al likai – queen of the seas By Susanna DaSilva

August 24, 2016

Do you ever had the feeling that you just needed to get away from the daily grind and recharge your batteries? This happened to me a few months ago. We had just relocated from our tiny down town apartment to a house on the Central Coast and whilst being terribly exciting it was also extremely stressful and challenging at the same time.

My poor husband who had visions of retiring, tending his garden and playing with the grandchildren suddenly found himself working on the house non-stop. It had looked good when we bought it    years ago but uncaring tenants had left their mark and the horrific storms over last Christmas/New Year did the rest.

He needed a break! I wanted to take him to a warm destination, not too far from Sydney, close to the sea, affordable and he does love a good massage. Another important requirement was it needed to be relaxing but not boring.

When I got the opportunity to join an Indonesian Micro-Cruise I jumped at it.

My family has always loved the sea and I was sure my husband would enjoy it as well once he got past his fear of sea sickness.

I booked us on flights to Bali, organised  pre-cruise accommodation at a very nice 3 star hotel in Sanur called Taksu Sanur Hotel, which turned out to be modern, clean, with  large comfortable rooms and an excellent breakfast.

We really had no idea what to expect once we arrived at the agreed meeting point at Serangan Harbour. The crew was on the lookout and spotted us straight away. Within minutes we were on our way across the harbour and there she was, Al Likai – Queen of the Seas, she is an Indonesian Pinisi Sailing Boat, 37 meters long and a beauty.  For me it was love at first sight!

We were greeted by the owner Amanda, who made us feel very welcome and showed us to our cabin. There are only 6 of them on board and ours was downstairs, with a queen sized bed, good storage and an amazing en-suite bathroom. After a quick lesson in how to operate the sea toilet it was time to relax on one of the day beds up the front and have the first of quite a few gin & tonic’s consumed during the following week.

By 4pm everyone was aboard, the excitement was high; the crew lifted the anchor and turned the bow of the ship towards Lombok.

We had taken sea sickness tablets just in case and got used to the constant movement very quickly. It was fun to watch the crew at work, talk to the other passengers, which included a family with two young children and watch our first spectacular sunset.

Food was served buffet style, everyone was dressed very casually and I felt the stress fade away almost immediately. Temperatures on this trip varied between 30 degrees during the day to 20 degrees at night, just perfect comparing to the chilly 6 degrees it had been when we left Sydney.

We went to bed early listening to the engine taking us steadily towards our destination.  I feel asleep almost immediately and woke up at sunrise.

When I went upstairs we were anchored at Mentigi Bay, where we went for the first of many snorkelling excursions. My husband is not a strong swimmer, so one of crew members was assigned to him and watched over him until he was certain that he would be able to keep up with the group.

I’ve always enjoyed snorkelling and was not disappointed. We went out at least three times a day and sometimes even more often. Amanda does not offer diving on her vessel, she concentrates on visiting some of the lesser known islands and is happy to try some new options, whenever they present themselves to her.

There are hundreds of large and small islands dotted in that area close to Lombok, of which Gili Meno, Gili Trawangan and Gili Air are the better known tourist destinations. Those tiny islands are surrounded by coral reefs and were popular with backpackers only about 30 years ago, now they have been fully developed and can be reached by a fast ferry from Lombok. There are restaurants, hotels, bars and all facilities you need including a Commonwealth Bank teller machine to withdraw funds directly from your accounts in Australia.

Despite the redevelopment, the diving and snorkelling are still outstanding and the highlight of the trip was our late afternoon snorkel along Gili Trawangan, where we spotted at least six of the local massive sea turtles coming up for a feed.  One of them passed so close beneath me I could almost touch her, it was amazing!

We sailed the area for another couple of nights and then headed further south towards some lesser known islands, which are hardly populated and off the tourist track. We swam in clear waters, found seahorses clinging to water plants, had sunset cocktails on deserted beaches and went back aboard Al Likai to wash off the salt water, enjoy the food and relax. We weathered one storm that swept over us with thunder and lightning.  There was a little concern that the bad weather would follow us, but thankfully it headed the other way towards Bali and we were spared. There were some minor leaks and our bed got wet but the crew dealt with it quickly and we still slept well that night.

It was lovely to get away from TV’s and mobile phones. I was up every morning to watch the sun rise and never went to bed late but still managed to get some star gazing done. I also read a few books, which I had not had a chance to do in a long time and it was amazing to wake up every morning in different spot.  The crew worked tirelessly despite it being Ramadan and most of them fasting from sunrise to sunset. They would get up at 3.30am to have a big meal and make up for lost sleep during our night time travels by taking naps whenever they could during the day. They were especially good with the children, who had a marvellous time.

The boat was very comfortable, just the right mixture of traditional vessel but with all modern amenities.  My husband still managed to get a few massages on the various islands we stopped at and he relaxed so much that he almost got depressed upon our return to Australia, he just did not want to leave.

But every holiday comes to an end and we had to say our good byes and return to reality. But no-one will be able to take away from us that one week of utter bliss spent sailing around the islands of Indonesia.

Most of us vowed to return one day and it would be great to meet Amanda and her amazing crew again.