Across the Java Sea to Borneo and the Orangutans. 02:44.6S, 111:44.01E

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Sun 22 Oct 2023 06:20

We left Lovina on Bali after the dinner, having had enough of the noise and pushy salesmen. We headed toward Menjangen Island anchorage at the NW tip of Bali where it is possible to see Bawean deer swimming. Seeing that our friends on Somerset were anchored in a small bay on the way we went in there instead. We hadn’t seen Andy, Ludmilla and the boys since Pasar Wajo as they had gone their own way to Komodo and then south around Bali. One of their sons lives and works on Bali so they were forewarned about Lovina and were recommended more interesting places to tour.

Our next scheduled stop was on Bawean Island in the Java Sea and we added another two overnight stops on the NE tip of Java and at Pulau Gilliyang so as to have only one overnight sail. We have a few longer passages from here on before we leave Indonesia in November. Gilliyang was a convenient rest place but the number of Mosques that could be heard, all slightly out of phase made it very noisy.
Now that we are off Java the fishing boats are a different design with high bow and stern and a very rounded profile, we assume this shape suits the conditions in the Java Sea. We were to pass a lot of fishing boats between Gilliyang and Bawean some brightly lit, some hardly lit at all and certainly no conventional navigation lights.


Javanese fishing boat, all are brightly painted
Arriving in Bawean we were warned that there was a sinking barge in the bay, but it wasn’t in our way. These barges are used to transport bulk loads.  This one was loaded with coal and didn’t actually sink.  By the time we left there were two empty barges in the bay, we assume waiting to have the load transferred them
The programme here was for a reception and welcome in the morning with transport from the beach area at 06.30 before the heat of the day, then a chance to explore the island by car or motorbike. The welcome was at the airport, which is relatively new, they are still paving the road from town. They are obviously very proud of this development and the one flight a day that comes in. We attended the welcome ceremony and were fed with sweet local desserts, everyone had to sign a record board.


Another welcome this time with traditional sword fight

Woven record board that all of the crews signed
The helpers and guides here were from an Islamic boarding school and they were most eager to please. It was stressed in the welcoming speeches that they wanted to develop their tourism and they stated that they wanted to show that they were friendly and not all muslims were terrorists, they are obviously worried by the troubles in parts of the Middle East. We hired two school pupils with motorbikes to take us into town so that we could stock up with fresh food from the market and as always enjoyed the welcomes and smiles from the stall holders. 
We were also invited on board one of the local fishing boats as we motored around the bay taking photos, conversation was difficult but we managed to learn a few facts about the boats. When asked why they were such an unusual shape we were told it was good for fishing! 
We couldn’t understand the shape of these boats but when underway the bow comes out higher. The engine and propellor are on a pivot and the shaft can be raised and lowered into the water.


The crew were happy to invite us on board and would have shared their lunch with us.
We moved on early the next day to cross to Kalimantan in S Borneo. This overnight crossing was again a matter of dodging the fleets of fishing boats and tugs with barges in tow. On arrival off Borneo there was a torrential downpour with thunder and lightning, our first real rain since leaving Australia. These showers were to be a daily occurrence and another boat Domini was hit by lightning on the way in and lost all their navigation instruments, nav lights, electronic engine control units and at least one starter motor and battery. They have been assisted now by the other cruisers to cobble together enough to be able to get to Singapore for repairs.
The highlight of this area is the Tanjung Puting National Park, and its wonderful wildlife, especially the Orangutans. The Orangutan is endangered and is only found now in Borneo and Sarawak. We were booked on a three day riverboat (Klotok) tour up the Sekonyer river with Gorgos and Karina from Filizi starting the morning after our arrival. The very reasonable cost included English speaking guide, cook, boat captain and assistant, all food and drink and park entry fees plus overnight security on our yachts, and it was a wonderful trip. However before we could set out we needed to arrange for Sarah’s big toes to be looked at by a doctor. When descending off Mount Rinjani in Lombok she had badly bruised her toes. One had a blister under the nail which had burst and become infected. Majid , who acted as agent in Kumai and owned the Klotok we were booked on drove Sarah to a local clinic and her toe nail was removed. 300,000Rp (£15) for the doctors visit, anaesthetic, antibiotics, steroids and iodine to clean it up, I’m sure that prescription charges would have been more than that in UK. 
We saw Orangutans in the wild and at feeding stations, established to supplement the food available in the forest and support the Orangutans which have been released in this area, they are protected here from the destruction of their natural habitat close by carried out by the Palm Oil companies. These companies not only clear land by burning but also pay a bounty for Orangutans killed, I’m sure we will now support Save the Rainforest and try to avoid products using Palm Oil.
The trip is best shown in pictures:

An alpha male at a feeding station, the males have the large cheek plates

The young are so cute, they stay with the mother for about 6 years during which time it would be unusual for the mother to reproduce again.


Long Tailed Proboscis monkeys were also frequently seen


At Camp Leakey, the third feeding station there was a Gibbon who scavenged the left overs from the feeding


On a night walk with a ranger we were shown Tarantula,


Green Pit Viper and


Sleeping birds, this one was a Kingfisher


There were also lots of Macaque monkeys.

We also saw three fresh water crocodiles, but weren’t quick enough to get pictures

Despite the number of boats on the river it could be quite peaceful and,

tied up at night we had candle lit dinners.

Our wonderful crew, from left, captain, cook, guide and boat assistant.

We agreed to a slight changes to the itinerary so that we could spend the last night tied up to the Nipa palms near the end of the river which are covered in fireflies, absolutely beautiful. It also meant that we would be back in Kumai for the welcome ceremony. So many of the cruisers were on river trips that there were very few of us in town. Karina was dragooned into giving the thank-you speech from the cruisers which was well received especially when she said they would spread the word about the wonderful national park and the plight of the Orangutan’s via their u-tube channel. 


Karina and Gorgos garlanded as special visitors, Karina gave the thank-you speech.

There were demonstrations of traditional games, shooting a blowpipe and spinning tops.


Sarah with blowpipe. Don’t argue with her, she’s a pretty good shot!

Phil then had to accompany all of the officials for a trip out onto the river on board the local rescue boat to see the yachts and answer questions about various aspects of our life style and what we gain from our travels. Not easy to explain to people who have no concept of what we are doing.

Kumai itself is a seaport and one of its main exports are birds nests for birds nest soup, there are special buildings for the swallows to nest in so that the nests can be collected. We had seen these buildings elsewhere and just thought they were silos, now we know.

Birds nest buildings, the nests are made from the saliva of swallows and used for birds nest soup 
We stayed one more day in Kumai and luckily we’re back on board before the daily storm. Two boats dragged their anchors in the strong winds with one large catamaran hitting Filizi causing her to drag toward another yacht before a number of cruisers with powerful outboards on their dinghies were able to tow the catamaran off and re-anchor it. The owners of course were off on a rainforest trip. This is something most of us worry about if we leave our boats at anchor, you can have a boat guard on board they are not going to be able to do anything. The next day we joined a convoy of boats leaving for the next destination, Pulau Belitung.


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