I always enjoy my holidays in the vivacious tropics of Bali, but this time I wanted to dive deeper into the culture that lies beneath the showy surface. Thanks to Amanda from Indonesian Island Sail I was able to take my family on board the luxury pirate ship Al Iikai to discover a new side of Indonesia on a cruise unlike any other.
The Al Iikai - Queen of the Seas
The Al Iikai is a traditional Pinisi sailing boat, hand-built from ironwood. After many years of cruising the islands of Indonesia in other ships, Australian-born Amanda decided it was about time she applied her expertise to her own vessel. Amanda’s experience in managing quality villas in East Bali is reflected in Al Iikai’s renovated staterooms, which now hold only 16 guests as opposed to the original 32. There are six large bedrooms, one of which is a family room with a double bed and three bunks, and all rooms boast their own ensuites.
Amanda has a passion for food, and there was an abundance of delicious cuisine cooked up in the enormous galley. The meals were a mix of traditional Indonesian with a few Western favourites, and all food allergies and preferences were well catered for.
Exploring Indonesian paradise
Our ten-day trip from Bali to Komodo was a truly amazing experience. Days were spent exploring islands, relaxing on deserted beaches, and snorkelling glorious reefs - Manta Alley was my favourite snorkel spot but it had some tough competition! Meeting local villagers, sipping cocktails at seaside resorts and relaxing in the sunshine on board the ship were just a few of our daily delights.
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Another highlight was a visit to the island of Satonda, a collapsed volcano with a crater lake that is great for a dip - the water has a higher salt content than the sea! The story goes that after the volcano erupted, a tsunami wave washed over the lip of the volcano, creating the picturesque lake that exists there today.
My kids also really enjoyed a spontaneous game of soccer with the local school kids in the village of Wera, on Sumbawa Island. This region is renowned for its weaving and boat building, and we were thrilled to see the wooden boats on the beach, mid-construction. Everywhere you looked, someone was weaving a brightly coloured masterpiece.
Who doesn’t want to rope swing off the top of a waterfall? While on Pulau Moyo we went for a gorgeous walk through the small village and surrounding rice paddies before taking a winding track through the rainforest to the waterfall. We all had the time of our lives splash landing in the deep pool at the base of the fall.
On the final day we geared up for our much anticipated trip to Komodo Island, where we were able to hike and see the magnificent Komodo dragons in their natural habitat. Our experienced guide had so much valuable knowledge about the island and the creatures, and ensured our excursion impacted the environment as little as possible.
The Al Iikai difference
Having a maximum of 16 guests and 10 crew members makes this experience vastly different from a regular cruise. You get a wealth of flexibility and personalised attention, and the ship’s two tenders mean that one group can go snorkelling and the other can head to the beach if the need arises.
It didn't feel like your typical commercial operation; we did hit on some popular tourist spots but also many out-of-the-way areas. Most of the time it was just five or six of us wandering through a remote village, which was a truly amazing experience for my kids.
The crew were all fantastic - we loved Ricci's foot massages and Suci certainly made sure we were never hungry. This really was a great adventure, thanks to Amanda and her crew for providing us with something "beyond Bali"!
*Photos courtesy of Indonesian Island Sail