7. CENTRAL ISLANDS AREA
This area has a number of small islands - these are covered from Bawah in the south, heading north.
7.2 Pulah Bawah
Pulau Bawah (02°30.77N 106°02.58E) is the logical first stop on a passage from Nongsa Point because it’s a stunning introduction to the Anambas and the closest secure anchorage, being only 140 miles from Nongsa Point Marina.
UPDATE 2019 - The Bawah Reserve Resort is now fully running. Moorings are charged at US$ 5 net/foot/night and permission to enter the lagoon should be requested 2 weeks before arriving. During periods of high occupancy, the resort will not allow yachts to moor, due to the "privacy and exclusivity of their guests". It's another anchorage closed to cruisers due to the greed of developers.
The alternatives are to carry on a few miles to Pulah Ritan, but it's a tight entrance and only suitable for calm weather. The next option is Pulau Airabu (Kiabu) which is an easy entrance and a safe and beautiful anchorage.
I've left the original pilotage notes in case you still feel the urge to visit Bawah.
The channel into the lagoon has two white buoys, which mark the north and south sides of the passage approximately 15 metres apart - pass between the buoys heading directly east. The channel is at 02°30.728N 106°02.410E and at roughly half-tide the minimum depth that we saw was 4.4m. If the buoys are not present then two way-points for the channel are 02°30.727N 106°02.337E and 02°30.726N 106°02.500E.
There’s an up-market resort which is due to be opened in 2017. There are nine moorings installed by the resort - four white moorings on 4 ton concrete blocks and five orange moorings on 1.5 ton blocks. The moorings are well constructed with chain shackles to the concrete block and substantial rope up to the mooring ball. In 2016, the moorings were in excellent condition, but had no mooring pennants so the ball had to be lassoed and mooring lines threaded through a loop under the mooring ball. There was no charge for the moorings. The lagoon is 18 metres deep on sand (if you have to anchor.)
The owners of the resort are from Singapore and own power boats, so the resort is yacht friendly at the moment, but this may change when a full-time hotel manager is in place. When you visit, be nice, follow their rules and don't screw it up for people following you.
Warren Blake sent me a lovely Hand Drawn Chart of the island.
Hiking. There are some trails on the main island, which are overgrown, but useable - be prepared to climb over fallen trees. We took the path heading west along the beach from the resort’s dock and, just as a board walk started, we continued along the beach (covered in plastic bottles and tar) to a small wood-store hut. We walked through the store hut and found a path leading upwards. The path is indistinct at times and has lots of fallen trees blocking the way, but climbs up the hillside.
After maybe 15 minutes, the path continues up steeply, but there is a large rock off to the right with a smaller path climbing up and around the rock. The path drops down slightly and ends up at a rocky patch overlooking the anchorage - it is a stunning view and well worth the walk up.
We had a Sketch of some Trails on the island produced by Warren Blake, so we tried to continue walking up towards the east side of the island. The trail became non-existent and we were just heading into bush, so not having a compass, we decided to turn around.
On our way down, about five minutes from the beach, we came across another slight trail leading north off the main trail. We walked along that path for half an hour and found some good spots giving us a nice view of the west side of the lagoon, but the trail started to descend, so we gave up and turned around. It was a nice 2-3 hour walk in the bush.
Scrambling. At the north west corner, is a small, but high island called "Watchtower Pinnacle" (02°31.48N 106°02.90E). Land at a small beach on the lagoon side and walk across to the beach on the west side. Follow the beach and then start to climb up in the bus at the side of a rocky slab, gaining access to the slab as soon as possible. Scramble up the slab and turn left at the top, scrambling up a little further until you see an obvious traverse going to the left and up. This is a little exposed, but the rock is very grippy and mostly solid - I did it in a pair of Teva sandals. Watch out for loose rocks on the way up. Once at the top the view is fabulous.
