A well kept secret …

Maybe we shouldn’t tell anyone and keep it a secret. The Anambas are just too good to be true. One of the best cruising grounds we’ve come across; Indonesia has totally exceeded our expectations, yet again. It would be such a shame if these islands got inundated with tourists. Right now, they are difficult to reach and there’s hardly any infrastructure. The people are friendly, the islands remote and unspoilt and there are so many good anchorages to choose from, all within close ‘day-hop distance’ of each other. The snorkelling and diving is superb and we’ve also had beautiful dry and breezy weather. It truly doesn’t get much better than this.

one of the many perfect desert islands we anchored next to

turquoise water, sandy beaches, life is perfect

Moonrock bay, one of our favourite anchorages

this rock is called ‘Moonrock” because it reflects the moonlight at night

hike to the top of the rock

view over the bay with Rehua on the left

Moonrock bay

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beautiful diving and snorkeling, plenty of healthy corals

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The weather’s been so perfect but, in fact, we’ve been wishing for rain since our water-maker broke down a few weeks ago. A couple of worn out check valve o-rings which, apparently, are very specialist replacement parts and, despite Seathan’s best efforts in re-constructing them from other materials, impossible to replace. So we’ve become four salty sea dogs… Luckily, we were able to fill up with water at a small resort near Tarempa where we anchored stern-to and filled up with drinkable rainwater (which we filtered before putting it into our tanks).

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anchored and tied stern-to and filling up with water 

The water-maker isn’t the only problem, unfortunately. We noticed the voltage of our house batteries dropping unusually low during the night and when Seathan checked the batteries he realised one cell was completely ‘dead’. He had to remove two batteries and we now operate at half the capacity. It means we can’t last as long as usual on stored battery power and need to run the generator or the engines more frequently, especially at night when the solar panels aren’t producing energy. We’ve had our house batteries for nearly four years, so they’ve had a good run and we were expecting having to replace them sometime soon. So not the end of the world, but just a little inconvenience until we get them replaced.

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trying out the local mode of transport

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he’s a natural

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this local fisherman was keen to trade some fish for an old dive mask

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fish for dinner

We didn’t want to let these inconveniences distract us from enjoying these beautiful surroundings. To make life even better, we bumped into a couple of kid boats! We spent a few days with S/V Marrant, a French family with two small kids onboard and had a few lovely evenings on the beach together.

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swimming off the back of boat with our friends from S/V Marrant

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surfing behind the dinghy

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dinner on the beach

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Laura’s gutting the fish

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cooking in progress

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nothing better than a fire at night

Then our friend Taffy turned up on S/V Intrigue with a British family onboard and two girls (11 and 12). We spent the next week with Intrigue and had a ball, discovering new anchorages, snorkelling spots, fires on the beach, sundowners onboard and of course lots of games for the kids.

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Taffy on the bow of S/V Intrigue

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Mandariau bay

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beautiful snorkeling and diving

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Together, we also stopped of at Nongkat Island where we met Dhany, who is from Jakarta and was educated in Australia, and, who recently set up a stunning small resort just north of Tarempa. We brought our food ashore and Dhany cooked it all for us while we enjoyed a few beers in his very smart beach bar overlooking a breathtakingly beautiful turquoise lagoon. The next morning, Dhany took the kids on his weekly turtle rescue mission. Turtles get caught in the fishing nets and the kids got to help release them. Special memories.

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S/V Intrigue

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onboard S/V Intrigue with the owner, guests and crew

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Dhany’s beach bar on Nongkat island

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such a charmer

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view from the bar

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barman for the night

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dinner is served

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kids having fun

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beers with the boys

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turtle rescue trip

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We did a few more gorgeous anchorages including the remote and uninhabited Pendjalin Islands with more amazing snorkeling , rock climbing and some fun afternoons and evenings on the beach.

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‘sugarcube island’

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beautiful rocky islands

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‘coconut boules’ on the beach

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aka coconut petanque

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fun afternoon

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who’s winning?

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expert rock climber

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fire is started

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the bar is set up

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evening ambiance

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kids’ fire

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great snorkeling spot with Rehua and Intrigue anchored in the background

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Eventually we had to nip back into Tarempa, the main town, in search of fresh produce and also a doctor as Aeneas had developed a nasty rash the night before, which we suspected was a reaction to the antibiotics he had been taken to cure an ear infection and some coral cuts on his leg. The local doctor confirmed our diagnosis but there was not much he could do apart from giving us paracetamol and antihistamines. The facilities were so basic that he didn’t even have any tools to check his ears with. They wouldn’t take any payment for the medication and we had to insist we wanted to make a small donation to the hospital. Aeneas responded well to the antihistamines and fully recovered a couple of days later. Phew.

And then it was time to clear out. Our month in paradise was up. We followed the instructions and went to Immigration first, where two very friendly officials were sitting in a small office watching loud music videos. A few stamps and five minutes later we walked across the road to Customs. This took a little bit longer as they had to go online to update our details (there’s hardly any internet in the Anambas, only in Tarempa there is a smidge and it is very slow). Third stop: Quarantaine. Bit strange to have to go and see Quarantine on the way out of a country but never mind. Somehow, we got shown into the wrong building and ended up in the health department where we were given a complete health check-up. An hour and a half later (and many forms and questionnaires) we walked out with four very official looking documents declaring us fit and healthy. Final stop: the Harbour Master. At this stage, the kids were getting tired and hungry and we were keen to get back to the boat.

“Where is your document from Quarantaine?” the Harbour Master asked.

When I pointed him to the four very official looking pieces of paper he laughed and said: “No, no, that’s from a different Health Department. You went to the wrong building. We need a different piece of paper.”

He noticed that we were close to losing patience and immediately suggested: “No problem, I will take you on my motorbike and we will get the right document. Don’t worry, it will only take five minutes.”

Huge sigh of relief. The kids and I waited in the office and as they watched two of the staff’s children play GTA on the office computers, I chatted to the shipping agent, who also worked in the Harbour Master office and wanted to know where we were from and where we had been. Seathan returned shortly after and we got our final clearance documents and were good to go. Bye bye Tarempa. I have a feeling we may be back.

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Durian anyone?

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looking for the Immigration office

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at the Health Department, this is how they measured his height

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full health check-up

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at the Harbour Master’s office

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kids all dressed up for a religious festival

A few final stops on the way out of the Anambas. One more afternoon on the beach, one more snorkeling trip and one more gorgeous sunrise. Can’t wait to come back.

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anchorage near Pulau Ayam, Jemaja

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human pyramid

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sundowners on the beach

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another gorgeous sunset

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and a beautiful sunrise

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bye bye Anambas, we’ll be back!

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