The Indonesian island of Bali represents an oxymoron. The city center of Denpasar is crammed with hotels and tourist activity. It is renowned for its highly developed arts, including dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music.
The countryside is picturesque incorporating rice paddies flooding the hillsides and volcanoes reaching to the skies. The rain-forests are lush and tropical, and the beaches are washed by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The island is home to the vast majority of Indonesia's small Hindu minority.
Loh Liang is the entry point to the world renowned Komodo National Park. The national park was established in 1980 to conserve the unique Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) and its habitat. These prehistoric creatures are among the world's largest reptiles, growing to over 3 metres long and weighing over 70kg.
After landing on the beach you will be met by local Park Rangers and after a short briefing head off in search of the dragons. The dragons are in their natural habitat so sightings are not guaranteed, however the chance of sighting a dragon is very high. Pink Beach, just a short distance away from Loh Liang and still part of Komodo National Park, is so named because of the red organ pipe coral (Tubipora musica) that contributes to the sand on this spectacular beach. Swimming, snorkelling, sea kayaking or just relaxing on the beach are all options available for you today - make the most of your time on this world famous beach.
The Maluku region, probably more familiar to most as "the Moluccas" (as the area was previously known) is truly a collection of forgotten islands located just north of Australia. Sitting between New Guinea and Timor it is part of Wallacea, the legendary deep water area that separates the Australian and Asian continental plates.
The south west corner of Maluku, part of the predominately Christian area of Indonesia, is virtually inaccessible but is home to numerous stunning islands with fringing reefs and ancient cultures. Very few outsiders have ever set foot on these islands and a unique experience is guaranteed as you discover the "Forgotten Islands" of Maluku.
Your visit will be to the tiny island of Kisar, which serves as the official entry point into the archipelago. Kisar has over 400 years of European history and despite being only a few hundred miles off the coast of Australia, its European history is virtually unknown.
After berthing and completing formalities you will be transferred to the town center for a welcome ceremony at the former Dutch colonial residence. In small groups with local guides you will be invited to explore the island’s history including visits to remnant architecture from the Dutch period which includes a stone church and a stone fort both over 400 years old. In addition, visit the Oirata village where cultural performances and displays will entertain you.
This traditional village in the Tanimbar islands of Maluku is the center of the ancient "boat" culture of Maluku. In the center of the village is a stone boat. Not a boat that was ever meant to float, but a boat built to symbolize the arrival from the sea of the original inhabitants of Maluku. Most villages simply abandoned their giant stone boats and the culture that was attached when they were moved to the coast. But Sangliat Dol was different. Although on the coast a steep rise starting immediately from the foreshore meant that the original village built for safety and security on the hill top, was already close to the coast. The village of Sangliat Dol was therefore not required to move during the colonial period and the legacy of that is their giant stone boat and the culture associated with it remains intact today. A giant stone stair case leads from the beach to the hill top ceremonial area.
The village structure still follows the organization of a boat today. The village head is seen as the Captain or Master "steering" the direction of the village. Many other positions of the village basically translate as "helmsman" "harpooner" "bailer boy" and other boat related names. There are two further figures in the structure the "herald" or "speaker" who is the father of the village and speaks for the village (traditionally basically in times of war) and the "sacrificer" or mother of the village. The mother and father of the village represent the cooperation as in a marriage to ensure the continuing existence of the village. For your visit and for other important events a massive ritual takes place surrounding the stone boat. Traditionally all village decisions would revolve around such a ceremony.
After the ceremony the six host families will take their adopted guests on a mini-tour of the village, including seeing the host families housing and cooking areas, an ikat weaving display, and a market area selling ikat weavings, wooden carvings very similar to those found in new Guinea and possible even old Dutch artifacts such as plates and coins.
At the end of the morning, as guests finish at the markets they will descend the staircase, again with dozens of locals assisting, back to the beach, the zodiacs, and the ship for lunch.
The remainder of the day after the visit to Sangliat Dol will be spent at Weluan Beach outside of Saumlaki town, the capital of Yamdena and the main administrative area for southern Maluku. Here a wide range of local artifacts including many carvings that almost resemble the style found slightly further east in New Guinea, can be found and purchased if desired.
Other products such as the local eucalyptus oil and a potent spirit distilled from the inflorescence of the sugar palm will also be on display. The brave may even sample this distilled liquor! Swimming and rides in local sailing canoes will be available and a giant Christ Statue, (not quite in the same league as Rio!), overlooks the beach giving spectacular views of the beach and nearby township.
Thursday Island (traditionally known as Waiben) is recognized as one of the last frontiers in Australia, as it holds some great Australian history. At the Torres Strait Museum, learn about the feared Russian invasion of 1898. Had it eventuated, the invaders would have been greeted with a salvo from the 6-inch guns which still peer out over the ocean approach from Green Hill Fort, now home of the museum. Wander through pearlers’ cemeteries where stories of this once dangerous occupation are revealed. Or take in brilliant panoramic vistas of the surrounding islands and tropical seas from Lions Lookout.
The Gab Titui (Star of our Journey) Cultural Center is a place where Orion guests can discover the rich diversity of the Torres Strait Islander people. It is the region’s first public keeping place for historical and cultural artifacts and tools, as well as both modern and traditional art.
This officially unnamed section of reef, which has been christened Orion Reef, is one of the most diverse and interesting snorkeling areas on the Great Barrier Reef. It is home to a profusion of marine life in the turquoise waters ranging from starfish and anemones to multicolored tropical fish, reef sharks and turtles.
Set in the far northern section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and on the true outer Reef, Orion Reef lies far from the potentially damaging effects of population or agricultural run off. The naturally clean and clear water in this part of the Marine Park provides ideal conditions for a healthy reef environment.
This morning Orion will take position at Orion Reef affording guests a unique and spectacular opportunity for swimming and snorkeling. With a mask and a pair of fins Orion guests are invited to enter the crystal clear waters from one of the Zodiacs or from a small sand cay. Enjoy the amazing experience of snorkeling over this pristine and seldom visited section of the Reef which is alive with corals and teeming with tropical fish.
The Cairns region is internationally recognized for world-class attractions, superb natural features and friendly north Queensland hospitality. It is the focal point for the magnificent World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and is surrounded by tropical rainforests. Visitors enjoy browsing at indigenous art galleries, shopping at the night markets and dining out on multicultural cuisine in the many restaurants along the esplanade.