Rinja, Komoda and Banta

in IndonesiaComments Off on Rinja, Komoda and Banta


At the western end of Flores was a bay sheltered from the breeze and swell; we enjoyed a peaceful night there before moving on to the islands of the Komodo Dragons which are very close by.

Between Flores and Rinja is a very narrow strait

known for fierce tidal streams and strong winds. We chose to go that way and must have timed it right, we had a little tide with us as we motored through, keeping company with a local boat. That’s always a good sign in these narrow sea passages, they know where they are going.

We still had to beat against the wind out of the bay at the southern end to make the southern anchorage of Rinja but it wasn’t against tide and quite tolerable. Compared with the relatively sheltered north coast of the island chain where we had been, the south coast is rocky and exposed to the full force of the Indian Ocean swells,



once inside the anchorage there is no sea but the wind blows in gusts down the high steep hills around.

It was a beautiful spot, it could easily have been in the outer Marlborough Sounds. It is National Park; because of the depth of anchoring and for conservation reasons, sturdy boat moorings are provided for anyone’s use.

The island is uninhabited at the southern end, the hillsides covered with dense scrubby trees

and although it looks like apple blossom, it’s not. The vegetation is harsh and largely impenetrable, unless you are a pig, a deer, a monkey or a Komodo Dragon…

Apart from some local fishermen further up the bay, we were alone in the anchorage and we enjoyed watching the beach from the yacht, as at different times of the day there were monkeys or pigs came down to fossick among the low tide corals. However, both in the morning and the evening, like clockwork, there were some old-man dragons come out to do a length of the beach, tongues flicking, tasting and checking the territory.

From the yacht we were never close enough to photograph them meaningfully, but they left their tracks in the sand…

we preferred not to be on shore when they came; they’re not the type of animals to encounter at close rang unexpectedly; if cornered, they are known to turn very nasty, with a fearsome, dismembering bight…and folk do get eaten…

While several other yachts were seeing the dragons and wild-life at the National Park headquarters in northern Rinja, we enjoyed the solitude at the southern end…although the wind-gusts at night made us thankful for a very sturdy mooring, it was exactly like were in the Marlborough Sounds…

From Southern Rinja we took the opportunity of a good sailing breeze and bypassed some smaller islands and possible stops on the way to Komodo.

The Rinja and Komodo islands are administered under the same National Park in the interest of conserving the Komodo Dragon population.
We anchored off the Park Headquarters on Komodo. The island is largely uninhabited, but around the foreshore a kilometre or 2 is the Komodo Village; we saw it as we came into the bay and it is the only one on the island.
As by then we were running short of fruit and vegetables a visit to any market would be in order, although as a fishing village on an island with no water, my prospects didn’t look good!
But it was only a walk along the beach away.

Clearly from the number of fishing boats on the beach, that is the main activity.

It’s another Muslim, Bugis town. These people are great boatbuilders and seafarers; they spread widely from their origins around Makassar in the Celebes (or Sulawesi as it is now known), settling in areas throughout the region, keeping their identity.

In their customary Bugis way, living close to the water, their houses are built on stilts.

and there’s a boat repair job going on, still using wooden nails and adze in the traditional Bugis fashion.

There was a ‘market’, it wasn’t big, it seemed like a collection of friends, but they did have what we needed and the women were more than happy to part with it for a few thousand rupiah…and a photograph!

and not forgetting the ever co-operative children.

Back at the anchorage we have been joined by an Indonesian tourist boat bringing people to see the dragons.

In the style of a pinisi with twin rudders it’s clear we’re getting close to ‘Joseph Conrad’ country!

The next morning we too went on a dragon tour, we must hire a guide.
Near the headquarters
there are several dragons which we are shown first…

They’re 3-4 metres in length, said to be ‘friendly’, but they’re not enclosed and their behaviour toward one another or that of the keepers toward them doesn’t bear that out…Like crocodiles, it seems there can never be a ‘tame’ one.

