While many friends in Australia dealt with winter chills, unseasonal rain and East Coast Lows, we had more favourable conditions. We even managed some romping sails which was an unexpected pleasure. Departing early in the mornings gave us either the assistance of the katabatics whisping down from the mountain ridges or mirror calm dawn exits. Usually around 11am the winds would increase and sometimes to our advantage as we made daily hops along familiar anchorages or sought out new alternatives.
Gili Bodo mooring location the red + marked the spot. see coordinates.
Bicolour Anglefish, blue and yellow
Possibly a Swarthy Parrotfish with Rabbitfish
Having left Labuan Bajo we headed NE to a small island called Gili Bodo or Pulua Sababi on some maps. The anchorage on the seaward side was where we had snorkeled and b-b-qued with sv Sentinel on our 2016 visit, was untenable. North-easterly winds and fringing coral, no thank you. Instead on the landward side close to a pearl farm we found a serviceable (although very weedy) mooring. The low island held the wind and sea swell at bay while we ventured ashore for a swim.
Gili Bodo pearl farm
The following morning with only approx 35 nm to cover, we arrived in Lingeh Bay a little after midday. Our last encounter there had been overwhelming with 20 or more children “expecting” handouts. With apprehension we prepared a basket of goods to trade, if the opportunity arose. It was our preference to promote a swapping culture rather than encourage “begging” for gifts. Fortunately, only 2 canoes approached, both with young men initiating a trade conversation.
The lads swapped their dugout canoe for a ride in our dinghy in quest of fish.
Came to trade and stayed
While Hans took 2 chaps for a dinghy run to acquire fresh fish, Burney invited Richards onboard. Practicing his command of English, we did practical things like cleaning and filleting the fish and while viewing the boat naming various attributes. (Using Facebook as a medium we continue to remain in contact.)
Hopefully Richards will have the opportunity to work in the tourist industry.
Time to move on…No lingering at Lingeh.
17 Island National Park held fond memories: a couple of bar-b-que sing-alongs came to mind.
2016 beach gathering
The coast and the surrounding area of the town of Riung had become a national conservation area. In fact, the national park consisted of more than 20 smaller and larger islands and encompassed a rich coral-reef ecosystem. We read that 27 different species of coral have been recorded. En route to the same location as 2016, Nunsa Tiga in the vicinity of Riung, we sited dolphins. Large ocean roving types with unusual patchy grey and white colouring. The pristine white sands produced wonderful shades within the blue colour spectrum while coral gardens furthered tinted the view.
Shades of blue
Nunsa Tiga had been discovered. Our isolated anchorage had sprouted a couple of shelter sheds and an amenities block. Day boats brought snorkelers to the adjoining reef and lunched on shore preparing grilled fish on bamboo picnic tables. Nevertheless, come the afternoon, it was our private spot. The reef by the headland receiving a regular flow of current, was rich with marine life and a great diversity of coral. While hovering near the drop-off, Burney saw her first big Cuttlefish with it’s frilled edges changing colour as it propelled over different terrain until disappearing into the gloomy depths. Wow oh wow.
Shelter sheds for the daytrippers
Vibrant green coloured coral
Reef Egrets storked the rocky shores while Collared Kingfishers and Oriental White-eyes called from the beach shrubbery. We, also, took a dinghy ride to a neighbouring island so Burney could ascertain if the Malaysian Plovers we saw last time were still in residence.
aka Plover island
Upon landing, the piping call of 2 Beach-stone Curlews first caught her attention and indeed scarpering around the dry coral rubble were the tiny plovers.
Having enjoyed a lay-day, it was June 3rd when we anchored in Ciendeh Bay. Again our day at the office was completed by 2.30pm. Enough time for Hans to stretch his legs wandering around the village. The deep natural harbour and surrounding cliffs made for a very calm anchorage. Numerous squids boats bobbed in the harbour, however Hans was unable to procure any for dinner. While engaging the assistance of a local find fresh fish to purchase (which cost only 3 fish for $5 ), he had a very different conversation. This chap who spoke English quite well had gained his skills while in Australia. Apparently he was apprehended while fishing Ashmore Reef and spent 1 year in a Darwin jail. Now that was not your usual exchange with a local islander!
Headlands protect the natural harbour.
Afternoon light on the surrounding hills above the village.
