Photos from Komodo and western Flores

Two dragons: Rinca Island
Komodo Dragon sticks his tongue out at us: Rinca Island
View of the anchorage: Rinca Island


Sabbatical III with Komodo Island in the background
Four friends from Komodo village
Entrance to National Park: Komodo Island
Komodo Island

Video of Komodo dragon above

Boy heading for ceremony, Riung, Flores Island
Girls at the dock, Riung, Flores Island


Boars, monkeys, and dragons

A lot has happened since we posted our last blog. We are currently anchored off of Teluk Sorolia (Sorolia Bay) on Komodo Island. The is no habitation on the shore that we are facing, only five large wild pigs (boars) walking up the beach looking for something to eat. They are quite skittish since they are preyed upon by the Komodo Dragon, the largest reptile in the world. The dragons are up to 10 feet long (a lot of that is tail) and 220 pounds. They prey on every creature on this island and the neighboring island of Rinca (aka Rinja and Rincah), including (Asian) buffalo, deer, monkey, and the occasional human. They look and move like creatures from a 1950s Japanese horror movie. More on this later, first I need to get our blog caught up with our movements since the last posting.

We left Riung, Flores on August 16th for our third attempt to find the right conditions to sail to Labuan Bajo. The seas were quite flat so that even with light winds, we could make decent progress under sail alone. We averaged less than 4 knots of boat speed but we sailed 90 percent of the way, and it was a beautiful night with an almost full moon. Diesel is hard to come by and we hate to motor anyway. Labuan Bajo has trash everywhere and is charmless. We were able to get 6 of our jerry cans filled with diesel (there are no fuel docks for yachts in Indonesia), get some fruits and veggies at the market, and have a couple of restaurant meals. The internet service was so slow as to be essentially unusable.

On August 20th (Saturday) we sailed to Rinca Island and anchored in Loh Buaya Rincah, a narrow fjord-like bay. We were one of four Sail Indonesia Rally boats anchored there, three of which are Amel’s like ours. Rinca and Komodo island (and some smaller adjacent islands) make up Komodo National Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is only the place in the world with the magnificent Komodo Dragons. We did two treks over two days on Rinca Island, accompanied by a National Park ranger, who carried a long forked stick in case he needed to keep aggressive dragons at bay. It is a Park requirement that tourists walk accompanied by a ranger as the dragons are not that picky about what they eat. We saw at least ten dragons including some large males. Yesterday to sailed to Teluk Ginggo some miles to the west of Loh Buaya Rincah but still on Rinca Island. We encountered something we had not experiences for some weeks — strong winds. We zoomed along at over 9 knots, some of which was current. The anchorage was fine and there were monkeys and dragons on the beach, although not mixing socially.

Today we were were almost two-thirds of the way to an anchorage on the south end of Rinca Island when the wind began to gust 30 knots on the nose, The current also seemed to turn against us as well. It seemed like it would be a hard slog to weather, so we bailed out and turned around and headed for Komodo Island. The currents are very strong, and with the strong wind and coral and rock bottom, it was difficult to anchor the boat at the first place we tried (between Komodo and Punja Island). The boat would not turn head into the wind as the current was so strong. We sat with our beam into the strong wind for a while deciding what to do when a small local boat came up and said that it was dangerous to anchor where we were due to the current. We had two local young men come on board and they led us around a headlands to the northwest were we are now anchored in sand off the beach with 5 wild pigs. It is comfortable and I will certainly sleep better at night here than in the previous place that had the churning current and winds. Our new friends who come from tiny Komodo village and they will take us to the park tomorrow in their longboat.


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Photos from Flores Island

We bailed out of our planned 28 hour passage to Labuan Bajo after a few hours.  The winds were too light to sail and there was an uncomfortable swell from the north.  So we anchored out in Ciendah and tried again the next morning.  Same outcome — light winds and uncomfortable swells.  So we are now in Riung (since yesterday) and looking to leave tomorrow.  We had a nice walk around Riung today and bought some fruits and veggies at the market.

Here are some photos taken since we left Kupang.




