Latest Posts:

Komodo & Sumbawa

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Lamima off Gili Banta Island which in turn is off the southern side of Sumbawa Island.

Three years ago I spend some time in the Komodo Islands on a delightful Bugis-style schooner, joining and leaving the Katharina at Labuan Bajo. This time with eight friends from England we spent rather longer in a rather larger twin-masted phinisi. Lamima is a big boat, 65-metres in length and all wood. She was built in Sulawesi and then towed to Bangkok where the engineering, the tech and the fit out, ie all the luxury, were installed. We boarded Lamima in Bali – soon after the big Lombok earthquake – and left her 16 days later in Labuan Bajo, the port at the western end of the island of Flores. The Komodo Islands, sprinkled between Sumbawa and Flores, are famed for their Komodo Dragons, crocodile-sized monitor lizards.

▲ We sailed the afternoon and all night after we left Bali, turning north and then east as we crossed the Wallace Line which separates Bali from Lombok. It’s the transition line between the ecozones of Asia and Australia. That day we anchored off Pulau Keramat – Pulau is Indonesian for ‘island’ – a small island off the north coast of Sumbawa. From our anchorage we could look back to 3726 metre Mt Rinjani on Lombok.

◄ The next day we were off Pulau Joyo, a rather larger island off Sumbawa. From the village of Labuhan Aji we recruited a pack of local motorcyclists to take us inland to the beautiful Matu Jitu waterfalls. Our next stop was Satonda Island, still off Sumbawa, which features a salty lake, the result of the gigantic eruption of Mt Tambora in 1815. It was a far larger eruption than better known Krakatoa in 1883 but, like Krakatoa, it effected weather around the world.

▲ On the beach at Pulau Sangeang, our next stop, a big wooden boat was under construction. The craftsmen and the wood all came from Sulawesi although the buyer was a local Sumbawan trader. It was an impressively large project for something being built totally by traditional methods.

▲ Drawn up on the beach were double outrigger jukung sailing canoes. In frenetic flurries of activity they set off in groups of five to race about seven km to the Sumbawa mainland.

◄ It’s one thing seeing these traditional sailing boats set out on fishing trips, but clearly they can move with dramatic speed when their crew are in a racing mood.

▲ Sangeang is an active volcano and the island’s villagers were evacuated when an eruption threated in 2014. We sailed off to Gili Banta for another day of sea and beach, I was managing a scuba dive every day. That night we looked back to a sunset – we had lots of dramatic sunsets – with the Sangeang volcano cone puffing up little ‘yes this is indeed a volcano’ smoke clouds to complete the picture. Just like on my 2015 Komodo visit we went dragon watching on Rinca Island …

▲ … and then anchored off Pulau Padar where, like other visitors, we climbed up the island’s ridgeline to the high point for sunset

▲ The next morning we were anchored south of Rinca Island at Lehok Uwasa Dasami – Loh Dasami Bay – to see the dragons which congregate on the beach. From here we planned to sail south to Sumba, an island famed for its ikat weaving, where the threads are dyed before the weaving takes place. Sumba is the only major island in the Nusa Tenggara group I hadn’t previously visited, but sadly it remains on my ‘must do’ bucket list. The currents around the Komodo Islands are notoriously strong – all that water sloshing back and forth between the Indian and Pacific Oceans – and a few hours out from Rinca it was clear the conditions were against us. We were fighting against the oncoming current and weather predictions didn’t look good, so we turned back.

▲ We anchored off a small island – not much more than a sandbar – in the Makassar Reef. Like Komodo’s well known Pantai Merah – Pink Beach, although merah actually means ‘red’ – the sand is indeed a fine shade of pink, a result of ground up red coral. The channel over the Makassar Reef is noted for its manta rays and snorkeling is all it takes to join these wonderful creatures. I’d encountered them on my 2015 visit as well and over the years I’ve swum with manta rays in quite a few places including Bora Bora in French Polynesia, the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia and Uepi in the Solomon Islands.

