Have Wind, Will Travel: Tall-Ship Sailing in Bali

The reputation of this small Indonesian island has long been associated with westernized Bali High dreams—so much so that it sees more than 1 million visitors annually, a considerable sum for an island the size of Delaware. Despite its popularity as one of the world's exotic hotspots, you can dodge the tourist traps by boarding a historic, 350-foot tall ship as it cruises from the island's eastern coast to Australia, powered by 44,000 square feet of billowing canvas. Explore remote beaches and small coastal villages, snorkel and scuba through thriving coral reefs, dine on local cuisine prepared by the ship's crew, and learn the ropes of tall-ship sailing—or just relax on the sun-drenched deck and revel in the beauty of the country as you dip and sway along its sand-covered coast.

The beaches that make up Bali's eastern region, dotted with towns like the serene resort village of Lovina, and the wild, spirited Lombok, make for good one-off points. But most tall ship voyages explore Nusa Tenggara, a string of narrow islands stretching between Bali and Australia. These islands, specifically Flores and Komodo, are accessible only by boat and contain some of the most exotic wildlife in all of Indonesia. Flores' volcanoes, rainforests, and beaches create a magical, surreal landscape, while Komodo Island derives its name from its most-famous resident: the legendary Komodo dragons, the largest monitor lizards on Earth.
Bali's rich aquatic environment also affords some of the world's best water sports: surfers claim that America's entire west coast pales in comparison to Bali's swells, while divers will find an underwater wonderland in the coral reefs off the island's east coast. Or arrange for a side-trip to Menjangan, a small island in northwestern Bali whose relative anonymity has protected a diverse underwater population, including radiant sunfish and hawksbill turtles.
Most tall-ship cruises range from single- and multi-day trips to one- and two-week voyages. Ships are outfitted to ensure guests' comfort: large cabins, gourmet cuisine, air-conditioning, plumbing—the works. Experienced crews, commonly made up of native Indonesians, manage all the details, but many outfitters will gladly specialize a trip to match your particular interests. Some outfitters will offer free passage if you can fill the boat, so consider rounding up a group of friends and family and you may be able to pull off a low-cost, custom trip.

Published: 17 Jun 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Bali

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The Westin Resort Nusa Dua Bali
$115
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Ayodya Resort Bali
$125-$166
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Legian Beach Hotel Bali
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Grand Aston Bali Beach Resort

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