To Komodo Island

To Komodo Island
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At half past several boats set off with the idea of wiggling through some of the islands to stop at a couple of snorkel spots with the hope of swimming with manta rays. Local boats were out in force but most crossed our path heading for Rinca. The sea was a lovely blue and the sun was hot.
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We passed several islands as Bear found a spot marked on the map where people had had success with the mantas.
Looked idyllic and just three of us (Wirraway not far behind).
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We anchored and WT came in to settle beside us. It began badly for me as my snorkel and mask fell off the back step. I swam over to see if Michael could get it for me – tank on in a flash and my hero retrieved it for me.
Meanwhile, a local boat arrived to tell us anchoring here was forbidden – nothing on our chart, in the cruising guide and no sign on the beach. They were apparently bothered about us spoiling the reef. Frustrating as we always have the forward facing sonar on and make sure we only ever anchor in sand or mud......... They hovered nearby until we had set off once more. Once we had left they dropped a few guests off to snorkel – we think the whole thing was a ploy as they had probably promised their passengers exclusivity.................
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A few minutes after we had left a fast panga approached WT and a man in a ‘uniform’ boarded them. We circled and found four more looking like Somali pirates – tea towels wrapped across their faces and camo outfits.
They demanded 150,000 Rupiah per person and 100,000 for the boat (about twenty five pounds), they offered no receipt but Michael insisted on a record of payment (written on a scrap of paper), if we wanted anything like the official tickets we bought yesterday on Rinca we were told to go over to the Rangers Office. Huh.
The same business was repeated off the back of Beez. What were we supposed to do ???? Five blokes verses us, not worth the money to cause undue trouble. Nowhere had we read that park fees were due each day, nowhere could we find an up-to-date anchoring guide. Had we known we would have gone to purchase tickets or given the opportunity to not enter the Komodo National Park area. We have seen no buoys, plenty of rubbish and a lack of information. Very, very cross and disappointed. Michael warned the other boats in our little flotilla (who no one went maybe we had been targeted), sent an email to the National Park with a copy to Raymond – our supposed rally coordinator who says “yes” to everything, promises often and delivers very little. Off we went. Not bothered to want to stop anywhere else we headed for the far north west tip of Komodo for an easy exit on the morrow. We have decided to cut a few stops and do two overnighters straight to Lombok.
(We chatted amongst fellow rally boats about the incident above – Andrea and Olaf on Antares were approached whilst they were snorkeling, their ‘rangers’ had black outfits with an emblem at the top of the sleeve but two of them had “machine guns”. This is something to be reported to the Minister of Tourism who stood in front of us all in Cairns and said how much he wanted to welcome yachties to Indonesia................
Danny and Carol (Sentinel) spoke to the ‘real’ rangers during their Komodo dragon visit, they were appalled that yachts had been abused in such a way and confirmed that they “do not use any patrol boats in the area”.
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Out to deep water we found a current, chop and swell.
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The north coast of Komodo Island. Whilst many more dragons live here the chances of seeing one is remote as the island is so huge.
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We took the final left turn into Batumonco Bay and anchored in front of a colourful hillside. Time for a long snorkel.
A thirty four mile journey to forget. Such a shame. Why oh why don’t they sell weekly passes or demand a one time entry fee as other National Parks do. Just as well none of us is fluent in Indonesian methinks.........