Thursday, September 20, 2012

Indonesia Books

The Airmen and the Headhunters - by Judith M Heimann.  Excellent true account of two Allied aircrews who are shot down over central Borneo during WWII.  Based on extensive interviews and research, author describes their long months in the jungle and Bornean towns, hiding from the Japanese and helping touch off a  native resistance movement.

Amidst the Archipelago of the Spice Islands Sails the Woden Borne - by Allan Spencer.  A fictional tale of adventure and romance amongst foreign adventurers/entrepreneurs on the seas of modern Indonesia.  Goes on way too long and is way too mushy.
Bali: Sekala and Niskala- by Fred B Eiseman 2009.  All about Balinese religious beliefs, ceremonies, and ritual.  The author goes into a lot of detail.

Captain Cook’s Journal During the First Voyage Round the World - by James Cook.  Cook’s journal recounts, among many other things, Cook’s passage through the Torres Straight, weather difficulties, sickness, and refitting in Java, and departure for the Indian Ocean.  Fascinating.

Diansinkan the Exiled - by Martin Kerr.  Fictional novel about a Dutch expatriat who is arrested, then forced out of Sentani, West Papua by the Indonesian occupation.  He subsequently becomes involved with the rebel movement.

Eat, Pray, Love - by Elizabeth Gilbert.  This is the super-popular travel narrative.  Everybody else seems to love it, but I thought it was mostly awful.  The actual travel narration - maybe 1/3 of the book- is OK, but the other 2/3s is the author endlessness ly whining about her petty personal issues- and she comes off as a real nutter as far as I’m concerned!

The Expedition to Borneo of HMS Dido for Suppression of Piracy - by Cpt Henry Keppel.  Free kindle book by an English captain who spends several years charting the coast of Borneo, chasing pirates, and having interesting encounters with locals- from headhunters to rulers of local kingdoms.  Well written, down-to-earth with some humor, a good read.

The Fifth Season - by Kerry B Collison 2009.  The fictional stories of 3 women caught up in the post-Suharto violence in Indonesia.

A History of Modern Indonesia - by Adrian Vickers 2005.  Social and political history of Indonesia from colonial times to the Bali bombing.

The History of Sumatra Containing An Account of the Government, Laws, …  - by William Marsden

The Island of Bali is Littered with Prayers - by Jeremy Grimshaw 2009.  A music professor studies traditional music in Bali and brings back a gamelan set to teach Western students on.

The Indonesia Reader - by Tineke Hellwig et al.  Excellent collection of dozens historical essays, documents, and interviews that works its way through Indonesian history, from ancient times to the present.

In the Time of Madness - by Richard Lloyd Parry 2007.  Foreign correspondent Parry relates his coverage of the social troubles in Indonesia at the end of Suharto’s reign, and his resulting emotional turmoil.  He travels to Papua, meets headhunters in Borneo, and treks into the hills of East Timor to meet with the rebel front.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami - by Pradyumna P Karan et al 2010.  Analysis of the response and recovery efforts of government and NGOs after the 2004 tsunami.

The Invisible Palace - by Jose Manuel Tesoro 2004.  True account of events surrounding a famous Java murder of journalist Fuad Mohammad Syafruddin in 1996.

Javanese Lives - by Walter L Williams 1991.  Interviews tell the life stories of dozens of (now elderly) regular Javanese men and women from all walks of life.  Excellent book; it really gives one perspective into life in Indo.

The Killing Sea - by Richard Lewis 2008.  A very readable fictional story of two teenagers- an American and an Indonesian- who struggle to survive and find their families after the 2004 tsunami.

The Long Oppression - by G.L. Simons.  History of government repression in Indonesia.  A grim reality check that covers the more unpleasant aspects of Indonesian history from colonial times to Habibie’s tenure. 

Love and Death in Bali - by Vicki Baum.  A classic tale of the violent colonial takeover of Bali and the changes in the lives of ordinary Balinese.  Very readable; one of the best Indonesia books in my opinion.

The Malay Archipelago - by Alfred Russel Wallace 1854.  Wallace bumbles his way around almost all the major islands of Indonesia, enraptured with the wildlife.  This is a wonderful book to read as you travel along in Indo.  Free online.

Oil Patch: Living in Oil Company Compounds from Desert to Jungle - by Gary Gentry.  A fun, short, irreverent book that gives good insight into life as an expat oil worker in Libya in the 80’s.  Also includes some short stories on Indonesia.

Playing the Poor Man - by Thor Kerr 2010.  Fictional tale of a foreign freelance journalist and an NGO volunteer who encounter corruption, poverty, social unrest, and danger in post-Suharto Jakarta.

The Spice Garden - by Michael Vatikiotis 2003.  The villagers of a small fictional Maluku island turn against each other in post-Suharto religious violence.

A Taste for Green Tangerines - by Barbara Bisco.  Awkwardly/abruptly written in a couple spots, but not a bad story if you stick with it.  A London-bred anthropologist goes to work with the Dayaks at a ‘green resort’ project in Borneo.  Deadly snakebites, corruption, ethnic clashes, wildfires, romance, and personal growth ensue…

Throwin Way Leg - by Tim Flannery.  A humorous account of a modern-day scientist’s search for new mammals and new experiences in PNG.

Through Central Borneo; an Account of Two Years Travel in the Land of the Headhunters between 1913 and 1917 - by Carl Lumholtz.  I found this to be the most readable and engaging of the old Borneo river-and-jungle traveler’s tales that are available free online.

