Lindblad Expeditions offers a good mixture of both wildlife and culture on all its expeditions, and today we immersed ourselves in a colorful community of local people on the island of Pulau Belitung. We started with a visit to a small temple in the heart of town. I must say that the highlight of my day was our visit to a large outdoor market, where shoppers could purchase anything from vegetables to fresh meat to decorations for the home. We observed stall after stall of amazingly colorful fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, and everything in between. What made this place particularly wonderful for me as a photographer was everyone’s desire to be photographed. You could hardly move to the next stall without someone asking you to make an image of them. Smiles and laughter created a bridge between our different cultures, and we truly had the opportunity to engage with the local people of Pulau Belitung. Afterward, we bordered our bus to visit a traditional house, and we enjoyed a ride across the island to a beach with incredible rock formations where our Zodiacs waited to shuttle us back to National Geographic Orion.
National Geographic Orion
The morning began with a mission to see one of the rarest birds on earth. After an early start, we made the short crossing to Bali Barat National Park, the last refuge of the Bali myna. From a population low of thirty-six individuals in 1993, this bird has made a slow recovery with between one and two hundred individuals in the wild today. Thankfully, we knew exactly where to go and soon were spending time with a flock of nearly a dozen of these snowy, brilliant avian wonders. Birds weren’t the only highlight here, as the park had abundant herds of Javan rusa. Among the many long-tailed macaques, we also encountered a few of the shyer Javan lutung, a handsome monkey endemic to the region. After lunch, we turned our attention below the water and went snorkelling on nearby Pulau Menjangan. As we headed into the water from a floating platform, the water was a little choppy at the surface. Just below the waves, we found crystal clear waters and some of the best reef life of the entire trip. The next few hours passed in a blur with ninety feet of visibility and swarms of brilliant marine life. Many of us stayed in the water as long as we possibly could. After an especially extravagant afternoon tea where most of us opted for cold, fresh coconuts, we continued overnight to Denpasar.