The Great Noodle War of ’22

The next stop on our cruise is Ali Island. It seems that every island is keen to show off, and the people of Ali Island are certainly no exception. As is the practice, we are ferried to shore in our workhorse zodiac and we are greeted by the locals dressed in their finest costumes. All the guests that want to go ashore do, and when we are all there the program starts. There are five villages on Ali Island and they are all certain to try to outdo each other in their singing and dancing. 

Each group does a performance and then the next tries to one-up them. All ages, and I do mean ALL, are involved, and it is interesting to see the older women teaching the young ones where to put their feet, how to use their hands and it is so interesting to see the small children all eager to learn. The six and seven and eight year old boys have tiny drums and are emulating their older brothers and uncles and fathers. The tiny little girls are trying their best to follow the intricate footsteps of their sisters and aunts and mothers. The grandmothers keep everyone in line, in step, in their place, and the program continues apace. 

After all the groups have had a couple of turns, because they all do several dances, there is time for a village tour. When I said there were five villages, it is not readily apparent where one starts and the next ends. Maybe it is the solar powered streetlight that separates them. Maybe it is just that large tree that marks the village boundary, but you need to be a local to know which is which. The overriding impression is of a clean, neat, well-ordered home for these friendly people. There is a Catholic Church, rectory and graveyard near the dead-centre of the settlement and the tour formally ended there. Individually the people from the Silver Explorer wandered around or went for a swim or snorkel until it was time to go back to the ship for lunch.

I went for a swim, as did about half of the tourists. And EVERY SINGLE CHILD on the island. There were kids everywhere. Every one of them swam like fishes, and for every one of us there seemed to be a half a dozen kids. Apparently I looked like a diving platform as about five young lads decided to climb on top of me and see how far they could jump off. I helped and about 3 or 4 turns in, kids were getting launched into low trajectory orbit from me and a couple of the other bigger men.

That’s when the kids found the snorkel gear and the swimming noodles. Every one of the noodles were appropriated and soon there was kids hitting each other over the head with noodles, splashing and generally having a whale of a time. Everyone was laughing and smiling and when it was time to go, the kids competed to see who could get their noodle back in the boat first. More mayhem in great fun.

The afternoon was for snorkeling from a swim platform built with a couple of zodiacs and surprise, surprise the platform was soon overrun with kids coming to see what the fuss was about. 

Oh, incidentally the reef was magnificent, the water was gorgeous and the marine life was abundant. Just sayin’.

National Pride and Economics 101

We spent a day at sea travelling from Kwatisore in Indonesia to our next stop in Vanimo Papua New Guinea.

September 16 is Papua New Guinea Independence Day, and the village of about 20,000 people was in a mood to celebrate. We arrived a little later in the afternoon than the Capitan wanted due to a headwind and currant running against us, but we were soon ferried to the beach for a trip to the local school where there were a large group of drummers and dancers.  We are seeing a lot of this on the trip, and every time it gets more and more intricate and more people involved. In this ceremony there were many tribes represented and each had their own dances and costumes. Some were simple and some were very elaborate. The mud people were unique and bizarre and everywhere people were smiling and laughing. And wearing the national flag. Everyone, everywhere had the flag on and it was interesting to see. Papua got its independence from Australia in 1975 so the memory was still very fresh for a great number of people in the crowd. We stayed for about an hour and a half and then were taken to a lookout point from where we could see the entire village.

Here is where cold hard reality crashes up against government bureaucracy. Independence Day and everything is closed. It is 34 degrees with about 100% humidity. A bunch of Australians, Americans and Canadians have been sitting outside in the sun watching ceremonies. There is no way to changed dollars for local currency. The beer store is closed. We found the owner of the store and convinced him to take US dollars. He comes outside and everyone is trying to figure out the exchange rate. He has cold beer and I have 10 dollars. 3 beers for 10 bucks in the heat. DEAL. So much for bureaucracy, and we enjoyed a wonderful cold refreshing local beer overlooking a pretty little costal town. Time to get on the ship and head to the next destination.

The Creature That Shall Not Be Named and Dancing In The Streets

The expedition crew has been busy trying to hype us up and not jinx themselves. The hype is for a creature that is an extremely rare sight, and we will be going to find it today. The jinx, they say if they name it, we won’t see it. Not Voldemort, just getting that out of the way.

