Indonesia Welcomes Silversea’s Silver Discoverer
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
After having spent the past week surrounded by virtually no one in Australia’s vast and remote Kimberley region, Silversea’s Silver Discoverer anchored off an island that is arguably just as remote: Savu, Indonesia. But where we were essentially on our own for most of our journey through The Kimberley, we were greeted by an entire village today.
Here are the hard facts: the Indonesian island of Savu is also known by six other names: Sawu, Sabu, Sawoe, Havu, Hawu, and Hawoe. It’s located west of Timor, and has a population of about 90,000 as of 2009. Most people here consider themselves to be of Hindu origin, though a smattering of Dutch Protestantism still exists on the island; a by-product of those fun-loving times-gone-by when countries conquered or colonized one another with drunken abandon.
Everything was different this morning as we Zodiac’d ashore. The ocean was a different shade of blue; the terrain was different. And, standing on the beach, was another important difference from our Kimberley expedition: people.
First, we were treated to a beachside ceremony welcoming us to the island, which included a traditional offering to the sea. It was a beautiful ceremony accompanied by traditional songs that echoed across the open expanse of sand and azure water.
From there, we made our way up the rocky shoals to a clearing where more traditional dances and ceremonies were held to welcome us to the Island.
Afterwards, for probably 30 to 40 minutes, people from the Silver Discoverer met and mingled with the locals. For them, it was just as much of an event as it was for us. Cruise ships certainly don’t call here with any kind of regularity, though Silversea will be back to call on Savu next year on Silver Discoverer Voyage 9506, 9507, and Voyage 9513.
A group of girls came up to ask me where I was from. “Canada,” I said back. “Vancouver.” They giggled and ran off, naturally pleased with their conversation in English with the sunburned man in the funny hat. A tall guy about my age came up to me and asked if he could have his picture taken with me. We were soon joined by three other people, with yours truly in the center. Again, I assume the funny hat had much to do with this.
Others were just interested to practice their English, which was a damn sight better than my Indonesian. Still, thanks to the handy Indonesian cheat-sheet that we were provided with last night, I was able to wish everyone I met Selamat Pagi (good morning),and say Terima kasih banyak (thank you very much) as I moved from one spot to another.
Thankfully, it isn’t just guests who get to experience this amazing place. Several crew members from onboard Silver Discoverer were ashore with us, as was the entire Expedition Team. Every time I passed Kiah, who normally holds down the fort at Silver Discoverer’s Reception Desk, dozens of different kids were clinging off of her and a large crowd of locals surrounded her, all wanting to have their photographs taken.
The tallest members of Silver Discoverer’s Expedition Team were also popular with the locals, as was anyone sporting facial hair. Photographer Ray Stranagan – who’s among the tallest – was having his photo taken as much as he was taking photos of others.
Speaking of pictures, I have never shot so many photos on a single trip as I have on this one. To-date, I’ve rattled off over 3,200. Today, I thought that with 158 photos free on my memory card, I’d be fine. Not so; I ended up shooting 300 photographs in the span of a morning. If you’re headed out on one of these Expeditions, bring lots of SD memory cards; you’re going to need them!
Once we were done with the photos, it was off to a nearby local village for another traditional welcoming ceremony. Whenever Silversea arranges transportation in any area of the world, they always endeavor to use “the best available.” Here on Savu, that phrase has a lot of extra meaning. Unless you’d like to go by horseback – or maybe rent your own scooter – the best form of mass transportation is…drum roll…converted trucks!
Now, I thought this was a fabulous development. I don’t want to ride on an air-conditioned coach everywhere if it’s not available in that particular area, because then that takes away from the uniqueness of the place. When I travelled to Vietnam and Cambodia last year, it wasn’t uncommon to see an entire family using a single Honda motorbike, so the concept of ‘transportation’ in many Southeast Asian countries is very elastic.
To be honest, I was a little envious of Expedition Team members Tim and Juan, who stood on the footboards and held on to the superstructure of the back of our truck as it made the four kilometre journey up to the village over dusty, bumpy roads. That’s my idea of adventure!
Once at the village, we had a chance to mill about and photograph some of the elders sitting atop the ceremonial stones in the village that are revered and incredibly sacred. I may not understand that, but I can appreciate that, and I felt very privileged that we were allowed into what is essentially their home. Imagine inviting 100-plus people into your own home; it gives you a stronger sense of appreciation.
They also performed a baptism or naming ritual on one of their local children. For all I know, this could be the kid’s twenty-first baptism, but I don’t really care. It was a fascinating ceremony to witness. And when the Indonesians sing, it stunningly beautiful. Every note sounds like the soundtrack to a movie.
But it’s the smiles – the non-stop smiles of Savu, Indonesia – that really got to me. I think we’ve got a fabulous bunch of guests here onboard the Silver Discoverer, but let’s face it: I’ve seen some folks who haven’t cracked so much as a grin all week. Yet ashore, everyone is smiling. Babies, toddlers, kids, boys, girls, women, men. The whole bit. Even the guy who scaled the tree did so with a huge grin on his face, but that’s probably because he knew none of us could possibly catch him!
When I was a teenager, I would have never done something like this. It would have been too far outside my comfort zone. I was a boring kid who did boring things. Now, at 31, I absolutely devour experiences like this. I still can’t stand the heat, I sweat too much and I’m still scared of the damn bugs – which, in this part of the world, are gigantic and everywhere – but there is absolutely nothing that can substitute for this kind of cultural experience.
If you’ve never done an expedition cruise, I’d urge you to. It’s the best opportunity to indulge your own interests and passions, and they deserve to be indulged. Have you always wanted to go to South Africa? Go. Curious about Japan? Hop on a plane. I’m already a believer; I drank the Expedition kool-aid two years ago onboard Silver Explorer and haven’t looked back.
I always tell people there is a difference between a vacation and an experience. Vacations are good; there’s nothing wrong with them. A simple weeklong jaunt to the Caribbean from Miami can be very rewarding. But being here in Savu today – oh, how I have missed Asia. I wasn’t even aware of how profound today would be, or how much I’d love discovering another Southeast Asian country that, up until yesterday, remained a mystery to me. When you can learn, and appreciate, and be educated, and still have fun – that’s an experience.
Silversea has always provided these experiences in Antarctica and the Far Arctic with Silver Explorer, and – since September of last year – with Silver Galapagos in the Galapagos Islands. That they can now offer expedition voyages in the Pacific is something to really be excited about.
What truly amazes me about this Expedition, though, is that for all the natural beauty of the desolate Kimberley, there is still no substitute for the simple beauty of seeing someone smile.
Selamat Malam (good night.)
Silver Discoverer, The Kimberley Coast, Australia to Indonesia
|May 9, 2014||Day 1 - Arrival Down Under|
|May 10||Day 2 - Sydney and the Shangri-La|
|May 11||Day 3 - Perth|
|May 12||Day 4 - Embarking Silver Discoverer in Broome|
|May 13||Day 5 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 1|
|May 14||Day 6 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 2|
|May 15||Day 7 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 3|
|May 16||Day 8 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 4|
|May 17||Day 9 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 5|
|May 18||Day 10 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 6|
|May 19||Day 11 - Wyndham, Australia|
|May 20||Day 12 - At Sea|
|May 21||Day 13 - Savu, Indonesia|
|May 22||Day 14 - Komodo & Pink Beach, Indonesia|
|May 23||Day 15 - Waikelo, Indonesia|
|May 24||Benoa, Bali, Indonesia|