Here’s a few words about my experience diving with Adelaar. I am going to be totally honest. You are probably not going to like me, nor my blog post in fact. If you are one of those jealous types, perhaps turn away now. You see, I am at work – and I love it. Criminal – I know.

Manta Dance

Listening to the slow and steady inhale and exhale of my own breath, my mask is not the COVID kind, but bright pink! It provides a clear window of view to the graceful wing spans of ten giant Manta rays cruising curiously, closer and closer.  Finally letting go any social distancing behaviours, one Manta delicately glides his giant eyeball up to mine, holding my hypnotic stare.

It is an enthralling moment, one of intense beauty and connection.  Thankfully, it is not just a fleeting flirt. Circling back again and again, this mammoth ray bumps his body gently into me, swimming way too close. Although we all know he is in complete control and knows exactly what he is doing. Tickling me with his wing tip, I mimic his playful behaviour and he instantly entices me into a mesmerising manta dance. Gliding effortlessly above my head, massive bodies black out the sky, dulling any rays of light radiating through the wide expanse of blue. To my delight, sometime during this spellbinding encounter, my playful playmate welcomes his friends along. For a full 45 minutes I see nothing but Mantas – gliding, swirling, circling, dancing, above, below, and beside me.

More info about Adelaar’s Manta special cruises here!

Which vessel will you choose? 

As a travel writer and photographer, life takes me to many amazing places and with only so much time to travel in each year. Therefore, I have to be quite selective of my trips – and indeed, the operators I choose to journey with, within this highly competitive travel market. I do my homework, research the background, and now and again come across outstanding beauties such as the wildlife of Komodo, and this exquisite sailing boat, ‘Adelaar’.

As a passionate scuba diver and ambassador for our oceans, liveaboard diving has grown to be one of my favourite things to cover. While researching Komodo I realised what a plethora of boats there are out there. How does one choose so blindly which one is right for you? For me and from a work perspective, the history of Adelaar, a Dutch schooner built in 1902, set it apart from any other vessel in Indonesia. Admittedly, I knew little more than what I’d read, but excitedly I boarded as a photographer from the harbour in Bali, keen to check out the vessel for myself and produce some awesome content.  As luck had it, on this one last sail before COVID-19 locked down all our horizons, we were joined by Adelaar’s adventure-driven owners and gorgeous French marketing staff which presented a lovely mix of cultures, knowledge, and experience.

More info about Adelaar’s history here!

Adelaar vessel and crew

Stepping onto the highly polished teak floors covered with carpets from the Middle East (an Afghanistan weave I believe), I am led to my cabin, just one of four available to guests for seasonal Indonesian travel.  It is an exclusive feeling. Sharing deck and dive space with just six or seven other passengers, a huge drawcard when compared to other larger liveaboard experiences.

The days ahead cannot be faulted, and in time, I learn to understand why. Living, dining, diving, and chatting with the crew, I soon grow to appreciate the dedication and passion of this onboard family. Their devotion and enthusiasm to making an outstanding experience for each and every guest is what makes it so unique. The fact that Adelaar has retained its crew for such long periods of time speaks bucketloads to me. Captain Sam has been sailing on Adelaar for some 26 years, First Mate, Wy, 25 years.  Head Chef, Wayan, has spent the last 18 years onboard perfecting a tantalising cuisine, presented throughout each day as meticulous works of art.  Indeed, the service and friendliness of all the crew is impeccable, having an everlasting effect on the memories created during each guest’s sailing schedule – a schedule that could, however, spoil you for life.

More info on the ship here!

Diving Komodo with Adelaar

With such a huge biodiversity of corals in Komodo, lashings of colour cover plunging walls of life, protruding vivid pointed pinnacles and sprawling seafloors covered in vibrant underwater coral gardens. There are many delicate swaying spectacles I have never ever seen before. If you are a colour lover, diving will probably never be the same after you have spent some time in the Coral Triangle – the Eden of oceans. With these healthy reefs as a base, the area flourishes with life and each day we say that the diving cannot possibly get better than the day before. But each day, somehow it does. By the last dive of the itinerary I joke that the only thing I have not seen is a whale shark.

Descending onto Little Angel Reef, Moyo, I am elated to see the visibility extending forever in front of me through walls of tiny fish – hundreds of thousands of tiny fish.  As we drop deeper the sea fans are ridiculously beautiful and I am in that deliriously happy mode when Mathilde breaks through my meditative trance, bashing wildly on her tank. Every one of us are in our own states of pleasure, ignoring her for some time, which it turns out is a timely mistake. By the time I look upwards the huge speckled body of a whale shark has passed straight above my head, slowly making its way over the shallow reef above. North Sumbawa is clearly teasing me, sending a sweet goodbye, whilst enticing my swift return.

The joys of sailing life

Over our 10-day cruise we cover some extraordinary ground and produce beautiful stills and video content (which is not that difficult), showcasing our journey. Amid the remarkable daily dives, we also trial and test the fun water sport activities available on Adelaar – kayaks, stand up paddle boards and even some wake boarding with the crew. Ashore we climb the surrounding mountains that present a strange and unique topography, extending astounding views to die for.  We meet dinosaur-like lizards, the Komodo dragons, enjoy blazing sunrises and sunsets and are frequently escorted by hundreds of dolphins. Working with such passionate, motivated, and organised professionals is a breeze. Its gives us the time and ease to hoist our sails and feel that salty sea breeze through our hair.

A ship led by ocean enthusiasts

It is here, sipping a cool gin and tonic under Adelaar’s adorning pleated skirt, that I can smell and feel the timelessness of her journeys.  She has seen some stuff, our Adelaar, beginning life way back in 1902 as a cargo ship, seeing out WW II confiscated by the Germans and working to transport war goods, all the way through to 1981 when Ben rescued and rebirthed her.  Joining owners Ben and Janice on deck under her adorning sails, we listen to stories of their 12-month adventure, sailing her around the world – wild dreams and desires of a salty seadog life awakening before us.

I am enthralled by the story of Ben wanting to initially buy her anchors but instead walking away with the entire boat and then somehow sailing her out of East Berlin into the free world.  As a doctor and highly intellectual physicist, we sit in the sunset and laugh at his stories – everything from turkey basting his pet koi fish as he performs an emergency operation on it on his kitchen table, to challenging us at every turn with the laws of physics. It is these lazy joys of sailing that bring together lifetime memories of time spent in Indonesia, both above and below the ocean.

Heartfelt thanks 

My thanks goes out to the gorgeous and highly efficient Marketing Manager, Mathilde, who blindly believed in me to capture the magic, together with her vivacious helpers, Emma and Morgane – Tino, our highly competent, skilled and cheerful cruise director/dive leader, owners Ben and Janice for their wonderful hospitality, and the entire charming crew. You guys truly are the wind beneath Adelaar’s wings. It was my absolute pleasure working with each and every one of you.  Smooth sailings and remember – salt water is the cure for everything!

By Cathy Finch Photography