Our November 2018 photo cruise to Komodo was one of our best yet. The macro life in Horseshoe Bay was outstanding with nice visibility, along with two fantastic dives at Manta Alley in south Komodo where we were literally surrounded by manta's. Some photos and a video from the trip are below. Talk to us if you would like to join a trip with the same itinerary in early October 2019.
KOMODO PHOTO CRUISE - a short video
Some great new dives sites around these remote islands. For us the highlight was a visit to Beangabang Bay on the south east coast of Pantar Island. This beautiful bay lies between two headlands and has a natural hot spring on the beach, plus a tiny village perched on a hill.
This remote village has very friendly people, we were greeted on arrival by an outrigger canoe full of happy kids. We later went into the village as we had bought along some school supplies and footballs. We were mobbed by the kids when the footballs were distributed at the church, then the children took us to see their school and meet their teacher.
The visit bought home to us the reality of living in these remote islands. Grubby clothes, school books that were literally falling apart, a school that consisted of three rooms with a few old desks, a dirt playground and a flag pole: no computers, no fans, no lunch room, but these kids enthusiastically sang us their national anthem and a song about the sea and its bounty. Not a dry eye among us as they finished singing, and only just in time for the visiting ice cream man on his motorbike to give them all icey treats on us.
We just returned from a trip to Alor this week and were greeted by some bad news that hit us hard, our friend and well known deep diving specialist Ben Walzinger had not surfaced after a dive in Pemuteran, Bali. A search was conducted and no trace of Ben has been found in the days since.
This last week has seen increased tremors inside of Mount Agung, on Friday 6th October over 1000 tremors were recorded along with increased smoke/steam eminating from the caldera. Then to add to the tension, there are now over 160,000 people displaced from their homes around the mountain, living in make-shift camps or homes of relatives in safe areas. It soon become evident that some people had evacuated from areas that were outside of the danger zones (there are estimated to be only 60,000 people that live within the danger zones). The government has decided that many people can now return to areas that are outside of these danger zones. This has caused much confusion among the people who were originally told to evacuate by the heads of their villages.
The residents of Tulamben area, which actually encompasses the villages of Tukadabu, Tulamben, Rubaya, Tegal Panti, Batu Dawa, Pengeno, Bahal, Batugiling and some other small hamlets in the mountain slopes around us. Have all been evacuated and are most definately in the danger zones, some are in the highest danger zone (colored red on the map) or in the second danger zone (colored pink on the map). So to satisfy the rumours, none of these people are returning home soon (including us!).
If you have ever dived at Seraya Secrets dive site, you may well know the young lady in these photos. She provides snacks, lunches, hot coffee and a smile after a dive there. Right now she is living with extended family in Singaraja district. Donations from kind people who have contributed to our fund will be happy to know that money has been sent to her to provide food and clothing for her and her family - Thank you
Well our friends husband knew where they were, as the owner of the warung also soon appeared and told Jeff they were staying in his family home in a village 45 minutes away to the north-west. As Jeff asked for directions, the couple we were seeking appeared behind him on a motorbike. It was quickly arranged that he could now follow them to their location and also take their friend in our pick-up. Perfect timing, it seems some things are just meant to be!
At their location, Jeff was a bit shocked to find 70 people living in a small family compound. People spread around the main house, and under tarps in the garden and also in various small out-houses. Jeff continues the story:
"It was great to see so many people we knew in the same location, the lady from our local lunch-time warung. her sister who is a massage lady at one of the popular dive resorts in Tulamben and serves in her son's warung in the evenings. Four boat drivers from Tulamben Bay, a dive guide from a locally owned resort and four dive gear porters from Tulamben Bay. Along with their individual families, including a very old lady who was a porter when we first dived Tulamben in 1981. She looks to be in her 80's or even older. When I asked if she could sit down next to me for a photo she grumbled in Balinese (which I didn't understand) but I am pretty sure was "I'm not sitting next to that white guy, someone else can".
