Bali to Belitung; dolphins, waterspouts and fishing boats! 21October2010

On our way!

Well we didn’t really hug the coast whilst headed north, more like stayed a bit close in.  If you hugged the coast all the way you would double the distance needed to travel so compromise was the order of the day. We got away from Benoa in the end at about 1130 on 09October with just enough time to clear the Selat Badung before dark and by following pretty much the 30 metre depth contour we were able to keep out of the worst of current and even at times get some assist.  It seems the current works close in as a series of eddies and it was about half and half for and against us.  The exciting thing was these spectacular whirlpools off the port of Padang (ferry terminal for Lombok and further out) where a series of currents came together in a very swishy manner to seriously push the boat around as we slipped through them. Other than that the move north was pretty uneventful but a highlight was the quite spectacular scenery of the Bali east coast.  This is terribly mountainous with bright green, forested hillsides plunging down to the water and inland whopping great volcanoes towering into the sky.  Even after dark the passage was quite the occasion with a myriad of lights all over the same hillsides providing an extraordinary view off to port and all night as we rounded the north-east and northern coasts of the island. This was literally, thousands of lights stretching from the shoreline to high in the hills and if nothing else it made navigation somewhat straightforward; it’s not like you couldn’t tell where the shoreline started!   A lot of those lights must have been our friendly fishermen doing their thing at home as we weren’t bothered by them on this occasion, but, we could see all of the little boats, literally hundreds of them all parked up in the bays and on the beaches making ready to waylay unsuspecting boaties the next morning.

Hills and little boats.

Our destination was Lovena Beach, located in a little crescent shaped bay on the Bali north coast and at 0700 the next morning we slipped in to anchor between the reefs directly in front of the beach bars and Bintang flags.  Lovena is on the tourist list of places to go and seems to specialise in dolphin watching and beach hawkers. Certainly they have a very fetching statue of a very happy dolphin parked on top of a large tower and it’s very hard not to give in to the hawkers selling the obligatory sarongs, shells, trinkets and massages; but the shells were cheap and especially that perfect Argonaut shell! It seems Lovena was historically, like most other villages, a fishing port but with the advent of ecotourism type activities such as dolphin watching, many of the fishermen have gone over to the more lucrative game of taking people out to chase dolphins about.  This involves the same type of little boats that we came across in the Selat Badung, but now the fishermen, en masse, put two or more punters on board and head out to sea before dawn looking for the hard pressed, resident, dolphin community; but the dolphin numbers are declining.

Lovena Beach and the Dolphin boats.

Lovena Beach and Bintang flags!

Dolphin Spotting; she spotted the collingwood flag!

Chasing Dolphins.

The Dolphin Tower at Lovena.

This is not something new to the world of ‘ecotourism’ and in most places where people go dolphin spotting the dolphins don’t seem to be totally happy! Apparently at Lovena, the fishermen for years got by catching tuna that came in close early in the morning and the dolphins likewise came in early in the morning looking for the same thing.  The problem is now there isn’t quite the same number of fish about and would you believe, the dolphin numbers are dropping off as well. Well go figure, first you catch all their fish and then you run about in large numbers of boats and chase them away! It really is quite a sight, just after dawn, masses of boats heading out over the horizen to pursue the hapless cetaceans. In more developed western type places the authorities try to implement some form of management to look after the animals but in poorer countries this is somewhat harder and to be fair, people at Lovena are just doing their best to get by. This really is the way of things here where people are scratching to make any sort of living and in most of Indonesia people generally do it pretty tough.

On the other hand Lovena is quite a pretty place with the obligatory palm trees, black (volcanic of course) sandy beach, lots of little fishing boats, warm, clear water and the hawkers really are very nice and also just doing their thing. So we chilled out amongst the Bintang flags, bought some trinkets and shells, ogled at the number of dolphin spotting boats and contemplated our next (long) hop out to ‘Karimunjawa’ about 330 miles away.

To get to Karimunjawa we needed to move north-west 100 miles to get around the NE tip of the island of Madura, then turn west and move another 230 miles before our next night off.  Karimunjawa itself is in a group of twenty-seven islands and is part of a conservation area 60 odd miles north of Java.  Initially the plan was to leave at 0700 head WNW out of Lovena and pass through the narrows at Surabaya well to the west, but what little wind we had made a move north for the day around Madura somewhat preferable so we committed ourselves to the three nights at sea without a break. On this leg we started to pick up quite a bit more traffic, a pattern that remained for most of our move through the Java sea; lots of fishing boats, ships, oil industry traffic, fishing rafts and all forms of generally indescribable industry; not to mention the frequent hazards of logs, palm trees, ropes plastic bags etc etc etc. We arrived at Karimunjawa at 0700 on 14October after our three night sojourn and went to anchor with two other boats, ‘Thyme’ with Simon and Amanda (and sloop the cat) out of Kiwiland and ‘Moontan’ a catamaran from Darwin driven by Sean and Carina. These guys had been trolling along at the back of the ‘Sail Indonesia’ fleet and like us were plotting a move the next morning to Belitung, the next port of call for the sail-Indo fleet.


The boat harbour at Karimunjawa; and they are pretty!

