Anambas

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Anambas

Post by Max Headroom » Sun, 24 Nov 2013 2:06 pm

I'm keen to recce Anambas, the Indonesian archipelago in the South China Sea, about 150 miles north-east of Singapore.

I checked the archives here, but apart from 2 halfhearted threads, there hasn't been any chatter about this region.

Has anyone been there? Your feedback is welcome.

Cheers.

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Sun, 24 Nov 2013 10:32 pm

I used to fly into the lagoon at the main Island of Matak back in the 1980's via Conoco's Grumman Albatross seaplane out of Seletar Camp, when working in the S China Sea doing oil exploration (I was a diving super for Oceaneeriang Int'l at the time). We would land the plane in the lagoon, taxi up on a ramp and then later in the day catch a helicopter out to the rig. Back then there were not any diving that I was aware of except for us commercial types but that was offshore. The lagoon was interesting though and I brought out a giant clam shell about 2.5' across (weighed around 50 lbs and I was luck as the water depth was only around 7' deep where I found it so was doing a bouncing jump with this damned heavy shell with a gulp of air on each bounce toward shallow water. I kept that big shell in a 150 gal saltwater aquarium I had in my house in Seletar Camp until I sold everything, lock, stock & barrel when I bought my HDB Falt in 1999. Sure wish I'd have kept that shell though!.

The water in the lagoon in Matak was crystal clear at the time (which is how I knew were the shell was located, as we flew over in on our approach for months before we were scheduled on the second chopper flight out to the drillship which gave me enough time to go out, find and retrive that clam shell! Sadly, I cannot give you any inshore diving information as we were in several hundred feet of water and there the viz was anything but good. But, if the lagoon was any indication there should be some pretty decent diving around that cluster of islands.

I later spent some time on Kuku Island during the period of 1988~1991 in the VN Refugee Camps (along with P. Galang (on the far side of P. Bintan in the Riau Island Group). The treatment that the refugees received at the hands of the Indonesian authorities was atrocious, with young girls particularly. Lord only knows how many didn't leave that 1st asylum camp before being transferred to P. Galang. The place had a notorious reputation.

I also spent a considerable amount of time in the Natuna Islands as well for the same reason during the early '80's doing drilling rig support as well.
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Post by Max Headroom » Mon, 25 Nov 2013 7:41 am

Thanks SMS.

For a place this stunningly idyllic and barely a few hours flying time away, it's amazing that so few travelers have gone there.

I've been researching online and the amount of info on the island cluster is puny. The stuff that is there is basically rehashed - pretty much verbatim - over and over again.

Oh well, all the more reason to go eh.

I'll let you know when I find a clam shell :)

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Post by JR8 » Mon, 25 Nov 2013 9:51 am

Max Headroom wrote:Thanks SMS.
For a place this stunningly idyllic and barely a few hours flying time away, it's amazing that so few travelers have gone there.
I've been researching online and the amount of info on the island cluster is puny. The stuff that is there is basically rehashed - pretty much verbatim - over and over again.
Oh well, all the more reason to go eh.
I'll let you know when I find a clam shell :)
It hasn't an air-strip, that I can see. There seems to be no infrastructure. To start as a tourist destination you'd need to do everything from the ground up starting with securing a water source.

A google did turn up some charter dive-boats that go there though*. Plus Tioman to the west is a popular yachties moor-up for RnR+Repairs, I expect you could find someone interested in heading that way for an excursion, but it might not be cheap...

p.s. SMS and his giant clam!! For a minute I thought you'd liberated a whole/live one! :-D


* Just google on 'anambas diving'. BTW you don't have to be a diver to go on a dive excursion just in case you don't know ...

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Post by Max Headroom » Mon, 25 Nov 2013 10:51 am

JR8, the airstrip is on Pulau Matak; little Fokkers fly there from Bintan and Jakarta. But I prefer the ferry.

The only real means of transport are the sampans for hire that take you island-hopping and the mopeds some villagers use to shuttle between kampong and market.

There's some fishing around SMS's abandoned oil platform and, yeah, some diving. But mostly, Anambas is still hidden and unknown, a bit like Tioman in the early 80's.

Awesome.

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 25 Nov 2013 10:57 am

That would have weighed a whole lot more the 50 lbs, being 2.5 feet wide! Actually I probably would have been able to see a live one as it would have been covered with marine growth/algae and have been more or less vertical instead of laying flat, bleached out by the sun in the shallow waters where it stood out when flying over it.

I believe Matak now actually has a proper landing strip, foregoing the need for the old Conoco Albatross. The hanger behind was about a 10 minute walk from my house in the camp....Image.

Below is the airstrip at Matak today. The collection of activity to the right 2/3s of the way down the runway also contains the Conoco Base Camp and there used to be a concrete ramp on the lagoon on the right side. It was out there that I picked up the shell.

Image
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Post by JR8 » Mon, 25 Nov 2013 1:34 pm

@MaxH
That’s interesting. My looksee on Google Earth had turned up no obvious habitation, never mind a full-on airport!
SG > Bintan > PM by ferry, ugh, that doesn’t sound like much fun (I’ve done Mersing to Tioman r/t by ferry and would not do it again, dreadful hours, impossible to book, no facilities, and puke everywhere). So do you think you could fly SG > Bintan > PM?
Funny isn’t it how you visit places, then years later look back and think ‘Wow, I went there when there was nothing there’, as you consider how your little gem has been ruined.