Snorkelling. The snorkelling is fair in most places within the lagoon, but the water is cloudy. The visibility is very good outside the lagoons, but obviously exposed to wind and waves. There has been extensive fishing with explosives. This was the only place that we saw Blacktip Reef Sharks - look for babies in the shallows on the beach The best snorkelling spots that we found were:
- Just off the resort dock on the drop off in the large lagoon;
- Outside the reef, south of the entrance channel at 02°30.56N 106°02.34E
- Outside the reef at the southern tip of the atoll at 02°29.95N 106°02.81E
Scuba Diving. We couldn’t find any prime scuba diving spots, but the southern tip of the atoll may be an option in settled conditions.
Later, a government reef survey team told me that the diving is good off the east tip of Pulau Sanggar at about 02°30.25N 106°03.29E. They told me that there's a sign saying “134” on the island where the dive is located. The current can be very strong at this location, so pick your time carefully.
7.3 Pulah Ritan
Pulau Ritan (02°36.94N 106°16.57E) is another stunning anchorage. The entrance is across a 25 metre wide fringing reef with 2.5 to 4 metres of depth with shallower coral heads dotted about. Once in the lagoon, there are two sandy patches where it's possible to anchor in 6-8 metres between reefs, with only enough swinging room for one boat on each sand patch. The centre of the lagoon is 18-20 metres deep and I assume that it will be sand. This would be an alternative spot to anchor for a third boat or to be away from the reefs in unsettled conditions.
The approach should only be attempted in good light conditions as you WILL be dodging coral heads. The route that we took in and out was:
- 02°37.082N 106°16.512E
- 02°37.031N 106°16.539E
- 02°36.990N 106°16.538E
The middle waypoint goes between two very shallow coral heads (about 15 metres apart) and we made a 30 degree course correction as we went through the middle. When we left, we had a 1.3 metre tide and the minimum depth that we saw was 2.5 metres.
We anchored in 6 metres at 02°36.90N 106°16.57E, the anchor was buried in good holding sand and we had 30-40 metres swinging room between the reefs, which was okay for settled conditions.
Ashore. The beach is okay, but typically covered with garbage. Scrambling up the rocky slabs at the south-west side of the anchorage is great fun and gives a fabulous view of the anchorage. "Sea Monkey" shared the anchorage with some fishermen from whom they bought some Tuna for dinner.
Snorkelling. The water visibility is poor on the reefs by the sandy patches, but there is a good diversity of fish. The reef next to the entrance is patchy, but the water is much clearer. We didn't try any spots outside the reef.
Alternative Anchorages. Nearby Pulau Ritan North (02°38.01N 106°17.73E) is a small island with a sandy patch to the west of the island, but it’s exposed to the wind and swell from the south-east - we didn’t stop. Fishermen were camping on the beach when we were there.
7.4 Pulau Airabu (Kiabu)
Note. Pulau Airabu is called Kiabu on some of the local maps.
Pulau Airabu South (02°44.25N 106°14.76E) is one of our favourite anchorages. It's a very well protected anchorage in depths of 8-12 metres on sand nestled next to some shallow reefs. It is protected from all directions except east to north-east. The small islands on the south-east tip of Airabu give good protection from the prevailing south-east wind and waves.
There are two channels to approach this anchorage - one to the north-east of a small island called Lintang and the other to the north west of Lintang. Both have depths more than 8 metres, but there are shallow reefs that need to be avoided, so good light is recommended. An alternative approach is further north of the small islands and should be okay, but we never went this route.
Lintang North East channel was mostly deep with a few shallow reefs and we passed close to a small island, which looked interesting, but the only anchorage is on the south side and exposed in the current winds. Our waypoints were follows:
- 02°43.315N 106°17.031E
- 02°43.703N 106°16.466E
- 02°43.810N 106°15.996E
- 02°44.167N 106°15.576E
There are shallow reefs at 02°43.641N 106°16.695E; 02°43.659N 106°16.358E)
Lintang North West channel was straight forward in good light with depth of over 8 metres. Our way-points were follows:
- 02°43.25N 106°14.61E
- 02°43.34N 106°15.23E
- 02°43.49N 106°15.44E
- 02°43.74N 106°15.46E
- 02°44.10N 106°15.27E
Ashore. We walked up some of the rock slabs to the north of the anchorage. Most of the shore line is protected by mangrove trees, so we left the dinghy at bottom of the slab that reaches the water at 02°44.43N 106°14.79E. There is no path, so you have to beat your way through the undergrowth.
