Indonesia Photo Tour Day 15 & 16

By Michelle Alten

A mammoth wooden ship being build on Sangeang Island
Ship builders on Sangeang Island

A mammoth wooden ship protrudes from the jungle onto a black sand beach, like an infant emerging from the island’s womb.   Men climb around the vessel drilling holes for giant wooden pegs.  They have been building the ship for one year out of ironwood, starting with the outer shell. Next will come the giant ribs that will reinforce the hull.  Emerging from my cabin, I am stunned at the scene before me.


On Sangeang Island we explore the part-time beach community where people, evicted because of an active volcano, return to tend their gardens and livestock.  Bands of water buffalo wander the beach and cool themselves in the sea.  Goats run along sandy paths between huts while women sit on wooden platforms weaving colorful sarongs on simple looms.  

Girl carrying a goat on Sangeang Island
Woman weaving on Sangeang Island

By evening, we arrive at an island where a pink corral beach promises paradise.  But then we see it, a fringe of plastic that lines the beach.  It is heart breaking.  Snorkeling, we explore the reef where a stunning array of parrot fish, blue spotted rays, lavender-colored sea stars, and needle fish slip in and out of spectacular corral.  I soak in the underwater kaleidoscope thinking of how the plastic will impact the sea’s marvelous creatures.

Problem of our times: PLASTIC! Something needs to be done!
White-bellied sea eagle

Rinca, a group of islands belonging to Komodo National Park, creates a ring of peaks, towers, grassy slopes, and pristine white beaches embracing the sea.  Raucous currents dash between the islets. At a ranger station on shore, Komodo dragons warm themselves in the morning sun.  We hike to an overlook crowning a spectacular view of the bay below.  As we take in the view, one of the rangers sees the opportunity to tell me about the recently announced outcome of the Indonesian election and the recent demonstrations in Jakarta.  I have just finished reading Tim Hannigan’s fascinating Brief History of Indonesia: Sultans, Spices, and Tsunamis: The Incredible Story of Southeast Asia’s Largest Nation.  We have been away from news on the ship, and now I believe I am listening to the book’s unwritten next chapter.

The Wolfies on Rinca Island
Komodo dragon on Rinca Island
Komodo dragon sunbathing on Rinca Island

In the afternoon some of us climb up Padar Island in Komodo National Park for amazing views of the rugged hills.

View from Padar Island
Padar Island
Padar Island sunset