Exploring the Anambas Isalnds: 02:59.6N, 105:43.75E

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Tue 18 Jun 2024 09:58

We had dropped off our laundry in Tarempa and it was due back in a couple of days, so we spent our first days in Anambas exploring close to town.  Ten miles north we found a lovely sandy anchorage with clear water surrounded by reef and spent two nights there in the company of Sunrise and Innforapenny, two large motor yachts that are part of the rally.  It was a relaxing time just swimming and snorkelling.  We found another pleasant anchorage between two islands for a peaceful night before returning to the town. The anchorage at Tarempa is not good: deep and with lots of bommies (coral outcrops) so having retrieved our sheets and towels we left again the next morning, this time heading back to the west.

Serenity anchored in a sandy patch surrounded by reef north of Tarempa
Around Anambas
We had 3 days to get to Pulau Jemaja, 30 miles to our south west, for the International Folklore Festival and there were a couple of well spaced islands we could visit on the way. Our first planned stop was Pulau Gentingunyut, an easy 10 mile hop.  We had a nice breeze and were able to lay a windward course to the anchorage at the top of the island where we expected to anchor in shallow water between the reef, but we got there to find that all the good spots were taken by local squid fishing platforms. These are large platforms, often of old plastic barrels topped by an A frame structure covered with bright lights and with a net slung underneath.  They are towed out to sea at night, the lights (powered by a noisy generator) are switched on and they wait for the fish, attracted by the lights, to jump into the net!
Squid platform 
We had plenty of time in hand, so we’re able to sail a further 10 miles to Pulau Medai where we joined three other rally boats in a calm, reef fringed anchorage.  What we hoped would be a calm night was disturbed when Rolling On, anchored next to us, swung on to the reef at low tide and had to pull herself away by shortening her anchor cable.  No damage done. 
A slightly longer hop the next day, and another nice sail, took us to Pulau Jemaja and as we were a day early for the festival we anchored in a pleasant bay behind Pulau Ayam (Chicken Island) for a couple of nights, with some snorkelling and evening drinks on the sand, before motoring round to Pedang Melang where the festival was set up on the beach.  There was a stage and covered seating area and lots of places to eat, buy souvenirs and some fairground type games.  In the evenings it was packed with people and the atmosphere was great.
Sundowners on the beach
Pedang Melang anchorage
We were the first ashore from the rally boats for the opening ceremony and were met by our agent, Iski, and a local representative resplendent in their formal attire.  We were whisked away down the road to where the mayor had just arrived and Phil (the only man from the rally wearing long trousers) was given a seat to take part in the welcome as representative of our group.  He had a batik scarf put round his neck and after the traditional staged fight was anointed three times with something yellow by three village elders.  Then he was led to the front row of the seating area with the other dignitaries for the rest of the ceremony.  Someone was kind enough to bring an extra seat so Sarah could sit with him: prime seats for the celebration, but no sneaking off or falling asleep during the speeches (long and in Bahasa). The afternoon ceremony was followed in the evening by a cultural performance.  Dancing and singing and the main event: a parade by people in the most elaborate carnival costumes, we think representing characters from folklore and story.  They were huge structures, some covered in lights and must have been immensely heavy to wear.
The village elders prepare for the opening ceremony.  They are wearing the formal attire of this region:  half buttoned shirt and matching trousers in a silky fabric and a woven sarong and matching headdress
The leaves are dipped in a yellow liquid from a dish carried by one of the young women in yellow.  The liquid is then sprinkled on the forehead, shoulders and hands.
Later in the ceremony the digniataries were presented with betal leaf from a lovely wooden box
On stage the VIPS had to play these musical instruments by running a wooden bar down the bamboo poles
Elaborate festival costumes.  Could be a pirate
Cocunut drink stall
Day two of the festival we were given a ‘city tour’.  There is no city, and we were first loaded into Pompongs (the local do everything motor boats) for a 10 mile trip to another island and a turtle sanctuary where we saw how they protect the eggs from predation by monitor lizards. We took part in releasing some hatchlings, then after returning to Jemaja we were driven to a waterfall for a swim and picnic lunch.  That afternoon there was a cookery demonstration and then a gala dinner in the evening. Sarah was suffering from too much sun on the boat trip so stayed on board, while Phil went ashore for the dinner. A fish Nasi Goreng, very spicy, plus more dances and speeches
On board Pompangs for the trip to the turtle sanctuary
Baby turtles emerging from their nest.  Eggs were placed in the sand inside  protective netting enclosures to hatch
On the way down the beach to the sea
Lunch stop at a waterfall
We wanted to check out of Anambas on Friday in order to spend the weekend visiting some of the eastern islands in the Anambas group before continuing to our next stop at Natuna, so we skipped the games on the beach on Thursday morning to motor back to Tarempa.  Unfortunately many of the other rally boats had the same idea and it took most of Friday to do clearance for 10 boats.  For us that meant sitting around in a local cafe or on our boats while Iski ran around the various offices for us.  On Saturday morning we were up and ready to leave when the boat next to us dragged her anchor in a squall.  They were up and rushed on deck to motor away before any damage was done: it was time to get away from that insecure anchorage.
After our trip to the turtle sanctuary we came ashore at this beautiful spot at the north end of Pulau Jemaja.  We would love to have had more time to explore these stunning islands