Day 13 – Savu, Indonesia

Indonesia Welcomes Silversea’s Silver Discoverer

Locals in Savu, Indonesia welcome Silversea's Silver Discoverer to their Island - and their home. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Locals in Savu, Indonesia welcome Silversea’s Silver Discoverer to their Island – and their home. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

This morning, Silvesea's newest Expedition vessel, Silver Discoverer, anchored off the remote island of Savu, Indonesia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
This morning, Silvesea’s newest Expedition vessel, Silver Discoverer, anchored off the remote island of Savu, Indonesia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

Guests from Silversea's Silver Discoverer come ashore in Savu, Indonesia on the morning of May 21, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Guests from Silversea’s Silver Discoverer come ashore in Savu, Indonesia on the morning of May 21, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
We were greeted by a full ceremony performed by the locals of Savu. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
We were greeted by a full ceremony performed by the locals of Savu. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Performing a traditional ceremony. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Performing a traditional ceremony. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

Making our way off the beach and onto Savu, we were greeted by a procession of friendly, smiling locals. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Making our way off the beach and onto Savu, we were greeted by a procession of friendly, smiling locals. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Up top, we watched as Lex Santoso (with microphone) introduced us to a man who would later... Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Up top, we watched as Lex Santoso (with microphone) introduced us to a man who would later… Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
...scale a palm tree in pursuit of fresh juice. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
…scale a palm tree in pursuit of fresh juice. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Afterwards, we watched a horseback ceremony... Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Afterwards, we watched a horseback ceremony… Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
...and took in another set of ceremonial dances. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
…and took in another set of ceremonial dances. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Guests from onboard Silver Discoverer dance with locals on Savu. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Guests from onboard Silver Discoverer dance with locals on Savu. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

Making new friends in Indonesia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Making new friends in Indonesia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

Silver Discoverer's front desk guru Kiah was surrounded by local kids for most of the morning. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Silver Discoverer’s front desk guru Kiah was surrounded by local kids for most of the morning. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

Silver Discoverer photographer Ray Stranagan photographs a local. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Silver Discoverer photographer Ray Stranagan photographs a local. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Andy (left) and Juan (far right) pose with a local village elder in Savu, Indonesia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Andy (left) and Juan (far right) pose with a local village elder in Savu, Indonesia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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!

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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!

Our transportation to the next village. Let the adventure begin! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Our transportation to the next village. Let the adventure begin! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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!

Silver Discoverer Expedition Team members Tim (left) and Juan (right) hang on to the back of our truck as we make our way to our local village experience in Savu, Indonesia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Silver Discoverer Expedition Team members Tim (left) and Juan (right) hang on to the back of our truck as we make our way to our local village experience in Savu, Indonesia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

Locals followed along with our little truck procession to the next village. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Locals followed along with our little truck procession to the next village. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
A traditional way of life is still practiced here - though most locals have cell phones! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
A traditional way of life is still practiced here – though most locals have cell phones! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

Locals bless a child in an elaborate ceremony. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Locals bless a child in an elaborate ceremony. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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!

Local elders sitting atop sacred stones. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Local elders sitting atop sacred stones. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Traditional thatched huts in Savu, Indonesia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Traditional thatched huts in Savu, Indonesia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

Racing back to the pier by local transport - actually quite comfortable! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Racing back to the pier by local transport – actually quite comfortable! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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.)

Sailing back to our home-away-from-home, Silversea's Silver Discoverer. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Sailing back to our home-away-from-home, Silversea’s Silver Discoverer. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Silver Discoverer, The Kimberley Coast, Australia to Indonesia

DAYPORT
May 9, 2014Day 1 - Arrival Down Under
May 10Day 2 - Sydney and the Shangri-La
May 11Day 3 - Perth
May 12Day 4 - Embarking Silver Discoverer in Broome
May 13Day 5 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 1
May 14 Day 6 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 2
May 15Day 7 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 3
May 16Day 8 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 4
May 17Day 9 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 5
May 18Day 10 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 6
May 19Day 11 - Wyndham, Australia
May 20Day 12 - At Sea
May 21Day 13 - Savu, Indonesia
May 22Day 14 - Komodo & Pink Beach, Indonesia
May 23Day 15 - Waikelo, Indonesia
May 24Benoa, Bali, Indonesia
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