Justin Wateridge of Steppes Travel reports from his Indonesian diving adventure.
This was the part of the holiday that we, two families of four adults and six children ranging from eight to thirteen, were least looking forward to. The success of seeing orangutans in Borneo and cycling through the Indonesian countryside of Ubud had done little to change that opinion. Yet any doubts were dispelled within seconds of boarding Tiger Blue.
Full of joy, the children scampered around the boat, checking cabins, unearthing the ship’s nooks and crannies and testing the rigging, I have rarely seen my eleven-year old daughter with such a huge smile on her face.
We had flown in from Bali, transfixed by the islands strung out beneath us and the impressive conical volcano of Mt Sangeang emerging from the clouds. We had landed at Labuan Bajo airport on the island of Flores and were whisked to Tiger Blue, a ten-metre wooden schooner that was to be our home for the next five nights. A two-masted Indonesian phinisi with burgundy sails, Tiger Blue had a swashbuckling feel to it reinforced by the ten-man and one-woman crew.
The next morning, we wake early and are into the water in search of manta rays. Sadly, to no avail. But that does not deter us, we move quickly onto the next activity, water-skiing.
The following day we head to Siaba Besar and an opportunity to dive. We submerge to just below the water level, kneeling on the sand, where we rehearse a couple of drills and then head into deeper water, never more so than nine metres. We are only down for some twenty minutes but the experience is exhilarating.
Tiger Blue relocates to another dive site, Tatawa Besar. I float with huge pride seeing my girls diving alongside me.
We have pushed them to the limits of their comfort zone, yet they embrace the experience with enthusiasm.
At dinner, the eight-year old boys fade. Unsurprisingly – it has been an action-packed day.
When sailing we play chess, teach the children backgammon, read books, fall asleep in the sun and delight in dolphins riding the bow wave. On one voyage, we were treated to the hoisting of the sails. One of the crew scaled the rigging like an orangutan.
We wake up the next morning to smile at dolphins gliding serenely past us and head out to see dragons. The legend of the Komodo dragon and its bacterial bite had long fascinated the boys, sadly we did not see the fully-grown beasts of documentary films.
The bar has been raised high for any future holidays. Rarely have I heard my children be so grateful and sincere. But are we spoiling our children for the future? For me, it is important they see and understand the beauty of the seas. Firstly, to dispel cinematic myths about sharks and more importantly, I am not sure how much longer such beauty will be around. I hope that it will lead them to appreciate the magnificence of the oceans and become ambassadors and guardians of it.