Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bwano Is Good To Us

By mid-day the tide was getting perilously low and it was time to say goodbye to the village and our hosts on Bwano (Buano?) Island and return to the boat. Nikko waited with the zodiak at the edge of the lagoon as we waded out thru the reef to meet him and be ferried back to the Manta Mae.

Once we had climbed into the dinghy and stashed our cameras, Nikko decides we should take a tour around some of the other small islands close by. So close were these islands to Bwano that the sea between them resembled more a river than ocean... narrow channels sheltered from wind between them and water smooth as glass. 

As we ventured up one of these island channels, we came upon another small & primitive looking fishing village with houses built out over the water but little sign of human activity. Further exploration revealed picture postcard perfect beaches of pure white sand, a few liveaboards occupied by families and crystal clear turquoise water, reefs & coral colored like a brilliant rainbow.

As we came around the backside of one of these adjacent islands, we could see our ship at anchor in the distance and hear the sound of a jet ski. We quickly surmised that the Captain & crew left behind had decided to take the day off & play. 

Our Captain was tooling around the harbor at top speed, weaving around the small rock islands. As we reboarded the ship, we discovered that the 4 men from the village were still aboard and when Captain returned with the thrill craft, Nikko offered to take one of the men for a ride. The man smiled wide and agreed and off they went. And a ride this guy got! Nikko weaved around the ship at top speed and then turned hard, doing a 360 with the jet ski. The man on the back hung of for dear life as Nikko put the ski though it's paces, finally dumping them both in an especially hard turn. Nikko reclaimed the ski as the man swam back to the boat and climbed back aboard. Widdi was up next and then I took a spin! 

During the process of scaring the hell out of our village guest, Nikki also lost his sunglasses. Once back on board the boat, he pulled out some dive gear & a speargun and plunged back overboard to search for his glasses and some fresh fish for the evening dinner.

Nikko's bubble trail appeared again beside the boat about 45 minutes later. While he had no luck finding his glasses, he did manage to bring back several nice fish and a good sized octopus for the evening meal.

For the rest of the afternoon, everyone made good use of the time, magnificent weather and pristine water to swim, dive from upper decks and make more photographs of our incredible surroundings. The men from the village eventually returned to their boat and motored back to shore leaving us to enyoy their home waters and pristine bay for a couple of more hours.

It was later decided that we should make full use of what was left of the afternoon by staying here at anchor and spending the night. It was also decided that, as a gift for our generous host - the boat's owner, we would convince the crew to raise the sails and photograph the Manta Mae of it's full glory in this wonderful setting and while at anchor in the early evening, do our best to capture photos below deck of the lounge and cabin interiors. The brochures being used to market the chartering of this vessel filled with terrible photography and we all felt that the least we could do was try to make something decent that he could use for his advertising. The crew agreed and later in the afternoon, the anchor was hoisted, the sails raised and Nikki, Widi & I took off in one of the zodiacs, directing the boat as to where to position itself under sail for the best photographs via walkie-talkies.

Once the full boat exteriors had been accomplished, the crew again dropped anchor next to a rock island & lowered the sails. Nikko, Widi & I returned to the ship swam some more, relaxed and waited for sunset.

Later that evening, Chef prepared the fish caught earlier in the day and we dined on two different broiled whole fish... one a nice grouper and the other something I didn't recognize. Deep-fried octopus, nasi putih and a delicious, fresh sambal Chef said was commonly used in Manado, Sulawesi were also on the menu. Fresh cucumber slices and tomatoes rounded out the meal as we talked and laughed and reminisced about the spectacular day. For me at least, this was the best day on the ship yet. It took us a week to get here but it was worth the wait. This island and it's surrounding waters were what I had come in search of and hoped to find.

Believe it or not, from this point, the adventure only got better and more interesting. The following morning we would be entering the Pacific Ocean and sail towards Sorong, West Papua New Guinea... the gateway to Raja Ampat!

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