One of the 7 Wonders of Nature, as voted by travellers, the Komodo National Park is one of the most inspiring place we have ever been to, both under and above the water.
Discovery Channel had a slogan back in the noughties: “The World. Is. Just. Awesome.” This phrase really sums up our feelings when we think of Indonesia’s Komodo National Park. To reach Komodo we sail east from Bali across the imaginary ‘Wallace line’, where the flora and fauna of subtropical Asia make a sudden and dramatic change into those typical of Australasia.
Few places in the world could possibly match the cultural and natural diversity we will experience in the islands beyond Bali: towering volcanoes, dry savannah landscapes, quiet coastal villages, emerald seas, and megalithic cultures. It was Burden’s 1932 voyage through this volcanic landscape that inspired the 1933 classic film King Kong..
Regularly voted the world’s best island, Bali, is the ideal starting point for your yacht charter holiday to Komodo National Park.
Despite its popularity, Bali retains its magical charm, cultural richness, and breathtaking beauty. Its exotic status began in the early 20th century when it was discovered by artists and became the backdrop for their creativity. Bali’s ominous volcanoes, terraced rice fields, gold sand beaches and flashes of cultural color make it an inviting place for any yacht charter adventure departing to Nusa Tenggara and the Komodo National Park.
Starting from Bali you can charter a yacht and sail across the imaginary Wallace line to the Komodo National Park and beyond, where the flora and fauna of subtropical Asia make a sudden and dramatic change into those typical of Australasia. In the islands of Nusa Tenggara (also known as the Lesser Sunda Islands) a fantastic diversity awaits the adventurous: climbing mountains, peering into volcanoes, trekking up to beautiful waterfalls, visiting rural villages, enjoying world-class surfing or scuba diving, exploring pristine beaches, or simply relaxing aboard the yacht while anchored in idyllic bays.
A yacht charter holiday here will show you that Indonesia’s cultural diversity is as varied as its natural diversity. Bali itself is a Hindu island with 1000’s of temples, and offers luscious green landscapes, terraced fields of Padi, and mountainous retreats that serve as a relaxing alternative to the buzzing parties found in and around Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. The neighbouring island of Lombok, on the other hand, is a muslim island with 1000’s of mosques and where shades of green turn to shades of brown and vast landscapes open up.
American sailors from Salem Massachussets made history in 1795 when they set sail on “secret voyage for ports unknown”. This true story opens a small window on the fascinating spice trade, schooners, and their colourful place in history..
The first known recorded sailing voyage from American shores to what is now known as Indonesia, was made aboard a Massachusetts schooner named “Rajah” in 1795. There are no drawings and very few descriptions of the Rajah, but it was likely a schooner typical of the US East Coast, with a foremast shorter than the main, 120 tons, approximately 100ft in length and 20ft wide, and in the style of its day the sails would have been gaff-rigged.
In 1795, before internal combustion engines, satellite navigation and communications what were the chances of survival if undertaking a voyage from the United States to the far east in search of spices? It is difficult to know exactly, as much depended on the skill of the captain and the accuracy of the maps available to him, but it may have been no better than a 50% chance of making it home. In today’s connected world it is very difficult to imagine how daunting such a voyage might have been, and how much courage and daring was required.
So the question is – what would motivate people to take such risks? For the merchants of Salem Massachusetts, the first from America to enter the spice trade, there were plenty of incentives: especially the idea of trading peppercorn with 700% profits.
Of all the distinctively flavoured seeds pepper is the most widely used, and for centuries it was the most valuable. In ancient times, pepper was so valuable that in Greece and Rome it was used as currency and during the middle ages, peppercorns were accepted in lieu of money for dowries, rent and taxes.
By the late 1700s pepper was ubiquitous and known as “king of the spices”, however it was only produced in the far east, and before pepper crossed the ocean to America, it made its way first through the hands of many middle-men making it a very high priced commodity. The Dutch East India company controlled much the trade of pepper in the 18th and 19th Centuries, which was being sourced from what is now known as Indonesia.
However, in 1795 this was about to change when Captain Carnes, a nephew of a Salem Merchant, commandeered a 120-ton schooner named “Rajah” and sailed on a “secret voyage for ports unknown”. In fact, Captain Carnes would sail a dangerous 26,000-mile round trip to reach Benkoelen, in Sumatra (Indonesia), and traded directly with the local rulers on the coastal areas to avoid the higher prices charged by Dutch merchants in Batavia.
By circumventing the monopoly on pepper then held by the Dutch he returned in 1797 loaded in bulk with a cargo of pepper which returned a 700 per cent profit. The owners of the schooner Rajah couldn’t wait to repeat the venture, and by 1805 the schooner Rajah had completed five trips to Sumatra, bringing back over 1200 tons of pepper.
