Description & main attractions
The Indonesian archipelago of 13,677 islands stretches from Australia to Asia and is the largest island group in the world. The main islands are Java, Sumatra, Irian Jaya (the western part of Papua New Guinea), and Kalimantan (formerly Borneo). Indonesia is a place of dense tropical forests, neat terraced rice fields and active volcanoes, the most famous being Krakatoa. The culture is rich both in traditions and relics from past civilizations as well as modern-day arts and crafts.
For many years Indonesia has been as tempting as forbidden fruit to cruising sailors because of the difficulty of obtaining a cruising permit. This is no longer the case as the permit is now only a formality, complicated but obtainable. Once in possession of this, the freedom of movement is virtually unrestricted. Yachts usually cruise the islands from east to west and, if this is planned to coincide with the southeast monsoon (May to September), this will benefit from favourable winds. A cruise along the island chain, preferably along the northern shores, offers a panoramic view of the scenic beauty of this country, each island differing from its neighbour. Just as different are the traditional sailing craft still encountered among the islands: single, double and treble hulled, from fragile one-man fishing boats to heavy schooners laden to the gunwhales with salt, copra, rice – and occasionally goats or a family’s furniture – as much inter- island traffic is still done under sail.
Yachts arriving from the north should encounter more favourable winds during the northwest monsoon, from December to April, but this is not necessarily the ideal time as the weather is rainy and squally. This is also the cyclone season in the Timor and Arafura Seas, such storms occasionally affecting weather conditions in the southern islands. The tactic is to plan a voyage for the transitional period, and the best time to head south is during the spring period, from March to April, and sail north in the autumn, from September to October.
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