The trip was amazing, visiting islands where tourists just can't get to, hearing the dawn chorus in the rainforest before watching red birds of paradise displaying, amazing tropical vegetation, snorkelling over perfect coral gardens, smiling people, superb food and the greatest variety of fruit imaginable. I think my favourite was a large spiky green fruit called something like zirzak that tasted like a cross between a lemon and an apple with the texture of an over ripe mango. (But smelly durian fruit just do not do it for me).
The Asian area director of Flora and Fauna International, Tony Whitten was leading the Wallace fact finding trip for Seatrek (the company who do wonderful trips round Indonesia), and it was fantastic to have him at my elbow showing me different trees and flowers including extraordinary plants that rely on symbiosis with ants to grow and survive. I return fired up to find more about tropical plants though I'm afraid orchids still don't thrill me as much as perhaps they ought. We saw the oldest clove tree in the world on Ternate (and were told a fantastic clove story by writer Simon Worrall who was fact-finding for a future spice islands tour), sadly in its last throes but the next oldest is on the slope below and still thriving, and we got a lesson in nutmeg harvesting on Tidore. Tony's daughter Ruth is a brilliant photographer and will be posting here photos soon for us all to share so I didn't get my little camera out as much as I probably should have done as Ruth's are superb. But here's a little glimpse into January in the southern hemisphere.
|Ombak Puthi base for a couple of weeks|
|sunsets were spectacular|
|with my new friends (I'm somewhere in the middle!)|
|yet another orchid|
|I love the packaging|
|my favourite fruit|
|shells and coral fragments from the beach which had to be returned to sea as I didn't realise I shouldn't have collected them|
|a lesson in harvesting nutmeg|
|jackfruit tree and cassava in her pack|