The “rubbish” about not letting me go first has been sorted, it is actually our turn, and I am first in the boat for the trip across one of the largest marine parks in the world to where fishermen are feeding WHALE SHARKS!!! We get our briefing, get in the water and swim toward the fishing boat ahead of us.  The water is beautifully warm, there are a lot of small fish floating around, and visibility is not that great. Face down in the water, with only the sound of my breathing, I swim slowly forward. And THERE! In the distance, slowly, a huge grey fish with an intricate pattern of white spots swims majestically into view. A great gaping mouth fills up on the tiny fish as the shark comes fully into view. With remoras hanging off the underside and the tail fin sweeping from side to side the whale shark looks slow but it flies by in a second and is gone into the murky water. There! It comes again, and another follows behind. Twenty minutes of this spectacle and time has evaporated to nothing. The water is magnificent and it is difficult to come out of the sea so others can have their turn. We motor back to the ship on the zodiac to swap photos, video  and tall tales, and get ready for the next cool thing.

Which is…. 

A “sing-sing” in Kwatisore village. The ship repositions deeper into the bay and we are off-loaded by zodiac onto the beach.  As we come to shore, a group of men carrying spears, bows and machetes comes screaming into the water attempting to “scare us off” It didn’t work and we are greeted by a group of people singing and dancing and ends in a tour of the village. Three hours later it is time to return to the ship to continue our voyage.

Surviving the Weather and Other Adventures

There is an on board newspaper of sorts that outlines the coming events and has a few other tidbits in it. One of those is the weather report. Tuesday 13 September Partly cloudy with some rain in the afternoon. High 82 F/27 C. Low  79F/25 C.

That sounds survivable.

We are in Cenderawasih Bay Indonesia. Cenderawasih Bay is Indonesian for Bird of Paradise. The island of New Guinea looks like a big bird, and we are in the neck part just below the head.  The Auri Islands are part of a maritime park that encompasses about 30 square miles and has some of the most pristine coral reefs in Indonesia. And we get to swim on them!!!!

To disembark everyone from the ships we are broken out into groups and loaded on the zodiacs in regular intervals. Apparently it’s “FAIR” to rotate everyone so I’m not always first. We are transported to the beach and we get the opportunity to get right out to the reef. It is about 100 meter swim out to where there is a drop off and the coral is alive with a huge abundance of every kind of fish you can think of and many you have never seen before. The water temperature is about 27 C so you definitely get tired before you get cold. An hour and a half of snorkeling and enjoying ourselves and we were kicked out of the water to catch one of the last boats back to the ship.

That was the morning swim and it got better on the next island, the next reef. The coral was better. The fish were better. There were fewer people around so even the limited competition we had in the morning was better. And finally we got to swim from a snorkel platform so we didn’t have to “waste time” getting to the good stuff. Slip into the water and WOW! The snorkel platforms were set up about 300 meters apart and against a mild current took about 45 minutes to swim to the opposite one. Photos, stopping to watch fish and look at coral meant it was not an arduous swim at all. The trip back took about a half hour and again we were on one of the last boats to go to the ship.

Enjoy every adventure you can and get your money’s worth it is so much fun.

Finally Time to Swim

We are at Palau Miossu, Papua, Indonesia. There are two islands here and today is our first snorkel day. EXCITED!!!!!

The time is “really early in the morning”. I feel the ship stop moving and jump out of bed, knowing the day is getting ready to start. I am heading out onto the deck as the anchor is being lowered and in the east the sky is just being to show red. I got the best photos of a fantastic sunrise. 50 of them. Ok I culled it back and only kept a couple but, every now and again get up early. It is so worth it.

The day starts with breakfast and the crew spend the morning checking out the snorkel site and get ready to herd us all out onto the island where a fabulous treat awaits. As at the previous stop, these islanders haven’t seen anyone for a couple of years and they have been practicing and getting ready for weeks for our arrival.

We are ferried by zodiac to the beach and are greeted by drummers and dancers, seated in the shade of palm trees on a tropical island to wait for everyone to arrive. Read that again and let it sink in. It was AWESOME!!!


A short speech by the local bosses starts a program of very catchy music and dancing by a troupe of young people. 15 minutes of this and we are free to take a short, very sweaty hike to a local monument, and/or start snorkeling.

The water is beautifully warm, and facedown about 70 people are disbursed along almost 300 meters of reef. The coral has moments where it is bleached and dead, but also is vibrant and very alive. There is very good fish life and it is an hour and a half well spent in the water.

Time for the ship and we are off again.

Back at Sea, and Fanboy time

There was a long sail to our next destination at the top of New Guinea, so one more whole day at sea. DISAPPOINTED!

