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Jane Archer: The day I was snapped with a dragon

Join leading cruise journalist Jane Archer as she sails around Indonesia

Cruises to Indonesia

Posted on

31 Oct 2018

Uwe and I are peering at a map trying to find out where we are. We know we are in Indonesia and we know we are not at Moyo Island, where we’re supposed to be. But Wera, the town where we actually are, is nowhere to be seen.

On most cruise ships, you’d consult a map on screens around the public areas or the cabin TV. On Star Clippers sailing ships, you pop along to the bridge and ask one of the officers. Life on these ships is deliciously relaxed. If things don’t quite go according to the itinerary, well, so be it. “We always need a plan B, C, D or E,” Captain Sergey told us in a talk about the challenges of sailing ships that rely largely on the wind. Bare feet and swimming costumes are all you need for trips to the beach, you can leave dressy attire at home and if you want to know anything about navigation, the bridge is always open.

Mission accomplished, I reported back to Uwe, repeated what I had just learned about the adverse currents and winds we had battled through in the night and pointed to the place on the map where Wera would be - in the northeast corner of the island of Sumbawa since you ask - if the cartographer had thought to add it. I’d already been for a look around the town. It was small, overlooked by a majestic volcano and fronted by a beach on which several boats were under construction. A young lad with perfect English proudly pointed to the men working on them before showing me some of the houses.

Star Clippers launched one week island hopping cruises from Phuket in Thailand in December 2016 and last year added voyages in Indonesia like the one I was on. Also even nights, they run from June to October, sailing either eastbound or westbound from Benoa in Bali. Like many of my fellow passengers, I had chosen the eastbound route because it visited Komodo Island, the land of the eponymous dragons. Unlike the mythical creatures of the storybooks, they are not fire-breathing and don’t even fly. Instead, they are scary lizards that grow 10 feet long or more and eat deer, pigs and even their own babies (the young ones live high up in the trees until they are old enough to either stand and fight or run!) They have also killed 10 humans over the past 40 years, which is why each of the groups from the ship was led by a guide armed with a stick and had a minder, also carrying a stick, to bring up the rear. “Stay behind the guide and don’t take food ashore as the smell attracts the animals,” we were warned in the daily port talk by cruise director Andrea. Given their penchant for humans, we didn’t need telling twice.

It was an amazing day. We hiked around Komodo, saw four dragons including one large beast that seemed to be posing for the obligatory me with dragon picture and then set sail for an afternoon of swimming and snorkelling on nearby Pink Beach. A scuba diving instructor cruising with us also organised dives for both beginners and experts. Star Clipper docks in Benoa at the start and end of the cruise but the rest of the time you go ashore in tenders and inflatable Zodiacs, often switching from one to the other before a wet landing onto a beach. You need to be quite agile to do it and also ok with stairs as there are no lifts on the ship. A few cabins on the open decks have large windows but most accommodation is below stairs with a porthole. The rooms are snug and comfortable, with TV’s, DVD players and ensuite bathrooms.

Pink Beach was beautiful and we also had a lovely few hours to swim or hike on the island of Satonda but Star Clippers had kept the best to last. A whole day on tiny Gili Sudak with a beach BBQ thrown in. It was a gloriously hot day so I walked around the island, treated myself to a burger from the barbie, swam and snorkelled. And then, when everyone had returned from the beach, we got back in the tenders and watched as all of Star Clipper’s sails were hoisted. Imagine - 36,000 square feet of canvas billowing in the wind as the sun started to set. I didn’t want the moment to end.

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