Thursday, June 25, 2009


With our usual ADD tendencies, we woke up, poured a cup and pulled the anchor. It was only 12 miles to the town of Labuanbajo and we were restless to get there, re-provision and move on to Komodo National Park.

Overnight the wind had died and we woke to glassy conditions and a hot ball of sunshine. We motored past and around close to fifty varying sized fishing boats anchored or drifting over the shallow shoals in the bays. Small closely-knit fishing villages sat perched on stilts on the edges of the sea. The waters colors were distinct deeper greens and aqua blues depending on the depth. The hills were covered in thick brown grass and rich volcanic rocks dotted the landscape. Palm trees sprouted intermittently throughout the valleys and draws.

In a couple of hours we were weaving our way through the myriad of islands surrounding the mainland town. We steered clear of the main boat anchorage, choosing instead to anchor 2 miles south of town in front of a little resort called the Bajo Komodo Eco-Lodge, a place we had read about from other sailors, who said they were friendly, accommodating, and helpful to visiting boats. We had also read that the harbormaster in town wasn't always too pleasant, hassling sailboats for extra paperwork and extra rupiah dollars. The town anchorage itself was said to have some petty theft problems. We chose to avoid the harbormaster and town altogether, figuring we'd had enough officialdom for a while and as long as we could stay under the radar outside of town we would be fine.

We dropped our hook in 20 feet of thick sandy mud, the shallowest we have anchored in a year. We have gotten so used to having to anchor in deeper water, often 70-100 feet in Palau and Raja Ampat, dropping in under 50 feet nowadays feels extremely shallow! For all you sailors, our waypoint in front of the resort is: 8˚31.1' S, 119˚52.1' E
There's room for heaps of boats here.

We dinghied in and introduced ourselves to the girls managing the hotel. They were all extremely friendly and very happy to have us around. We were the first boat to have visited in 2009, but when the SailIndonesia rally comes through in July/August they do get many boats anchoring in front of the hotel. Sidenote...Since leaving Palau we have only seen one other sailboat and that is our German friends on the boat, Alk, who left Palau a week before us. We last saw them in Sorong over 2 months ago and since then not one other sailboat.

The hotel was happy to do our laundry, serve us dinner, watch our dinghy on the beach at night, and help us out with getting some diesel. The guys who do maintenance/landscaping working there even shuttled us up one morning to the local fresh food market a bit out of town on their ojeks. On top of all the help from the resort, the anchorage itself was very peaceful, not rolly, safe, and quiet at night. We really couldn't have asked for anyplace better.

The town of Labuanbajo itself is an eclectic little fishing village, weathered and crumbly, but with character. It was fun to walk around and check out the thousands of fish that we think are sardines drying on big nets in the sun on the waterfront. There are a few good shops to get some fresh food, but the fresh food market up the hill is really the way to go. It is great. We went on Saturday morning and it was busy with packs of people and hundreds of stalls set up. Most of the people are Muslim but seemed genuinely happy to have two white tourists poking around their world, bartering for fruits and vegetables, asking funny questions in broken Bahasa Indonesia and taking some photos. Once again we stuck out like sore thumbs and were constantly stared at and followed around, but in a non-threatening way. Overall the people in the market were extremely friendly.

Even though Labuanbajo is a bit of a tourist town, because it is the gateway to Komodo National Park for boats and charters, we think most tourists don't go to the local market, hence the interest in us being there. After an hour, we were loaded up with fresh food for our next adventure to Komodo.

After 2 days we were ready to move on. We had looked into going diving with a boat from town, but the 3 hours each way through the rough currents and winds sounded dreadful. We decided that we were more in the mood for long walks on land rather then more time on boats and in the water. There is a place on north Komodo called Crystal Rock and Castle Rock we still may get to dive on our own. We'll see.

We picked up our clean clothes, said good-bye to all the great people working at the hotel and shoved off for Rinca Island in Komodo National Park.

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