We left Labuan Bajo after about a week, heading west to Sumbawa. We wanted to stop at a number of islands in the northern Komodo National Park along the way.
Our first stop was not very far from Labuan Bajo, at an island called Bididari (meaning “Angel”). You’d never think it was so close to Labuan Bajo, as it feels like you’re miles away from all the activity! The beach, coral and bay is pristine, no litter to be seen, just stunning white sand and turquoise water. We needed to make water (one of our weekly chores), and it was the perfect spot as it was so clear! The boys could snorkel to their heart’s content whilst Marco and I fiddled around with the watermaker.
We had a couple of problems with it – first the one pipe would not connect to the membranes, then we had to re-solder some of the submersible pump wiring, then the submersible pump stopped working properly. We eventually managed to connect the pipe – using all our strength and pushing against each other, and attached our powerful roving bilge pump to pump the water out of the sea. Problems solved – and 300 litres of fresh clean water made.
I managed to squeeze in a quick snorkel with the boys – and it was so worth it. They had seen 3 small black tip sharks earlier on. I wasn’t so lucky, but we were surrounded by huge schools of colourful fish, and spotted a turtle (Joshi’s favourite).
We then headed to the actual Komodo Island, which is fairly big. One of our fellow cruisers (on Dragonfly) had recommended an anchorage on the north of the island, called “Loh Serau”. The setting is really magnificent, kind of like our first anchorage on the south of Rinca Island. The mountains are high and majestic, but are fairly dry and barren (especially at this time of the year). The sea is a deep blue – but the real wonderland is UNDER the water.
The bay is deep and filled with abundant sea life. The fish were really active – we heard constant splashing, and saw schools of silver sparkling fish jumping out the water, probably being chased by larger fish. We spent 2 days in the bay, snorkelling in a number of spots and just having some down time, reading and resting. The reef looked so healthy and was full of life, so awesome to see.
We went to the beach for sundowners and a stroll up the nearby foothill, and the boys flew their drones around a bit. Marco was ready with the dinghy paddle in case any Komodo dragons came strolling by and thought we looked tasty (which they didn’t).
Whilst we were watching the sunset we noticed a far off mountain that looked remarkably like a volcano (to our South African untrained eyes) – and a smoking volcano, nogal! We hadn’t noticed it before as it must have been covered by clouds. After checking our charts we worked out that it was a volcano called Sangeang Api – but had no way of telling if it was currently dangerous as we had no internet reception. Oh well, we’d have to find out soon enough – when we were due to sail right passed it!
We then moved on to Gili Banta, which is just outside of the Komodo National Park, but soon to be included. The setting was again magnificent, but the litter was horrendous here and the reef brown and dead. Marco reckons it had been bombed or poisoned. So sad to see, and actually made me feel sick and a little depressed. The most common items of litter were plastic drinking cups – the ones with sealed foil lids. Second most common – plastic water bottles. I will NEVER buy or accept one of those sealed cups of water. So much pollution for such a little drink of water. We spent a fair bit of time discussing the pollution problem with the boys, possible solutions and the hurdles and obstacles that would need to be overcome to solve it. Not insurmountable, but not easy either!
The boys made the most of the place (as usual) and spent a couple of hours constructing a raft from pieces of wood that lay amongst the rubbish. It was looking good until they climbed on, when it all pretty much fell apart, and they were left paddling around on single wooden planks. Such a coincidence – in our Footprints curriculum we’re learning about how the trekkers floated their ox-wagons across the Orange River on rafts, and one of the activities is to build a raft! Seems the boys are one step ahead of me!
We really enjoyed a hike up the mountains surrounding our anchorage at Gili Banta. We woke up at 5am (yes, us!) and made it to the summit under cloudy skies, with a slight breeze blowing – so lovely. The views were spectacular – we could see the “fingers” of the island reaching out into the sea, and our boat nestled in the bay far below us. I managed to get internet up on the mountain, and was able to confirm that Sangeang Api was indeed active, and had last erupted in August 2017! In fact, it’s supposed to be one of the most active volcanos in the Flores Sea, and its status was deemed to be “erupting”. There didn’t seem to be any warning out though, so we stuck to our plan – which was to anchor at Wera Bay on Sumbawa, right opposite the volcano. This was going to be exciting – onwards to the volcanos!