Sunday, December 17, 2023

Indonesia and Australia

Scuba diving in Wakatobi, Indonesia had been on our bucket list for years. We started out with help from our dear friends Lynne and Jim who drove us and all our gear to the airport in Norfolk, Virginia. From there we flew to JFK in New York City and overnighted at a local hotel. The next morning we were to fly from JFK to Doha, Qatar (12.5 hours). The flight was delayed and we missed our connection to Bali!

Note: Click on an image (not a video) to enlarge it.

The service in business class on Qatar Airlines was outstanding. The food was excellent.

But Anna and I only were able to sleep for a few hours since it was late morning when we began our flight in JFK.

The Qatar airport lounge was a sight to behold:

Note: Clicking on these underlined hyperlinks will go to a very short YOUTUBE video. It will open in a new tab so that you can easily return to this blog. Be sure to have the sound on and to maximize the youtube frame.

The next flight to Bali was in nine hours. The airline sent us by taxi to a hotel. We put our hand luggage in our room but decided not to try to nap. Instead we took a taxi to the Museum of Islamic Art.

Inside the lobby:

We returned to the airport and flew to Bali (10 hours). We slept some but arrived a bit groggy. Our hotel picked us up (and our substantial luggage) and drove us fifteen minutes to The Anvaya Beach Resort on Kuta beach. The resort, located on the Indian Ocean, is a huge complex of five hundred rooms and five hundred staff. Our plan was to soak up the Balinese culture and have a restful break before spending two weeks scuba diving in Wakatobi.


We took a long walk along the Indian Ocean. Then Anna made a hat.

The management at Wakatobi had arranged for us to have a private guide for two of our days in Bali. Traffic in Bali is horrendous. Millions of scooters on single lane roads (driving on the left, by the way). Every place our guide, Suka, drove us was only a few kilometers away from our resort but it took forever to get there.

We visited the famous temple at Tanah Lot. When the tide comes in the temple appears to float on water.

Anna was blessed and received rice on her forehead:

And of course she had to touch the banded, poisonous snakes supposedly guarding the temple from evil spirits:

We visited the UNESCO World Heritage site of terraced rice fields at Jatiluwih (real beautiful):

Suka took us to see the beauty of the temple and grounds of Ulun Danu Beretan (above the lake):

Suka made sure that we tried a typical and very well known Balinese lunch, baba guling (suckling pig). Anna didn't like it. See how it looked in the food case at the sandwich stand:

We also visited Obud, a crafts village. We watched real batik being created and wood sculptures being carved by hand. Some shopping was in order!

As the pièce de résistance, Suka took us to drink the famous luwak coffee. It seems a civet knows to pick only the ripest coffee beans, but the civet's digestive system only dissolves the bean coverings. The otherwise untouched beans are eliminated (yes, I know). These are boiled and ground to make this strong sweet coffee!

Although Indonesia, comprising more than 17,000 islands, is basically a Muslim country, Bali is almost completely Hindu. Hinduism is a faith as well as a way of life, a world view and philosophy upholding the principles of virtuous and true living. And Suka , like most Balinese we encountered, lived his Hindu beliefs. He showed us and taught us so much about the culture of Bali.

Anna and I ate at both of the restaurants in the resort but one evening we ate at an outside restaurant specializing in Indonesian rijsttafel (Dutch for "rice table"). What a feast!

On weekend evenings the Anvaya featured Bali dance performances. The hand motions of the female dancers are meant to convey meaning to the "story" of the dance. The musical accompaniment is the sound of the gamelan (in this case an  Indonesian xylophone).

Anna of course volunteered to try it:

After six days in Bali it was off to the Wakatobi dive resort. We took a private plane for the three hour flight.

Wakatobi is a world class dive resort. It accommodates only fifty-five guests at a time with a staff of two hundred. The coral in the area is all healthy and unbleached. We planned to spend one week at the resort and dive up to three times a day using their dive boats and then spend the second week on the resort's liveaboard with the option to dive four times a day. 

