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Cruising Adventures! Maluku children

Spice Traders, Island Tramps and Sea Gypsies

with Jeffrey Mellefont - Example 12 Day Cruise aboard Ombak Putih
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This 12-day voyage over ancient monsoon sailing routes, on a traditional wind ship, takes in some of the most remote – and lovely – of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, from the Moluccas via the Sula Archipelago to Sulawesi. It reveals the true nature of this island nation, a maritime crossroads of sea-borne trade, migration, and cultures. This story of rare spices, traders, slavers and pirates, ship builders and sea-gypsies unfolds day by day courtesy of special guest lecturer from the Australian National Maritime Museum, Jeffrey Mellefont. At each new landfall on these secluded islands and coasts meet diverse, welcoming local cultures, exploring a maritime world that includes beaches of shimmering white, yellow or volcanic sands, coral gardens, and abundant marine life.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Ternate | Embark
Day 2 : Bacan Island
Day 3 : Bacan Island
Day 4 : Belang Island
Day 5 : Sula Archipelago
Day 6 : Sula Archipelago
Day 7 : Sulawesi
Day 8 : Sulawesi
Day 9 : Morowali National Park
Day 10 : Padea Islands
Day 11 : Pulau Wowoni
Day 12 : Kendari | Disembark


  • Discover Tidore, a perfect volcanic cone with graceful clove plantations
  • Snorkel around the coast of the charming and uninhabited Kusu islet
  • Explore Belang Island's crystal waters via paddle board and kayak
  • Visit a bustling market and the modest palace of Sulawesi's sultan


Ombak Putih

Places Visited


Trip Type

  • Small Ship

Activity Level


Trip Snapshots

Cruising Adventures! Maluku children Cruising Adventures! Cruising Adventures! Dutch Fort Ternate Cruising Adventures! Cruising Adventures!

Day 1 Ternate | Embark

Board the Ombak Putih, at her spectacular anchorage beneath the towering Mt Gamalama. On board, you’ll be given a general briefing and a chance to meet your fellow guests before going ashore to explore Ternate City. One of the four, historically powerful Moluccan spice sultanates, Ternate is still a vital trading outlet for fragrant cloves, nutmeg and mace. From here, the great 19th-century English naturalist, Alfred Russell Wallace, penned his famous ‘Letter from Ternate’ to Charles Darwin on the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. Visit the splendid 17th-century, pagoda-style royal mosque, and the Sultan’s Palace with its rich collection of heirlooms. There’s a choice of forts to visit, such as well-restored Fort Tolukko (Portuguese, 1540), signifying the turbulent centuries of spice wars fought by Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English rivals. Hopefully, there will be time to visit the mysterious Tolire Besar crater lake. Believed to be bottomless, the lake is said to be protected by hundreds of white crocodiles that only a few can see. Another bizarre local legend maintains that if you attempt to throw any rocks into the lake, they will never touch the surface because of a mystical exception to the law of gravity over the water.

Day 2 Bacan Island

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Crossing the Equator overnight, wake up in the southern hemisphere at Bacan Island, another seat of the historic spice Sultanates. Go ashore at the village of Goro-Goro, walking up a rainforest-clad river valley. Bacan is where Alfred Russel Wallace discovered the golden birdwing butterfly and the giant mason bee, ‘Chalicodomapluto’. Keep a close watch for these and a whole host of other species, some of them endemic, including parrots, cockatoos, lorikeets, hornbills and the elusive cuscus. See some rare black macaques – the only monkey species in Maluku because this is the wrong side of the Wallace Line for monkeys; these ones were introduced from North Sulawesi. After lunch motor around the coast to the uninhabited Kusu Islet, snorkelling from the ship’s tenders.

Day 3 Bacan Island

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Labuha is a small port town on the island of Bacan. Here, you can visit the Bacan Sultan Palace, and the Barneveld Fort, which was built by the Portuguese in 1558 but was then taken by the SpanishIn November 1609 a Dutch fleet stormed the fort and massacred all of the people inside. In 1696 the Dutch handed over Fort Barneveld to Sultan Alawaddien of Ternate. Explore the area around the fort and visit a place where the locals sell a natural ‘chrysocolla in chalcedony’ colour-changing gemstone to make jewellery. Bacan stone is a clear dark green or a lighter bluish green or blue. Upon your return to the Ombak Putih, the boat will cross to a small island near Bacan for snorkelling.

Day 4 Belang Island

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Anchor off deserted, white-sand Belang Belang Island to spend the morning swimming, snorkeling crystal waters, or playing on the ship’s paddle boards and kayaks. Over lunch sail to nearby Obi Latu Island, going ashore at the isolated village of Manatahan. Settled just a few generations ago by roaming Butonese mariners from their islands to the southeast of Sulawesi, its steep hills are covered with attractive groves of clove trees. View cloves, nutmeg, and mace drying on mats laid on village pathways. The surrounding seas, once dotted with the sails of spice trading galleys, Portuguese caravels, Spanish galleons, Dutch yachts, and English pinnaces are now plied by locally built outrigger dugouts, sampans, island ferries, and a few old trading sloops still working under sail.

Day 5 Sula Archipelago

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Today reach the remote Sula Archipelago, where you are least likely to encounter a single foreign visitor! These obscure islands are the cultural crossroads of Maluku and Sulawesi. Sanana is the capital of the Sulas, located on Sulabesi, the southernmost of the three main islands. In the distant past, the Sula archipelago was forcibly controlled by the Tidore Sultanate, and Sulabesi became a port of call for spice traders.  Here, visit de Verwachting Fort, which was built by the Sultan of Ternate in 1623. In front of the gate, there are Arabisch sentences, but no one can explain the meaning. From the fort you can stroll around the ciy, visit the market and interact with the locals. There are some beautiful beaches in the area and you should be able to go snorkelling in the afternoon.  

