. We will spend 5 days in Singapore before flying back to Sydney to take a short 7 day cruise to New Caledonia before returning back to the US.
Greg and Sharon