The Timor Man - by Kerry B Collison 1999.  Fictional tale of army officers, coup plotters, and spies during East Timor’s last half-century or so of history.  From an author with very in-depth knowledge of Indonesian politics.

Wanderings Among South Sea Savages  -by H Wilfrid Walker.  The author’s 1910 journey through Fiji, the Philippines Sulu Islands, and Borneo.  Available free online.

Where the Strange Trails Go Down - by E Alexander Powell.  Author’s 1879 travels through Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

With Pythons and HeadHunters in Borneo- by Brian Row McNamee.  A young travel writer’s 1983 quest into the jungles of Borneo.  A bit whiny.

Wyvern - by A A Attanasio.  Epic novel follows the fortunes of a half-Dayak, half-Dutch boy who is raised as a jungle shaman and goes on to worldwide piratical adventures and high society.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

South Pacific Books - Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomons, PNG


Lonely Planet’s South Pacific Guide

A History of the Pacific Islands - by Steven Robert Fischer 2002.  Good, highly readable account of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia that spans pre-history right up to modern times.

The South Pacific - by Ron Crocombe 2008.  Goes into a lot of detail and is up to date. Topics include history, culture, health, education, corruption, economics, security, international relations, and more. However, the book is organized by topic rather than country or timeline, and the sections go by ambiguous titles such as ‘parameters’ ‘patterns’ and ‘perceptions’.  I’ve gleaned a lot of interesting tidbits by scanning the index for entries on our next destination.

The Fatal Impact - by Alan Moorehead.  Talks about the havoc wreaked by European explorers, but it really wasn’t worth buying.  It’s written in the 60’s and is dated.  It’s pretty much a basic history of Tahiti, Australia, and the Antarctic, and doesn’t offer any exciting new facts, figures, or ideas.

Fiji  -
The best book sources I found were the arrivals area at the Nadi airport and the University of the South Pacific bookstore in Suva.  My favorites were Daryl Tarte’s Fiji, Getting Stoned with Savages and Fiji - A Natural History

Stalker on the Beach - by Daryl Tarte - a nice little fiction piece based in an imaginary Fiji-like country.  A local business woman fights against an international tycoon’s attempts at exploitation.

Fiji - by Daryl Tarte - really good historical fiction read set against a backdrop of Fiji events from ‘discovery’ up through the eve of independence.

Deuba - can’t remember the full name of this piece, but it was a good, short study of traditional village life written by a future anthropologist who lived in the south Viti Levu village of Deuba, training local recruits during WWII.  Details on clothing, menus, spirituality, and more.

They Came for Sandalwood - can’t remember who this was by, but it was not the detailed study I meant to buy, which was by Marjorie Crocombe.  The book I did buy was a short tone which described the discovery of Rarotonga in a clumsy way.  I got it at USP.  Not recommended if you’re older than a fifth-grader.

Getting Stoned with Savages - by J Marten Troost - fun book about an expat who goes to work in modern-day Vanuatu and Fiji and describes the life and people there in an often comical way. 

Fiji - A Natural History - by Paddy Ryan.  Beautifully illustrated descriptions of Fiji’s common marine and land plants and animals.

Vanuatu -
Hard to find good books on Vanuatu; Happy Isles, Tales of the South Pacific, and the Shark God were probably the best reads. 
I didn’t find any good book stores here ( ex: the most comprehensive was the Vanuatu Cultural Center bookshelf, which had two history/culture books: To Kill a Bird with Two Stones in English and Les Melanesians in French) and the only book available on kindle was South Seas Hitchhiker .  Most of my books came via ABE books via Aus, NZ, and Britain at some expense.  (I ordered them 6 weeks in advance and went to the post office to check for them every day during the 10 days we spend in Vila.  On our last day, just when I had given up hope, there was a new mail clerk at the counter and she miraculously produced the entire stack of 7 books.  An owner of a Vila bookstore described similar experiences receiving books by mail here).
Here’s my list of Vanuatu reads:

To Kill a Bird with Two Stones - by Jeremy MacClancy.  The only full history of Vanuatu.  A small book, 1980’s, not that well written, races through some events, ends at the end of the condominium.

Beyond Pandemonium by Father Walter Lini and New Hebrides: the Road to Independence - both books written in the 80’s by local politicians, both delve a lot into party politics and were a bit boring for me.  Interesting to read something by a local leader though.

The Shark God - by Charles Montgomery 2006.  A journalist traces his missionary ancestor’s path through Vanuatu and the Solomons in 2002.  Focus on current events and magical and spiritual beliefs of the natives.  I really liked his account of the Melanesian Brotherhood’s involvement in the Solomons Civil War.  Great read.

Coconuts and Coral - by  Gwendoline Page 1993.  Written by a british colonial housewife, gives a good picture of the colonial family experience but contains very little on local culture or life outside of Vila.

South Seas Hitchhiker - by Robert Hein.  Hein, a gregarious, perpetually broke 35 year old backpacker, wanders through Fiji, Vanuatu, NZ, Australia, and beyond, crewing on sailboats and taking odd jobs on shore.  Nice book.

Happy Isles of Oceania, Paddling the South Pacific - by Paul Theroux 1992.  Good old grumpy Brit Theroux produces yet another wonderful travel narrative filled with fascinating encounters with locals.

