Bali by Sea
Alison, Adventure World’s Digital Marketing Manager, has just returned from an incredible Star Clippers’ sailing. Take to the seas with Star Clipper
through her eyes, to discover this Indonesian island and its enchanting neighbours.
It may be difficult to believe, but I’m an Australian and I’ve never been to Bali. Friends and family have sung the praises of this Indonesian island over the years, talking of the lush green rice paddies of Ubud, the vibrant restaurants and bars of Seminyak, the beautiful beaches of Nusa Dua and Legian, and the flavours, music and culture of this island. Located only a hop and a skip from mus, Bali, and the rest of the Indonesian archipelago, was firmly on my bucket list, so I was thrilled that I’d have the chance to discover the allure of these islands. With one slight difference… I would be sailing the Java Sea on board a replica nineteenth-century sailing vessel, the 170-passenger Star Clipper.
The elegant, towering masts of the Star Clipper are visible as I arrive at the port of Benoa to embark on a seven night journey that will take me northwest of Bali, to East Madura Island and Java, before returning to explore Bali’s north and the island of Lombok. There’s a warm welcome as I arrive on board to a complimentary glass of champagne– it’s the perfect way to start a voyage. We depart at sunset, the majestic sails raised aloft as we leave the harbour and reach for the high seas, accompanied by the stirring sounds of Vangelis’ ‘Conquest of Paradise’.
New friends are made at dinner that evening, and the following day at sea offers plenty of opportunity to explore our home for the next week. We’re briefed on the ins and outs of the ship and are introduced to her crew by cruise director Peter. He is a fount of knowledge when it comes to the Star Clipper herself, and we learn that she is a 1992 four-mast barquentine, and the first clipper in this class built since 1912. The teak decks, mahogany rails and Edwardian-style decor are certainly reminiscent of a bygone era, and life slows to a similarly traditional pace, with plenty of time and space, from the bowsprit net at the fore to the deck chairs and plunge pool to the aft, to relax.
With activities taking place throughout the day, the choice is mine to do as much or as little as I like, and so I visit the library to learn more about nautical navigation and charts from Marika, who is studying to become a navigation officer in her native Poland.
The following day, the skies are overcast as we set off in one of the ship’s tenders to explore the island of East Madura, with a chance to visit the Kraton, or traditional palace, in Sumenep. The palace dates back to 1750 and was home to the Madurese royal family who ruled here until 1929. In the palace gardens are the Taman Sari bathing pools, once used by the royal women but now occupied by fat golden carp who swim lazily in circles as raindrops ripple the surface of the water.
The rain grows heavier as we travel the quiet streets of the city to the Asta Tinggi Cemetery, where the royal family lies in tombs decorated with carved and painted panels.
Back at the port, we board the tender once more to return to the comfort of the Star Clipper for the evening. “Does anyone know where the ship is?” says the officer at the helm of the tender as it bobs through the waves and driving rain. “Just kidding,” he adds, laughing, as the masts of the ship come into view.
In no time, I’m back on board and in some warm, dry clothes to enjoy an evening talent show by the crew, followed by the dulcet tones of Antonio, the one-man band who provides dinner music and dance tunes for the voyage. The crew members seem to enjoy the show as much as the guests and, late in the night as the ship travels under sail to our next stop on Java, there’s a lively atmosphere in the Tropical Bar.
The next morning, we arrive at Probolinggo, a bustling fishing village in East Java. Once onshore we begin the climb to the caldera of Mount Bromo. Our vehicle is an ancient, mint-green Land Rover, covered in rally stickers and with a dashboard that’s no more complicated than an unused cigarette lighter, ashtray and choke lever.
The road winds through villages perched precariously on the ridges above. Farmhouses dot the landscape and row upon row of vibrant green crops contrast against the rich volcanic soil. Towards the end of the trip up the mountain the road narrows and becomes bumpier as the convoy races around bends and over dips. Stopping at a viewpoint, there’s a chance to take in the scale of the volcano and witness the otherworldly spectacle of smoke plumes rising from craters in the middle of a sandy plain.
The volcano has long been of significance to the local community, playing a part in rituals where people make offerings of rice, vegetables and flowers to the mountain gods. Even today many still climb to the crater’s edge to throw colourful garlands into the abyss below, and each year a ceremony is held at the Hindu temple that sits on the plain beneath.
All too soon my time on Java has come to an end and it’s time to head back to the Star Clipper, where I’ll soon be tucking into a delicious dinner, sharing tales of the day with fellow passengers. Unlike many other cruise lines, Star Clippers offers free seating in the dining room, allowing for a more relaxed experience and creating a friendly atmosphere among the guests.
Many of the passengers aboard this inaugural westbound exploration of Indonesia have sailed with Star Clippers before, and they all tell similar stories of their love of sailing, not only aboard the Star Clipper, but also her sister ship, Star Flyer, and the largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world, Royal Clipper. As Peter explained on the first day at sea, “The crew members love to sail, and any opportunity they get to hoist the sails they will take.” In fact, passengers are welcome on the deck at any time and encouraged to participate in assisting the crew to hoist the sails, or for the braver few, climb the mast to the crow’s nest.
The last full day aboard Star Clipper dawns bright and clear, perfect weather for a beach barbecue on the island of Gili Sudak, just off Lombok. There’s a chance to wander along the white sandy shore, dip toes in the crystal-clear water, or try my hand at some of the water sports on offer, such as stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and even water skiing.
The tender ferries guests to and from the ship and Peter announces we’re in for a treat this evening. It seems the weather gods have smiled upon this voyage and we’ll have the chance to see the ship in all her glory, under full sail, at sunset. It’s a spectacular sight. The light changes and this magnificent vessel is silhouetted against a stunning golden sky.
The journey has come to an end and the islands of Indonesia have revealed their enchantment, from stunning white sand beaches to beautiful temples and wondrous landscapes. A journey of discovery unlike any other aboard the majestic Star Clipper has given me a taste of the allure of this truly special way to explore.
Currently we have a great deal on Star Clippers' sailing out of Bali if you book before the 31st of July 2018 for selected sailings. Check out the deal here
, or you can view their brochure online
, enquire now
or speak to your local travel agent.