The success of the Rajah stimulated other Salem merchants, to go into the pepper trade. Those who followed suit included George Crowninshield & Sons, Joseph Peabody, Abel Lawrence & Co., Nathaniel West, and Stephen Phillips making pepper a major source of income for Salem.
From that moment on it is said that almost 1000 ships from America would sail around the world working the spice trade for nearly one hundred years, and today the pioneers of the original historic voyages are commemorated at the Salem Spice Festival.
(Based on excerpts originally appearing in “F. Rosengarten, Jr. 1969. The Book Of Spices, p. 23–96, Jove Publ., Inc., New York”, and New York Times & New Yorker).
Indonesia hosts the largest archipelago in the world comprising 17,504 large and small tropical islands. The entire region is filled with stunning picture postcard sandy beaches to explore, many still uninhabited islands with a number even still unnamed, and a true feast of nature and beauty.
The entire region offers a truly rich diversity of ancient temples, music that ranges from the traditional to modern pop and live music, dances, rituals and ways of daily life that vary from island to island. Yet everywhere, visitors are welcomed by the warmth of the Indonesian people and their gracious innate friendliness.
Among the most well known islands of Indonesia are: Papua, Flores, Sumatra, Java, Bali, Kalimantan (formerly Borneo), Sulawesi (formerly Celebes), the Maluku Islands (better known as the Moluccas, the original Spice Islands).
Indonesia’s natural history is widely regarded as the world’s most varied and perhaps the most precious. Some 20% of the bird species found in Indonesia are not to be found anywhere else in the world, while 40% of the archipelago’s mammals are unique to this region
Indonesia’s location and geology means that the region is blessed with the most diverse landscape: from fertile ricelands on Java and Bali to the luxuriant rainforests of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi, to the savannah grasslands of the Nusatenggara Islands to snow-capped peaks of West Papua.
The region of Indonesia offers the world’s second highest level of biodiversity. Her wildlife ranges from the prehistoric giant Komodo lizard to the Orang Utan and the Java rhino, to the Sulawesi Anoa Dwarf Buffalo, to birds with exquisite plumage like the cockatoo and the famous Bird of Paradise. This is also the habitat of the Rafflesia, the World’s largest flower, wild orchids, an amazing variety of spices and aromatic hardwood and a large variety of fruit trees.
The underwater world here is a paradise for divers and snorkelers and is subsequently, world renowned. The waters here are an epicentre of biodiversity hosting the most diverse marine life than anywhere else on Earth!
Scientists have found in North Sulawesi the prehistoric coelacanth fish (a “living fossil” fish) that predates dinosaurs living some 400 million years ago. Whales migrate yearly through these waters from the South Pole.
Indonesia offers outstanding and exhilarating experiences for divers, snorkelers and underwater photographers of all levels.
In a few weeks time the Raja Laut will be setting sail for the Maluku Islands. If you have not heard of the Maluku islands before you’re not alone. Today they are an isolated group of islands which lie off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The islands do however have another name, a much older name, which recalls a very different time for the islands, they are the “Spice Islands”.
There are in fact, a few places in the world that lay claim to be the “spice islands” but the Maluku Islands were certainly the original and the most important. For centuries the trade of spices from east to west made people incredible wealthy. Almost no one had an overall picture of the trade and people in Europe had no idea of where the spice were coming from.
At one time the Maluku islands were the only source for spices, such as nutmeg and cloves, on the face of the planet. The extraordinary profitability of the spice trade had created power struggles thought history. The ancient Egyptians traded in spices, as did the Greeks and the Romans, but with the fall of the Roman Empire, Spices were hardly seen in Europe for 500 years until the Crusaders reopened the trade route. The return of spices to Europe made some areas very rich, such as Venice which rose and fell with the spice trade.
Some of the great explorers of the world – Marco Polo, Columbus, Magellen and Drake – were driven to find the source of the Spices and therefore “cut out” the middle men, and make massive profits. When Columbus set out to west he was not looking for the Americas he was looking for a new route to the Spice islands.
It was Magellan who in the early 16th century opened up the way to the Spice islands and the rest of Europe where not far behind: the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and the British all left their footprints on the islands. But it was the Portuguese and the Dutch that fought each other for control of the island group, building forts and ruling the area with an iron fist.
The British took control of the islands for a very short period of time, after their victory in the Napoleonic wars. It had been impossible to get live seeds off the islands for hundreds of years, now the British had open access to them. They quickly went about cultivating spices in their other colonies. This ended the monopoly on spices that the Maluku islands had held for over a millennium and their importance quickly diminished.
Today the islands offer a magnificent experience to any visitor. With over a thousand islands in the group, being on a yacht is a great way to explore the area. Each island has it own story, traditions, and geography: from towering volcanic slopes to idyllic coral islands.