The Seven Seas News - September 2012
East of Flores Snorkeling and Adventure Cruise
Trip Report by Richard Ironside. Photos by Rati.
We arrived at Maumere airport after a non eventful flight on the No Frills airline, Wings Air, but they did have seat belts!
There to greet us were Karl, the Cruise Director and Linda, the Cruise photographer, together with some crew members. They quickly arranged the collection of our bags, and the well oiled Seven Seas system had us aboard the Seven Seas within forty five minutes of landing and we were out to sea.
Once aboard we were asked to choose our cabins and settle in. Karl gave us a safety/introduction meeting and introduced us to the Crew. We steamed through the night and next morning found ourselves in a beautiful cove, Tanjung Gedong, on the Flores coast line.
Now was the time to snorkel, swim, relax and enjoy Nature. We returned to the Seven Seas for a scrumptious lunch, (all meals were scrumptious), and a gentle siesta, before visiting the village above the bay. A gentle forty five minute stroll, and we were in the village, with amazing views of the coast line....miles and miles of golden beaches untouched by human hand.
Next morning, bright and early, we concluded that the boat had travelled to the Island of Lembata, and once again we were moored in a secluded cove, not far away was the Smoldering Volcano of Ilo Ape, amazing to be sitting under it as she gently puffed away. Karl appeared like a Fighting Cock and got us into the boat, to sober up and enjoy some beautiful snorkeling, amongst the coral reefs.....Octopus, the most brightly colored fish any of us have ever seen, amazing coral....this is why we have chosen the Seven Seas.
We returned to the boat for Lunch, and in the afternoon, we visited the village of Dikesare. We were greeted by the Headman and the villagers, and after paying our respects, by drinking the rice wine that they offered, we were invited to witness some traditional dances, in which we were asked to join, it is amazing how visitors adapt to the traditions of the Islanders! After a stroll through the village it was time for Volley Ball....Us, mixed with the Crew and the Villagers......Score ? Well, some said the villagers won, and others said the Seven Seas won, but it did not matter, everyone had a wonderful time.
The next morning we upped anchor and chugged along to another part of Lembata, so we could visit the Shrine of the Elephant Tusks, just a short stroll, up the hillside, so.said our ever knowledgeable Cruise Director....... two hours later, our "stroll " finished, and so were we.The "stroll" in the ever rising hot sun, at an incline of seventy five degrees, on a rocky single pathway, was over! The Elephant tusks lay in several thatched buildings, there were three of them, each one about five feet overall. They are revered by the Islanders and are believed to have been bartered with Traders about five hundred years ago. Karl, noticing the condition of his " Guests", arranged for a truck to take us down.... Thank God and Karl. It only took an hour to reach the beach, fifty five minutes on a bouncy dirt track, and five minutes on a paved road. We were then shown the skeleton of a Blue Whale that had been caught by the Villagers and which they had assembled, tail fin to its head!
After lunch we set sail to visit the Island of Komba. It is a massive volcano protruding out of the sea....we closed in at five at o'clock, the eruptions continuous, every fifteen minutes, the cloud from the eruptions wafting away to the west.
Then The Seven Seas Show really started, sunset had passed and Komba obliged .......in the dark of the night, Komba spewed forth in all it's glory........deep rumbling and then an eruption of molten lava thrown high in the sky, red hot rocks rolling down the side and into the sea, with a great Hisssssss as they entered the water. We stayed for over two hours witnessing the Power of Nature, and then regretfully had to make way to a safe anchorage for the night.
Another beautiful morning and we were moored close by to Alor Kecil. After breakfast, into the dive boat for more snorkeling, again amazing. We returned to the Seven Seas, for a rest, then back again to view more wonders of the ocean. Lunch, siesta and then we all piled into the dive boat to visit the Island of Pura, and the village of Solang Bali. We were met by a very proficient guide, an Undergraduate from the University of Kaliabahi. He took us all through the village, a very well laid out village and remarkably clean. Their only problem is the water supply, the village used to be on the hill, but the water supply (spring) was close to the beach, so instead of coming down the hill to collect water, they moved the village to the beach, close to the well! The problem now is that the population is expanding and there is only one source of water, and sometimes it dries up!Thus a lot of people have moved to other islands. The main source of income is fishing and a little farming. The well off villagers, are those who have spent many years working in Malaysia and have saved money and returned home to retire in great comfort. We then had to have the obligatory palm wine drinks, before returning to our Mother vessel, with a warm glow.
Day six has arrived and more adventures to the mainland, we decamped at 0800 to visit the Island of Alor. We were welcomed by Achmad, our English speaking guide for the day, excellent English, and as we found out a good singing voice, by the end of the day, we dreaded another song! We travelled in a mini bus to see the Aboi Tribe, they used to head hunt, but for our visit they just danced, grabbing several of us to join them in the circuitous dance, stomping in unison...stomping so much that one of our team, Kodok, got carried away and the circle of dancers crashed to the ground! No problem, we all got up and faced the wrath of the Headman, who after giving us a the most fierce look, burst into laughter....... we realised our heads would stay attached!
After the near encounter with our Maker, we returned to the town, visited the market and an amazing museum of artifacts from the past.
We were returning to the Mother ship and lo and behold we spied three Blue whales, amazing rolls, as they came out of the water, their spouts blowing high, fantastic, then dolphins passed by, amazing. Then more scrumptious makan and siesta, and more fantastic snorkeling....we are so lucky!