The Natural History of Santo - by the Santo 2006 Global Biodiversity Survey.  This multidisciplinary French-university-based study descended on Santo in 2006.  It was one of the largest scientific expeditions anywhere, ever.  This big glossy 57- pg book is full of beautiful photographs and articles by participating scientists that range from very accessible to somewhat technical.  I found this one at the Beachfront Resort in Luganville for $60 US.

Cataclysm- by David Luders.  Third book in a three-part series based on ancient Vanuatu legends.  This book covers the Krakatoa-like destruction of a large volcanic island that used to be north of Efate.

Tales of the South Pacific - by James Michener 1947.  A great Michener WWII fiction with fine stories and memorable characters.  Basis of the musical ‘South Pacific”.

Solomons -

 Best bookstore in the Pacific so far in the Hyundai Mall in Honiara.  They also bought back some of my old books for a decent price.  Fat Boys, near Gizo is rumored to have a reading library, and Uepi Resort in north Marovo had a good natural reference library and a large fiction section for trade.  We got a lot of $1 books from Honiara and gave away a book in just about every Solomons village, which was very appreciated.

Song of the Solomons - by E Hunt Augustus 2009.  Second in a three-part series of WWII historical fiction based in the Solomons.  A great, fun, funny book, one of my favorites.  Keeping an eye out for the other two in the series.

White Headhunter - by Nigel Randall.  Story of 19th century Jack Renton, who was shipwrecked amongst the headhunter tribes of eastern Malaita and was adopted into local culture.  Anthropologist Randall has some good insights on the tribal world.

Solomon Time - by Will Randall.  Untraveled English schoolteacher travels to an isolated island in the Solomons to help the locals set up a chicken farm.

The Thin Red Line - by James Jones.  A classic world war novel.

Devil-Devil -  by Graham Kent.  A fun fiction read about a detective and a nun combating crime and sorcery in the Solomons.

The Last Wild Island: Tetepare - by Dr John Read.  A good book about two ecologists’ battle to have Tetepare Island in the West Solomons recognized as a protected area.

Solomon - Times and Tales… - by Roger Webber.  An excellent read about a doctor’s time in the Solomons.  He works on several different islands and visits seldom-seen parts of the interior on foot.  Well written.


Most of these were books I found at the Hyundai Mall in Honiara.  Check hotels and little tourist shops for used books.  Kindle has a decent selection of ebooks on PNG.

Notes From a Spinning Planet - by Melody Carlson.  A touching fiction novel about a student who visits PNG learns about AIDS and makes some self-discoveries.

Rascal Rain A Year in Papua New Guinea - by Inez Baranay.  A development worker struggles with the local culture and development culture in PNG’s highlands.

Diansinkan the Exiled - by Martin Kerr.  Fiction tale about a businessman tortured and evicted from Indonesian West Papua, who makes a new home in PNG.

Mister Pip - by Lloyd Jones.  A new classic about a village girl who lives through the terrifying Bougainville war.  Great book.

A Solomon Island Society - Kinship and Leadership Among the Siuai of Bougainville - a 1950’s ethnography of a SW Bougainville society.  Pretty well-written overall, alternates between interesting and dry.

Notebooks from New Guinea - by Vojtech Novotny.  Great book, highly recommended.  Humorus, engaging field notes of a Czech biologist, lots of interesting tidbits about the people and animals of PNG.

The High Valley - by Kenneth Read.  Pretty dated ethnography by an odd anthropologist who is driven to mental exhaustion by the experience.

The Lost Tribe - by Edward Marriot.  Easy read from a journalist who breaks the rules and has a not-too-inspiring encounter with a ’lost tribe’ in the PNG highlands.

Not a White Woman Safe - Sexual Anxiety and Politics in Port Moresby 1920-1934.  By Amirah Inglis.  I think this was her college thesis?  Research on the odd views of locals vs. Australians and sexual and social tensions in the 20’s and 30’s.

Papua New Guinea - by Sean Dorney.  A history of PNG by the TV reporter.  Focus on politics and economics 1975- late 90’s.  Gets good reviews. 

Intimate Communications - by Gilbert Herdt and Robert J Stroller.  A series of transcribed interviews with PNG Sambia villagers.  The Sambia live in the highlands and practice ritualized homosexuality from an early age.  Quite interesting.

New Lives for Old - Cultural Transformation in Manus 1928-1953 - by Margeret Mead 2001.  A long term study of cultural change in Manus, which experienced rapid modernization during WWII.  Mead argues that cultural change can come rapidly.

Seagulls Don’t Fly into the Bush - by Alice Pomponio.  Culture and economics of a people in the Siassi Islands.  A little dry, though the traditional trading activity in the Siassi Islands is fascinating.

The Island of Menstruating Men - Religion in Wogeo, NG - by Ian Hogbin 1996.  A study of traditional culture in Waigeo- magic, mythology, social structure and gender relations.

And We the People - by Tim O’Neill 1972.  Entertaining book about daily life and the people in this missionary’s remote PNG life.

Throwin Way Leg - by Tim Flannery 2000.  A humorous travelogue by a biologist who travels to remotest New Guinea in search of undiscovered mammals and adventure.

Wayward Women - by Holly Wardlow 2006.  A really excellent book about gender relations, violence, family, sex, and prostitution in the PNG highlands.  A must read for anyone interested in the staggeringly high level of violence against women in PNG.

The Ghost Mountain Boys - by James Campbell 2008.  Portrayal of the sufferings of the Allied and Japanese troops on the Kokoda Track during WWII.

