Passage Report 16
18 September 2008 | Komodo
Komodo to Bali
Recipe for a quiet Komodo dragon life - a-la Sahula - first, increase skipper's stress level (low base) - by frequently ensuring depth sounder leaps 50 m to 8 m in a second - add current turmoil - baste with a headwind - season with chagrin ie a local boat undeterred by "charted" reefs well over to port - improve flavour by not relying on MaxSea digital charts - resolve by using eyes and a prayer.
Sahula is deep in Komodo land. A World Heritage area, Bio-Sphere Reserve and National Park, it is one of the few Indonesian marine protected areas. A jewel in the crown.
The entry port is Labaun Bajo. A picturesque town that in a western nation would be a major economic tourism hub. It is, but on Indonesian terms. Dive offices, restaurants and local hotels, mix with traditional stalls, shops, hooting bemo's and massed motorbikes. Further out, the tourist resort beach mixes poverty with deserted multi-storied concrete monoliths.
Tourists access to the islands (Komodo, Rinco and Padar) is not by a glitzy marine machine, but a traditional wooden "clacking" launch, owned by a local "sailor". The only "bell" is a new paint. The only "whistle" is a plastic chair. A tourist, with a spare two hours, eventually in "air conditioned" comfort, arrives at Rinca Island. An alternative is chartering a large converted wooden "Bugis." A magnificent "luxury" (a relative thing) traditional two masted sailing ship. At Rinca, the National Parks provide guides and charge entry fees to view the Komodo dragons and their environment.
Sahula visited them on Rinca Island. The "dragons" are very large lizards. They look prehistoric but apparently are of relatively recent origin. They become inert under the midday sun. So all activity is early. An amorous male, undeterred by gorking tourists leapt on a smaller female for one and half hours of seemingly loveless "action." Cameras went into overdrive. She went to sleep. A guided walk saw six Komodo "children" taking their share of a much depleted water buffalo carcass, while monkeys, pigs and horses "played nearby. The scenery is spectacular. Ancient volcanic hills surrounded by a deep blue sea, support palm studded grassy brown savanna. It is a scene unique in Indonesia.
Komodo marketing highlights snorkeling and diving. Sahula teamed with "Catala" (Garth and Janine, NZ) to snorkel off nearby islands. Again the marine environment evidenced anchor damaged and dead coral with few fish. That evening skipper enjoyed sundowners but not to the expected flights of expected large bats. Bats don't heed marketing.
Lehok Ginggo, deep in Komodo land. No villages or guides here. Skipper, dragon "hunting," walks (with Garth, "Catala") the valley behind the beach. None is sighted till investigating a nest bed, Skipper is one step from standing on a well camouflaged "Madam." Both are not sure who moved quickest. Skipper's stress level rose a notch. A bite is sufficient to ensure that the 30 odd, toxic bacteria in the Dragon's mouth, kill a buffalo.
Skipper is "Indonesian" brown - the equator sailor - sailing swimming, snorkeling Komodo reefs and bays - notwithstanding white "captains" shirt, bush hat, pink is impossible.
Pink Beach, Komodo Island, (from red coral chips washed ashore), Sahula, finally strikes snorkelers "gold." Offshore a wonderland of crystal clear, colourful fish and coral. Ginggo and Padar islands were poor cousins made up for by striking land and seascapes. Padar's steep peaks guard the circular bay of an ancient volcano.
Sahula follows the "Bugis" trail to Gili Dawa off northern Komodo Island. An orange orb, distant pink, purple, blue of Sumbawa Island's twin volcanoes, superb seascape, from yellow, brown bayside peaks after an evening climb. Tread carefully, this is Komoda Dragon country.
The grapevine fairly shudders with information from 116 Rally yachts. Some good, bad, some well meaning but misleading. Satonda Island is "good." It's at the end of Sahula's first all night sail in Indonesia.
Its circles - reef around and Island around a crater lake. Oddly the lake, a short walk from the seashore, is seawater despite being marginally higher with no entrance to the sea. The reef is good snorkeling. "Reef" is "good" (and rare) if mass fish are around autumn coloured but vibrant coral.
In the way of Indonesia, Satonda's anchorage is a port. The only sign of habitation is the mooring bouy and a jetty. There to receive Sahula is the Harbour Master, an elderly, pleasant fellow, adorned in full golden braided uniform, replete with forms and inevitable stamps. Under the trees, next to the monkeys, solomenly, 50,000 rupees ($5.00) "port fees" are passed upon an "A4" receipt and "port" form. The "Green book" bulges with forms of past ports.
Whale ho! Sahula first cetacaen.
Wind, wonderful wind - Sahula scuds along in a rare early morning 20-25 knots. A "Selat" wind, squeezed into the straits between Sumbawa and Lombok. Followed by, "wind where art thou," as it dies behind island and reverses direction into light breezes. Time to make another round of bread and muffins.
Another moonlight night sail to the Gili Islands off western Lombok.
It's tourist land, lines of hotels and resorts, glitzy streets to gather in the tourist rupee. They're "Bali bombed" into recession. A vibrant industry providing income for so many needy locals is struggling to be viable.
Sahula is in Teluk Kombal, the Lombok Island ferry port for the Gili islands. The Gili's are a tourists delight, no cars only horse drawn carts, surf and snorkeling on coral cays packed with tourism's accommodation and eateries. Anti-Sahula country so off to Kombal.
Kombal is swaying palms, beach and reef. Skipper takes 2 hours of motorbike therapy, to a mountain monkey sanctuary, through the green hills and jungle, rice paddies and village life. The gods are with us - the driver genuflects to the passing shrines.
Next day, the spectacular coast road to Sengigi. A sailor's delight - hundreds of multi-coloured traditional fishers outriggers fly triangular multi-coloured sails on an azure Selat Lombok (strait). Fishers by morning, then tenderers of copra palms, tapioca, rice, goats, cows and village children, mothers and elderly - an eternal survival cycle. The average income per-capita in Indonesia is $2300 - 2400.00. Many would exist on subsistence.
A pile of bamboo, cordage and plastic sail cloth, is all that would remain on a deconstructed fishers boat. Rigging is solid bamboo "wire."
A Sengigi lunch over Skipper's first newspaper since Darwin, The Jakarta Post (English written) reports on a mad world - "foreign" to local villagers.
Selat Lombok (strait) provides 30 knots of current whipped sea. Bali's lee provides a Tanya calm.
Bali under moonlight is a fairyland of lights set against a range of volcanoes. Sahula is entering deepest populated Indonesia. Bali, Java, Sumatra are home to the majority of Indonesia's 250 million.
Sahula is anchored, with the Fleet, at Lovina, northern Bali to a rising red orb. Fabled Bali finally found but first a sleeping skipper before tonights Regent's official dinner and welcome.