@SMS
Holy cow, that’s a lush air-strip. It makes Tioman look primitive (let’s guess, there’s a military base thereabouts)

I’m going to have to have a look into whether there are scheduled flights there. That said, I was just looking at diving at a place run by an old dive buddy of mine over on Yap island, Micronesia. Hotel $250 a day F/B with 2 dives a day, maybe not bad for a luxe place somewhere super exotic (wife in tow = need some luxes, in order to earn the dive-trip exit pass, and keep things sweet). But the flights blew it out the water, something like US$5,000+ each. And – get this – the airline is one of the crappest I’ve ever flown, United LOL!!!!!




p.s. SMS that pic of the plane did not come earlier until right now. Just the airstrip one appeared. Wow... Make like Howard Hughes or something .... !?

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 25 Nov 2013 1:58 pm

My formatting wasn't correct when I submitting the first time and yeah, only the bottom pic showed up. I had to edit a space out of the formatting. I've got some photos at home showing the old bird landing in the lagoon. I was to rotate back to Singapore so was idling shore side at the camp when she started her approach. I'll see if I can find 'em tonight. If you have never had the fortune to fly in a albatross, they are the hottest, noisiest planes I think I've ever been in. But I have to admit, the first time you splash down in a lagoon, it's a real adrenalin rush, akin to jumping out of the plane the first time. Especially when all the water blocks out your vision. Definitely different than landing a float plant as you are MUCH closer to the water! :o
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Post by Max Headroom » Mon, 25 Nov 2013 5:09 pm

JR8, I'm kinda hoping the Bintan ferry offers cabins, because I just heard it's a 10 hour journey to Anambas, which, given the monsoon, won't necessarily be pretty, agreed.

Still, if Anambas is anything like Tioman before it became mainstream, then it should all be worth it I reckon.

The ferry to Tioman was so much more fun when we were allowed on the sun deck. Lucky it's a only 2 hours before you reach Tioman.

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 25 Nov 2013 8:30 pm

Max, you're lucky. When we used to take the UNHCR boat to Kuku Island. Tt was a 20 hour ride. and on occasion it wasn't pleasant at all but then again, it was a pretty small boat as well :(
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Post by Max Headroom » Wed, 23 Apr 2014 6:52 pm

Just returned from Anambas. Pulau Jemaja, Letong Kampong, to be precise.

It's utterly stunning. The area has incredible water visibility. Our fish finder was on 42 meters, but we could still clearly see the corals and what-have-you on the bottom. There's lots and lots of end-of-the-world locations with generally a much higher idyllic factor than I've ever experienced before anywhere else.

Its remoteness and the way it's still so untouched render it as close to Captain Cookish as any place I've seen. You feel like you stepped back into time, back to the way the world was 200 years ago. Even the locals still do a long double-take when they see a white chap, then smile ever so broadly, wave and, typically, are very hospitable and generous. Poor but very generous.

The food dishes the few establishments offer are a nothing short of a party in your mouth: surprising blends of spices and flavors, usually served with fresh fish or sotong. Masters they are.

There's wildlife everywhere. We had 2 moray eels who'd made their home under our very kelong. Turtles pop up all the time and we saw more fish species in an hour of snorkeling than our total in Tioman.

The flip-side is the long ferry ride and the lack of infrastructure. It wasn't a 10 hours, but 7 hours is still pretty mind-numbing, in spite of the flying fish and pods of dolphins that we saw.

Still, you can't have remoteness without a long journey I guess. Although it would be great if the plane would start flying again. Sky Aviation has pulled an Air Berjaya and just quit flying, no reason given.

Then again, that might be just the blessing in disguise we need to keep the region the way it is - original.

I did see a few large-scale projects in the making, an airport, for example, that may open the flood gates and might spell the end of the authentic feel the islands now radiate. So best not wait too long.

Our next trip is planned for June - tuna season. Skipjack especially are bountiful there and they get bigger than their cousins elsewhere.

Counting down.

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Wed, 23 Apr 2014 8:15 pm

Nice write-up Max. Sure wouldn't mind going back out their again as it's been a quarter of a century since I've been there (Matuk) and 20 years since Kuku.
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Post by Max Headroom » Wed, 23 Apr 2014 8:44 pm

Cheers SMS.

Wow, I can barely imagine what it was like 25 years ago; it' so back-to-basics even now.

To give you an idea: the only internet there is this vehicle resembling an ice-cream truck, except it has a huge up-turned satellite dish on its roof and fold-out hatches on both sides that don't reveal tubs of ice-cream but displays, panels and LAN cables.

This van drives loops around the island, parking at every kampong, offering villagers (and tourists) free wi-fi access by allowing them to hook up their laptop for an hour or so. A great initiative by the government I have to say, particularly because the throughput was surprisingly speedy at times.

By the way, the chap driving this van was my best friend during my trip, for obvious reasons :)

You should go - it's unique.

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:24 pm

Yeah, in those days there was only arpnet I believe. Sounds like while some changes, the folks are much the same. That's good. I worked throughout Indonesia from 1982 to 1994. Lot has changed I'm sure.
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Re: Anambas

Post by dwtbtnm » Sat, 15 Apr 2017 10:51 am

Did you know "Mouse", a big Aussie dive supervisor that worked there about the same time you did ?

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