Nihi Sumba Indonesia 1

Nancy in Indonesia

written by
Sue van Winsen
Sue van Winsen

Pristine reefs, wild horses and endless beaches

Travelling with Niarra three times, to three different destinations in less than three years, Nancy Knickerbocker from Connecticut in the USA is a curious person with a passion for people and nature. Niarra Travel’s Content Writer, Sue van Winsen spoke to Nancy about her very first trip with Niarra, a tailormade ‘Coral, Conservation and Culture’ trip across Indonesia in December 2022.

Nancy’s trip started with two nights in the bustling cultural melting pot of Jakarta, followed by seven days aboard Aqua Blu sailing around the crystal-clear waters of Raja Ampat. Next, Nancy flew to Bali for two nights amidst the rice paddies and craftsman at Capella Ubud and then five nights of beachside bliss at NIHI Sumba.

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Tell us a bit more about the trips you’ve taken with Niarra?

First was my solo Indonesia trip, which we’ll be talking about in more detail. After that, I travelled to Ecuador and Galapagos with four of my girlfriends, and also with my family for a wonderful trip across Italy.

Which Niarra Travel Researcher took care of the trip we’re discussing today and what were the highlights of working with them?

I worked with Rebecca Cook who is just a total rock star – she is delightful, brilliant, so personable and just makes everything so easy. For example, I would call her up and say that I’m thinking of going to Indonesia to go snorkelling on a boat followed by a stay at the beach, and the next moment she’s created the most unbelievable trip. She goes above and beyond to make things so perfect – it’s like she knows me so well.

Who did you travel with and what did you want to get out of the Indonesia trip?

I took this trip alone, which is my preferred way to. It never felt like I was travelling solo – on the boat I met the nicest people, many people that I’m still in touch with today. In fact, we have a Whatsapp group and if someone goes away, they send a picture – that was how I decided on my Ecuador and Galapagos trip – someone from the Aqua Blu said I had to check it out and that’s what made me call Rebecca who set it all up!

In terms of what I wanted to get out of the trip, this would be my first time trying out snorkelling, and what better place to learn than Raja Ampat? I also wanted to experience the culture, which I did – and of course, try new food.

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How did your expectations compare with the actual experience?

It exceeded all expectations. Rebecca always seems to put me in the greatest hotels where I’m treated like a queen. It’s almost hard to go home because the people that work at these properties are just the loveliest people in the world and I miss them so much!

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Were there any destinations, or properties that you stayed at, that stood out?

Aqua Blu was my favourite part of the trip There were only 13 of us onboard and we really bonded. We were lucky, as during my trip there were two men who joined us to teach the crew about birds, so we were also able to enjoy a week-long lesson on local birdlife.

NIHI Sumba was also amazing. Here I went on a ‘Spa Safari’, where you are taken to this wonderful Robinson Crusoe-like part of the island on the side of a cliff, where breakfast was waiting as the waves splashed on the rocks below. Next, I was led to the hilltop where someone washed my feet and I enjoyed an hour-long massage looking out over the water. Afterwards, you head down to the private pool where you are given something to drink and you can relax – it was incredible. Other special experiences included making my own chocolate bars at NIHI Sumba’s chocolate factory – it was so much fun, I felt just like a little kid.

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You had never snorkelled before, how did you find it?

It was amazing. It was one of the reasons I said to my girlfriends that we were all going to the Galapagos so that they could also learn how to snorkel. At Raja Ampat, we saw manta rays as big as cars, beautiful starfish, sting rays and so much more.

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Did you have the opportunity to go on any conservation-focused or community experiences?

In Raja Ampat, we visited a very small island where a local guide showed us around. The kids were all playing soccer, and as we walked around, he told us more about the village’s efforts to become more environmentally friendly, and one of these projects included using concrete to restore the natural underwater reefs. He also spoke about how they manage fishing as they don’t want to over catch and affect the marine ecosystem. It was such a learning experience to get an insight into their lives, which were certainly difficult, but they were all so happy at the same time.

If someone was considering a similar trip, what advice would you give them?

One thing I’d advise people against is taking a lot of flights. I took about nine flights from beginning to end and it was too much. Even if a flight is only an hour long, you have to be at the airport ahead of time and it can end up being a full day of travel. If you are only planning to spend a night or two in a destination, I’d suggest leaving it out of the trip and rather focus on spending longer at fewer places.

I’d also suggest that they get a private driver and guide – this is something Rebecca does for me every time I travel, especially as I usually travel alone, and it makes such a difference, especially in terms of sharing local insights.

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Are you planning another adventure? What’s next on your list?

Absolutely – at Christmas time I will be travelling with Niarra to Oman and the Maldives, I am so excited! I contacted Rebecca and said I was ready to go somewhere a bit different, where I could snorkel and enjoy a little beach time and she came up with this wonderful trip. Next, I want to go back to Africa, or perhaps somewhere in Asia like Vietnam or Cambodia.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of booking with Niarra but may still have some doubts?

To sum it up, I’d say that with Niarra you don’t have to worry about a single thing other than what you’ll enjoy the most on your adventure!

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