During our cruise we had three shore leaves. First we visited Darwin and then we went to East Timor and to the Komodo Island. On the way to Singapore we also stopped at Bali. From our cruise ship, we could even see the hotel where we spent our honeymoon last year 😉.
Darwin is the portal to Australia’s top end, the state Northern Territory. Our cruise ship docked directly at the port and so we could go directly via the City Walk to the city centre. Along a beautiful pool area we saw many nice bars and restaurants.
However, we first wanted to go to the Survivors Lookout. From this superior viewpoint, the survivors of the devastating Japanese air raid got an overview of the damages.
During the war, more bombs were dropped on Darwin than on Pearl harbor. We wanted to learn more about this and visited the Darwin Military Museum. This small but mighty museum gives a good overview of the events during World War II.
Additionally, the museum also exhibits information about the Vietnam War. We saw several war memorials during our journey and once again we were surprised, where in the world Australian soldiers had lost their life. And some of the recruitment strategies were rather subtle…
From the museum, we strolled along the promenade back to the port.
We came quite fond of Australia during our journey, but now it was time to say Goodbye. And so we had our last glass of wine on the Australian continent at “Snappers Rock”. And finally we could taste a Tasmanian white wine from which we heard only good things.
In the evening, the cruise continued on its way to Singapore. Many new passengers had boarded the cruise in Darwin and we noticed that bars and restaurants became more crowded.
East-Timor is a destination that we most likely would have never visited without the cruise. So this was a good opportunity to get to know more about its history and we booked a tour via the cruise line.
East-Timor is the youngest asian country and became independent only in 2002. It was a Portuguese colony before it had been occupied during World War II by Japan from 1942 to 1945. After the war it was a Portuguese Colony again. In 1975 East-Timor declared independence but after only ten days it became occupied by Indonesia. According to our tour guide, fear of communism was a critical factor for the occupation. Wester world supported Indonesia. Because East-Timor has a lot of oil and gas reserves, economic interests might also have been a factor.
The first stop of our tour was the Timorese Resistance Archive and Museum in the capital Dili.
On 12th November 1991, the military killed approximately 250 youth during the “Santa Cruz Massacre”. Journalists who witnessed this were able to hide their cameras, reported the events and brought the situation in East-Timor to the public’s attention. We also visited the cemetery, where the massacre took place. A Timorese had died weeks before and it is custom to bring flowers. This was the occasion, the military used to kill the people.
In 1999 there was again a referendum and the people voted for independence, which they finally achieved on 20th May 2002.
After learning about this very sad history, we visited a traditionally market for a change.
And because of Portugal being the colonial ruler for many years, there is of course also a statue of Christ; the famous Cristo Rei Statue. It was built in 1988 as a gift to the Timorese people by the Suharto Regime, is 27 meters high which represents 27 provinces of the Indonesian Republic – with the 27th province at the time being the province of Timor-Leste. We very much liked to climb the 597 steps to the top of the mountain to get a beautiful view of two adjacent beaches.
Visiting Komodo Island was definitely the highlight of our cruise. The island is on the list of the “New” 7 Wonders of Nature and famos for the Komodo dragons and we were eager to see them up close.
To get onto the island, you have to book a tour. The island is a national park and you are not allowed to walk around without a guide. The reason for this seems obvious… when entering the island, human beings fall down the food chain a bit. Komodo dragons can grow up to 3.70 in length and can run up to 20 km/h.
About 1.300 dragons live on Komodo and feed mostly on water buffalos and deer. Their hunting behavior is relatively simple. They bite their prey into the leg and the bacteria in their saliva take care of the rest. They then just follow the trail of blood and if needed take another bite.
We were really lucky to see these incredible animals up close at the water hole.
After our short hike, we boarded a wooden boat which took us to Pink Beach – which as the name suggests looks a bit pink. Highlight was however the coral reef which starts right at the beach. It was in good preservation and with that many colorful fish it bears comparison with the Great Barrier Reef. So, goggle, snorkel and fins on and off into the water 😎.
One drop of bitterness remains however – the mass tourism. And yes, I am well aware that we are part of the problem. When a cruise with more than 2000 passengers anchors, this leads of course to congestion and crowded attractions. Usually only 200 to 300 guests visit the national park when there is no cruise. When guides then only hand out snorkeling gear without any instructions, this leads to people standing on the reef to take a rest and out likely don’t even think about it.
We destroy these unique places for the next generation and consequently the jobs of the locals will vanish. Both is not in the interest of the local people and I think this should be regulated better.
Bali was our last stopp before going further to Singapore. Also in Bali we had the opportunity to book shore tours or explore it on our own. But because we visited Bali already last summer for three weeks during our honeymoon and saw the best spots on the island with our private guide John, we stayed on the ship and enjoyed the silence.
We could even see one of our honeymoon hotels and the reef in front of it from the ship.