The expedition crew had laid on a couple of lectures, and from past experience, and lack of other options I attended. What a treat the first one was as the speaker was hilariously funny, extremely informative, and encyclopedically knowledgeable about the subject. “Naturalists in the Age of Discovery. Brilliant, Brave and Bonkers” I was hooked and laughed my way through the whole hour.

The ship’s Capitan was next, and this is when I realized my entire life, and all the travel I’ve done is just a whiff of smoke. This 46 year old man was the ice pilot aboard the research vessel looking for the Endeavour, Ernest Shakleton’s doomed ship. Lost in Antarctica in 1914 and only found this year by the second expedition, Capitan Freddie Ligthelm had everyone in the audience captivated and awestruck (me) by these exploits.

The morning flew away and in the afternoon the movie made by the history channel was shown. IT WAS RIVETING.

I learned at least two things from the day.

  1. You never know what is coming next, so no point being disappointed.


The Explorer Lounge is a place for presentations, lectures and video screenings.
Silver Explorer

A Warm Welcome, and Everyone’s Curious

After finally being able to get off the ship for a few hours it was quite frustrating to have to get back on board. Dinner calmed us down and we sailed overnight to Den Weg Islands. These islands are known for their ancient rock art and many of the drawings are only visible by zodiac.

We were taken through the bay to the site, and after viewing and photographing the truly wonderful site, we were brought to a small village to be exhibited. I mean to tour around.

The whole community was there and everyone was taking everyone else’s photos. Blonde women especially were constantly being asked to have their photo’s taken and one poor woman couldn’t move for all the smiling people around her.

After the entire group of 110 was offloaded we were paraded through the village with drummers and dancers leading the way. It was a motley procession of people wobbling on their sealers, a million underfoot kids and a whole bunch of motor scooters inching along. It was quite surreal.


These villagers had not seen any tourists for over three years and we were quite the curiosity. There was a tour through the caves Japanese soldiers had carved during the war to a central square where an incomprehensible speech was followed by dancing and food, and rain. The heat was in the 30’s and humidity was at about 2 million percent prior to the rain and I was soaked through, so it took a couple of minutes to realize I was getting wet. It was a pleasant relief on the way back to the boats, and as we were loading the children of the village sang the Indonesian national anthem to us before we sped away.

I left wondering who had seen the most new sights, us . . . or them. It really didn’t matter because everyone had fun.

Land Ho


I have become exceptionally spoiled. I was on this same ship in April, and quite a few of the crew recognized me. The service here is simply outstanding and the staff are making this trip despite the slow start.

The food.  Oh my.  It took me two months to get over the last trip, and like a true professional I am right back where I left off. I hope we get started with the swimming soon.

Today we are at Triton Bay on the island of New Guinea. The bay is full of Karst Islands. These islands come straight up out of the water rising hundreds of meters in the air with riot of vegetation growing straight out of the rock. Think James Bond movies and you get the picture. There is so much to see driving through this bay and the naturalists of the trip are busy explaining about all the flora and birds.

We have time for a dip in the ocean and the water is so clear and so warm that the slow start of a couple of days ago is quickly forgotten.

A Slow Start

Ok, that was a bust. We get on the ship and have our orientation and then…..nothing. An announcement  comes on the intercom that we are delayed by a day because supplies were late getting to the ship. Unfortunate but we are certainly not uncomfortable and the itinerary will change slightly. Moving on, there is nothing that can be done so sit back and enjoy the day.

The next day, as promised we are off on the and leave the harbour for the start of the cruise north through the Timor Sea to the Island of New Guinea in Indonesia. It’s a long trip that will take a full day. There is enough to do on the ship, including getting rid of jet lag and everyone is in good spirits.

A Long Voyage


Australia is a very long way away from Calgary. Big news I know, but until you have been 15 hours in the air you don’t really get it. This is the start of a trip around New Guinea on an expedition ship that will take us to some of the most inaccessible places on the planet. Snorkeling is the big attraction but seeing this part of the world has been high on my wish list for a long long time.

A few days in Sydney to get our feet on the ground and do the touristy stuff in the city before a flight to Darwin. We will have some more time in Sydney on the way back.

Darwin, and our group has gathered for the cruise. We wander around the city and for me the big attraction is the amount of Aboriginal art available. There are galleries and museums everywhere and the quality of the work is really very good. It doesn’t hurt that they are air conditioned and it is 37 outside and this Canadian is melting. A couple of hours in the galleries and it is time to board the Silversea’s Silver Explorer ship for the start of the cruise.