With the help of the wife of the property owner, I quickly ascertained that these people were not in need of the same things our first group needed, they had ample mattress's and clothing. As these people were staying around 45 minutes drive north-west of Tulamben, the men had been back to collect most of these things from their homes. All they required was basic food. They requested rice, cooking oil, eggs and drinking water. For the elderley some sarongs to sleep under at night and a couple of extra pillows, and for two young babies some nappies for night time use (no more wet mattress's). We then arranged to meet the next morning in Singaraja city to purchase these items and organise delivery to their temporary home".
I called past more refugee camps on my west to Singaraja and could see that many people are staying at each camp, most had reasonable shelter from the elements and seemed well organised (see below photos).
A new word for our Indonesian language vocabulary
Armed with a list of requests from our refugee friends we met at Pejarakan Village in north-west Bali the day before. Along with the money kindly received from donations overnight, we hit the shops. First thing was to ask for a discount..... right?
So we need to explain to the store staff why we want a discount, the manager of Hardy's Supermarket in Seririt was stunned when this little-0ld fat white guy can speak Indonesian (not so many tourists round these parts), but after explaining our situation, she kept referring to Penungsi..... No I don't want Penungsi, I want Discount (Diskon)!
Well after much laughing all-round, the staff all joined in and helped us select the best clothes, towels & toiletry bargains in their shop along with a generous diskon of 10%. Well the diskon applied to everything on floor 2, but not on Floor 1.... we never really did find out why? But we must add that we have never received such good service at a Hardy's Supermarket as we did yesterday, everything was packed into boxes and hand carried out to our pick-up (ute) for us - thank you Hardy's Retail in Seririt, North Bali.
Then off to a bedding shop also in Seririt to get floor mats and floor mattress's, more pillows & Selimut (bed sheet for the elderley and babies). Here the parking inspector even came to help tie up the load and didn't want us to pay the parking fee. Next to an electrical shop to get two pedestal fans, and the guy who served us understood fully what we were doing. He carried the fan boxes down the road to our vehicle and climbed up to find a spot and tie them in. (Pretty good for a guy with only one arm!) We really like this new word Penungsi it could come in very handy? After a quick shop for more school bags, we are on our way west to drop-off the load to our friends in the refugee camp at Pejarakan Village.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
- Mother Teresa
We then realised by calling around our Balinese friends that many of the people we know from our community are spread out into the far corners of Bali. Some staying with extended family in Denpasar, others in the homes of other generous Balinese, while the majority are in refugee camps set-up in areas away from the risk of the volcanic eruption. So what can we do to help those in need?
We began by looking for the people we know that were evacuated to the furthest outposts of Bali. One family of farmers whom we know quite well were evacuated to a small village just west of Pemuteran on the north-west coast of Bali, only an hours drive from where we are now staying. We set out this morning hoping we could find them and check on their condition. We did find them... but what we found was not as we expected!
We sat and spoke with the family and asked our friend Komang (some of you may recognise her - second from the right, she works in the supermarket in Tulamben). What is it that you need that we can help you with? She told us that the local government and people in the village are donating food and water to them. But they have very little clothing, only a few mats to sleep on and no sheets or sorongs to cover themselves at night. They also requested exercise books & pens for the children, and school bags as many are starting at the local school tomorrow. Clothes for two small babies, clothes for children in the age range of three and upwards. Plus other things needed to make life more comfortable.
Our next move after realising the extent of their need, was the decision to set up a simple charity, where we can collect funds and distribute directly to these people without any expenses being added along the way. We are happy to spend our time purchasing and transporting goods to the camp at no charge. This way we know that 100% of funds raised are used to purchase what they actually need and gets directly given to them without anything passing through other peoples hands. They are located in a Government controlled camp, all goods bought inside are registered with the local government at the point of entry, and are recorded in a log along with who bought the donated goods in and at what monetary cost (all receipts are photographed).