View overlooking the bay at Batu Boga, Flores
Floating fish shack with Mt. Bolling, Adonara Island in background
Fisherman prepare to go to sea at sunset, Batu Boga
Krokos Islets with Lembata Island in the background
Children, Waimalung
Volcano, Lembata Island
Catholic Church, Tanjung Gedong
Laura shops for veggies, Wailamung

Batu Boga

It is Friday evening and we are about to start our third night anchored on the west side of the rocky peninsula known as Batu Boga. This is a very small bay with steep hills on three sides and a coral reef to the west. There is room for at most 3 sail boats. There is no village here, just a simple compound with an extended family that fish and plant yams. There are few trees and those trees are occupied by monkeys that we have heard but have not seen. It is a beautiful and peaceful place. We have developed a very nice relationship with the family. We have an excess of goods to give away, particularly children’s clothing, and this family with 7 children has been the recipient of bag loads of clothing, toys, freshly baked banana bread, batteries, sunglasses, and assorted other stuff. They are sweet people with a cute gaggle of children.

This bay has decent snorkeling and excellent water quality, except at low tide. We were able to get in the water and give the waterline of Sabbatical III a good cleaning, as well as remove marine growth from the rudder, keel, and knotmeter. Every afternoon about 6 to 8 small (20 foot) Indonesia fishing boats arrive here from Maumere and anchor quite close to us in very shallow water (3 feet). They bath, collect some kind of sea critter from the bottom that they just pop into their mouths, and cook supper. They laugh and joke with each other and make good natured comments about us. An hour after sunset they all leave to spend the night fishing and then return to Maumere, about 25 miles away.

We arrived here from Pulau Besar in the company of the Australian boat “Freeform” with Dale and Sophie onboard “Freeform” is a Freedom 32 sloop built in Warren, Rhode Island and is just a smaller version of our previous boat “Sabbatical II”, a Freedom 38. We connected up with “Freeform” in Wailamung two days prior to arriving here. Wailamung was nothing special except that we were there for the once a week market day (Tuesday). This is a poor island and it is the dry season, so there was not very much of interest to us even in the weekly market. No eating bananas, just plantains. We did buy a couple of pineapples, some tomatoes and bok choy, and some yams, and these were welcome additions to our diet. From Wailamung we sailed in company with “Freeform” to Pulau Besar, a small, very steep island a few miles offshore the big island of Flores. We anchored in a small, protected bay opposite a Muslim fishing village containing about 10 houses in a single cluster, and a mosque. It seemed a peaceful place until it was just about time for evening prayers. We heard a small generator start-up, and then shortly thereafter the muzzein’s call to prayer was blasted from a loudspeaker even though all of the houses were in easy earshot of the mosque and each other. At 5 am the generator was started up again for the morning call to prayer. There was no way one could sleep through it. We needed to be on our way to Batu Boga anyway, so it was no matter.

Tomorrow morning we will leave for the 145 nautical mile passage to Labuan Bajo at the far western end of Flores Island. We will try to sail (as opposed to motor) this distance even though the winds are almost always very light. We sailed to Batu Boga in light winds, averaging a slow but comfortable 5 knots, and that is all we can hope for tomorrow. It should take us 24 – 28 hours to get to Labuan Bajo. “Freeform” is making the same passage as well.


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Tanjung Gedong

We arrived at Tanjung Gedong on the northeast end of Flores Island yesterday after a motor/sail in light winds from Kroko Islets. It is a very pretty and protected small bay. Coming from the east, there is nothing but steep cliffs dropping into the sea until Tanjung Gedong. Even here, the small village is on a fairly steep cliff and the water depth increases quickly away from the beach. We are anchored on a rock shelf just ahead of a 50 meter precipice.

On arriving, we were visited first by local children in wooden canoes (sampans), to whom we offer lollipops, and then by Niko, a poor fisherman with two beautiful helmet shells that Laura loves. We traded a new Chinese digital watch, some children’s clothes, and some fish hooks for the shells. When we took our kayak to shore, there was a man waiting for us. He is Josef, a man in his forties, who had accidentally hacked his big toe with his machete while working in his garden. He asked if we had medicine to treat him. So we went back to the boat, put together some first aid supplies, and returned to the beach. As numerous locals looked on, I cleaned the wound, applied antiseptic spray and antibiotic ointment, and bandaged the toe. I also supplied Josef with antibiotic ointment and told him to reapply ointment and a fresh bandage in a day.