Anna was very much interested to photograph nudibranchs that Wakatobi is famous for. Nudibranchs are a group of soft-bodied marine gastropod molluscs that shed their shells after their larval stage. Nudibranchs are usually smaller than an inch requiring macrophotography.

This was our Wakatobi cottage on the ocean:

This is the map of the resort:

And this is the map of available dive sites and the tide tables:

Each day we could check the boat board to see which sites we would be diving, and with whom.

The food at the resort was excellent. The towel art in our room every day, both at Wakatobi and at the Anvaya, was a delight:

The sunsets were magnificent:

The boat diving was wonderful. Anna is still going through her underwater photos but she got some beauties.

This is a Cardinal Clown Fish:

Peacock Shrimp:

And this is a Leaf Fish:

Blue Velvet nudibranch (actual size 3/4 inch):

Phyllidia Varicosa nudibranch (actual size 1 1/2 inch):

Clown Triggerfish:

In our second week we were on the liveaboard full time. There were only ten divers in five rooms. The social cabin ("saloon") was for briefings, cocktails and meals.

The ship:

The route:



Salon (where we ate meals, had briefings and drinks and conversation):

Daily schedule:

Typical drawing of a dive site:

Two tenders took two groups of divers from the Pelagian to the dive sites: 

Anna's photos:

Clark's Pygmy Seahorse (actual size 1/4 inch)

Red Leaf Scorpion Fish:

Mandarin Fish among sea urchins:

Jelly Fish:

Coral Banded Shrimp:

Crocodile Fish:

Chromodoris kuniei (actual size 1 inch)

Jorunna Funibris (actual size 1 inch):

Many more of Anna's photos are in the editing process. When they're ready Anna will set up a link for easy viewing. Stay tuned!

Anna's photos are impressive given that she uses a small camera. Many of the divers on the boat had completed thousands of dives and had very professional camera setups. The camera rooms on the liveaboard were impressive:

The crew of twelve on the boat included the captain and first officer, two maintenance engineers, two stewards, a chef, and five dive guides. And the meals were restaurant quality. 

After another week of diving it was time to leave Wakatobi and get ready to fly to Australia.


We took the private plane from  Wakatobi back to Bali and stayed one night at the Anvaya. The next day we took the six hour flight to Sydney which added three hours to our watches (Wakatobi is thirteen hours ahead of the east coast of the U.S. and Sydney is sixteen hours ahead).

We decided to visit Sydney because, Chikage, our seventeen year old granddaughter is on a student exchange program there. Chikage lives with her family in Tokyo but is completing her last year of high school at a school in South Sydney.

We knew Chikage was at school during the week and also worked part time. We arrived in Sydney on Tuesday and wouldn't see Chikage until Saturday. So Anna and I did all the tourist stuff in Sydney from Wednesday to Friday.

The Sydney harbor had a new cruise ship in every day we were in Sydney:

Of course we did the Opera House:

Opera House:

And the Harbour Bridge:

And Anna just had to climb the Harbour Bridge (notice the line of climbers on the right):

We did the Wulugul walk along the Tasman Sea (part of the South Pacific ocean). Many indigenous names are used on Sydney buildings and streets. There has been a serious effort to integrate native peoples into the culture of Australia.

One evening we ate mussels at a French restaurant:

On Saturday we went to the zoo with Chikage:

We saw wombats, dingoes and emus and wallabys. We caught up on Chikage's life and went out for a fabulous dinner. We hope to see her in New York City when she gets to NYU in two years. And she said she's definitely coming to visit our beach house in Nags Head, North Carolina.

Good-bye for now Chikage.

And a ten hour layover at the airport! We took a shower in the Business Class lounge and caught some sleep (very little) in a quiet room. By this time both Anna and I were sick with a cold or the flu.

Quiet room:

Then it was a grueling fourteen hour flight to JFK. The airport was sheer chaos with about a million holiday travelers. We overnighted at an airport motel and flew back to Norfolk the following day.

And Lynne and Jim were there to meet us!

We were travel weary and happy to return home and sleep in our own beds.

And for those of you who went through this blog; you're probably exhausted as well.