The White Mary - by Kira Salak.  An excellent work of fiction by a very adventurous female war journalist who traversed PNG.  In the book, a lone woman fights her way far up the Sepik River and beyond in search of a missing friend.


Did you know if not for small mangrove crabs, the fallen-leaf mulch of mangrove forests would be carried away by each tide?  The crabs take these leaves into their burrows, where they eventually provide nutrients to the forest.
Mangrove leaves and hypocotyl  of stilt mangroves (elongated seedlings that grow right on the tree) are edible but not widely used as food.  People mainly use mangroves for wood, but also for charcoal, traditional medicine (boiled bark),  and tannins in the bark and seedlings provide a preservative dye.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sailing Bali Indonesia - some cruising basics


Notes from SV Marquesa
Entered Indonesia at Jayapura, April 2012.  Route: Jayapura-Biak-Sorong-Raja Ampat-Ambon-Flores-Komodo-Sumbawa-Lombok-Bali.  Currently location Serangan Island, Bali.(pic of a small portion of Serangan harbor below, Mt Agung in background).

Here’s a little info we Wish we’d had before arriving in Indonesia/Bali:


- Kartasa Jaya in Java, who gave us good service, took 2.5 months to process our CAIT application.  Through them, the 3-month CAIT cost US$150, the 3-month CAIT extension cost $150, and a sponsor letter for a Sosbud visa cost $50. 
- Instead of the 1-2 month Visa on Arrival, we got the longer-term Social/Cultural 'Sosbud' visa in advance.  It cost $60 at the Vanimo consulate, one or two-day processing.  It's good for 2 months, then you can renew it monthly for $25/month up to 4 times (for a total stay of 6 months). 
- Clearance was pretty painless and the customs guys were friendly and helpful in Jayapura.  In a few other places we were asked for bribes of $10-$50 dollars, but we always refused successfully.  Sorong customs asked for the bond but gave up after phoning our agent, Kartasa Jaya.  The bond law has been officially revoked, but word hasn't necessarily gotten out to all the local officials.  Customs in Benoa didn't give us any trouble.  
For more info check out Noonsite's Indonesia page


The channel west of Bali is full of obstructions and wicked currents and not easily navigable.  Lombok Channel, west of Bali, has south-flowing currents up to 5knots/+ in the SE monsoon (May-Sept).  Currents flow north during the NW monsoon.
Anchoring in Bali is NOT as easy as it used to be.  We have heard good reviews of Lovina anchorage in north Bali, but we have not yet been there.  As for E/S Bali, here are the choices we are aware of:

1) Port Benoa/Bali Marina - Benoa harbor is a very busy commercial harbor and the boats are pretty packed in places.  Parts of the harbor are very shallow.  Both Benoa and Serangan are as dirty as any other commercial harbors in Indonesia- just something you have to learn to look past, I guess. 
Approach through the s-curved marked channel.  Better to do this in good light, the shallows extend Well south of the marks on the north side of the channel, especially in the outer half of the channel.  After you take a final 90-degree turn into a roughly north-south dredged channel, you will have the Bali marina to port and ~ 20 moorings to starboard.  Bali Marina is small- about 20 slots, most of seem to be filled with resident boats. A berth at the marina will cost you about US $25/day, and a mooring here will cost about US $10/day.  The marina has no moorings; these are run by some random local fellow who will find you if you pick up a mooring.  A few sailboats manage to anchor north of the marina and moorings, but it is very shallow and space is very limited here.  Rumor has it you can also anchor south of the marina and main channel, though we did not see any sailboats doing this.  Benoa Marina charges a US$5/day landing fee to tie up dingies. 
Beware if you're entering Indonesia in Bali; Bali Marina has been known to insist that you use them as an agent when you clear in, for a US$200 fee.  This $200 clearance fee is excessive, since there's no reason you would need an agent, and all relevent offices are located within walking distance south of the marina (unless you needed to go in to town to the main immigration office?  That's an $8 taxi ride).  We know a couple boats that stayed at the marina, but Serangan really seems to have become THE place for cruisers in Bali.

2) Serangan Island - this is where nearly all the cruising boats end up.  There are 30 or 40 moorings here that cater to a mix of cruisers and local boats.  I guess they could conceivably all fill up during the busiest couple weeks of the year, but there would probably still be room for anchoring.
The Serangan passage is about 10m, marked by small unlit buoys, passing through breaking reef, but not anything that made us uncomfortable in good light.  I wouldn't want to enter any unfamiliar harbor at night and Serangan is no exception.It is accessed through a separate 10m wide channel through breaking reef north of Port Benoa.  Multiple masts are visible from the Lombok Channel and the channel into Serangan anchorage is marked by a couple funny little unlit red-and-green floating buoys.  Once inside the buoys, you will see two well-protected anchorages that offer 5 choices:

