Fires and dragons: Blue Planet Odyssey Discovers Indonesia Part II

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The Blue Planet Odyssey yachts have spent the months of October and November cruising the fascinating Indonesian archipelago. At the end of November this will come to an end with their stopover at Nongsa Point Marina, after which the yachts and their crews will have time out from the busy schedule to do their own travelling, exploring the region.

The provisional schedule for the Blue Planet Odyssey for 2016 can be found here, with a projected return via South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, arriving in the Caribbean early 2017. Full details of the route will be confirmed soon.

Rob and Carol Harvey, Maggie

We are getting a sense of the huge size of Indonesia. The whole country is islands, about 13,000 of them. The distance from southeast to northwest is equivalent to the border between the US and Canada. We have electronic charts that are invaluable, but they have not been too accurate. At night, especially, we need to use the radar to confirm where land is and wait for light to approach.

Maggie’s blog

Electronic charts show No Regrets sailing across the land

Electronic charts show No Regrets sailing across the land (photo: Zeke, No Regrets)



Janet Hayes, Chapter Two

Once again, the tourist department rolled out the welcome mat by coordinating multiple activities for us to enjoy and tour the island. Selayar is a colorful, quaint, small and clean seaside town. When I say clean, I mean there are no mounds of trash floating through the harbor and the water is clean enough for us to make water. It’s amazing how different each port has been in our travels through Indonesia.

We were taken on tours of the city with a stop at the Regent’s home, a visit to the local jail and a stop at an elementary school which had an active recycling program for the kids and teachers. The kids were so curious about our visit and could speak minimal English and the teachers all wanted their pictures taken with our young people. Then all of a sudden, kids started handing us their notebooks for our signatures and we were inundated from all sides as if we were celebrities.

chaos in the school yard

Chaos in the school yard! (Photo: Maggie)

The second day, we were taken on a tour of almost the entire island. We ended our tour at the turtle farm at Heavenly Park and beach. The turtle farm was started by an initiative by residents who wanted to protect the turtles in their natural environment from turtle hunters harvesting the eggs.

turtle farm save the turtles

Janet with one of the turtles – save the turtles! (Photo: Chapter Two)

The city had planned a celebration of the Arts to coincide with our arrival. Once the Vice Regent (assistant mayor) arrived, the performances started with troupes of kids of various ages ranging from 5-18 years old. The performances were spectacular with the colorful costumes, singing and drumming. It was an amazing night of entertainment and fun as the locals interacted with us and welcomed our fleet to the island.

Chapter Two’s blog

Rob and Carol, Maggie

We have had to make a small change in itinerary – a disappointing one. There are raging fires in Kalimantan (Borneo) that have been going on for weeks. It is getting so severe that they are doing evacuations and turning away visitors. This is the place we were to see the orangutans, and they are in danger. They are trying to rescue the ones they can. But for the fires they are just praying for the rains that usually come by now. We will be adding a day to the Lombok visit, and to Belitung instead.

Volcano spewing ash

Volcano spewing ash (Photo: Tim, No Regrets)

Komodo Island

Janet, Chapter Two

We had an early tour starting at 7:00 a.m. in the Komodo National Park. It is very hot here by midday and the dragons are most visible early morning or at dusk. As our dinghies arrived at the dock, we are met by several park rangers to escort us to the main office and park entrance. No one is allowed to walk alone on the grounds because of the dragons roaming freely. We were given a briefing before our group started the two hour walking tour with three park rangers to guide us along the path. The guides carried long sticks with forks at the end for protection. As we walked along the trail, we saw many dragons lounging nearby with the guides standing between us and the dragon. The park has wild pigs and deer roaming freely for the dragons to prey on for their meals. There is definitely an abundance of deer and pigs since the dragons only eat once a month.

Rob and Carol and BPO sailors with Komodo dragon (photo: Maggie)

Rob and Carol and BPO sailors with Komodo dragon (photo: Maggie)


Zeke Holland, No Regrets

After our hike we all bought drinks and relaxed. I was touched by a comment made to me by a fellow BPOer. He said: I wish every American could come visit this area. The people have been so wonderful; it would change Americans’ ideas about what it means to be Muslim.

Approaching the anchorage at Komodo

Approaching the anchorage at Komodo (photo: Zeke, No Regrets)

Meanwhile Jesse started to mix it up with some of the locals. Next thing you know he is arm wrestling, and some wagers are being placed!

Zeke’s Blog

Jesse arm wrestles

Jesse arm wrestles (photo: Zeke, No Regrets)

Tim Liveright, No Regrets

The last couple of days have been packed with astounding experiences matched with myriad emotions.  This country is jammed with endless geographical, oceanographic, sociological, economic, philosophical elements which are so different from those I’ve lived amidst most of my life.  Today couldn’t have illustrated more of that array. 

Took a break later in the day from being potential lizard food and after attempting to escape the 95 degree heat and matching humidity went snorkelling near Pink Beach.  Pixar Studios has absolutely nothing on the truly unbelievable coral and Technicolor fish variety.

Daphne from Tahawus races Mirko and Martin

Daphne from Tahawus races Mirko and Martin (photo: Chapter Two)

Had dinner with the family of Abdullah one of the Park rangers.  A pre-dinner off chance meeting with Nina, a Dutch woman providing volunteer help on the islands, and very pleasant conversation with Abdullah who shared much of his history and life on Komodo. The list of obstacles is wrenchingly never-ending; to name but a few of those immediately facing this family and their 1400 village neighbors:  desalination plant donated by a NGO organization generously given but now broken with no one to repair it; human waste treatment suffering the same consequence with the harbor the village’s toilet; maternal mortality reported by the Dutch woman as the worst on the planet; average income about $2/day.  I almost weep as I tick off these items.  Oh, I forgot, dragons are frequent visitors and, while the numbers of casualties was not stated, the children are occasionally bitten and – you guessed it – medical care is near zero. 


