18 June 2015

Gili Aer to Komodo National Park - 300 miles east

It finally feels like we are cruising.  We are relaxing in sunbaked anchorages, surrounded by spectacular mountainous volcanic islands, and turquois blue, clear water that is teeming with coral and very colorful fish.  We are now in Komodo National Park and our plan is to stay in the park and its numerous islands until we head back to Australia mid to late July. 
We departed on our local 300 mile or so journey to Komodo National Park from Gili Aer, Lombok on June 11.  We anchored in five overnight anchorages, sailing during the day.  We stopped at Gili Lawang, Moyo Island, Kananga, Kilo and Wera Bay before making the hop across to Komodo Island on June 18.

Gili Lawang

A calm evening at anchor over the black sands of Gili Lawang
The anchorage at Gili Lawang is a sheltered area between the main island of Lombok and the smaller island of Gili Lawang.  Set offshore of a small village, it must be a squid fishing paradise judging by the large numbers of very big squid boats that fished around us all night with their very bright spot lights shining on the water to attract their prey. 
It was our first ‘black sand’ anchorage.  The dark nature of the volcanic sands make it very difficult to judge water depth visually, which is nerve wracking when coming in to shore from the sea. 


The sunset at Gili Lawang was like a watercolor painting
We found a nice spot, and were the only sailboat anchored off the village that night.  In fact we saw no other sailboats all day, something that we would get used to, but for now seemed strange.  The scenery from the anchorage in the evening as the sun set was just stunning, beautiful lush green complex hillsides that sloped upwards in to the clouds that shrouded the volcanic peaks. 

A beautiful fishing canoe, Gili Lawang

There was the most incredible local fishing boat, an outrigger canoe, that came near in the evening light.  The yellow, white, blue and black canoe was different than any we saw to date, with an outrigger on only one side.  It clearly is well loved, judging by how it gleamed in the evening light.

Moyo Island

Coconut Palms in the evening light on Moyo Island
We arrived at Moyo Island the next day and liked it so much, that we stayed for 3 nights.

The southern have of Moyo island is a national park area, without a real village, just a few local fishing huts.

The northern half of the island has a very exclusive resort, the Amanwana.  It consists of 20 amazing tents and a very large public area for the restaurant.  We took our zodiac over, anticipating a nice lunch ashore, but the asking price of 100 USD each,( for lunch!) made us change our minds.  The staff gave us a tour and explained most of their guests came for the diving, and bragged that British Royalty were fond of the spot.  I looked up their website later to see that a 3 day visit is in excess of 4000 USD.  Seems hard to believe a place like that could exist in such a remote location.  It was lovely though!

Local fisherman, hand-lining from a dug out canoe
Our boat was anchored about one mile away around the corner from the resort, offshore of a nice grove of coconut trees.  Before long children of the local fishermen came out to barter drinking coconuts for whatever they could negotiate for in trade.  We were also happy to trade for some local Bonito (small tuna like fish) that were jumping everywhere in the bay.  Yummy.  Our offshore trolling for fish was not going well, and these were the first fresh fish for us this trip.

Bonito for dinner.. from the local fisherman!
In the evening, the water here glowed with thousands of star like bluish spots of fluorescence.  I have never seen anything like it before. Looking down in to the water next to the boat, there were an amazing variety of flashes of light.  Long bold deep streaks of some larger animals and smaller near surface ‘blebs’ of light.  Very surreal indeed on this moonless night it was almost impossible to tell the stars in the sky from the animals in the sea.

Moyo Island is a magical place, we loved it there.  It was also nice to be in a park, away from a village area.   We enjoyed the privacy and spent 3 days reading and snorkeling and enjoying the incredible natural surroundings.  The island is known for its monkeys and ‘barking’ deer.  While we did not see either, we surely heard plenty of jungle noises every night…together with the fluorescence ocean life everywhere in the sea, it all added up to a very strange and exotic place, especially after dark.

Kananga Village

Nice sailing! 
 View of Tambora volvano on Sumbawa.
Tambora erupted in 1815 and brought a
global 'year without summer' due to
the large volume of ash released.
Katmai underway in 10 knots of breeze...Nice!

We anchored off of the small village of Kanangas for one night.  It is known as a stopping off place to go to visit the nearby island (2 miles) of Satonde, which is a volcanic crater that hosts a green saltwater lake.  Unfortunately, the day we came through, the wind was blowing at 20 plus knots too windy for a dingy ride across the open channel and too rough to try and anchor Katmai next to the crater island. 
The wind made for a great sail though, and we saw numerous pods of pilot whales and dolphins.
So we gave the lake a pass.  We traded with some locals for bananas and papaya and gave away more hats, shorts and shirts to young boys who paddled up in their dug out canoes full of smiles and laughter.  We only stayed the night and left about 6 am, when the sun was just above the horizon. The sail to Kilo was going to be a long day, so we needed to start early.

That evening at sunset, we were surprised by 100s of ‘flying foxes’, fruit bats, that flew over us, from mangroves on Satonde and over to the main island of Sumbawa.  They are huge, and at first glance look like large slow moving owls in flight, but sure enough they are bats and with a wing span of up to nearly 4 feet, I was glad to sleep below deck that night!  Spooky!

The village of Kilo sits in a very small bay within a larger bay on the north side of Sumbawa Island. On the way there we passed yet more large volcanos that clearly formed the island, not that long ago. 

We gave out dozens of paper school pads and pencils to the seemingly endless stream of dug out canoes with children.  They were very happy with the little gifts, shouting and yelling to their friends onshore, waving their little treasures, even doing happy dances on the way back to shore.  Again, we stayed only for the night, having arrived in late afternoon after a nice sail to the anchorage.  We were pleased to find the local winds in the bay from the north, which allowed us to head directly to the anchorage and not have to tack up wind in the normally predominately east to southeast trade wind.  We expect some sort of local sea breeze was blowing, influenced by the huge topographic relief on the volcanos.

A Fish Attracting Device (FAD).  Very common features
 (to avoid) in the local waters.

On the way in to the anchorage, the area was full of FADs, Fish Attracting Devices.  These are unlit, floating collections of drums, bamboo and other miscellaneous bits.  The locals use them to attract fish, and often fish near by.  They are, difficult to see, and impossible to see at night. No night time sailing in our future. They must be effective, because we have seen literally hundreds of these, often miles from shore.

Wera Bay

Village of Wera, located on the northeastern shore of the
Island of Sumbawa.

The last anchorage on our journey east across the island of Sumbawa, Wera Bay is known for its boat building.  Apparently the specialty of the village is the manufacture of rather large wooden ships and several thatched sheds on shore loosely concealed the hulls of at least six huge boats, and many smaller vessels.  The boats are built in the traditional way, with only wooden pegs for fastening, no metal.  

We witnessed the maiden voyage of this large 'Phinisi',
clearly still under construction.  Note the people on deck for scale. 
She is a HUGE boat.
We were fortunate to see a partially completed boat that clearly was on its maiden voyage come back to the village just before sunset to anchor near us.  Many boat loads of locals and apparent officials were offloaded by skiff and whisked back to shore at dusk.  The boats build here are reportedly up to 30 meters in length.

The active volcano Sangeang forms an island
off the village of Wera.  She has been venting since the last
eruption, which was in May 2014 (those are NOT clouds!)
We considered staying around and visiting the shore to view the boat building the next day, but reports from other cruisers about theft from their decks in this anchorage and the very ‘cheeky’ nature of the village children that rowed out to ask for gifts left us feeling the best thing to do was to keep moving and so the next morning very early we set sail away from Sumbawa for Komodo, which really was our destination after all.


No comments:

Post a Comment