Tag Archives: Cruising

Bali to Barrier Reef continued: Triton Bay, Karang Island and onwards towards Thursday Island – 1996

We left the interesting and friendly Banda Islands and headed for Triton Bay on Tuesday 26th of November. It was a lovely sunny morning as it often was during the cruise.  One of the lecturers gave an illustrated talk about the area we were approaching. Triton Bay is an unusual scenic group of small mushroom-shaped islands with steep cliffs covered with jungle foliage. The shallow bay  is a haven for birds and fish – birds like Hornbills, Cockatoos and Birds-of-Paradise.                                                        As soon as the Caledonian Star dropped anchor the zodiacs were lowered and off we went – all 120 passengers – to explore these fascinating islands. We set off in convoy but soon lost touch with other boats as we found all kinds of interesting plants and birds to admire on shore. We didn’t actually set foot on land, but there were signs of life. Several times we passed small fishing huts and dug-out canoes. Our ‘driver’ stopped from time to time to give us a chance to  just sit there and absorb the jungle sounds and the unusual place it was, without the noise of the engine. I have never been anywhere I felt so relaxed and in awe – it was like entering a different world. Triton Bay lies on the Indonesian side of New Guinea, named Irian Jaya,and  it reminded me of the  fabulous exploration films we see on TV when the experts go in search of the world’s least visited spots. All the passengers were quite excitable that evening as we gathered on deck for a barbecue dinner, and watched the sun set over the ocean. It would have been great to see more native fishermen and people, but that was not to be. It is very humid in this part of the world, but the rain is warm and comes in short, sharp bursts.

Wednesday 27 November: Our next, and last, stop before leaving Indonesia was an island named Karang. This little uninhabited island lies within the Aru archipelago, and the islands are spread across the  sea between Timor and Irian Jaya.  We went ashore in the usual zodiacs, watched by fishermen and pearl fishers! It was not expected to find people there, but it was an added bonus I felt, although I thought (we all did really) that the men looked rather hostile. 

When we came ashore we found there were three boats which had come from Buton, near Sulawesi in order to catch sharks. They remove the fins and tails, which we could see drying onboard their ships. These would then be taken to a trading centre and exported to Hong Kong. Their journey took 10 days and they remained in these waters for a month. It is a journey only undertaken once a year. The little boats didn’t look very sturdy for these, sometimes, wild seas, and they didn’t bring much water or food. A tough life!

The pearl-divers came from Aru and was part of a fleet of five – the same man owned all the ships. They were fishing for oysters which were brought to a farm for cultivated pearls. It takes about two years for a pearl to grow inside the shell. They normally catch 100 a day. The oysters are kept in wire cages alongside the side of the ship – to prevent the shells from damage.

The men seemed to find these ‘odd-looking’ old people from the west peculiar! They kept looking and laughing at us and shaking their heads – as if they wondered why we suddenly appeared.

This is a close-up of their rather flimsy boat and the shark fins and tails drying.

 

Sandy beaches everywhere. Just perfect to walk barefoot and feel the warm sand under your feet.                    

During the evening there was a cocktail party, hosted by the Captain. A jolly time was had by all. As the sun set we caught a last glimpse of Indonesian islands before heading for the Barrier Reef and Thursday Island.

Advertisements

An exotic holiday in 1996 – Bali to Barrier Reef – continued – from Medang to Komodo Island.

It was early morning when  we dropped anchor near the tiny Medang Island. I don’t think they were used to having many visitors because people flocked onto the beach when we came ashore in the little zodiacs. Young children came swimming towards us, stark naked, and the young girls had their faces pained white with some kind of rice paint. Medang had, at that time, a population of 1300 of mixed origin. These villagers were all muslims. There was a mosque on the island and one school with four teachers. Chickens and goats were the main source of meat, and coconuts were an essential ingredient of their lives. We saw television masts in various places and  realised they were not totally isolated. The main activity on the island was the collection of Agar-Agar. This algor algae was collected by boat, brought ashore, dried on the beach and split into piles by colour. It was sold to local traders who again sold to companies producing pharmaceutical gel-caps.

I sometimes wonder what it is like there now – I bet many of the children have gone elsewhere and life is very different. It seemed such a remote island, but the modern world is catching up with everybody these days. For us it was a fascinating stopover, and the children were keen to show the visitors their homes and beach – all white and sandy and pristine.

We left Medang and sailed to a nearby  island named Satonda. It is un-inhabited and there is a brackish lake there which was formed in 1815 when the nearby Tambora volcano on Sumbawa island exploded. The lake is said to have ‘rejuvinating’ powers, and will take ten years off a person’s age. Well, you can imagine we all wanted to have a go, but were sorely disappointed – we looked just as old after the swim as we did before!!

 Something rather extraordinarily happened just before the tropical darkness descended . We were anchored  near Satonda Island and looked towards land, and saw a large colony of fruit bats (flying foxes) taking off from the island. They have a wing span of 5.6 feet. They roost here during the day and fly across to the nearby Sumbawa island  where they feast on the fruit trees. These bats are reddish-brown in colour and are said to be not true bats, but primates that have developed the ability to fly. Their sense of smell and eye sight are well-developed, and they use sonar to navigate and hunt their prey.

After a swim or snorkel in the warm blue waters, it was time to meet the captain and crew during the evening’s cocktail party, and a chance to dress up and ‘look pretty’.

Friday 22nd of November: This was the main highlight for many of the passengers! We arrived at Komodo Island – famed for its giant beasts – the Komodo Dragons! This monitor lizard can grow up to eight feet in length, is exceedingly ferocious and will eat anything it can get hold of. This particular type is found only on Komodo and a near-by island. Their main preys are deer, goats  and ground nesting birds. But they are known to eat a straying person or two as well! People live in a few small villages on the island and have to be on the look-out because the Dragons come very close to their houses looking for food – and a small straying child!

A native guide came to the ship and led the 45 minute walk to the viewing platform, where we could safely observe the dragons. It was a very hot and humid morning, I remember. We saw interesting birds and nervous-looking deer as we trotted along. Poor things, they come at the top of the dragon’s gourmet menu. What a precarious existence. The viewing platform has been erected for the visiting tourists, and a small lake created in order to attract the Rusa deer, which the dragons prefer to eat. The way it is done is to bite the deer with their bacterial-filled mouth. This will poison the poor creatures and they die a slow and horrible death. That’s when the dragons come to enjoy their dinner! Not a very endearing animal I must say, but it was a fascinating visit. The guide carried a ‘forked tool’ in case a straying dragon came across our path. No-one appeared, fortunately, but we did see the tail end of some as they rested in a hole (lair) under a shady tree.

 After a delicious lunch onboard some of us went snorkelling in the afternoon. The sea was lovely, warm and blue. It was a great place to see the coral reef and the colourful fish beneath us. Next stop: Kakabia Island.

This is Komodo Island as seen from the ship.