a) Mande’s moorings: Mustached- Mande and his goons are known to everyone on Serangan as ‘the mafia’.  They operate out of a beachfront shack just east of the dingy dock.  He will probably motor out to you as soon as you enter the anchorage, offer you one of his moorings, and tell you (untruthfully) that it’s hazardous to go any further in.  His moorings are US $8/day or about US $170/month.  THE PRICE OF ALL MOORINGS INCLUDES A ~US $70/MONTH (Rp 600,000) VILLAGE FEE, which is supposed to go to the people of Serangan.  The reason we recommend avoiding Mande if at all possible is that he has a reputation for stealing this village fee, as well as your dingy engine and anything on the boat that’s left vulnerable.  If you take a Mande mooring when you arrive, you are stuck with it; no one else will dare to rent you a mooring.  Make sure the village fee is included on your receipt and lock up your boat.
b) Made’s moorings: I know, it sounds like Mande, but this is Bali and everyone has the same name!  This is the 2nd local fellow who has moorings.  Rates are roughly the same as Mande’s but you won’t have to worry about mischief.  Made’s shop is to the right of the  dingy dock and the conspicuous 3-story old yacht club with the curved blue roof on the waterfront road- ask around. 
c) The Royal Bali Yacht Club - probably the best choice.  Try Ruth on Ch 17 on arrival.  She is honest, friendly, and  helpful.  The yacht club is hidden away; land at the dingy dock, turn left down the little main road/waterfront road and walk about 1 km- the RBYC will be on your left.  RBYC moorings are a couple dollars more expensive than the others, but they come with a shower. 
d) Anchor - You should be able to anchor for free NE of Serangan in the large area between the moorings and the reef.  Holding here is reputedly poor in a mud/plastic bag bottom.  This area and the outer moorings are windy and thus more rough than the inner moorings.  Swell protection is good everywhere at Serangan. You cannot anchor inside of where the moorings start. 
e) If you happen to be a good personal friend of former Indonesian dictator’s son Tommy Suharto, you can anchor in the absolutely beautiful, protected, peaceful, perfect inner anchorage that lies up the southern channel that you will notice to port just after you pass through the reef.  Tommy’s dad was one of the richest men in the world after he stole billions from the Indonesian people in the 60’s-90’s.  Tommy owns a large portion of Serangan, and unless you’re buddies, his goons will show up to chase you off shortly after you drop anchor here.


Good news: Local produce, services, and goods are cheap and imported ones are often reasonable.  Shop at Lottemart (near Serangan), Carrefour in Kuta, or Hardy’s in Sanur.  Public transport from Serangan or Bali Marina is nonexistent, taxis are about US $10 to Denpasar/Kuta/Sanur, but you can rent a motorbike for about US $3/day/  Traffic in Bali is scary.  In Serangan drinking water is US$1.50 for 20L.  Local tapwater (bleach/boil before drinking) can be delivered to the boat for $8/500L.
- In Serangan diesel can be delivered for about US$0.85/L negotiable.  Jerry canning is technically illegal, but we've had no problem filling our jerry cans at a dingy-accessible petrol station for $0.50/L.  If you need laundry done US$0.15/peice) or water find Ibu Lala's shop near the dingy dock for honest service.  Local labor is around $15/day.  Good sail repair can be done by Nusa Dua Boatworks south of Kuta ($$$) or Julie on Serangan.  Local beer is cheap and good.  Telkomsel- near Ramayana on Diponegoro St in Denpasar - can provide a 3G internet plan for US $15/month + plus dongle. 

Bad news: Imported (ie palatable) wine and alcohol are expensive here.  This is a double-whammy for us because we have spent the last month trying to get work done on the boat here, and we really need a stiff drink now!  Quality boat parts and metalworking/mechanic services are really hard to find here, unless you’re fluent in Indonesian and  looking for something very basic.  Propane- The only places we've found that have Indonesian-to-US/Europe propane adaptors are Bali Marina or the Royal Bali yacht club.  Both charge US$50 for a 20lb bottle fill. 

Unfortunately the harbor water in Benoa and Serangan is very dirty and a giant pile of trash does loom on the horizon between Benoa and Serangan :(
On the bright side, Serangan is a lovely, quiet, friendly little traditional village with tons of temples.  Except for the pollution, can't think of a better place to stay on Bali.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Gunung Rinjani at sunrise
 Marquesa sets a speed record riding the swift current in Lombok channel!
 Gili Air harbor
 Wetting down Gili Air streets from saltwater wells in the morning
 There are no motorized road vehicles on Gili Air
 The ancient Indonesians loved stamps almost as much as the modern ones!
 Traditional weaving gear
 Traditional games
 Traditional Lombok musical instruments
 Puppet show

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tambora, Sumbawa, Indonesia

 Mt Tambora is an 8,930' volcano that towers over eastern Sumbawa.  In 1815 it erupted, in one of the most massive eruptions in modern history.  It blew off the top 5000' of the volcano and could be heard 1200 miles away in Sumatra.  It devastated the population of Sumbawa and led to climatic cooling that was felt around the world in the 'year without a summer'.    
What's left of Tambora, after the 1815 eruption blew off the top 5000'

Parasitic Cone on Tambora's flank

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Deadly landslide in Ambon

Indonesia's SAR team in action after heavy rains cause a deadly landslide in Ambon.  Neighbors took it upon themselves to set up a donation-receiving station near the affected area so that donations to families who lost homes would not be stolen by aid/government agencies.

