From the crocodile infested, tea stained waters and dense jungle of Kalimantan, a 280nm, 2 night sail transported us into a different world. Florence was now floating in turquoise waters, opposite bright white sand beaches and towering granite boulders. Despite the total change in environment, we had in fact not even changed country; the granite boulders of Belitung are a treasure of Indonesia’s Java Sea. A local tourist destination frequented by people from relatively nearby Java, the beaches of Belitung are reminiscent of the Seychelles or BVI.
Indonesia continues to surprise us with the variety of landscapes, wildlife and culture we are constantly met with by just sailing to the next island along the chain.
Our arrival in Belitung allowed us to catch up with the rally momentarily, providing the opportunity to see sailing friends and some traditional dancing. The island is home to a mix of Indonesians from different parts of the country, including a Balinese community who kindly shared the traditional Balinese Borong dance we had missed in Bali.
Taking advantage of having so many fellow sailors around, we were able to share a local boat trip to the 137 year old lighthouse on Lengkuas Island, built by the dutch in Europe and then transported via 16 ships to be reconstructed in Belitung in 1882. The light house is still operational and has stunning views from the top observation platform.
Not wishing to skip past such a beautiful place and also favouring a different route to that taken by the rally from here, we chose to let the other boats get ahead so we could spend longer lingering in what might be our clearest water for months. The upcoming Malacca Straights is not somewhere we anticipate swimming from the boat. Sailing the dinghy in the light winds of the morning and evening was the perfect way to get around the small islands surrounding the anchorage here.
Just like ‘The Baths’ in The British Virgin Islands, Belitung has it’s own impressive granite boulder cave; creating an impressive shaded saltwater swimming hole, a welcome respite from the intense tropical sun.
It wasn’t all sunny beach days, the proximity to the equator coupled with the change in monsoon seasons brought frequent squalls with heavy rain and wind. This unsettled weather is likely to stay with us over the next month or so as we cross the equator and head into Malaysia.
Belitung would sadly be our last official port in Indonesia, as we make our way north through the Malacca Straits before the NW monsoon kicks in.
Leaving a country that has given us so many great memories was made even harder by exiting from such a spectacular island. Our plans are now filled with thoughts of returning to Indonesia briefly before crossing the Indian Ocean in 2020 with a stop in the Seychelles. Well how can we know if Belitung is really like the Seychelles if we haven’t been to the Seychelles?