With a normal ship’s supply of Bintang on board, we left the small island north of Riung onto the next anchorage at Linggeh, some 33nm away to the west. I’d read on other blogs, and overheard a conversation by a passing yacht, that the anchorage at Linggeh, otherwise reasonably good, was likely to attract a swarm of children seeking books, pens and anything else they could leech away from the passing yachts. They weren’t wrong. Turning into the bay, Blue Heeler was flanked closely either side by inquisitive fishing boats seemingly escorting us the 3nm into the bay, but strangely staring at us the whole time. As soon as we’d turned, anchored, and set our anchor alarm to relax, we were quickly approached by the fishermen, seeking bits and pieces for their kids. One guy paddled out to Blue Heeler, said the obligatory “Hello Mister, buku? pen? pencil?” then hung on to the railing and just stared at us. Somewhat fed up with the relentless pestering, Wayne smiled and said to the fellow “So mate, is that all you’re gonna do all day? Just hang on the railing, stare at us and beg for things?”. The fisherman had no idea what Wayne said but just smiled and nodded. It was rude of him I guess, but I had to chuckle. After about 20 minutes of hanging on the rail not speaking, the guy got the hint and left. Then the kids came…. those that could speak some (polite) English (which were generally the older kids) I gave items in exchange for a mango. Other boats were tormented for some time into the afternoon to the point they stayed below to avoid the anguish associated with interacting with the plague of wanting children. Blue Heeler hosted a sundowner for the other yachties that night so while we entertained the crew of Dol’Selene, Recluse, Keris and Island Sonata, a bunch of kids hung around the gunwales saying “Hello Mister”, watching us drink and eat. Certainly a little awkward to have a group of kids singing, swimming, begging as we drank our Bintang and ate our snacks.
We quietly escaped Linggeh the next morning (making sure there were no kids still attached to the gunwales) for a day trip to the small island of Gili Boda. Using Open CPN chart software plus Google Earth layers incorporated into the software, we managed to find our way through the mass of reef to the north and west of the island to anchor in the depths beyond the narrow entrance on the north west side of Gili Boda. The Google Earth images integrate accurately with Open CPN lat/longs and help route planning immensely. Our C-Map charts are poor in this part of the world so any information is good information. The Google Earth images have spread through the fleet like a virus as most are using Open CPN navigation software. After a couple of days relaxing we sailed the anchorage outside the Eco Resort about 5kms south of the town of Labuan Bajo.
We were approached by a local named ‘Ardi’ at the small island of Gili Boda, and he popped up again at the Labuan Bajo anchorage, wanting to know if we wanted fuel, laundry done, or to buy a wooden dragon from him. Wayne negotiated diesel with ‘Mr Ardi’ at 7,000 rupiah per litre and talked him down from 15,000 to 10,000 rupiah for unleaded. I was mildly impressed with Mr Ardi’s entrepreneurial efforts so I purchased a wooden Komodo dragon for 200,000 rupiah (talked him down from 250,000 mind you). Mr Ardi also offered us a taxi service into Labuan Bajo for 70,000 return plus he organised a couple of boxes of Bintang for us (for a small fee of course). He dropped us off at 9am and we asked him to pick us up at 3pm with the Bintang where we would pay him at the end of the day for his services. We kept our word and he did also, arriving at exactly 3pm to pick us up from the Labuan Bajo wharf. Considering I’ve heard about ‘rubber time’ in Indonesia, I was suitably impressed with his promptness.
In Labuan Bajo we strolled the dusty streets onto the fresh food market along the wharf then made our way to the Mediterraneo restaurant where we had a pizza each for around $6 and used their free wireless service to update our emails, etc. until such time we could find an outlet to credit our iPads.
We topped up with fuel, groceries and beer at Labuan Bajo, said farewell to Mr Ardi, and left towards Rinca with the promise of seeing Komodo dragons. It was a short distance to Rinca from Labuan Bajo and joining us ashore was the crew from Dol’Selene and Recluse. What we thought was a 50,000 entry fee soon turned out to be 50,000 each for park entry; 50,000 for camera usage (our own mind you) 50,000 for anchoring in the Komodo National Park for three days plus a small fee for the rangers dental fund. All up is was around $20 for the two of us to visit. Not too bad, but would be easier if they just had one fee. They’d probably make more money too. Other yachties had decided to take a local tour to Rinca from Labuan Bajo and paid around 450,000 each which was a bit excessive. Mind you, I really expected the small anchorage at Rinca to be full of yachts but there was only two other yachts there when we arrived, making the journey worthwhile.