A Short and Sweet New Britain Birding Guide

Walindi Plantation Resort short and colorful birding guide for New Britain Island, PNG:

Good PNG Article: Global Village: A village of the future for Papua

An interesting recent article on economic possibilities in rural PNG villages:


And other articles on PNG:


An interesting recent article on economic possibilities in rural PNG villages:


And other articles on PNG:

Nothing like a Solbrew whilst learning to give a haircut

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cruising Raja Ampat

Kri Island

Kri Island

Kri Island
Pulau Jerief, Dampier Strait


Kri Island

Currents swirling on a windless day in Dampier Strait

Kri Island Reef

Kri Island

Anchored Close to a wall! Kri Island

Kri Island anchorage

Great Fam Island


Bluewater Mangroves

Looking out for crocs at the Bluewater Mangroves

Bluewater Mangroves

Bluewater Mangroves
Raja Ampat

At the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Raja Ampat’s reefs are the most biodivers on the planet.  Strong, rich currents and official marine conversation area status help produce some incredibly dense fish populations.  And the topside scenery amongst Raja’s thousands of limestone islands is superb. 
In spite of all this, Raja has barely been touched by tourism.  About 40 liveaboards a handful of resorts, and perhaps a couple private sailboats host the limited yearly visitors to the world’s most biodiverse reefs.  Swift currents, deep anchorages, and limited sources of information make Raja an exciting and challenging experience for the adventurous cruiser.
Below is some basic info on Raja, and a few anchorage descriptions.  As for the other hundreds of unexplored anchorages in this amazing place- they’re yours to explore.

Raja Basics

Raja Ampat is an area of hundreds of square miles that lies West of Papua and is roughly bounded by Wayag/Waigeo in the north, Misool in the south, the islands of the Dampier Strait in the east, and the Boo Islands in the west.  Parts of this area (see map) are conservation areas where the following rules apply:
- No fishing, except subsistence fishing by local residents
- Prior to entry all visitors must purchase a Rp 500,000 pass, which is good for 1 year.  Passes may be bought in Sorong at the Raja office in the Meridian Hotel (near the airport), or possibly through a live aboard boat or dive resort.
- Liveaboard vessels must abide by strict anchoring and dive site etiquette rules.  ALL boats are encouraged to avoid anchoring in coral areas and anchor in water deeper than 40m if possible. (yes, that’s 40 METERS!)

There are few towns in Raja and many islands are uninhabited.  Limited local produce and fish may be available from villages.  Sorong and Ambon provide the nearest big ports for resupply.   There is no cell service in most of Raja.
There’s not much info out there on Raja for the cruiser.  Many areas are shoaly and poorly charted, and we chose to travel by day only.  We were surprised how many good anchorages we were able to find in spots that were charted as too deep/unprotected.  Often it was a matter of using gut feeling to pick out an area with potential, getting there, and snooping around for an anchorage.
Large-scale tidal currents in most of Raja run north-south.  In the Dampier Strait currents of 3-5knots+ run east-to-west on a falling tide, and west-to-east on a rising tide.  Tide changes can be very swift.  Many dive sites are at their fishiest when the tide is running strong, but use caution!

Sources of information:
- the Raja Ampat office in Meridian hotel - has passes, a list of GPS coordinates for moorings, and a couple dive books on Raja
- live aboard dive boats - there are several of these in Sorong harbor that may be persuaded to talk to you about anchorages and let you have a look at their charts.  Check live aboard itineraries online for inspiration.
- Dive resorts - if they are not too busy, resorts can be very helpful.  Best to be respectful, notify resorts in advance of arrival, and keep in mind that their customers come first.  Max Ammer at Kri Resort was one of the pioneering divers in Raja and is a tremendous source of info if you can catch him at a good time.
- Online:
    Two cruisers’ reports on Raja can be found online, look for WHALESONG AND DREAMKEEPER
    The nonprofit organization Kayaking for Conservation has a rep at Kri Resort and an interesting online             WWII USAF report on Raja.
    Raja Ampat home page- basic Raja info and links to all the resorts and liveaboards’ pages
    Google Earth - zoom in on your potential destinations and save the pics.  It’s hard to judge depths from satellite photos, but sometimes this will be your truest info source.
    Local people - from currents to crocodiles, this is the obvious best source for certain info

Palau Jerief, Dampier Strait

One of several low sandy islands surrounded by shallow coral in Dampier Strait.  Reef extends well to the northeast of the island.  We scouted along the edge of the reef and got a grip just inside the drop off in 20’ in coral and sand.  The currents were very strong but the holding was good. 
There is a deep, steep-sided hole east of the island, in front of a lone house visible on shore.  We snorkeled this hole and the inner reef, which were rather barren.  The reef slope above the drop off had good visibility, and nice hard and soft coral mix, and good fish life including some blacktips..  Use care when snorkeling/diving; the strong tidal current develops quickly.
At dusk, the southern sky filled for about an hour with thousands of bats flying from the western channel islands to Batanta. 

