Hidden Bay, Pef Island

Tue 1 Nov 2016 02:00

00:26.562S 130:26.633E

Lochmarin on the mooring in the pool.

A few miles from the other side of The Passage lies the most gorgeous collection of little islands, connected by channels, mangrove tunnels and reefs, surrounding a beautifully protected bay: Pulau Pef. The whole lot belongs to the “RAJA4DIVERS” resort and they have a strict no anchoring policy around their islands, however, they do supply two moorings and charge a daily fee for use of them. Included in the fee is all the perks of the beautiful resort, you are made most welcome and treated just as the other guests are.

Now, I object to folk banning anchoring or charging for anchoring as, under press of weather, maritime law says no port should be closed to a boat seeking shelter but there was no way that we were under press of weather and I must say the $20 a day pp mooring fee was more than worth it. You can top up your water tanks from their well, they’ll dispose of your rubbish, do your washing and supply you with internet. You can relax on the beach or in the cool shady lounge area, helping yourself to tea and coffee whilst you browse the large collection of reef and bird books. They were more than happy for us to snorkel the reef off their pier and offered us kit if we hadn’t brought ours. All the staff couldn’t have been more helpful or welcoming, even clearing a desk in the office so we could sit down and download all the satellite images we needed for the next part of our journey.

Wonderful variety of coral.

Diagonal Banded Sweetlips on the reef. The high tides had stirred up the sand so visibility wasn’t brilliant but it was still stunning.

The mooring is in the most protected anchorage that you could dream of and, what’s more, we were moored very close to the surrounding jungle and pretty soon the birds grew used to us being there. We were able to sit quietly under the cockpit awning and watch to our heart’s content, Phil getting snaps of many of the elusive birds we’d heard calling in Kabui Bay. 

A Friar Bird tries to serenade a Moustachioed Tree Swallow, whilst her partner looks on.

There’s a little jetty where the resort docks its dive boat collection and a boardwalk leads through the mangroves to the resort proper. The boardwalk is a delight in itself. Overhead the parrots flash from tree to tree, delicate red mangrove flowers drift down onto the boards, and under the green filtered light the smooth dark trunks of the mangroves stand, in the coca-cola brown nutrient rich water, dipping their leaves at high tide and showing their elbows at low. 

Purple Throated Lories, unique to Raja Ampat.

We have loved the company of the local people, getting to know their cultures and their way of life, but it was relaxing to be in the company of Europeans and Americans again, to be able to chat with less of a language barrier. The folk staying were uniformly good company and interesting: it takes a certain type of person to seek out a diving holiday on a remote island in Raja Ampat. We come over for a beer at sundown, and stayed to supper more often than not, feeling like we too were on holiday. 

A monitor lizard enjoys the beach.

Later, leaving the circle of light where the others were still chatting, we would find our way back along the boadwalk, which was subtly lit by lights beneath it, and take the dinghy across the perfectly still pool, leaving a stream of bright phosphorescence behind us. In the forest all around the shore certain trees were lit up with delicate flashing lights, just like Christmas come early: fireflies were sending our their morse signals, congregating in groups of hundreds at a time. It was around the time of the new moon (in fact the birth of the ‘supermoon’) so the nights were pitch black and the stars where as bright as they ever could be. Lying on the pilot house roof, in my usual quest for a breath of cooling air, I could look up into the endless depths of space, filled with sparkles and swirls and patches of brilliance, or look down onto the perfect black mirror surface of the pool, seemingly as deep as the sky, with the same stars and planets and galaxies spinning they way into the depths of the earth. There I was, perched precariously in the exact centre, the balance point, not knowing, if I were to let go, which way I’d fall.

Sea Eagle by his nest.