Blog, Indonesia

Our Debut in Debut; A Royal Welcome to Indonesia

We stir from a deep sleep as the 5am call to prayer drifts across the anchorage in Debut. Poking our heads out of the hatch, we smile and return the enthusiastic waves and “Salamat Pagi” of fishermen motoring their colourful wooden open boats out of the crowded anchorage. The rising sun glints of the roof of a nearby mosque as our morning coffee struggles to mask the faint smell of plastic being burnt ashore. Australia is far behind us now, there is no mistaking we are in a new country, a new continent. A 650nm passage has never before brought such a steep change in culture for us. After 9 months in a country so similar to home, we are energised by the change and challenge awaiting us. Neither of us have ever stepped foot in Indonesia before, yet here we are having transported our home into this exotic land. Confronted with new language, food and culture, our eyes have grown wide but our smiles wider still. That itch for change which began up the coast of Australia is being well and truly scratched; it might feel a little sore later, but at the moment it just feels so good.

Our arrival in Indonesia coincided with the start of the Sail to Indonesia rally festivities; a series of events hosted by the Indonesian Tourist board to ease entry for yachts into the country and encourage more boats to visit Indonesia. As we chose to join this group directly through the Indonesian organiser, our time in Debut has been our first real experience of the rally. Over 60 boats have entered, which means crowded anchorages are unavoidable. Organised entertainment, busy anchorages and crowds are not normally our cup of tea, yet just from the added ease of checking into the country and our experience here in Debut, we have to say it has been worth it so far.


The locals here really want to increase tourism to the Kai islands. Without any direct flights from Bali/Australia, yachts are currently the only viable way of them gaining any visitors. They are keen to have a slice of some of the tourism income Bali generates. The islands have many stunning, fine white sand beaches and some of the friendliest people we have come across. We could not have been made to feel more welcome.


Ngur Bloat Beach, just one of the stunning white sand beaches in The Kai Islands
Traditional games on the beach

During the course of the 3 day festival, we visited several villages. Each village was different, yet held common themes; the colourful streets would be lined with flags and people, the chief would bless us with coconut water, then we would be sang to/danced for before being led through the streets for more dancing, singing, speeches and traditional food. We were treated like royalty throughout the festival. It was incredibly humbling to be welcomed with such open and generosity.

Parade through the village
Most of the dances involved graceful hand movements, accentuated by the use of fans/grass pompoms


Other dances told stories such as how the village came together to protect themselves against a poisonous snake.

We were invited to dance and sing with the locals in each village we visited. Although they were putting on a show for us it felt like our presence was just an excuse for the whole village to have a party.

The final feast included a traditional earth oven in which food is wrapped in breadfruit leaves, covered with hot rocks and more leaves and then left to cook for at least 2 hours. Fish, sweet potato and papaya were cooked in this way and served alongside rice and spiced salads.

One of the things we weren’t prepared for was the Indonesian love of social media and ‘selfies’. Everyone has a smart phone and wants their photo taken with the tourists. Children as young as 7 know how to say “hello mister” and ‘selfie”. In a crowded place, it can become overwhelming, but at least we don’t need to worry about taking photos ourselves

This has been a wonderful introduction to Indonesia. The people here have been so friendly and welcoming, they just want us to be happy, have a good time and take photos with them. Despite our protests about just being a couple of average Joe’s, we have been treated like special VIPs. Our cheeks ache from the smiles that have become permanently etched onto our faces. Our senses have been bombarded with the sights and sounds of this new culture. If we were excited to be sailing here from Australia, our time in Debut has only made us even more excited for our 3 month voyage ahead through this Indonesian Archipelago.


5 thoughts on “Our Debut in Debut; A Royal Welcome to Indonesia”

  1. Wow Matt and Amy, what a wonderful description of your introduction to Indonesia. You sell the country well! It sounds like a complete change from Australia. We are continuing to follow you every nautical mile of your travels!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful descriptive post. And glad you’re enjoying it so far. Not sure why so many boats this year (last year was half the number), but sure you’ll do your own thing too. Best wishes….


  3. When I saw the picture of Debut in red letters in the previous post, I didn’t realized it was an illustration for the post and thought it was an ad…. When I saw that pic again today, I had to go back the previous post to verify if I had actually seen this pic before …
    You have made me ready to go to Indonesia one day. Hopefully I’ll follow your wake. Enjoy the excitement and experience of visiting a new place of our world!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Matt and Amy, such wonderful and colorful pictures, we too can’t wait to sail these waters and are eagerly waiting the next episode of your Indonesian adventures.
    Warmest regards, Ingrid and Alan


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