The dragons are ugly and large. Apparently they have over 60 different types of bacteria so just a lick from them will make you very sick. A bite will kill in hours. We kept our distance but the dragons near the kitchen area looked pretty well feed, even though we were assured the dragons were “never fed by the rangers”. Yeah right! We walked with two rangers for over an hour, saw many dragons plus the bonus of a water buffalo, before heading back to the boats. A fellow at the wharf had a t-shirt with ‘Coast Guard’ printed on it and he wanted to stamp our CAITs (cruising visas) with the appropriate port stamp. Wayne, Brian and Steve returned to the wharf with copies of the CAITs to be stamped and the guy suddenly requested 100,000 each for the effort. They told him to bugger off, got the CAITs stamped and returned to the boats. Other yachties were duped and ended up paying either 100,000 or we heard 200,000 in one case! You’ve got to give them points for trying…
Staying only one night at Rinca, Wayne and I went ahead of Dol and Recluse as we wanted to take in a dive or two further up the islands. We motor sailed about 12nm north to Sebajor Besar, while the others continued around to Pink Bay at the bottom of Komodo Island. The first dive wasn’t very good, but the following morning the wind eased and we motored a short 1nm across to Sebajor Kecil and grabbed one of the free moorings. We had a lovely dive in around 20m. Pretty coral and lots of fish – a much better dive than the day before. Our next anchorage was North Komodo where we grabbed one of the two free moorings. A few other boats, including Dol and Recluse, turned up later in the morning. I’d persuaded Wayne to snorkel first to find a good dive area before we went to the trouble of getting all the gear out. As it turned out the area wasn’t that good, even for a snorkel. We drift snorkelled around the entire bay dragging the dinghy behind us. Drinks were on Dol Selene that night and we were introduced to a fellow named Brian off the power boat ‘Further’. His crew, Simone, and he are dive instructors and we arranged with them to go to the top of Gili Lawa Laut the next day to take a dive off Castle Rock, some 1nm off shore. The following day we three motored around to the stunning anchorage at Gili Lawa Laut then prepared to go for a dive. The water here is the clearest I’ve ever seen anywhere – no doubt about that. There were two moorings at the anchorage and a large ‘no anchoring’ sign, but where else could we go? We dropped the anchor in a patch of sand to avoid damaging any coral. Brian and Gale took me, while Wayne went with Brian and Simone out to the dive. It was a great half hour dive in 10-24m depth with reef sharks, lion fish and other beautiful fish.
We all agreed we’d do a drift dive in the channel between Gili Lawa Laut and Komodo. I was excited and a little nervous as I’d never done one before; in fact I’ve not really done that much diving over the past few years. All five of us jumped into the water and were slowly picked up in the current, which steadily increased as the water narrowed through the gap. It was so much fun! We flew through the water just like we were in outer space, doing somersaults, arms extended like Superman and other crazy stuff. At one point I tried to grab a rock, missed it, then grabbed another to face the strong 2-4 knot current. I could just hold onto the rock as water rushed by me whereupon I had to let go. At the front of the group I was flying along like an astronaut (a hydronaut perhaps?) when I could see a dark abyss ahead of me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I’d read that some currents could drag unsuspecting divers down with the current. Not much I could do at this point so I kept my eyes open and flew over the dark drop zone. It was like flying in a dream! Totally awesome! A shift in the current dragged me down a bit, twisted me to the left of the stream and was sending me hurtling towards a coral face. I kept my arms out to keep in control (not that I was out of control; it was all very tame really) and glided along the coral wall. The rest of the dive from then was stunning. The depth decreased to around 10-15m as we drifted amongst beautiful coral, fish, turtles and sharks. Gail dinghied through the gap along the current and picked Brian and I up, while the other Brian had fetched his dinghy to pickup Simone and Wayne. That was the best dive experience I’ve had to date – excellent!
The following day Wayne and I walked up the large hill at Gili Lawa Laut and took some great photos of the channel we’d dived through plus the surrounding islands and bays. Wayne and I left there to visit the anchorage at Teluk Batu Monco. Armed with information from another vessel, we enjoyed a dive in 5-15m off the north east corner of the bay – one of the most relaxing and pleasant dives I’ve ever enjoyed.
The following day with all the dive gear cleaned and packed up, we headed south west to check out the southern anchorage on Gili Banta, but it turned out to be very swelly and windy, so we continued a further 40nm to Teluk Bima for the night. That anchorage was okay; we had a SW wind all night but it wasn’t too bumpy. From there we motor-sailed to Pulau Metang for a shitty night’s sleep in heavy swell, leaving the next morning for a 64nm motor-sail against a 2 knot current. We couldn’t make it all the way to Medana Bay marina on Lombok where the fleet was headed, so we anchored at Amoramor some 12nm north of Medana Bay. It was a little rolly, but we managed to sleep anyway, leaving the next morning for a three hour trip to Medana Bay. The anchorage is small and although there are some berths and moorings, the currents and winds caused many boats to shift and swirl. We decided to move further out of the anchorage to a safer clearing.
We are here at Lombok’s Medana Bay to have our social visas renewed, fuel up, provision and enjoy a week or so catching up with other yachties and planning the next stage of our trip, which will include a long journey across to Kumai in Borneo to see the orang utans.