There are no restaurants in the village, but Abdullah said he could provide dinner at his house. The houses are mostly on stilts, which could protect them from a storm surge, but also protects them from dragons. We sit on a rug over a section of the bare wood floor. Adjacent is a mattress (probably filled with kapok, as there are local kapok trees). No glass in the windows, of course, but pretty fabric that can at least keep out the sun, perhaps some of the rain. Corrugated metal roof. The whole structure sways on its stilts when we move. Tim asks in the course of conversation whether the house includes a toilet. Abdullah laughs; a toilet is a huge expense; they have the beach.

Jesse and Tim talk to Abdullah

Jesse and Tim talk to Abdullah (photo: Zeke, No Regrets)

We also learn that the relatively hefty fees we all paid to the national park go almost entirely to Jakarta. The guide gets about $3 for the entire tour — probably not quite 1% of the fees collected from us today. Nothing goes to help the village, except of course for providing these job opportunities.

I think all three of us came away wishing we could fix the broken down projects, and help Abdullah and the village as a whole. Abdullah escorted us back to our dinghy. The long ride home was beautiful, the stars brighter than we have seen before in Indonesia, and the water was calm and phosphorescent. What to make of it all…? Is there more we can do for these people besides pay generously for dinner? Is the way to leave the world better than we found it to become a Nina — to live in an emerging area for years and help with sustainable development? Is there a way to be useful from our distant homes?


Rob and Carol, Maggie

One of the volcanoes on Lombok erupted. We definitely could smell the smoke and feel the ash as we travelled. The airports in both Lombok and Bali were closed for a few days which affected a lot of travelers. The ash is like a fine black sand which is covering everything and is ongoing. What a mess on the boat!

The fires in Borneo (Kalimantan) are abating with the first rains of the season. We have decided to put that stop back in the schedule.


Medina Marina at Lombok

Medina Marina at Lombok (photo: Zeke, No Regrets)

Kumai, Kalimantan (Borneo)

Zeke, No Regrets

Approaching Kumai we could smell fire, even though we were told it was out. We finally got clear of the ash, and now I feared we would be breathing smoke for two days… But no. Later we learned that we were sailing downwind of the area that had burned, and it smelled like a dead campfire, but it was fine when we arrived at Kumai.

Rob and Carol, Maggie

We took a two story flat boat called a klotok 40 km upriver. On the upper level are chairs for viewing, and a table for meals. If you sleep aboard, mattresses are laid out side by side with sheets and pillows and mosquito netting. The National Park does a lot of rehabilitation work as well as conservation. There are stops at designated feeding stations. The feeding stations are supplemental and will not be visited if food is available elsewhere. The guides call and they start to arrive. We were lucky to watch many, the “alpha” male and several females with babies and children. The surprise was the large number of wild boars. They were the ugliest animal I have ever seen.

Orangutan (photo: Zeke, No Regrets)

Orangutan (photo: Zeke, No Regrets)


We made three stops near places in the park where food is provided for orangutans, and they commonly come to eat. Sometimes they don’t come, as the food provided is not their favorite. They would prefer to eat durian fruit than bananas, so they often do not show when the durians are ripe. But we saw orangutans at all three spots.


Pat Hayes, Chapter Two

We hiked out to the edge of the fire line, now put out. Heartbreaking. And so close to the orangutans. Volunteers are already replanting. The tour company was thrilled to have us, since so many canceled when the fires started. The local people are so passionate about their park and all the animals there, great to see them rallying to help.


Remains of the forest fire

Remains of the forest fire (Photo: Zeke, No Regrets)

Tim, No Regrets

After walking many miles in the park, we arrived back at the park dock and found this nutty and tame girl (Siswi) lying there so yours truly (the other nut) had his picture taken with her.  Apparently she was abused at one point in her rehabilitation yet seems to have in waning years taken a hankering to her caretakers.

Siswi and Tim

Siswi and Tim (Photo: No Regrets)


Zeke, No Regrets

The orangutan habitat is threatened. The biggest threat currently stems from the commercial production of palm oil. As a result, forest is being cleared at a dramatic rate in Indonesia and being replaced with palm oil farms — the diverse natural habitat replaced with a monoculture. The land is often cleared by burning, which is assumed to be the origin of the fires that spread into the national park.

Our guides are members of a group called O Green. They call each other “brother” and they are on a mission to save the orangutan and lands that are their home (both the animal’s home and the people’s home). They do the tours that raise money and raise awareness. They fought the fires. They organized the townspeople (school children especially) to plant seedlings after the fire. They raise money to purchase private land across the river from the park. A few hundred meters in from that river bank it is all palm oil farming now. They hope to purchase the remaining strip of river bank to protect the habitat and beauty. They have purchased one kilometer. They dream of much more, though they know it is a distant dream, and there may not be time before the land is purchased by the palm oil growers instead.

I found it interesting to be so near the “front lines” of such a battle. Putt-putting up the jungle river for hours, seeing the monkeys and the birds and the fireflies and the remote beauty, and seeing the magnificent orangutans…and seeing in the distance the palm oil trees. The “O Greens” indeed seem to be brothers, and I’m on their side of the battle.

Trees being replanted by volunteers...

Trees being replanted by volunteers… (Photo: Chapter Two)

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