We had arranged to meet up with Ingrid and Vince Mzungu on the small island of Tioman so that we could sail the 100nm to the Anambas Islands. Tioman is a port of clearance for Malaysia and also a duty-free island, so we stocked up on beer and bourbon, cleared out and set off early in the evening. The Anambas are actually part of Indonesia located in the South China sea between the Malaysian Peninsular and Borneo. There are 255 islands in the archipelago of which only 26 are inhabited. Only since the Indonesians have stopped requiring a CAIT (the old cruising permit for Indonesia) have boats found it viable to visit these islands. They now have their own immigration and customs offices which makes it easy to visit and in fact, they are encouraging people to come. This group of islands is at present, completely untouched and unspoiled. They are off the beaten track, with pristine turquoise waters, beautiful colourful wooden stilt houses, lush jungle and some of the most generous friendly people we’ve met. Truly a magnificent destination for cruisers.
We had an uneventful sail over and arrived at the nearest island of Jemaja early in the afternoon. We anchored in the bay at Pedang Melang which must rate as one of our favourite anchorages so far. It could hold at least 50 boats, well protected and only 5-10 metres deep. The beach was huge, about 4 miles and deserted until early evening when the locals came down to play volleyball, football and swim. There was only one other boat here, s/v Millennium who had been in the Anambas for a couple of months already. We had a sundowner on Mzungu and had an early night. The next day we walked the couple of kms to the small town of Letong to get some credit and find out a bit about these islands. We loved Letong – it was really clean and very busy. There are very few cars on the island, and everyone – without exception – called out to us. We wandered around the town, which consisted mainly of stilt houses and motor bike repair shops and hitched a ride home in one of the only trucks we saw! We had only $5 of Indonesian rupiah between us and as there was not an international ATM on the island we spent our big bucks on a fantastic coffee in a new coffee house on the beach overlooking the ocean. We discovered that there was one shop that could change money so we went back the next day with our Aussie dollars and felt instantly rich with 10,000 rupiah to one dollar.
We bumped into Stedem on Atlantis from the Sail Indonesia rally who had been hauled out in Singapore for a couple of months. All aboard Indian Summer for drinks along with Millennium and Mzungu – another lovely evening in this tropical paradise.
Jemaja is about a day sail from the capital Terempa where we had to check into Indonesia so we only spent a couple of days here before heading off to the big smoke. The anchorage off Terempa is very deep, around 20-30 metres, so we both anchored around the bay deciding to check in the next day.
The Indonesians have made their entry procedure much easier in the last year by having all boats fill out their details on line and then submitting the info so that on arrival all they have to do it literally stamp you in and let you go exploring. Ingrid had been able to submit her details but as we had been in quite isolated places, I had only been able to fill out the form but not submit it. I had tried in various places and just watched the never-ending circle go round and round… I eventually printed out the forms and hoped we would have no problems. Ingrid and Vince managed to check in in about 40 minutes but without the submitted forms, they could not check us in. The problem was that there was very poor internet in Terempa and even they could not submit it. If these forms were not submitted then Ian and I would have to go back to Malaysia. After 4 hours of trying the lovely customs guy actually sent our details to a mate in Java, along with our password, who submitted them for us! What service -they even fed us while we waited with fried bananas and fritters of some description. Definitely the best customs officers ever…
Terempa is a very colourful and busy town. The traditional markets had quite a good selection of veges – we were lucky to find broccoli and cauliflower – only delivered once a week but passed on the fly-covered chicken! The town is full of motor bikes which is lucky as some of the streets are incredibly narrow and a car would have a problem using them. The guys found all the hardware shops, Ingrid and I found the bakery which had great doughnuts, and we met up with our friends John & Cathy from Mystic Moon and Stedem Atlantis. That night we all ended up on Mystic Moon having drinks that night and planned our itinerary for the next month.
The next day we hired motorbikes and went off to find the main tourist spot on the island – the Waterfall. We disappeared down a small lane and found ourselves going through an idyllic small stilt fishing village. We managed to find a small restaurant to have some breakfast and all started choking when the cook started chopping up the chillies – we realised that they didn’t cater for western tastes here!
There are only a couple of roads in Terempa, and we went down all of them. We did find the waterfall but it wasn’t as huge as we were led to believe. The roads were mostly dirt roads, but about 4 miles before the waterfall suddenly there was a brand new bitumen road, completely empty. It was great to get such a good bit of road – all in preparation for the influx of tourists they are expecting. They are building a new airport and trying to encourage people to come and visit. There are new resorts opening up but as yet no tourists. In fact, other than 6 other boats, we only saw a young couple of Italians – who saw The Anambas Islands on google earth and decided to visit. They had taken two planes, one 12 hour ferry and only managed to get to one island. We are not sure what will happen when the tourists do arrive – as The Anambas is so unspoilt and innocent.
We had street food that night for dinner – Ingrid and I had a huge vegi roti for $2 – and we even found a place that sold beer. A great day was had by all.
The next island we visited was called Pulau Mubur. When we dropped anchor, this small dug-out appeared with about 20 bananas for us. I grabbed my wallet but he wouldn’t take any money. He wanted to give them to us as a welcome present and asked us to go and visit him at his house. We gladly accepted and the next day we dinghied over to see him.
His house was the only one on the beach – and he built it himself from all items around the island. There was a well, a vege garden, a workshop where he was planking up trees with a chainsaw, and a house. As he was not there when we arrived, Ingrid and I went shellling, finding some huge shells. We were in our element – while the guys were enjoying checking out all the buildings. When he saw our dinghies he rowed back and invited us in to his house. He gave us a drink and even though we couldn’t converse, we managed to communicate quite well. He offered to show us around which we happily accepted. When we got to the dinghies he saw our shells and ran off and came back and gave us some huge cleaned and polished shells that he had found over the years! A very treasured souvenir. It was a fantastic experience – best day ever…..
The next day he came back to our boat with his nephew and we gave him a print out of the photo we had taken of him and the guys. His nephew worked at the gas and oil platform and spoke good English. He invited us to his home further down the island, so we went over and spent the morning with him. This village has no shops, but does have a very small school – about 10 kids, a mosque and all the stilt houses have colourful boats for fishing. We were invited into his home for tea, and were pleasantly surprised. His house was very well furnished, with a dining room, living room and two bedrooms. He even had two smartphones on charge. It was such a fun day, we were taken around the village, shown the water catchment system, visited the school and taken to the Mosque.
We spent a couple of day snorkelling, exploring and beachcombing and decided to head around the corner to Pulau Matak – one of the best anchorages in the Anambas – we had heard. When we arrived there was another boat in the bay and there was not that much room – so we only stayed for a night. The snorkelling was great here – with lovely formations and colours but not that many fish.
The next stop was Sagu Dampur. (see top pic)