Laura and I then walked up the steep hill to the village, with Josef hobbling after us. He invited us into his family compound where he lived with his father and mother, wife and children, and siblings and their children. They served us delicious Flores coffee and we took a couple of family portraits, and we said our goodbyes. Back on the boat later that evening, we decided to stay one more day and have a good look at the village. Early in the morning Josef, and his son Josef, paddled over to Sabbatical III with some gifts of tubers (ubi kayu) and plantains, and stayed for coffee. When we came back to the village, he showed us the ceremonial pavilion (rumah adat), the large but simple Catholic church, the water system, and the long broken power generator. Everyone was returning from church in their Sunday best. The people in the far eastern end of Flores island are of the Lamaholot ethnicity. They are more Melanesian (as in Fiji) in appearance then people in most of the rest of Indonesia (such as Java and Bali), who are considered “Malay.” They are also Catholic from way back. The remaining ship of Magellan passed these shores around 1500, soon followed by Dominican missions. This end of Flores island became a center of Portuguese trade and mission work in the East Nusa Tenggara region. The nearby town of Larantuka has a cathedral, which Josef and his family pray at once or twice a year, and a seminary that supplies the priest that visits this village regularly. The Portuguese did not leave Larantuka and the surrounding area until 1850, when they sold it to the Dutch. (The Portuguese kept East Timor until late in the twentieth century, but that is another story).

We visited Josefs family compound again and exchanged gifts, had coffee and fried plantains, and returned to the boat. It was a very nice day (and Josef’s toe is much improved). Tomorrow we will sail on to Waimalung, about 25 miles further west on the northern coast of Flores. The island is over 200 miles long, and we will be day sailing along this coast of Flores for a about 3 more weeks.


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Lembata and Adonara Islands

We are currently anchored at the the tiny and uninhabited Kroko Islands just off of the northeast tip of Adonara Island. We were looking for clean water where we could swim and safely use our water maker to refill our tanks, and this place fits the bill. Three massive volcanoes overlook the anchorage. There is a small village of fisherman about 2 miles away on Adonara Island. Every morning, one of them paddles out and sells us bananas, papaya, and drinking coconuts. The snorkeling here is surprisingly good. There is almost always a strong current so we take the kayak or dinghy up-current, get in the water while holding onto a long rope attached to the kayak or dinghy, and drift back. Not a lot of fish or coral, but what there is is colorful.

In coming here, we departed from the route of the rally which was going to Alor Island, with another branch going to Rote Island. We have no need for scheduled events and crowded anchorages. Many other boats left the wrally as well and some of them found their way here. Our overnight sail from Kupang to Lembata Island had some pretty good wind for most of the way — a pleasant surprise. After arriving, we spent only two hours anchored in the southwest corner of Lembata Island as we saw that there was some wind and current going north up the strait, so we decided to take advantage of it. We went into Lebaleba Bay and anchored near the ferry dock of the town of Lewoleba — the commercial center of this small and seldom visited island. We thought we would go ashore and have an adventure the next day but, unbeknownst to us at the time we anchored, we were 200 meters away from a karaoke bar that blasted bad music until past 2 am. Laura could not sleep even with ear plugs. So first thing in the morning, we left and went to our current position at Krako Islets where there is no town and the water is clear. The water is filled with trash in both Kupang and Lewoleba — plastic bags, juice boxes, empty plastic bottles, and assorted detritus. I would not run the water maker in either of those places.

Last night, as Laura and I sat at the bow of Sabbatical III to watch the fiery red sun set into the sea, we suddenly spelled something bad in the air — almost like skunk. We could not quite place it, but it was unpleasant. About 2 hours later some friends on another boat that had just arrived earlier that day called us on the radio to ask if it was usual for the volcano to our south to be spewing lava. We had been here for 3 nights and had seen no such thing so we went of deck and sure enough, lava was streaming down one slope of the volcano. The volcano is a few miles away, so we did not feel at risk, but I did mark in my mind the way through the reef in the dark to get to open sea. The smell, of course, was sulphur and other volcanic gasses. The volcano is just smoking a bit today, but then so are the other two volcanoes that are in view.

Tomorrow we plan to sail on to the “Scorpion’s Tail” peninsula of the much larger Island of Flores. We will start at Tanjung Gedong, about 35 miles away, and then hop along the north coast of Flores until we get to the far western end at Labuan Bajo. Hannah (our daughter) will fly into Labuan Bajo at the end of the month and join us for the remainder of our Indonesian adventure


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