Up early this morning, to the South of Pura, we set forth to hunt for whales, Blue Whales, Sperm Whales any whales!We found them, as well as hoards of Dolphin. We found melon-headed whales mixed with Frasers Dolphins and Spinner Dolphins, to name those we could recognize, jumping in threesomes, hurtling by and under the boat......what a show! The show came to an end after two hours, we certainly got our money's worth!
Then off to snorkeling, shallow water with an abundance of Clark's anemone fish and False Clown anemone fish, to mention a few.
Just before lunch, as we were drifting past Alor Kecil, the cry came out "Whales Ahoy, man the boats"....we took off, and over a hundred False Killer Whales mixed with Bottle Nosed Dolphins were there, cameras clicking we gave them a show!
In the afternoon, we resumed our snorkeling and this time saw blue-green Chromis as well as some Swarthy parrotfish, Red Snapper and hundreds of other fish and sea creatures. Before supper, we went fishing and other than three Dolphin and six Hammer Head Sharks, caught nothing.
That night we steamed for over ten hours to Adonara, West of Lembata, and again woke up in a secluded bay to continue enjoying our trip. We started the day by taking one of the tender boats, to explore the Mangrove swamps that surrounded a nearby Island. Amazing mangrove, as we plodded through, we disturbed the Flying Foxes that hang out in the mangroves, hundreds took to the skies, circling above us, annoyed we had disturbed their slumber. We returned to the Mother Ship and then off to another brilliant snorkel. After a siesta, the troops went snorkeling again, but Karl and Richard returned to Fox Island to climb it and see the bats as they flew off for their evening meal. Thousands took to the skies, big ones, little ones, flying around in a large circle then peeling off to the mainland in search of food.We all met up on Seven Seas and in the evening decamped to a beautiful sandy spit for a few drinks, a sing song and some football.
That night we raised anchor to traverse to the North of Lembata Island to take a bus to the Whaling village, named Lamalera. It was an experience that not many people have endured, and one we will not forget. The road was paved for about a quarter of the journey, (paved means it had a bit of bitumen laid down and was full of potholes), the remainder of the journey was on a dirt track, apparently it is also called a road? We arrived in Lamalera, a small sleepy fishing village, where we walked along the beach and viewed the whaling boats and their "harpoons". In between the thatched boat sheds, there was an array of flesh being dried out......octopus, and whale, dolphin flesh and jaws.
Another lovely day and Kodok and Rati are off in the Tender to go fishing, and half an hour later they are back with a twenty five pound Jack Fish...we know what we are having for supper tonight.
Our fearless Kodok, together with Karl, then went to visit Lamakera to look for some cannons that Karl had seen over ten years ago. They found them, sitting happily outside someone's house. There were seven bronze and five cast cannons. We were then taken to a "factory" where they were processing (chopping up) Manta Rays......a sad sight indeed. Depressed by the slaughter house visit, our intrepid travelers returned.
Then Karl, Kodok and Richard set out to discover an old Portugese fort, that was said to be in the village of Lohayong. The remains were there, remains being a wall about five foot tall, the inner core of the Fort is now a Mosque, and a Kindergarten.The overall dimensions were about sixty metres by sixty metres, obviously just a small out post.They found four cast cannons just lying around, but the elements had taken their toll and there were no discernible markings that they could find on them. The Kepala Kampung, who accompanied them, said the Fort was an old Portuguese fort, built around 1565 and had been destroyed by an earthquake.
Visit over, we chased the Seven Seas, who had hauled anchor, to get through the Flores Strait before the change of tides. We arrived at Serbete, four hours later and it was snorkeling time again, but this time it was snorkeling around an atoll named Serbete.
Anchors Away at two in the morning, (early to bed early to rise,makes snorkelers wise!) and off we go to Pulau Babi, where we arrived at seven. Once again we stuffed ourselves from Yaya's kitchen and went off to snorkel. We snorkeled at the Crack, called so as it was created during the earthquake in 1992, where a reef broke in half. Great snorkeling, we found four different species of Anemone Fish, as well as Butterfly fish , Puffer fish, Cornet fish and even a juvenile Emperor Angel fish. We then moved about a mile away and continued enjoying the depths.....
In the afternoon we had another snorkel, before returning to the Mother Ship for lunch and a Siesta. Slave driver Karl put us to work again, another good snorkel, then we retired to a sandy spit, close by to where we had moored, for an evening barbecue and volley ball with the crew, naturally the Crew beat the visitors, and celebrated with dancing and song, as a Victor does!
Our final day at Sea, a sad time for all, it has been a great experience, to be aboard the Seven Seas with Karl and Linda and the terrific crew, but all good things must come to an end.......
I spoke too early, it maybe the last day, but Slave Master has more adventures up his sleeve .....we are off to Watubelapi, a traditional Ikat weaving village in the hills above Maumere. A gentle forty five minute drive into the hills and we were greeted by the villagers in the traditional way... an Ikat for the first guest, and then we walked through a line of dancers to the performance area, where we were treated to various interesting dances, and of course we were invited to join in, and so we did with gusto. Kodok, again being the lead dancing visitor, caused havoc with his mis steps, and was so successful in livening up a traditional dance, they asked him to lead the singing, which he did again with gusto!
So we are now back on the boat, heading for Maumere, with sails billowing and some Dolphins following..................
THE END OF A FANTASTIC JOURNEY, GOD SPEED AND MAY THE WINDS ALWAYS BE FOLLOWING YOU.....
THANK YOU KARL AND LINDA and THE CREW
The Five Snorkelers
P.S. Linda your filming was superb, we have awarded you an Oscar for Directing, Producing and Karl a Golden Globe award for entertaining us with such Professionalism. Thank you both.