We set sail from Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. ‘Stars End 2’ even managed to catch up to Margret & Nils on ‘Unwind’ who were drifting along in the light balmy conditions. It was a magic day on the water and Michael had great fun filming our yachts and the beautiful surroundings using his drone, as we were in no hurry to reach the anchorage at Rinca.
We had been advised it was best to arrive as the tour boats were all leaving around 4pm and go ashore before the Ranger’s office shut at 5pm. We could pay our National Park, anchorage & guide fees, and book in for the first tour of the next day, around 6am.
This way, we would avoid the crowds and have the best chance of seeing the Komodo dragons moving around before the heat of the sun stunted their activities.
So early next morning, we were led by a guide, armed with just a long stick, on the 11/2hr walk around the dry grassy hills and watering holes on the island.
Many Komodo gravitate to the area around the rangers office, where they lazily wait for handouts or rummage through garbage. We saw a large number here, and witnessed a fight between two males, until a female came along to sort out the squabbling pair.
We were lucky enough to see quite a few more Komodo in the bush, as well as deer, water buffalo, monkeys and many birds.
Once the full force of the sun hits, the Komodo move into a sunny spot where they lay motionless for many hours, replenishing their energy. It is only once the temperature cools again, that they come back to life, ready to hunt.The Komodo dragon is the largest lizard on earth, living up to 50 years & growing up to 1300 lb. & 10 feet long. It is a carnivore that uses its tongue to detect the smell of its prey in the air from a distance of 4kms.
Once their prey is caught, the venomous Komodo uses the deadly bacteria in its saliva to bite their prey (mainly wild boar, water buffalo and Javan rusa (deer)) , and then patiently follow the wounded animal for several days until it slowly dies. However, they are not as slow as they would seem, able to chase their prey at 15 miles an hour.
The mating season from July to August sees the females produce up to 30 eggs in a nest which hatch 6-9 months later. They dig several pits around the main one to act as decoys for other prey. Once hatched, the baby Komodo spend most of their time up trees in a strategy to avoid larger Komodo and birds of prey.
It was an interesting morning, and as we arrived back at the ranger’s hut, we met several other groups of tourists starting their tour, and other boats arriving with more visitors.
We were only too happy to escape the crowds & heat and move away.
On Stars End 2, we chose to move just a short distance, where we had noticed a sandy anchorage in turquoise water between 2 small islands. Here, we found some excellent snorkeling and relaxed for the rest of the day.
(Sadly, all of the excellent drone pictures that have ‘disappeared’ are from this location & Sebayor Kecil)
Our only interruption was by a couple of entrepreneurial brothers who were selling their locally made handicrafts to tourists and yachts from their small spider boats. I had some fun bartering with bits and pieces of unwanted rope, clothes & face masks to happily acquire a few early Christmas gifts.
We spent a night at nearby Sebayor Kecil (little Sebayor Island) in company of the ‘Unwinders’ enjoying good snorkeling and diving on the reefs, and Michael kept us all entertained with his drone activity.
Our next stop was a short distance away at Gili Batu Montjo on the north west side of Komodo Island, a stunning uninhabited bay with some of the clearest water we had experienced in a long while.
As usual the beach was strewn with debris, rubbish & non bio degradable plastic. Particularly sad when you consider this is all National Park land frequented by roaming Komodo dragons who would be susceptible to foraging among this mess.
Margret snorkeled ashore from ‘Unwind’ and as we walked along the beach, we were suddenly shocked by a massive water disturbance, as a school of sharks chased small bait fish into the shallows, stopping just a few inches from our feet as we strolled in the shallows at the water’s edge. Some of the sharks were of a substantial size, and totally freaked us out as we saw them repeat their feeding frenzy time and time again along the shoreline.
Needless to say, we took the dinghy back to the yachts, but the water was so clear and inviting that we couldn’t resist snorkeling (on the other side of the bay!) and were enthralled at the varied coral and marine life. It was some of the best we had seen in Indonesia. Our friends Nils and Mayte even enjoyed the thrill of swimming with large manta rays at the back of their catamaran ‘Muskat’.
A few other yachts turned up during the day, so we organized an impromptu gathering at sunset, enjoying drinks and playing a fun beach game called ‘Finska’ provided by Kerry & Sue on ’Billaroo’.
We moved on to the island of Gili Banta that has a number of long finger like bays that offer great protection. We explored several bays using the dinghy and snorkeling in the areas that looked promising. Yet again, it was so disappointing to see such inviting white sandy beaches from the yacht disguised with unconscionable piles of rubbish once we came ashore.
However, with still over 100 miles to Lombok where Michael would fly out, we needed to make tracks.
Since we were already on the southern side of the island, early next morning, we head out and crossed the bay between the large land mass of Sumbawa and Sangeang Island, dwarfed by the huge volcano.Aware of strong southerly setting currents in the Komodo Islands, we were taken aback by the contrary 4-5 knot current that we experienced for 25 miles. With full sails and full engine power we tried steering on the rhumb line to the gap between the two islands and the speedo read 0 knots! So we were forced to adjust our course and had to cross the current to gain steerage and direction.
The current slowed slightly as we steered into the lee of Sumbawa Island but then we were hit with the full force all over again as we passed through the gap between the two islands. With such a slow start, and with good winds in our favour, we made the decision to keep going and do an ‘overnighter’ and reached Moyo on the western side of Sumbawa the next morning.