Squid boats everywhere
With the loud noise of a passing fishing boat, June 4th saw us with West Batu Boga as our desired anchorage. Previously, we had shared the very calm harbour on the eastern side of the point Batu Boga with the rally vessels: Babadudu, Argonaut and Hybresail in 2016 . In the meantime, Bev from sv Wirraway & Ginny from Wishful Thinking had told us about their experiences tucked into a small bay with a cluster of folk living ashore on the aforementioned western aspect.
Wirraway and Wishful Thinking, 2016
With the prevailing winds, West Batu Boga, a 30nm trip, appeared early along our vector.
Like much of this coastline, steep hills not only provided excellent protection from most directions of wind, they also enabled the keen hiker to gain brilliant vantage points for views across to the Flores Sea. After the clatter of the descending chain ceased to fill our ears, children whooping from the shore was heard.
Before long a single dugout canoe approach with 2 teenage girls. Shortly after another joined us in the cockpit. Since we were struggling with conversation Hans played a few songs on his uke. Then Burney produced a children’s story book depicting Old Macdonald. Always a hit! While Hans strummed the tune, Burney used the pages to illustrate the words while she sang and made ridiculous farm animal sounds. It wasn’t only the toddler who thought it was a hoot, everyone had a laugh. With such a grand performance we were invited ashore.
Brahminy Too at anchor
Hans shared some of our gifts with the children while we were treated to fresh coconut juice. One young woman scaled the palm while another wielded the machete. Around us the level dirt compound was swept free of all debris. Chickens chased each other and pigs rested under shady trees. It appeared that there were several families living in this bay who existed largely by a subsistence lifestyle. Their main request was batteries, AA for a radio and D size for a fishing boat light. By chance, we did have a few to spare.
A catholic station on the foreshore.
Freshly harvested cocounut
Sitting in recently carved canoes, Hans plays harmonica for the folks.
Come dusk slightly larger motorised fishing boats began to arrive. Though not going ashore, some boats clustered together socialising with each other’s crew while a couple anchored nearby and prepared a pot of food onboard. Apparently this was a regular gathering of an evening. The blat, blat, blat of their engines woke us in the dark of night as they returned to their fishing fields off the coast.
The dusk gathering.
Before departing in the morning we had time to explore the fringing reef around our boat. Having read that much of the marine grounds had been severely damaged due to the past practice of cyanide use or dynamite blasting it was encouraging to see regrowth in the midst of coral rubble. Reef fish and coral species were returning and Burney even saw a beautifully coloured mantis shrimp scuttling around broken reef. While in Langkawi, Malaysia we had actually bought and cooked these crustaceans (though not nearly as decorative as this peacock species).
From rubble to regrowth
Identifying fish maybe more difficult than birds!
From the Coral reef guide book: Mantis shrimp
With yet another visa extension due, our visit to Maumere required us to search out the Immigration Office. Given that the usual anchorage suggested during the yacht rallies was further outside of the administration centre, we headed towards the port where possible town access was more quickly achieved. The afternoon offshore wind headed us as we dodged countless foam moorings littered in deep water. Again we were pleased not to be negotiating these hazards at night.
A fishing boat tethered to a fish attracting device which is tied to a foam mooring block.
Moorings difficult to spot in daylight
The peoples of Flores are almost entirely Roman Catholic Christians, nevertheless our anchorage near the port was in close proximity to the fishing community and their mosques. With Ramadan drawing to a close, the call to prayer or to eat started at 2.30am (through loud speakers). Then departing cargo ships announced their departures with a blaring horn and we felt a very pronounced ground swell even with the “flopper-stopper” deployed. Not a favourable anchorage according to our skipper.
Statue of the Virgin Mary on Nilo hill above our anchorage.
Fortunately, processing our extension would only take 24 hours from application to completion. Thanks to Raymond Desmana, our Indonesian sponsor, we had been advised to contact the local “go to guy”, Konrad. On the day we were to retrieve our passports, Hans booked a car & driver through Konrad.
Maumere was a busy though dusty urban hub with no two of our destinations in close proximity. Although largely rebuilt, much of the township (90 %) had been destroyed when a deadly earthquake occurred in Dec of 1992. The resulting tsunami along the coastline of Flores ran inland as far as 300 meters with wave heights of 25 meters. Great swathes of vegetation was swallowed. Now with large sections of the town’s foreshore protected by a high rockwall, dinghy beaching was very challenging. Even around the port it was precarious, for either man or inflatable.
Firewood to purchase
With Konrad also assisting, we quickly filled the morning with various destinations successfully: Fresh market, supermarket, pharmacy, fuel, gin & beer and Immigration.
Thank you and good-bye.