Day 6 Sula Archipelago

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
After cruising along the southern shore of Mangoli Island, reach Taliabu Island, where you will go ashore at the small Muslim village of Waikoka. Generally, the entire village takes an interest and hordes of children will most likely accompany you. This village was hit by a tsunami in 1999 and many of the residents relocated inland. Reach the new settlement by a picturesque path winding through extensive coconut groves. Later, expect a warm welcome at the Christian hamlet of Mantarara on the southern shore of Taliabu. This is a community of Kadai people, the indigenous tribe of Taliabu, and the kids will perform a the cakalele war dance originating in the Kadai’s pre-Christian past. With the right tides you can also visit a hot spring or explore a forest river that flows over sandbars into the sea.

Day 7 Sulawesi

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Entering the region of Sulawesi, Mbuang-Mbuang – in the Bokan Islands southeast of Banggai Island – will be your first stop.  This beautiful area is also known the “Raja Ampat of Banggai Laut”. There are many natural attractions here: caves, beaches and snorkelling spots, but the most unusual is Paisu Batongan Lake. This rare, saltwater lake offers the opportunity to swim amongst many thousands of stingless jellyfish, which have living algae within their bodies that, just like plants, photosynthesise in sunlight. The algae produce what is essentially a form of sugar, which the jellyfish metabolise, and this is how they gain the energy to propel and migrate through the water, grow and reproduce. The jellyfish swim toward the sunrise each morning until they reach the shadows on the lake’s far eastern edge. Ensuring that they are always in sunlight during the daytime, they become a living wall of jellies, hovering near the shadowed lakeshore. Later take time to explore the area and snorkel in the sea before moving to Banggai

Day 8 Sulawesi

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Approaching the big island of Sulawesi, the scenic Banggai group of islands, small and large, are still remote and very little-known. Banggai’s main port is a lively hub for colourful interisland ferries. Here enjoy a tour in chartered ‘Bentor’ – raffish two-passenger motorcycle rickshaws that will turn heads as your flotilla of foreigners motors through town. Visits include a bustling market and the modest timber palace of the local sultan. There’s an unusual, sacred community gathering-house whose revered elders guard its pre-Islamic rituals and cult objects – happily co-existing with the mainstream mosques of this Muslim port town. Nearby is an island that’s something of a beachcomber’s retreat, where you can enjoy paddle-boarding, kayaking or snorkelling from the beach.

Day 9 Morowali National Park

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Leave early with the ship’s tenders to visit the Morowali National Park, hoping to meet the last indigenous tribe of Sulawesi. The semi-nomadic Wana people have a shamanistic, animist culture that’s unique in Indonesia. It’s based on shifting agriculture, hunting with blowpipes and snares, fishing and harvesting forest products such as rattan and damar. Morowali comprises lowland alluvial forest, mountain forest, swamp forest, mangrove forest and moss forest. Wana guides lead you up-river and through dense forest – thankfully flat going, and with crew members carrying your pre-packed lunches! Note: you are always advised of likely walking conditions, leaving guests the option of choosing a quiet day at anchor.

Day 10 Padea Islands

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Today explore Umbele village in the Salabengka archipelago, which is inhabited by a mix of local people and Bajo people, or sea gypsies. If you’re lucky you will see Banggai cardinal fish hovering in groups around their stilt houses. The tranquil bays of Banggai and its neighbouring islands are the only places on Earth where you can see these tiny, exquisite fish in their natural habitat. Sadly, they may soon be gone from the wild because they are being collected for the aquarium trade faster than they can reproduce in nature. From here you will head to nearby Labengke. In this pretty cluster of hilly, jungle-clad islands, you can snorkel, kayak and paddle board from a deserted white-sand beach.

Day 11 Pulau Wowoni

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
After cruising down the mountainous eastern shore of Sulawesi, reach the isolated Padea Islands to visit the Sama-Bajo village on the coral cay, Samaringa. Here, you will meet more of the famed sea-gypsies, the Bajo (or Bajau Laut) people – some of the last true marine nomads who for centuries belonged to no nation and lived exclusively from the sea. In the last few decades, however, they have been forced to settle permanently on uninhabited scraps of islands, often building their stilt-houses on reefs or over tidal zones. Yet your cheerful hosts are still exclusively sea people, fishing, farming seaweed, harvesting beche-de-mer or trochus pearl-shell. From Samarengga island you will be looking for a small island where you can anchor and snorkel offshore. Finish the final full day of your cruise with a great farewell party as a fitting celebration of a fantastic voyage.

Day 12 Kendari | Disembark

  • 1 Breakfast
Your journey ends at Kendari, and after breakfast and farewells to the tour guides and crew, you will be transferred to the airport for your homeward or onward travel.

Ombak Putih

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Cabin Deck
Cabin Deck. Spacious, air-conditioned twin-share cabins with twin bunks or double beds and private bathroom with toilet and hot shower.


- All rates are quoted in USD and represent cost per person, based on double occupancy.
- Cabins are available for single occupancy at 1.75 times the published rate.

Note: The cruise departs from Ternate in the Maluku islands. Airfare is not included in the tour package. 

Rates Include:
  • Accommodation in air-conditioned cabins with private shower and toilet
  • Full board, tea and coffee, soft drinks, mineral water
  • Excursions
  • Use of towels
  • Use of snorkeling gear
  • Experienced tour leader
  • Transfer to and from the ship in all harbors 
Rates Exclude:
  • Domestic airfares
  • Personal insurance
  • Social alcoholic beverages
  • Crew gratuities
Payment & Cancellation Policies
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