By : Dr. Dietrich Lerche
The province NTB, in fact the whole of Eastern Indonesia or Nusa Tenggara, offers a unique potential for inter- island discoveries: pristine beaches with crystal clear water, a world of white sand, colorful corals and tropical fishes for snorkeling and diving, exciting land excursions to volcanoes/laces or just pure enjoyment of the generally calm sea, a fresh breeze and that crushing or island feeling.
One good alternative is access by water, i.e. boat trips, which combine transport (the way is the good) and accommodation in a most enjoyable and comfortable way, offering relaxation and excitement at the same tame.
Despite its potential, this area of maritime tourism appears to be still underdeveloped.
Lombok Network Holidays as a travel agency in co-operation with Perama Tours offers a five days cruise to Komodo/ Flores (one way or return). This tour is what the story is about which my wife and I went on in may 2003, a voyage which we most thoroughly enjoyed, leaving us with unforgettable memories and which we only can recommend as the best way to explore Nusa Tenggara and eastern Indonesia.
First may be a few facts about Perama, the boat, the trip: The Phinisi boat, ours was called “Tala” 114, is 23m long, has a reliable 210 HP Nissan engine (with good wind also supporting sails are set); it can accommodate reasonably well up to 25 passengers (the crew was almost twice as large), we did take off as planned and on time.
Of course in a confined space as the boat the other team members- crew or passengers- are an important part of the whole trip. For us, both added to the delight of the cruise; there was Paul I (and his wife Kathy), the climatologist, with whom we had stimulating conversation, or Paul I, the computer man, the only one who left in Labuhan Bajo/ Flores. The British - German mix became more cosmopolitan when we were joined on the return trip by 7 newcomers: a Korean, a Swedish couple and, the rare exception, an Indonesia couple. Obviously at full capacity (max 30) it will get somewhat crowded.
Class” i.e. sleeping in the open on a mat wherever it was convenient. On the return voyage we took a cabin, small but comfortable, always a fresh breeze and the shooting sea. Sailing almost along the equator, the calm zones, there area hardly any storms and in the dry season sunshine is guaranteed, without being sticky hot. There is no need for AC.
Lets go back to the beginning of our story and journey. We took off from Mataram 11.00 sharp, after 200 m the first stop: Mataram mall to allow for last minute shopping. Except for a few personal things there was hardly any need for it as food on board was excellent-thanks to Jeff our cook - and plentiful; drinks, snacks etc.
After 30 min the bus with our “tour director” Gusti, 5 passengers and 4 crew rattled on, down the main highway to the eastern side of Lombok by 13.00 we had reached Labuhan Lombok where we were show another Perama Phinisi under construction (very labor intensive indeed), to bee ready for service in September. A friendly welcome with fried bananas and then aboard to meet the full crew, explores the ship and settle down on deck. It was only a short sail to the next island, under “development” by Perama. A first plunge into the sea, beach walk, snorkeling, shell collection. Like on some of the other islands visited, Perama is engaged in promoting community development under the campaign P4: Perlindungan (Environment), Pertanian (Agriculture), Perkebunan, Kemiskinan (Anti Poverty). For the welcome evening the crew had organized a fish BBQ on the beach and everyone of the crew joined in the ‘’singing talent show’’, enjoying themselves maybe more than the rest, but it was fun and a good start to get to know each other.
Later in the evening ‘’Thala 144’’ lifted anchor and we headed east, into a calm night and sea, above us a clear, star studded, night.
Tired out from sun, sea and sand, the slight rocking movement brought a quick sleep. Next morning after a spectacular sunrise we arrived at Satonda Island - off the coast of Tambora - with its mighty volcano. After a brief walk we reach a tranquil, clear (but salty) volcanic lake and another 10 min hike brought us to the top of the rim, from where we enjoyed a magnificent panorama to Sumbawa as well as a number of smaller island, stretched like a ring of pearls along the equator. To fresh up we anchored for another swim and snorkeling at Donggo beach. To meet the locals we also at a fishing village along the coast of Sumbawa. While we approach the village by speedboat, hundreds of children gather on the beach and give as a warm welcome. As t5his area is not yet “spoiled” by tourism, it was fortunately not “Mr.” or “money” but a friendly smile and genuine curiosity. Of course everyone was very excited when we showed him or her a brief video run of the film we had taken. The lady in charge of the village (sub) health center showed us around on short stroll up to a mountain spring, which provides much needed water, not only for drinking but even for small scale irrigation.
The village, despite also signs a poverty (we promised to send her anti malaria medicine), appeared well kept and we learnt a lot about village life, from agriculture to fishery, even observed a local blacksmith.
Our next and by all eagerly awaited destination was Komodo. While we approached the island we could watch already a “dragon” on the beach, also some wild pigs. There were several of those huge lizards lying around the ranger station rather lazily. After we had secured all the “demo” or “proof” photos and films for our folks at home, our guide took us on 2 hours walk/hike through the nature reserve / park. We didn’t spot any more Komodos in the wild but were more than compensated by the flora and fauna, the songs and whistles of hundreds of birds, the sighting of a white Kakatua, high up on a Lontar palm. Back at the boat the cook had prepared already an excellent lunch, not only fish but also of fruit and other delicacies. Time again for another swim, just 30 minutes away on “Red Beach”, one of the most beautiful beaches in the natural bay: Spotless clean, pure white sand, turquoise blue water in many shades and to beat it all a still intact, colorful coral garden with hundreds of fish, and 3 sea turtles. During 30 years in Indonesia. I have seen many beaches and Christa (an avid snorkeler who can spend hours in/on water) and I have been rather disappointed about coral devastations in recent years in Indonesia. Now here it was like 20 years ago: a world of wonders, colors and living corals, enhanced by the reflection of the white sandy ocean ground: stunning and spectacular.
For us much too soon we had to leave this wonder - water – world and to learn that in Labuhan Bajo (Flores), half time and returning point had been reached. The cave ( goa ) excursion was an interesting land based diversion but not match the sea adventure. With a new team (some of them had explored Flores during the 5 day stop – over) we headed for Rinca Island where we actually did meet wild Komodos in the jungle or rather savannah. That not all is well from an environmental point was demonstrated in another bay / beach, which unfortunately happened to be littered with plastic/garbage both at the beach and underwater.
Then we were heading west, a lovely day voyage where we were sizzling on the san deck, always cooled by a fresh breeze. Suddenly the crew jumped up and started to pull at the long fishing line which came to live as a beautiful blue marlin thrashed out of the water and minutes later lay on deck. I could not feel but pity for that beautiful creature (180 cm, 15kg) as it was cut to shumi-shumi by our Korean friend and the happy crew. Rather unusual we even caught another Merlin the next day.
Moyo island, our next and last major stop, is know for is luxury resort Amanwana where you can spend 700$ per day fortunately nature is free for every one and we felt like kings when we took a plunge the Moyo waterfall into the natural pool of clear and cool water or got a massage from the swirling and foaming currents. After this it was all relaxing as we sailed along the Sumbawa coast to Labuhan Lombok and were brought back to our hotels in Mataram by bus.
In fact what appears to be missing in the Indonesia / Nusa Tenggara cruise program is what may be called ‘’middles class’’ cruise with somewhat higher. Comfort (cabin) standards, at possibly higher but still reasonable prices.
We definitely felt we got our money’s worth and felt treated very well. It is an excellent, if not the best, way to explore magnificent Nusa Tenggara, which we can recommend to anyone and which should be further developed / promoted by the public and private sector in NTB.
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