With 2 nights of broken sleep, departing for calmer enclaves was the next priority. Hans immediately commenced readying the boat while Burney washed fruit and vegies from the market. A little after 1pm, we were under way. With a short 16nm motor-sail across Maumera Bay, we were anticipating a quiet Wodong anchorage.
When the depth sounder can’t cope
There are dozens of shades within the spectrum of the colour blue. The very deep waters off Flores tend towards cobalt and navy blue. Watching the lighter shades indicating patches of reef between our course and the coconut palm tree coast, we gazed higher into a clear sky blue day before coming under the plume of another active volcano. Cloudless except for Mt Egon’s peak, yellow sulphur gases and grey ash-tinted white puffs issued from a few different vents. Although very active, it was listed as one of the most popular hikes on Flores. Indeed the last major eruption was in 2008 when sections of the trail was covered with ash and debris. Now, in parts, only cannes of piled stones mark the route. Flores boasts twelve volcanoes suitable for trekking. Memories of Kelimutu National Park with its tri-colored crater lakes re-emerged. We had visited the district of Ende close to the town of Moni, with other members from the rally. The lakes were in the caldera and were fed by a volcanic gas source, resulting in highly acidic water. The colours of the three lakes changed on an irregular basis, depending on the oxidation levels varying from bright red to brown, through green and blue.
Mount Egon. Its 1671m high summit is formed by a lava dome from which puffs of smoke emerge
Depending on the season, this Mt Egon also sported a lake in its crater, our information told us.
Nestled under its protecting ridge line lay our destination. More specifically, a small cove-like indentation in the coast near a resort called Ankermi Divers Resort.
After miles of deep water blues, we turned to starboard for the final leg. The depth sounder finally reengaged as we reached the 500ft sounding a half a nautical mile from the beach. Standing on the bow conning for reef, Burney waited to see any sight of colour change. Deep blue remained until Hans started to call 50ft then rising quickly to 27ft (9m) it was time to drop the pick. We were quite close to the shore!
Totally calm. Only the squeal of a pig and the roosters crowing from a homestead hidden behind a grove of coconuts. Fishermen paddled their tiny canoes casting a hand line or spanning a net. Time for a “chillax”. Maybe a day off, too.
Morning view of the resort nestled under the mountains
Detail of resort
Local fishermen paddle their boats
Since we were unable to hire a motorbike anywhere in the area to explore the coastal road or mountain, we went for a snorkel instead.
We heard a boy singing as he paddled his canoe so Hans played him a song.
black and white Twotone Chromis 5cm
Almost invisible Razorfish swimming vertically, pipefish family
A sea urchin with striped echidna-like quills.
regrowth and rubble
With another dawn departure, we marvelled at the soft colours reflected across the still waters. Random patches of rippled surface joined oily smooth areas. Leaving the mainland behind we slipped through a strait near Pulau Besa and then around the reefed coast of Pig Island (Pulau Babi) noting white sandy beaches and the shallow depths of light turquoise waters. Our final leg was a 42nm day trip to Tangung Gedong. The tail of Snake Island.
Water patterns in the dawn light
[ Originally, before Europeans, this long thin landmass was called Nusa Nipa – snake island. (In those bygone days, Makassarese and Bugis seafarers from Southern Sulawesi came to trade or entrap folk into slavery.)
It was with a Portuguese expedition crew reaching the island in the early 16th century that it was re- named ‘Cabo das Flores’, which meant ‘Cape of Flowers’. Thought to be of strategic significance for trade, many Portuguese relocated and married local folk and then the missionaries soon followed. However, Flores itself was neither a source of valuable spices nor sandalwood. After a long period of struggling with other trade powers, the Portuguese were finally defeated and withdrew themselves to Dili in East Timor in 1769. Renouncing all their spheres of influence in Eastern Indonesia, their remaining enclaves were sold to the Dutch East Indies administration in 1854.]
Chartplotter image as we depart.
Passing reef and sandy beaches near Pulua Besa
Once clear of the islands, Hans pointed our nose on a direct rhum line. It was to be a
romping conclusion as the typical afternoon wind came in at 11am. With 15-20 knot winds from the east our north-easterly course took the advantage. Our oversized Genoa furled into the 2nd reef point but with the mains’l still fully billowing we settled into a fine sail and danced over the miles.
Then with a wind shift while the force decreased our speed maintained as some current assistance came to bear. Thank you!
And that was our last day cruising the edge of Flores.
Speed 6.6 knots
Next stop, anchorages we’ve not visited before on the islands of Adonara and Lembata.