Late afternoon relaxation as Perama 114 cruises towards the sunset north of Sumbawa island (CLICK TO EXPAND IMAGES)
From the 3 other boat-trip reports on this blog, you can probably gather I'm a bit of a fan of cruising scenic islands on the cheap. The Lombok-Flores trip is one I've wanted to do for several years - as it turned out, time constraints meant I did the reverse 2 day/2night trip instead of the 3 or 4 day west-east cruises offered by a number of operators.
Travel forums are full of scathing or praising reports on such trips - the only way was to find out for myself. Overall, I thought Perama's operation was exceptionally good, my one qualification is that it was a little bit expensive by Indonesian standards (but still very good value in western terms) at approx $US125 deck class all meals, snorkelling gear and NP entry included in May 09.
To give a contrast, Wisata's 4 day/3 night deck class was around $US150 - but this outfit let me down badly on my multi ferries/buses trip west-east to Flores, so maybe their boat trip standard isn't up to Perama's.
First night onboard at Labuanbajo harbour saw a farewell party for departing west-east passengers and a welcome to new east-west people like myself. Dinner was provided, drinks could be purchased, some music and dancing for the keen.
Over half the passengers were doing BOTH legs of the trip. Perama's schedule has different places visited on each leg so these people did not revisit attractions with one exception. Universally, both departing and staying passengers had nothing but praise for the boat, food and crew - a good sign for newbies like me.
It's a long way from West Flores to Lombok, so guests sleep on board after the party to allow a 5am start to the 3 hour cruise to Rinca Island for our Komodo spotting trek.
Rinca and its neighbour Komodo are the two biggest islands in Komodo National Park. I was lucky the reverse trip visited Rinca - the dragons are more concentrated. Outward leg people saw only 2 dragons on Komodo - we saw 9 on Rinca.
These dudes are hanging around the National Park guesthouse rooms and kitchen, hoping for handouts or a boozed-out backpacker to fall off a balcony.
Rinca and Komodo are big, almost semi-arid islands in the rain-shadow gap between Sumbawa and Flores. Our 2 hour guided trek took us thru open savanna type country, patches of wet-dry rainforest and up some moderately steep slopes for scenic views back towards Labuanbajo. That our oldest passenger, enthusiastic semi-pro photojournalist Joy from NZ completed the walk no problems despite recently reconstructed knees demonstrates that this trek is not out of the question for the 60s+. Joy merely took a bit longer and had her own NP guide with a big dragon-bashing stick for company.
This poor guy had Komodo bite marks on his hind quarters. Komodo saliva is highly infectious, the prey tends to collapse a day or two after bitten. If it's any consolation, the guides said this was an old buffalo. Maybe they are a bit slow and an easier target although we were told the dragons can hit 18kmh. Anyone who has seen an Aussie croc or dragon-like goanna move at top speed won't doubt this.
Our guides thought this dragon lurking nearby was the culprit. Besides buffalo, dragon prey includes wild deer, bush chickens. The local monkeys are a bit fast and smart, so are less frequent victims.
From Rinca we motored north-west for a few hours to our next stop at small Laba Island for some snorkelling and beach time. The coral was less than whelming here - but maybe I had been spoiled by some of the best Asian coral I've seen at Kanawa Island close off Labuanbajo the previous day.
Perama 114 left and sister boat 220 at Gili Laba. When bookings are high, Perama puts on two boats. Jumping off the top mast brace on 114 was good sport at stops like this.
After Laba we set off on the long long cruise to Moyo Island off central northern Sumbawa. This takes until about 8am next morning. Late afternoon was spent sunning, socialising and relaxing as in the opening pic, and sometime after dinner everone hit the sack. Deck class sleep on seat-cushion matresses covered by sunbathing mats on the upper sunbathing deck if they want to check the stars and passing moonlit island peaks, or the in the converted dining saloon if they want a roof, or it decides to rain (which can happen even in dry season).
Note that it tends to be balmy when you turn in mid/late evening, but cools progressively so that the hour or so before dawn can make for suprisingly cool conditions when the wind-chill factor from forward motion is taken into account. Shorts and a T will not cut it here. Perama provide sleeping bags for around one US dollar per night and it is a good idea to have one on hand for when things cool.
Dry season sees the route via the north of Sumbawa in the lee of the prevailing south east trade winds so that seas usually tend to be slight, but rougher seas are not unknown. Our passage was very smooth except for the last few hours between Sumbawa and Lombok where the gap exposed us to a moderate swell and some wind-blown surface chop. Nobody got motion-sickness.
Cabin class get a fairly compact box with a double bed and an overslung single bunk, plus a fan.
There was no surcharge for cabin-singles on this trip, although that might be different if the boats are heavily booked.
The boat had two fairly spacious and clean bathrooms with western toilets and nice showers. The water pipes must go past the engines because the water was always warmish. We weren't urged to have quick showers so the water tanks must be reasonably large.
Late first-afternoon pass of volcanic Pulau Sangean off north-east Sumbawa.
Highlight of Moyo Island was a 45 minute walk thru shaded farm area lanes and nice rainforest tracks to a 4m waterall, rope swing and nice pool with deliciously cool water.