Mansuar and Kri Island, Dampier Strait

Kri and Mansuar Islands form a long, steep, 1200 ridge of limestone whose shores are steep-to, with fringing reefs.  Extreme currents swirl by the islands, especially through the narrow channel between Kri Island and the small island to its northeast.  Here, the twin resorts of Kri Island and Sorido Bay host a house reef- “Kri Corner”- that is probably the fishiest in Northern Raja.  Here, huge schools of rainbow runners, sweet lips, trevally, emperors, snappers, barracuda, whitetips, and grey reef sharks feed amongst the powerful currents.  Following the drop off W to E along the northern side of Kri makes a great drift-snorkel.  Kri/Sorido Bay resorts are run by pioneering Raja diver Max Ammer.  The resort staff were very helpful, providing us with information and filling our SCUBA bottles.
Anchorage off Kri island resort is tricky.  Enter the 1/2mile wide clear, deep, current-swept channel between Kri Island and tiny P Koh.  The sides of the channel are easily visible in good light.  The reef on the Kri side is a vertical wall with a 100’+ bottom.  The P Koh side is sandy and steep.  Past the NW mouth of the channel in open water are several shoals that discolor slightly in good light.  We found temporary anchorage on a 25’ shoal, which we did not see until the depth sounder picked it up (in spite of good light) in open water with a strong current flowing, about 200m NW of Kri Point.  . 
Our preferred Kri Island anchorage was a marginal one in the curving bay on the southwest side of Kri.  Here, a steeply sloping reef fronts a shallow coral flat and sand beach.  Aside from the fringing reef, the bay is deep and clear.  We had just enough room to set out a 3:1 scope in 60’, good holding in sand and coral.  We were not able to set a stern anchor without damaging the coral of the reef flat.  We were protected from the west, north, and east, with the open water of the strait to the south.  But it was not for the faint of heart- when the wind blew strong from the south, we had only feet to spare between us and the edge of the wall! 
Across the bay on Mansuar was a small village with some shops and homestay facilities for tourists.  The
Village pier was recommended to us as a snorkel.  The wall that we anchored below was a very good snorkel with the tide flowing, with hard and soft corals, swarms of fusiliers and anthias, eels, big groupers, tuna, barracuda, blacktips, and massive humphead parrotfish.  At neap tide the sandy areas of the coral flat provide some fascinating tide-pool exploration.  Bird life included kingfishers, frigate birds, and dueling swallows and willy wagtails.
Some nearby popular dive areas that we did not have time to visit: “Manta Sandy” and “Manta Ridge” -Another area of strong currents and big fish is the shoals off Arborek Island, NW of Mansuar, where manta rays congregate.  North and east of Kri lie Mioskon and Friwinbonda, both popular fishy dive spots.  On the north side of Mansuar is a second dive resort,                        

Fam Islands

The Fam islands are a current-swept group of limestone islands and islets at the west end of the Dampier Strait.  At the north end of the group, Great Fam/Penemu is a high island with several picturesque steep-sided islets to the east.  We did not visit Penemu, but there are reportedly a number of good dive sites there, and a shallow ‘marine lake’ with juvenile sharks and Cassiopeia jellyfish, which are often visited by liveaboards. 
The southern Fam group consists of low-lying islands, with the exception of Palau Fam, which has some hills.  On Palau Fambemuk there is a town with a large pier and a coast guard station.  We saw two local boats anchored off this island, but did not stop there ourselves.  Some friendly coast guard guys came out before we had even anchored to look at our papers and ask for a Rp 500,000 bribe, which we firmly refused  while showing our Raja entry pass receipts (their response: OK, Rp 200,000?  Some beer?  Some cigarettes maybe?…). 
Palau Fam has a very well sheltered anchorage on the north coast- a deep, hazard-free bowl almost completely enclosed by mangroves and the small Palau Ambabee.  Enter from the east via the 60m-wide passage between P Fam and P Ambabee.  Approach to the passage passes over some 60’ humps, then the passage itself is deep and clear.  Keep to the center to avoid fringing reef along the shore on either side.  Look for anchoring depth along the steep sides of the bowl; we found room for 3:1 scope in 60’, mud and coral, on the west side between the sand beach and the derelict pier.  Alternative entry into the bay might be possible over the sandy shallows between the limestone islets on the northwest rim of the bay.  Watch for shallow spots and bommies.  Moderate tidal currents flow through the two entrances to the bay.
The extensive mangrove swamp is home to large schools of juvenile fish, sharks, occasional bright seafans and soft corals, and birds including great herons, kingfishers, colorful parrots, and fruit doves.
Calm anchorage in southerly winds can be found on an extensive shallow shelf on the north side of the southwest end of P Yar.  This anchorage is open to the northwest.  Shelter from other directions is provided by the curve of the land and small reefs projecting on either side of the long sandy white beach.  Tuck in close enough to land to get out of the strong tidal current, and anchor in 20’ sand and coral.  There is a small village on the beach.  On the north side of the reef that projects from the island’s SW end there is a dive/snorkel site called ‘Snorkeler’s Paradise’.  We experienced poor visibility and current in this mildly interesting maze of bryozoan-clad grey rock with some hard coral and reef fish.


Kofiau is a limestone island of moderate elevation.  It surrounded by a broad underwater shelf of about 60’ depth, which is swept by currents and dotted by dozens of low sand and mangrove islands.  Kofiau’s waters have the greatest diversity in Raja Ampat, and there are several dive sites in the area.  We did not dive here due to poor visibility and bad weather.
Convoluted geography and shallow water make for many anchoring possibilities around Kofiau.  We anchored in 25’ sand off the west coast of Pulau Panjang.  Keep a careful lookout for the midchannel patch reef that lies halfway between P Panjang and P Mangimangi, as well as the fringing reef that juts out off the south end of P Panjang.  Both can be hard to see in non-ideal light. 
The area around P Panjang and P Miatkori is thick with the floats of pearl farms.
Our second anchorage here was a marginal one NE of P Sina, in 45’ sand and coral at the edge of a steep reef.  We were fairly exposed from most directions, but holding was good.  Nearby Walo Island has good snorkeling with bommies and fish life, especially off the south and west coasts.  The interior of Walo is a fascinating shallow lagoon dotted with a maze of mangrove islets.