We found a sandy patch at the far side of the bay next to a couple of other rally boats already anchored. We enjoyed socializing, with more good snorkeling in the reef areas off the nearby 5 star resort (we asked about going ashore, but were put off by the high costs).
We wanted to be in time for the next rally stop, so the next day we did another overnight sail to reach Medana Bay Marina on the north western side of Lombok.
We left Moyo with the wind right behind us, and Stars End 2 sped along under her favorite sail configuration – wing on wing. Michael used his drone to put together a stunning video of Stars End 2 sailing that brings tears to my eyes. You can click on this link to watch- https://web.facebook.com/mikal.keller/videos/10155679958218607/
As the afternoon progressed, the wind shifted and we found ourselves having to beat into the wind. At least it was at a good angle and not too rough, and Stars End 2 powered along. We were forced to slow down as we reached Lombok, so that we could manoeuvre through the tricky reefs in the first light of dawn.
As we motored into Medana Bay, we were greeted with the sight of almost 30 yachts sitting quietly at anchor, many whom we had not seen for weeks.
It was a grand reunion, highlighted by the elaborate festivities of the Gala Dinner hosted by Medana Bay Marina. Peter, the personable English owner and his Indonesian wife run a comfortable hotel beside the marina plus a very welcoming beachfront bar/restaurant which all the ‘yachties’ frequented it was such good value and offered free WiFi.
It was hard work trying to catch up with so many friends, knowing everyone was on a tight schedule and heading off to the next rally stop at Lovina on Bali in just a few days time.
Everyone was busy refueling their jugs of diesel & petrol, replenishing water, getting laundry done, and re provisioning from local markets or hiring cars & taxis to visit Mataram, over 11/2 hours drive away, to do shopping & banking. Peter also had facilities to re fill Australian/NZ gas tanks that we had not come across anywhere else in Indonesia.
We discovered that the nearby Eco Lodge Hotel welcomed ‘yachties’ at happy hour to sip their 2 for 1 cocktails whilst enjoying their swimming pool. The only problem was that they didn’t have a large selection of cocktail mixes- in fact the first time we went there, it was gin, gin or yes, you guessed it, gin!!!
Much as we have thoroughly enjoyed cruising through Indonesia we feel that the rally timetable was based on a fast schedule, with a maximum of 4 days in one location, followed by just enough time to sail to the next destination, without making allowances for winds, problems or simply dallying. The rally offers great benefits, like organized tours, gala dinners and visa extensions, and most of all, great camaraderie between like minded seafarers from many countries and varied walks of life. However, due to the fast pace, we had detoured several times to skip locations and found ourselves preferring the relaxed lifestyle of exploring places more off the beaten track and in our own time frame.
So Frank & I had come to a big decision. We had decided to say farewell to the rally here at Lombok.
We have decided to follow the same idea as friends Kim & Peter from catamaran ‘Take Two’ whom we met in Hoga back in early August. That is to keep our boat in Indonesia for another year so that we can enjoy more cruising of those areas we loved and wish to see again, plus explore other areas we missed out on.
So on our last night at Medana Bay, there was a joint celebratory party- to wish our friend Larry on ‘Althea’ a happy birthday, and to farewell Stars End 2 from the rally.
It was very emotional saying goodbye to so many new friends, particularly those we had spent quality time cruising together with over the past few months. I feel sure we will meet up with some of these friends & their yachts again, and many I hope to keep in contact with through email and social media. Some may never cross our paths again. That’s life, but we have had such a wonderful time together I have put together a montage of a few of those great memories.
As you see, there is a lot of socializing and drinking!
So whilst we watched most of our friends sail off over the next few days, Stars End 2 remained at Medana Bay whilst Frank & I renewed our social visas through the marina.
Once this was all done, we took off to the nearby Gili islands to enjoy our last few days with Michael. The Gili Islands are very popular tourist destinations, particularly for backpackers, just off the coast of Lombok. Although hectic & jam packed with hotels, bars, restaurants & souvenir shops, all hawking for your business, we enjoyed our time there with its sandy beaches and bars offering 2 for 1 cocktails and more of a diverse selection of different nationality foods than we had seen in a long time.
The worst part about mooring in the busy little harbour in front of Gili Air beach was the continuous arrival and departure of tourist boats that would motor in at full speed from early morning to dusk, & not make one effort to slow down as they passed within feet of our bow or stern. Many were local wooden spider boats with outboards, but there were dozens of large passenger ferries with up to 9x300HP engines on the back.
All too soon, it was time for Michael to leave us. We motored the few miles across to Teluk Nare on Lembok to anchor in the protection of the bay. We had organized for a taxi to pick up Michael the following morning to drive him to Lombok airport. Another emotional farewell!
Now, we were really on our own, with no fixed destination or place we had to be! Yes- ‘coddiwomplers’, that significant word if you a previous blog of mine.
We still felt pangs of doubt, thinking that perhaps we should have continued on to Malaysia with the rest of the rally, but it also feels rather liberating.
For now, we plan to stay close to Lombok, though far enough away from Mt Anung in Bali, in case the volcano decides to erupt with the present high alert! We need to renew our visas each month until we fly out, and meanwhile explore more of the delights Indonesia has to offer.