An expedition cruise between Bali and Singapore by way of Borneo, the world’s third-largest island, provides wildlife enthusiasts with a tantalizing combination of creature comforts and creatures
By Jamie James
Photographs By Martin Westlake
There was a time in my life when I was a veritable sea dog, shipping out on a cruise whenever the opportunity presented itself. Ten years ago, however, I swore it off. I wasn’t disenchanted with the concept. As a way of seeing the world, seafaring has some great advantages—mainly, eliminating the “travel” part of travel. The reason we go on a trip is to visit faraway places, not to manage the logistics of getting from here to there. Packing and unpacking, checking in to and out of hotels, rushing to catch a flight and then waiting in the taxi queue at the airport when we arrive is all time spent not enjoying the destination.
Cruising reduces travel to its ancient, adventurous essence, skimming across the bounding main into a blue horizon, to see what lies beyond. True, the adventure can be too exciting on a rough sea, and sometimes the horizon is gray with rain; but even a choppy crossing may be less stressful than arriving exhausted in a strange city to find that your hotel room won’t be ready for six hours, or any of the other dreary disasters that lie in wait for the ordinary traveler. A ship is truly a home away from home, complete with maid service and gourmet meals.
No, it was the social aspect that drove me away from the sea. On a cruise, every time you venture out of your cabin you expose yourself to conversation. It’s like a never-ending cocktail party where you don’t know anyone. An eccentric friend of mine once told me that whenever he went on a cruise he packed a book prominently entitled Coping with Chronic Diarrhea, which he read in the saloon on the first day out to ensure that he would be left alone for the rest of the voyage. I’m not antisocial like my friend, but there’s a limit to my capacity for small talk.
Yet as the years passed, I often found myself on the beach at sundown, gazing wistfully into the offing and wishing I were on the water instead of looking at it. So when the editor of this magazine called me up and asked if I could hop aboard a Borneo-bound cruise ship departing in a week’s time from my home port of Bali, I didn’t hesitate to sign on. I loaded up my Kindle with some good books, took my silly straw hat out of the closet, and headed for Benoa Harbor.