My balance is off and the ground is swaying under me. The air seems stagnant and windless and I’m annoyed to be wearing shoes. Back on the tiny Indonesian island of Gili Air, we seem to be suffering from acute land sickness after our ten days at sea. Or maybe it’s just from last night’s cocktail hour to celebrate our return to solid ground.
A few weeks ago, Seb noticed a sign for a live aboard dive cruise to Komodo National Park. Having obtained our PADI certification in Thailand, and knowing our love for boats, it seemed like the perfect way to see another side of the varying countryside of Indonesia, and we signed up for it on the spot. The cruise was to take place over seven and a half days, plus 2 days return to the Gilis aboard the Lambo, a 24-meter traditional Indonesian wooden sailboat.
Though excited about the dives and scenery, we really didn’t know what to expect from week-long life at sea – the longest we’ve stayed on a boat was about half a day. Now back on solid land, it’s hard to say which aspect we loved the most: the world-class scuba sites, or the experience living aboard. In either case, the combination of the two made for one of our favorite travel memories and one all around sensory experience.
Every morning, our small group of divers sipped coffee while Alex, our director, gave dive briefings with a pastel painted sunrise as a backdrop. Every day brought a new landscape of rolling green-carpeted islands floating by in a bright spectrum of cerulean blues. Every evening, we lounged on the open roof deck to watch the rose gold bursting sunsets fade to rich violet night. Every night, we marveled at the brilliantly sparkling white stars in the clear black sky and the equally brilliantly sparkling blue phosphorescent plankton in the clear black ocean.
I’ll write a separate post specifically about the incredible things we saw under the sea, but there was more than enough visual fodder to keep entertained just on deck. All we had to do was sit back and let the three dimensional footage unroll before our eyes.
The first two days of our voyage saw us charging through the waters of Lombok Strait with the constant drone of the large boat motor. As soon as we reached the 28-island paradise of Komodo National Park, the crew hoisted the shiny blue sail and we were left only with the sound of lapping waves and whistling wind. At night, the rythmic rocking and sometimes surprisingly strong rolling waves lulled us to sleep after a long day diving. Occasionally we turned on some music in early evening while winding down with an apéro, but my favorite moment of the day was the incredible feeling of being along in the middle of ocean with only the wind and the waves.
So for in our travels, we’ve been fortunate to taste some delicious food (most notably in Vietnam and Thailand), but mostly our daily sustenance is only mediocre. Indonesia, with its endless nasi goreng (local fried rice) and chicken satés, is no exception. So when we heard there would be fresh homemade bread for breakfast every morning, we were pretty excited. And the reality deliciously exceeded our expectations.
Out of the four-member crew of happy Indonesians, Nassir acted as resident cook. Wizard would be a more appropriate term though, as he somehow magically concocted toothsome feasts for us in the ship’s miniscule functional kitchen amongst rolling waves and unsteady surfaces (and I thought cooking in my small Parisian apartment was hard). The giant fresh loaf of hot bread was indeed awaiting us every morning after our sunrise dive. Even more tasty were the platters of crispy fried calamari, creamy eggplant quiche, garlic-chili barbequed chicken, spicy roast fish and the best rosemary french fries we’ve ever had. Diving gives even picky eaters a voracious appetite, so mealtimes on board were highly anticipated – and I’m delighted to report that our cuisine satisfied on all accounts.
Over our ten days at sea, we passed a handful of other live aboard boats – some were large block-like ships, some sleek wooden pirate-looking vessels. The Lambo was the only one we saw with a refreshingly open deck (I hope any sailors who happen to be reading this will forgive my lack of correct nautical terminology – I’m still a boat neophyte). The main deck area, where we spent the better part of our days, had a sturdy wooden roof and large lounge area, but no enclosures on the sides. This made for a highly enjoyable open-air living room for us divers. Between dives, we would all retire to our own breezy corner full of cushions and beanbags to recuperate via catnap or just to watch the beautiful blue ocean splash by. It was so pleasant.
The whole experience on board was incredibly comfortable. Shoes aren’t won anywhere on the ship, and we adapted quickly to the alternating wet and dry of living on a boat (waves obliging, you just have to kind of accept that anything and everything can get wet at any time…including your sleeping self if you leave your cabin window open on a stormy night. Splash!) Diving three times a day meant we spent about half our time in wetsuits and the other half in pajama-like garments. Between the lethargy due to excess nitrogen in our blood, the gently rocking boat, the tranquil ocean melody of waves and a belly full of tasty food, napping (something I’ve never been very fond of) became an important daily activity. We spent cat-like hours sprawled on the sundeck or curled up in our cozy cabins. Comfort and enjoyment were the only requirements.
Although this trip admittadly did put a large dent in our travel budget, it was absolutely worth every penny. It was completely enjoyable, down to the last drop of Bintang.