Indonesia, Borneo & Papua New Guinea: Expedition cruise guide

Travel Advice

Exploring the islands of South East Asia by water is a magical experience. You have access to a range of infinitely diverse locations that are more or less impossible to reach any other way, and you encounter extraordinary wildlife, marine life, and a whole array of different civilisations and cultures that developed on isolated islands, barely touched by modern influences.

When Alfred Russel Wallace travelled here in the 19th century, he was inspired to write his pioneering account of evolution by natural selection. On the other side of the Pacific, Charles Darwin was reaching the same conclusions, and they pooled and discussed their research. At the same time, he highlighted Wallace's Line, which he suggested was a boundary between the Oriental and Australian faunal regions, representing an abrupt limit of distribution for many major animal groups. Here he really found a biological treasure trove.

When to visit

The climate is tropical - hot and humid all year round, with only two seasons: wet, which usually occurs in winter, and dry in summer, although there are significant local variations. Rest assured that expedition planners take the weather into account when creating their itineraries to ensure you will be there at the best time.

Jungle near Ubud, Bali

Which expedition cruise itinerary to choose

You have an extraordinary choice of itinerary in this region, and it is likely you will want to return again and again in order to experience everything on offer. You may choose a unique opportunity to visit Camp Leakey, and learn about the important work being done with the orangutans of Borneo; you may be a dedicated diver or snorkeller, eager to explore the magical underwater treasures of the Coral Triangle; or you may be fascinated by the opportunity to meet ancient peoples and learn more about their civilisation.

Baby orangutan in Kalimantan, Borneo

You can visit the rain forests of Borneo, the richest and most biodiverse on Earth; Sulawesi, home of the Torajan people with their captivating villages, dramatic death rituals and timeless traditions; spectacular underwater wonders throughout the archipelago; Bali's rich artistic heritage; the unique ceremonies of Flores; the indigenous tribal groups of Alor Island, renowned for their Moko drum culture; the extraordinary land of Papua New Guinea, where you can see the famous Asmat wood carvings, explore ancient rock art, and encounter people completely isolated from the western world.

Tana Toraja in Sulawesi, Indonesia

Dedicated anthropologists and archaeologists over the past century have learnt much about the friendly and hospitable people in this region, and this is an opportunity to understand their histories, their belief systems and their way of life.

Traditional dancers in Papua New Guinea

How to get there

You will access this region through a South East Asian gateway, usually Singapore or Hong Kong. Onward flights may be scheduled, or specially chartered specifically for your journey.

Observation wheel in Hong Kong

The wildlife of Borneo & South East Asia

In Borneo you might see the pygmy elephant, the shy Borneo rhino, the remarkable orangutan, the proboscis monkey with its large nose and belly, six other primate species, as well as 220 bird species including parrots, lorikeets, the spectacular bird of paradise and hornbills, carnivorous pitcher plants and gigantic fruit bats, also known as flying foxes.

Knobbed hornbill in Tangkok National Park, Sulawesi

Depending on your itinerary you may see fiddler crabs, sea turtles, sea snakes, spinner and spotted dolphins, sperm whales, Bryde's whales, and lots of tropical sea birds, including frigate birds, shearwaters, boobies, and black napped terns. Marine life includes beautiful corals, such as staghorn, elkhorn, brain, pillar, star, and mushroom corals. Amongst the coral look out for Moorish idols with their distinctive black, white, and yellow markings and long dorsal streamer; the giant, curious and slow-moving potato cods; white-tipped reef sharks; and plenty more colourful tropical reef fish too numerous to name. If that's not enough, how about Komodo dragons, sulphur-crested cockatoos, white-breasted eagles, strange tree snails, and possibly green tree vipers or brown spitting cobras... the list goes on and one!

Komodo dragon in Indonesia

Extend your adventure

A wealth of magical experiences await as you fly into one of the slick cosmopolitan cities of the Orient. An extended stay in the bustling heart of Singapore or Hong Kong, a luxurious resort hotel on a deserted beach, a trip on the Eastern & Oriental Express, or a side trip to Laos or Cambodia. There are so many choices at your fingertips, so why not give us a call on 020 7399 7630 to discuss your options in more detail.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Meet the author

Tom is a Communications Manager at the Galapagos Conservation Trust and former Marketing Manager at Mundy Adventures

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