This weeks Cruise Blog is by our guest blogger Dave Warne. Dave is the Commercial Director for WEXAS, our parent company, and this was his first cruise experience. Join him onboard Orion Expedition Cruises Orion II on his recent trip and discover the amazing ports of call.
Day 2 - Pulau Kakaban
Being the first cruise to operate this route in this relatively remote location inevitably brings a few challenges. To quote Captain Frank Allica 'expedition cruising doesn't run on rails' and a degree of flexibility is inevitably required when it comes to timetabling.
For example, last night our refuelling barge arrived 12 hours late and this morning Indonesian immigration officials arrived late for processing our entry into the country, due to bad weather. As a result one of our 2 planned island excursions today had to be cancelled - so we miss the chance to snorkel with Manta rays and see the turtles on PulauSangalaki, which is disappointing.
No passenger mutiny, fortunately. In fact, everyone is remarkably understanding - perhaps because so many are previous clients and used to the expeditionary nature of Orion cruises.
In contrast, life aboard Orion II runs like clockwork, and in particular the meal service. Breakfast tends to be served in the outdoor cafe on deck 5 but where weather doesn't permit it is moved to the formal restaurant on deck 2. In both cases it is buffet style, with a good choice of pre-prepared hot and cold items. Specific requests can also be catered for - e.g. eggs benedict can be prepared within minutes - so variety is never a problem.
Our afternoon excursion is to Pulau Kakaban, accessed via zodiacs from the ship which remains moored in a sheltered spot off the coast. We are well briefed for what to expect for our first 'wet landing' and on arrival we jump off the side of the zodiacs into the shallow water at the beach.
Kakaban is the classic tropical island, picture postcard pretty with its sandy beaches and palm trees but it also feels wild, a reminder that we just off the coast of Borneo a few miles away. Kakaban is one of nature's many wonderful oddities; a coral atoll uplifted by geological forces has turned the lagoon into a landlocked lake, which is home to marine life found nowhere else on earth.
Apart from the beach, the main attraction is seeing (or even snorkelling with) the 4 unique species of jelly fish found in the lake. All have all lost their ability to sting over time, as their protected environment is entirely predator-free. We spotted 3 of the 4 species within seconds of arriving at the small jetty before returning to the open sea for some rather enjoyable snorkelling on the reef.
Back onboard this evening gives everyone a chance to mingle at the Captain's Cocktail party. No jackets are required even for this special event but a number of the ladies choose to be elegantly dressed. Fizz and canapés accompany an interesting talk from Captain Allica on the relatively short - but certainly eventful - life of the Orion II.
Dinner follows a similar 4 course set menu formula to yesterday's dinner. I choose to vary the main course, which would have been veal, and was treated to probably the most tender pork fillet I have ever tasted.
We retire to bed after a nightcap in the Club lounge/library where entertainment is provided by Glenn, the resident musician. Bar prices are reasonable, especially so considering everything is priced in Australian dollars and the sterling exchange rate is rather unfavourable.