▲ A day later we were anchored off that sandy island again, as a group of Indonesians paraded along the island waving Indonesian flags to celebrate Independence Day.

▲ In between we’d visited the village on Pulau Papagaran where a fiercely fought football match was taking place between two women’s teams. The younger women won. This group of kids came down to the jetty to wave us off as we headed back to Lamima.

◄ Our last few days featured more beaches, more scuba diving and finally a ride up into the hills above Labuan Bajo to visit the Batu Cermin caves and then the village of Cecer and this traditional fighting event. After which we left the boat and flew off, most of us to Singapore.


Komodo & Sumbawa

20 September 2018 | Places

▲ Lamima off Gili Banta Island which in turn is off the southern side of Sumbawa Island. Three years ago I spend some time in the Komodo Islands on a delightful Bugis-style schooner, joining and leaving the Katharina at Labuan Bajo. This time with eight friends fro...

View Post

Kuta – then & now

19 September 2018 | Living

◄ Poppies Gang – a ‘gang’ is a narrow pathway or alleyway – and this popular gang at Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia, runs by Poppies Restaurant and Poppies Hotel. Despite Kuta’s massive growth Poppies Gang looks just the same as it did in the ‘70s, right down to the tr...

View Post

Looking for Transwonderland

3 August 2018 | Media

Although she grew up in England and lives there today Noo Saro-Wiwa definitely has a strong connection to Nigeria. In 1995 her father Ken Saro-Wiwa, an environmental activist (and a peaceful one) was hanged along with 10 others who had the temerity to complain about t...

View Post

The Painted Monasteries of Bucovina in Romania

2 August 2018 | Places

I’ve been a regular visitor to Romania in recent years. Mauren and I were in Bucharest and Transylvania in 2014 and enjoyed it so much, particularly the beautiful Saxon villages of Transylvania, that we returned with a bunch of London friends for a second look in 2015...

View Post

Ryszard Kapuściński’s Imperium

1 August 2018 | Media

Back in 2008 I read Ryszard Kapuściński’s Travels with Herodotus, the travelling tales of the Polish journalist whose adventures proved, once again, that less is often more. His expense account was as threadbare as the Soviet-era Polish economy and he made up for it b...

View Post

Minsk in Belarus

29 July 2018 | Places

After Moldova, Transnistria and Ukraine (I haven’t reported on my starting point, the Bucovina district of Romania yet) my final Eastern European stop was in Belarus – ‘Europe’s last dictatorship,’ thanks to Aleksandr Grigoryevich Lukashenko who has been President for...

View Post

British Airways Baggage Refund & a Trip to Svalbard

27 July 2018 | Living

I’m a firm believer on travelling only with carry ons, avoiding the hassles of checked baggage. A recent experience with British Airways underlines why that’s a good idea. No, they didn’t lose my baggage, but extracting a baggage money refund from them after a flight ...

View Post

Odessa – on the Black Sea in Ukraine

24 July 2018 | Places

It’s not my first trip to Ukraine – I was there in 2016 visiting the capital Kiev and that 20th century disaster site Chernobyl – but this trip I certainly wasn’t very happy when I arrived in Odessa. Although it may be the ‘Pearl of the Black Sea’ or the ‘Southern St ...

View Post

Chişinău in Moldova

19 July 2018 | Places

My recent eastern Europe circuit paused at Chişinău, the capital of Moldova, before progressing to that leftover sliver of forgotten Soviet Russia: Tiraspol the capital of the unrecognized state of Transnistria. ▲ Chişinău certainly had some Soviet style as well, p...

View Post

Transnistria – aka Transdniester

18 July 2018 | Places

Back in April I made a short trek around countries in Europe which, for some reason, I’d never visited. OK some of them I had visited, but that was way back in the 1970s, before they even existed, back when two of them were constituent parts of Yugoslavia. That trip t...

View Post