Our Moyo landing spot had a visit of a traditional fishing village scheduled but we were behind time. The people were very friendly and acted as guides to the falls. Indonesian kids like this one are invariably cute.
Mid afternoon saw us reach Perama Island (Gili Kondo), a small coral cay off the north-west corner of Sumbawa. This has quite good coral, mainly of the stag-horn type in many different varieties. On the far side of the island Perama is replanting coral - on the outward trip guests stop for a meal in the small daytrip area and get to plant their own coral. Our stop here was for about 90 minutes, allowing for some beach time. I walked around the island in less than 15 minutes.Heading west from Moya the winds picked up sufficiently to hoist the jib which allowed us to regain ground on Perama 220 which was slightly faster under motor alone. 220 didn't have a sail
Heading into the sun on the last leg to Labuan Lombok port on that island's east coast - actually the last BOAT leg, because Perama then loads you into one of their small buses for a 2 hour trip east to capital Mattaram or touristy Senggigi near the Gili Islands. These are reached around 1930 and 2200 resp. In this shot, a small passing cloud gives welcome shade to the boat.
FOOD was Indonesian style and very good in both taste and quantity. Fang-merchants will not go hungry. Nothing was over-spicey. All meals except the last one shown below were buffet style and usually included a chicken or fish dish, sometimes both, plus salad, usually eggs in one style or another, a cooked vegetable dish and fruit. Vegetarians should not go hungry. Pancakes were common, although bread lovers will be disappointed.
That 23 year old Coko and his 19 year old off-sider Jamal can turn out such a feast in their tiny kitchen is admirable. They got a bigger cheer at the two end of cruise gatherings than either captain Paewai or super efficient and cheerful cruise director Riswadi.
People who like milk with their tea/coffee will also be disappointed - I'd suggest bringing your own in a container and putting it in the large drinks coolers along with all the beer, soft drink and aqua.
Apart from brekka time, tea/coffee had to be purchased but at 35 cents a throw was a pretty good deal. So too were other purchases - small cans of Bintang were 12500 idr - say $US1.25 at the time - I was used to paying 15ooo for slightly bigger small Bintang bottles at budget bungalow restaurants this trip - Perama's soft drinks were 6000 and large water 5000 - I paid up to 10000 for these at some more isolated bungalows. There is an assortment of snacks for purchase too.
Purchases are written up on a ledger near the drinks cooler on the honour system and paid for on the approach to Labuan-Lombok.Alex from California likes things hot and prepares to spice up final dinner on approach to Lombok. This was the only non-buffet meal, a combination of omelette-rice-cucumber salad and fruit. The super compact kitchen can be seen rear left of picture. This salon was a nice breezy area for shade lovers between meals, as was a rear balcony, a favourite for Aussie Neil on his 5th cruise to hang out his fishing rod - no luck this trip. At night, the table is lashed to the roof to provide headspace for floor sleepers. The seats to the sides were popular berths too.
LUGGAGE is kept in an easily accessible room on the lower deck. Most people kept a daypack with cameras, toiletries bag, ipods etc with them.
At 41, careful Cap'n Pewai was way older than the rest of the enthusiastic crew, most of whom were in their early to mid-20s. Invariably smiling and cheerful, they did their utmost to make the trip a success - and succeeded admirably judging by the response of my fellow passengers. To see the full crew including the cap'n line dancing at the welcoming party was a hoot.
CRITICISMS? Well I've already indicated that the trip price seems a tad high by Indo standards. Perama claim you pay for quality. I also reckon they could take a tip off similar trips I've done and make free tea, coffee and bikkies available anytime. Not to mention a supply of milk for those needing it in their beverages.
A caveat is that our boat was running at two thirds capacity - I'm wondering if comfort etc are quite so good when there is a full complement of passengers.
But apart from these factors, I'm a fan. So much that next Indo trip I'm making a point of doing the 3 day west-east Lombok to Flores leg.
More info including up to date pricing, route maps, more pix etc can be seen at Perama's website.
IMPORTANT UPDATE - at 3am on March 28 2011 Perama lost one of its boats trying to negotiate a tight entrance into a sheltered bay near Komodo during a storm. Fortunately none of the passengers or crew were lost or badly injured altough lots of personal belongings were lost. People managed to make the short distance to shore from where they were picked up by a nearby dive live-aboard boat.
Survivors were given a refund of their fares, some got recovered passports and some of their property but many complained that otherwise they were left to their own resources once in Labuanbajo.
My thoughts: Perama's route is 95% off a lee shore in the dry season = calm sailing. I always thought trips before mid-late April and after mid October could be iffy from the point of running into rough conditions.
Sad though is Perama's response to helping their customers - although par for the course in Asia.
If you are considering Perama's Tour you may be interested in staying in LABUANBAJO and the delightful budget islands or SERAYA and KANAWA. I have info and pix HERE.
You might also be interested in my budget cruises of Australias wonderful WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS and the TURKISH COAST.
Note - if you see any mistakes or have extra info, please post below. If you have questions, please ask them on THE FORUM, accessed via the index. I don't get to check individual pages regularly but I try to check the forum every day when not travelling.