asia // indonesia T he starfish are blue, but not in an emotional sense. Nor are the golden damselfish in distress. After all, it’s difficult to feel despondent when you’re paddling the warm seas that flank Indonesia’s lesser-known islands, with their underwater fields of lilac and gardens of lime coral. As for the angelfish, they look like they’re in heaven. I am on a nine-day sailing trip aboard Al likai or ‘Queen of the Seas’, a traditional Indonesian timber boat that will carry me from Sanur in Bali, east across the Bali Sea and into the Flores Sea, ending at Labuan Bajo, just before Timor. This 50-hour journey, covering some 350 nautical miles, will showcase some of the best of Indonesia, from its remote By mid morning it’s all grappas and thick, muddy Lombok coffee onshore at Gili Asahan Eco Lodge & Restaurant, which was built by Italians. Later, we drift snorkel with the current off Gili Ringgit, where the coral chatters in one of Indonesia’s 300 dialects and the trumpetfish are tooting their own horns. Back on board, we feast on Indonesian delights such as gado gado and chicken laksa, and drink ice-cold Bintang. There’s homemade orange cake and the juiciest of mangoes for d essert. By late afternoon at Ko-ko-mo Resort Gili Gede, where the well- heeled lounge in private villa plunge pools and dine with their feet in the sand, it’s lychee martinis and local kids on pink bicycles. “This 50-hour journey will showcase some of the best of Indonesia, from remote villages to manta rays” eastern villages to the mighty manta rays that ply its waters, and the gargantuan komodo dragons that prowl its lands. On day one we have calm seas for our nine-hour sail along the coast of Bali and up the Lombok Strait to South Lombok, where Gili Layer awaits our anchor. On day two we snorkel off ‘no name’ island, home to seahorses and nudibranch sea slugs, and where the Spanish dancer flaunts its red flamenco cape. A spaghetti worm wraps around the coral where the juvenile boxfish fancy a frolic. 64 When we awake on day three Mount Rinjani in the distance is shrouded in a mystical cloak, but this active volcanic madam rests peacefully today. We snorkel off Gili Nanguu where coral restoration projects have attracted thousands of fish. Nemo is there in droves, but it appears his existential crisis has long since abated. We explore the wreck and hard corals off Gili Meno, and our boat tender roars past the heart-shaped Honeymoon Island. Late afternoon it’s turtle time off Gili Trawangan, while onshore the distant heartbeat of reggae music thumps from a bar. We are travelling at a leisurely eight knots an hour, and our days involve sailing, snorkelling, sleeping, eating and exploring.