Flores to Komodo

Zipadedoda of Dart
David H Kerr
Fri 31 Oct 2008 05:31

The first leg of this trip was to be a day sail (AKA Motor) to Telok Levilia at Bari.  A simple 64nm hop. The choice of this anchorage was from the new SE Asia pilot book, Vol II published by Imray, and only recently made available after a near two year delay in going to print.  Whilst it is a useful book, it does fall short of useful information about anchorages, and we have found several of the waypoints to be sadly inaccurate. So, there was no mention in this book that the anchorage in question was full of Fish Farms and Nets and Floating Pearl farms. We also found that the C-Map NT+ charts (latest version in April 2007) were inaccurate by up to half a mile!! Some of the coral reefs we “found” were not on the charts at all. So a very careful watch is required, both above and below the waterline whilst on passage in Nusa Tenggara. So night sailing close in shore is simply not an option.


  One of the recommended anchorages…..full of Pearl Farm “strings”


We were in company with Heidenskip, as both Marianne and Lousill had decided to leap frog ahead of us. On arrival in the anchorage it quickly became clear that this was not a safe spot to spend the night. It was very shoal, full of nets, and other hazards, and rolly to boot! So we moved onto the next bay, a round 3 nm further west, behind Longgo Island.


After dodging some Pearl farms, and a sudden squall we edged our way in to the clear water using the Echo Pilot sonar. This once again proved invaluable in these circumstances. We found a good spot to anchor in 21metres of crystal clear water, off a coral reef with mango swamp behind.  08:21:71S 120:08:00E.


After a short swim around the boat to cool down, I started to tidy up the boat and put things away for the night, on deck. The sun was going down and we already had a full moon.


It was then that I started to witness one of the most extra-ordinary wild life sights I have every seen. North of our position lay the island of Longgo. A deserted mangrove swamp island, some 3.5nm long, laying on an East /West axis. As if some remote command had been given, Fruit Bats started to rise out of the trees in to the Moonlit sky. Not just a few, but thousands and thousands of them. It was a surreal sight, reminiscent of a Hitchcock movie. They rose up and flew over our position, heading for the main Island of Flores. It is very hard to describe the sense you have of these thousands of creatures, flying over head, making not a single sound. The drama of these Raven sized bats, sedately flapping along, filling the whole skyline lit by a full moon and a setting sun is something that will stay with me for ever. It took over one hour for all these creatures to depart from Longgo in their arial armada and clear the short distance to Flores. I was so enraptured by this sight, that I forgot to drink my G&T, and all the ice melted by the time the show was over!!!


Sadly we do not have the sort of camera equipment necessary to photograph this event, in the prevailing lighting conditions………..so you will just have to take my word for it!


The next morning we once again left early, because we wanted to go to the eastern most port on Flores, to get some additional diesel supplies, before heading off to Komodo. Labuan Banjo is a bustling sea port. This is where many of the “Gullet” type of cruising holiday yachts are based, as well as trip boats to Rinca and Komodo, not forgetting umpteen dive companies.


There were lots of small fishing boats……………something we were going to have to get used to……………..no lights at night and no VHF radio’s and no rules!


  The engine in this one looks like a petrol driven strimmer with a small propeller on it.


This place is a real dump. It makes Kupang look seriously fashionable and smart. Once ashore with our diesel cans, we were immediately “adopted” by a “Bemo” driver and his two helpers. These mini-buses are brightly painted with lots of chrome….and dents.  They are small inside and it  is very easy to bash your head whilst entering and exiting into the cramped interior. These guy’s did not have a word of English, but were all smiles and the collection of bright red 20 litre diesel cans  made it easy for them to work out that we needed a filling station. I also learned that the Indonesian word for diesel is “Solar”. It was a 20 minutes bumpy ride out of town to the new filling station. This was like a palace compared to all the other shacks and hovels in this town.  These guys were very helpful and friendly and with the help of the young lady pump attendant who spoke fluent English, we were filled up and cleaned up and on our way back to down town Labuan Banjo.  We past dozens of tiny shops all selling the same stuff. Cigarettes, sweets and basic commodities, as well as many motor cycle repair shops. All were small time one man or two man band operations.

At the side of the road was a large ditch which served as an open sewer for the wooden shacks and corrugated iron sheet structures. But in contrast to this, all the people were waving and smiling and generally came across as a happy lot.  I was happy too, because the 160 litres of diesel had just cost me a tad over £0,30 a litre!!  The taxi fare, and the cost of the three guys to help, for about an hour was £1.40.


We then headed out for the Linta Strait, and the anchorage on the south side of the Island of Komodo. The landscape of lush Flores soon gave way to an arid desert like scape. On one of the Islands we passed close to a muslin fishing village, clinging to the beach.



One of the fun features of sailing in these waters is monster currents and tidal streams. It is not uncommon for these to run at 7 knots.  Predicting the timing of these in the optimum direction can be a bit trickily. As luck would have it, we had it with us all the way to Komodo.  At its peak we were doing 5 knots BTW and 12.3 Knots SOG.  We were surrounded by whirl pools and over falls.


Finally, after our rollercoaster ride from Labuan Banjo we anchored in the bay, off the well constructed and appointed visitors centre. In good time to go ashore and have dinner with Robert & Wendy from Heidenskip and Peter & Anne-Marie of Lousill.



There is a simple restaurant here, with good food at sensible prices. No wine through, so we had to bring our own ashore to keep the crew happy……………………..


After an early night it was time to go ashore and take in the sights of Komodo………………………..to be continued…………