We awoke again on the tranquil Java Sea. With some distance to cover before arriving in Madura, we had a leisurely morning and some great opportunities to learn from the team. National Geographic photo expert Ricky Qi walked us through his process of taking photos under difficult circumstances. At five different stops along the trip, Ricky explained the scenario, walked us through the challenges, and then showed us how he tackled them. Afterwards, divemaster Alyssa Adler introduced us to the weird and wonderful world of nudibranchs. These tiny invertebrates range from ornate and spectacular to truly alien – and gave us all a target animal for our next snorkel or dive.

Following lunch, we went ashore on the island of Madura. Escorted to the dock by a floating band, we witnessed a diverse array of costumes and dances that are endemic to the island. Only a short distance from the second largest city in Java, the town of Sumenep feels a world away. On a trip filled with warm and elaborate welcomes, this may have truly been the peak. From inside the palace, we witnessed a traditional Madurese wedding. Outside the palace halls, musicians practiced in the shade of an ancient banyan tree. Schoolchildren were eager to show off their English lessons. “Can we take a photo together?” was the most popular phrase.

Further into the palace, a buffet of traditional Madurese dishes awaited us, from savory satays and fiery eggplant dishes to delicate desserts with the pale celadon coloring of pandanus. Madura is the only large-scale producer of handmade batik in Java, and artisans were actively applying wax designs for new pieces next to the completed works for sale. Ceremonial daggers called kris were also for sale – some newly forged and others quite old. While some guests shopped, others toured the palace grounds and some just relaxed in the shade of the bonsai gardens. Returning to the ship, we witnessed an otherworldly crimson sunset over the harbor to cap off the day.