We aren't asking for large sums of money, today we spent just Rp 1,080,000 (AUD$ 108) which purchased the following:
- Three Soccer Balls - Rp 30,000
- Ninety Exercise Books - Rp 174,000
- Bundle of Colored Pencils - Rp 55,000
- Three Large Tins of Biscuits - Rp 96,000
- Seven School Back Packs (medium size) - Rp 350,000
- Five School Back Packs (small) - Rp 375,000
- Four more School Back Packs (we purchased all that were available in the village)
- Clothes for Babies (two babies, one year old and 18 months old)
- Clothes for seventeen Children aged 3 years and up to 14 years
- Carpets/Mats for sleeping on
- Pillows for sleeping
- Pedestal Electric fans (two) for cooling sick people among them - the village will provide electric cable for them
- Sorongs/Sheet for cover when sleeping
- Around Twenty Towels for drying (after bathing under a bucket)
- Basic Toiletries & Washing Powder (soap/shampoo/tooth paste/tooth brush)
Any one who contributes funds we promise to provide copies of all documents as proof of the use of the money. That is copies of:
- Australian bank receipt
- Transfer and Receipt at our bank in Bali
- Withdraw Receipt from our bank in Bali
- Receipts for purchase of goods
- Receipt at official refugee post
As we left the camp today, one old lady was leaning on a wall crying and asking for her family, she had been seperated from them in the evacuation. She had just found out the rest of her family were now in Denpasar 120 kms away and with no way to get to them. Another even older lady lay asleep on the tiled floor next to us, without a pillow or floor mat. I know that as we go to bed tonight our thoughts will be with these people far away from their homes and without comfort. Lying waiting for their future to be dictated by the very mountain that they hold as sacred.
Jeff & Dawn Mullins - Singaraja, Bali 27th Sept 2017
Yeserday leaving to seek shelter from the imminent threat of volcanic eruption of Mount Agung, was for us, an emotional roller coaster. Some years ago an old lady who lives closeby sat with us and explained how she survived the last volcanic eruption of Mount Agung in 1963. She and her husband had sheltered for days from falling rocks and dust that almost choked them, finally the eruption eased and then they were left with no food as all their crops were buried. Her husbands outrigger canoe was broken, his cattle dead. No-one came to help from the government of the day. They finally resorted to eating rats that came down the mountain in hordes.
A week ago we saw this same strong old lady (who is well into her 80's) climbing a tree and chopping off branches to use as firewood to cook with. Today as we left we called past to check on her and her family. The look on her face and the tears welling in her eyes said it all. She was staying and would go with her sons when they felt it was unsafe.
On our road we saw families with bables wrapped in bundles on motorbikes, trucks packed with children sheltering under plastic tarpaulins, families packing cars with everything they could fit inside. Groups of people waiting for vehicles to take them to refuge. Thankfully, most of the elderley, the weak, and the pregnant were evacuated the day before. As we headed north-west we passed tented refugee camps in villages where people from high in the mountain had earlier been evacuated too. The government of today seems to be prepared and organised to handle the huge number of people misplaced from their mountain homes.
To all those we didn't see, couldn't find or were already gone. We wish you all safe travels in this dangerous and unpredictable time. We look forward to seeing you all again.
For those people who care about us, we are safe and far from Tulamben, but still in north Bali.
So people can see news first hand with factual information please follow the link below and use Google translate to read news from our area of Bali which is updated very 30 minutes if their is new information:
High on our list of things to do was dive on the WWII wreck of the SS President Coolidge in Vanuatu, a 200 meter long luxury cruise liner converted to an armed troop carrier for the second world war. The ship was carrying 5000 US troops and lots of military vehicles & machinery when it hit two mines set by allied forces in the entrance channel to Luganville on the island of Espiritu Santo. The captain drove the ship onto the shore to save her, but she sank stern first and now lays with starboard side up in depths of 21 to 70 meters.
We did two dives using larger tanks than normal (not recommended for bad backs due to the long walk) with 30% nitrox to allow us ample time to check out the cargo holds contents and forward guns. The short video below shows some of our finds.
Troops escpape the sinking ship just after her captain drove her ashore
Reef Wreck & Critter Blog:
Jeff & Dawn Mullins run this Blog to give an insight into our underwater discoveries in Indonesia and any news about what we are currently doing .