After seeing them we are taken with guide out into the park to spot them truly in the wild. But maybe we had spent too long over our spicy omelets at the cafe and left it too late in the morning. They don’t like the heat of the day and also as it was mating season they were especially reclusive having other things on their minds; we saw no more than tracks and nests.

However, we had a nice walk around the park

over the hill to a dry river bed where they would normally be.
We saw many ‘barking deer’.

When frightened they really do bark, just like a dog, but only with a single ‘woof’, they don’t bay at the moon.

At the end of our walk we were set upon by traders, they have their stalls on the beachfront each day selling Indonesian masks, Komodo Dragon carvings, shells, pearls and other trinkets.

The Bugis people from the village along the beach have diversified to meet the tourist demand, and some of the stuff was good, we bought!

Komodo is best known for it’s dragon population, but it also has some of the best snorkelling and diving in Indonesia. There are fish, the corals are beautiful, the water is clean and cool straight from the Indian Ocean.
Some of the best of that best is at ‘Red’ Beach, known as such because of the finely ground up brilliant red coral

We took a mooring at the beach just over from it

and then the dinghy back for some snorkelling. It wasn’t disappointing, there was a great variety of coral and fish-life, quite different from any where we’d been before, but a surprising problem to us was the cold water! We couldn’t stay in as long as we wanted, but once back in the warmth of the yacht, the fish-finder book got a lot of use.

The small island we were anchored off, Pulau Punya, was ‘dragon free’ and as there seemed no evidence of other nasties, even though the grass was long, it was good for a walk and a view from the hill top, back to the anchorage, Rinja and the surrounding islands.

After a night at anchor we sailed around to a bay on the northern side of Komodo. Again there were mooorings provided as it was still in the National Park and with coral worthy of preserving.We met friends on 3 other boats there, they had been in northern Rinja, we exchanged dragon stories and enjoyed a long snorkel just on the coral around the anchored yachts.

The hill above was also another opportunity to walk for some good views…

It was possibly dragon country, so I was careful, (and was startled by many long-dead palm logs hiding in the grass across my path…) not wanting to follow the way of the Swiss tourist not so long ago; all that remained were his camera and spectacles… but as it was so dry I’m sure there’d have been no dragons around.
There were a few of those hardy barking deer however, they’re agile enough to go up and down the hill for water, the dragons don’t move so fast, unless there’s food about.

The following morning we moved on just to the nearby island of Banta, a short sail. Our friends took the opportunity of a little wind for a longer trip overnight to Sunbawa, the anchorage we were going to had a reputation for rolling at night; we preferred to risk that in the interest of taking the more ‘scenic’ route.
The island is a horse-shoe of high hills, there is a small sandy beach on the leeward side, the only anchorage is just off that.
We set ourselves up there over a sandy patch, the anchor well dug in, and to combat any roll, a stern anchor in closer to shore. We were very comfortable and enjoyed swimming the clean water with nice coral. It was easy to check the set of the anchor, it was well dug in.

The high hill behind was beckoning and it was a steep scramble up a narrow grassy gully between rock faces to make it onto the ridge, but the views from there and along further at the highest point were very rewarding; down to us anchored off the beach

the climb up the gully

and the island.

On the other side, the southern is a very sheltered harbour anchorage,

we had heard good reports from boats who had been there, but when it came time for them to leave, as is so often the case around these islands of Indonesia, they were battling 3-4 knot currents…we’d been put off, perhaps inadvisably as it happened.

Later that night in our anchorage there was a wind-change, it drove us along the shore to be broadside to swell and being more onshore, apparently uncomfortably close to coral on a dark night…
It required a dinghy trip and hasty retrieval of the stern anchor so we could swing freely in order to move quickly if it became neccessary…it wasn’t, although it was a disturbed sleep thereafter.

The next morning after a only a very brief discussion about whether to stay, we moved on to Sumbawa!


Comments are closed.