Nampele and the Bluewater Mangroves

Nampele is an isolated place with an unusual combination of mangroves and clear water- hence the name, “Bluewater Mangroves”.  The water around Nampele’s low mangrove-forest islets is kept clear by the strong tidal currents that sweep it daily.  This makes for an interesting snorkel or shallow SCUBA dive, but watch out for crocodiles.  There was a nonlethal attack on a diver in 2009 here (see his description here ).  The colors here are subdued- lots of brown soft coral, but it’s a chance to peek into a world that’s rarely seen.
It’s possible to take a boat right through Nampele Island.  The island is cut by 3 wide, deep, (40’+) connecting channels, and anchorage can be found in these channels, deep within the mangrove forest.  Watch for shoal at the northern mouth of the north-south channel. 
Mosquitos here are vicious.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sailing Sorong, Papua, Indonesia

Dive boats in Sorong

Nice government buildings in Indonesia

Wisdom from the bureaucrats of Indonesia:
One man + hand = bad
One man + one woman = good
One man + two women = excellent!

The bureaucrats of Indonesia help you to understand their simple immigration processes. Notice that there is no end to this process.

A strange juxtaposition: fenced-in fuel storage yard, with resident deer herd

Sorong harbor
Population 130,000

Hop on an angkot minibus (Rp 3000) and it will take you about half an hour to traverse the long business center of Sorong.  Several large supermarkets, fuel stations, and endless small hardware and repair shops are strung out along Sorong’s hot and charmless main road.  We found the city’s best feature to be the harbor, chock full of Indonesian boats of every size and description. 
As a major port, Sorong is probably the best bet in Papua for marine repairs- we were able to have our primary anchor straightened here after we bent it on Biak bottom clutter.  Check out the bustling main market for veggies, Sega (1 km south of dingy dock on main road) for best grocery selection, and Mandiri International Store for hardware and limited boat supplies.  Watch the dingies from the live aboard dive boats and land at the small dock ½ mile south of the Port where they tie up.  Next to this dock is a live aboard office whose manager offers help with fuel, repairs, and sells Raja Ampat park entry passes (Rp 500,000).  Passes are also available at the Raja Ampat office in the Hotel Meridian, near the airport.  Sorong is very strict on fuel; no filling of jerry cans at service stations, no fuel dock accessible to larger boats.

Customs in Sorong were unpredictable and sometimes unpleasant.  They interviewed us extensively about our plans in Indonesia, had a conversation with our agent in Jakarta, and at one point they requested that we pay the bond.  Fortunately this request had evaporated by the time we returned to check out.

Anchorage can be found north or west of Sorong.  Most local boats use the better-protected main anchorage in western Sorong harbor.  The main anchorage is deep (~60’+ in mud) with good protection to the south, east, and north, and limited protection from the west by distant islands. 
Anchorage is also possible in about 40’ off the broad shoals that front the town‘s north shore.  The bottom comes up quickly.  Be aware that if you land on the north shore, public transport does not go much further east than the main market.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sailing Manokwari, Papua, Indonesia

Little So-and-sos
More funny FADs

Contrary to all appearances, this boat is not sinking, they've just got way too much wheelhouse built onto it!

Morning trash fire smoke over Manokwari

Convenient anchorage?  Helpful boatyard?  Nope- NAVAL BASE!
Population 60,000

Home to the fist missionaries in Papua, Manokwari today is a place of broad, quiet streets, many churches, and extensive waterfront slums.  To the south loom the dramatic Arfak mountains, home to traditional tribes, seaside transmigrasi villages, and birds of paradise.  In The Malay Archipelago, Wallace gives an amusing account of conditions here in the 19th century, during his unhappy soujourn in Manokwari.  Local guides  can arrange trips to the Arfak mountains. 
Basic hardware and repairs, supermarkets, restaurants, and a department store can be found here.  Also, (and apparently unique in Papua) there is an accessible fuel dock in the harbor.  Manokwari Customs was unusual in that it was staffed by local people and they did not ask us for a bribe.

Be aware of the dozens of Fish Aggregation Devices studding the approach to Manokwari, up to 10 miles offshore.  Two passes at south end of harbor marked by beacons.
As long as you can find room amongst the flat-bottomed, rope-and-rebar anchored local fishing boats, Manokwari harbor provides excellent shelter in all conditions.  Don’t be tempted to enter the man-made inlet and boatyard on the southwest side of the harbor; this is an unmarked naval base.  Anchor in 45’, mud.  We tied our dingy up to the semi-secure Port wharf where the Pelni ferries dock. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sailing Numfoor Papua Indonesia


An undeveloped island with a number of potential anchorages.  We anchored in 30’ coral and sand just outside of a small shallow inlet on Numfoor’s west side.  Anchorage was open to the west.  This is a lovely spot with a dramatic undercut limestone coast and a couple small islets standing out in a sand-and-rubble bottomed, very shallow bay.  Manam island, just to the west, reportedly has good snorkeling and some WWII wrecks.  Several friendly villagers paddled out to exhaust our limited bahasa vocabulary. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

West Papua Conflict

In 1963 Indonesia conducted a military takeover of West Papua, which was expecting to be granted independence by long-time Dutch colonizers.  Since then there has been low-level conflict between native resistance elements and the Indonesian military and police.  Without exception, the Papuan people we met during our stay were openly against the Indonesian presence.  Most of them claimed to have relatives in the resistance.

Some links on recent West Papua developments:

Conflict background and list of major events

Attack on soldiers and retaliation by military in Wamena, June 2012:

Some rare international media coverage- of deaths in Abepura in October 2011

Youtube video of the 2011 Abepura violence.

Police Arrest Attendees of the Third Papuan Peoples Congress in Abepura October 2011