Karimunjawa is small, quiet (the locals description), has a very attractive fleet of traditional fishing boats and not being on the tourist or backpacker trail is significantly lacking in hawkers or Bintang flags. For some reason the locals provide the Latin names of the local trees, this of course raised the interest of the skipper and the town also has a couple of ponds containing sharks, turtles and other assorted fish.  To go swimming in the ponds costs around 5000 Rp (sort of 50 cents Aus) and most of the three boats company sallied forth to check out the captive wildlife; leaving big, tough, Alaskan, Sean complaining about the biting nature of rapacious Trigger fish! For lunch we went to the only restaurant/café available and checked out the local buffet.  The food shopping was limited to eggs and vegetables although we could have gone to the market early in the morning had we known. So after filling up with diesel in the afternoon (with the assistance of the very helpful locals) we chilled out with a DVD in the evening and got sorted for an early departure for the bright lights of Belitung.

Unloading ice, Karimunjawa.

Gotta love it!

They do look good!

Next morning bright and early we were off and had the joy of watching the local, very traditional and very colourful lateen rigged fishing boats ghosting in across near glassy seas headed home after a night of fishing.  The locals here take serious pride in their boats, maintaining and looking after them, the boats are very pretty to look at and they are still being used for what they were designed for; fishing! Just after that we had the more sobering reality of a sodding great water spout just off to port of our track but at least it made for good photo opportunity.

Looks good over there.


Belitung is an island around 40 miles across, it sits north of Java sort of equidistant between Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan about 100 miles off each and it took us most of three days and two nights to cover the 280 miles to get there. Of course the weather gods were laughing at us as after burning far too much diesel and picking our way in the dark through the reefs on the north-east of the island the wind went westerly at 15 to 20 knots, bang on the nose; bearing in mind we hadn’t seen 20 knots probably since the Gulf of Carpentaria!  This westerly was of course the harbinger of the NE/NW monsoon and westerly weather was now more likely than not. The punch into our new weather paradigm took a few hours before we put the pick down in the little bay in front of  Rusty’s café on the beach at ‘Tanjung Kelayang’.  There were four other late movers from the Indo rally here also with another boat coming in two days later. We were to stay here for three nights with the other boaty types, having Bintang’s and Anker’s at Rusty’s café and generally chilling out.  This was the final destination (in a group sense) for the Sail Indonesia boats and significant organization was available for visiting boats.  Diesel was available over the beach, support for the boats enabled visits to immigration, customs and the harbour master so boats could clear from here post dated to nominated dates and after the debacle of Kupang, halleluiah; although we did have to wait for the harbour master to finish his mid-day sleep! The sail Indonesia representative, Jonny, was there to help all boats, along the way we visited a pepper and fish farm and later got sorted with food shopping and pretty much anything else that seemed important.

Pepper farm.

Skipper and Jonny.

When in Rome.....!

Rusty's; a bar on the beach!

We were looking for a waterfall; lost in translation one feels.

Everybody enjoyed Belitung.  Rusty and his family were great and very helpful although he did leave us quite bemused when he said he was feeling a bit unwell as he had caught a “little bit of Malaria”!  On our second day the four boats companies, we had now been joined by (Tasmanian) Bruce on Aria, hired motor scooters and we had a day of checking out the island on two wheels.  The locals thought it hilarious to have a family of three white people (Sean, Carina and son) on the one scooter, this of course being a very local thing to do. That night Bruce was invited with friends by ‘Arty’ to a locals night on the beach where the family patriarch was cooking food for everybody. Everybody was basically Bruce, the skipper, Tim and Trevor.  When the happy and beer carrying party goers arrived the welcome was a Marque and microphone for the Karaoke, a fellow playing keyboard, lots of speakers, loads of seats and plenty of food.  Of course the twenty or so seats shrunk to four in the blink of an eye and along with about ten or so family in the background the four party goers took turns getting up to sing songs in company with the keyboard and a shrieking female vocalist.  The setting though was terrific, lawns backing on to a fabulous beach and a sort of dubious landscaped type of garden. It seems the idea is to develop the place as a resort and the location is great; one just wonders at the fellows there wanting and trying to provide us with shoulder massages! Anyway around midnight the old boy decided he would drive us home in his biggish car and after our night of Karaoke indulgence we were more than happy that we would be spending another night on the pick happily swinging with whatever the weather was inclined to do.  But it was a very chilled night and the hospitality was breathtaking, very nice people being very hospitable. The next day (20October) Bruce and Aria slipped away headed somewhere north and we sorted our laundry and drank far too much Bintang than we should given our plans to move further north-west the next day. Somebody has to do it one supposes.

At Rusty's bar.


2 Responses to “Bali to Belitung; dolphins, waterspouts and fishing boats! 21October2010”

  1. Bro Says:

    man took me a while to find you on Google Earth! Gone such a long way,

    Hows things? Looking at places I have only seen as a smidge on a map, every piece of arable land, non-arable as well, is inhabited by somebody, we live in an overcrowded world!

    Anyway, good to see you are looking well.

    Take care


    • Trevor Says:

      Yea and it feels like a long way and all. We are in Johor Bahru now just across the water from Singapore. Headed north on the 12th. After January will start the long road home, south then slowly east eventually across New Guinea and east coast Aus hopefully around August. Have you and the boys sorted tattoos yet??? The flag is still up and not coming down in any great hurry. Cheers and beers, say hello to all. Trevor.

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