You should take a compass because the terrain is confusing. We didn't have a compass and ended up on the other side of the headland and then had to work our way back west to get to the top slab, which turned the short jaunt into a 2.5 hour epic. It's well worth the effort because the view is fabulous.
Snorkelling. The small reefs next to the anchorage are fairly interesting and the sand flats have some creatures if you look - I saw a Banded Snake Eel and some interesting Tube Anemones. We tried the reefs in the Lintang North West channel but they were very patchy coral - perhaps more out to sea might be better.
We snorkelled at the north side of the channel around 02°43.71N 106°15.30E and found that the shallow reef was in good condition and colourful, but the deeper parts not so good.
7.5 Pulau Airabu - Potential Anchorages
We did a circumnavigation of Airabu, looking for other anchorages with the following results (we didn’t anchor in any of them):
Airabu East 1 (02°44.892N 106°14.965E). Anchor in 12 metres - looks to be clear with a sandy bottom. Nice looking anchorage off a beach with steep cliffs around. It seems sheltered from any south-east swell. We didn’t attempt to anchor.
Airabu East 2 (02°45.10N 106°14.90E). A large,deep bay with mangroves at the end and steep cliffs over-looking it. The depth dropped slowly to 18 metres, then there was a wall of reef blocking the bay. A yacht could probably get over the reef, but there doesn't seem to be any large clear sandy patch to anchor in. Best to anchor in Airabu East 1 and explore by dinghy. We didn’t attempt to anchor.
Airabu East 3 (02°45.599N 106°14.543E). A small, pretty bay at the south-west end of a larger bay. The bay is mostly over 30 plus metres deep with 5-8 metre reef patches closer in (02 45.78 N106 14.62E). There's a sandy area with depths of 7-12 metres in between coral patches - it looked tight to us. The anchorage has two moorings put down by fishermen. The bay seems to be susceptible to swell from the south east which hooks around into the bay. The corner is better protected than the main bay. We didn’t attempt to anchor.
Airabu East 4 (02°47.010N 106°14.054E). A nice bay with a beach and rocky cliffs. There is a sandy shelf, which slopes from 30 metres to a shallow fringing reef. It would be possible to anchor in 12 metres on sand in settled conditions. We had a south-east, swell which made the anchorage uncomfortable and a lee shore. We didn’t attempt to anchor.
Airabu East 5 (02°47.284N 106°13.868E). The water shelves rapidly from 30 metres to a fringing reef. There is a 12 metre spot where one could anchor, but not in a south-east swell. Another pretty spot. We didn’t attempt to anchor.
Airabu West (02°46.28N 106°12.75E). At the north end of the bay, there’s a small village with a mosque and a huge telecom aerial, but no internet access.
The bay looked very good on Google Earth and the charts showed the depth slowly shelving to the head of the bay, which has mangroves. This normally indicates a nice sand/mud bay and good anchoring. But, not this bay. It was over 25 metres deep and then shelved quickly to a fringing reef at 4-5 metres deep, about ¼ mile from the shore.
We crossed the reef hoping to find a sandy lagoon behind, but when I dropped the anchor in 12 metres of murky water at 02°46.052N 106°13.109E, we heard an ominous rumbling on the chain - coral. Our chain became wrapped around coral heads and it took ten minutes to free it. “Amulet” tried further towards the shore, but dragged in a patch of very soft mud and couldn’t find anywhere better.
We then tried to anchor on the south side of the bay in 24 metres next to a small beach at 02°45.87N 106°12.55E, but it was still coral on the sea bed. We gave up and returned to Pulau Airabu South via the west coast and the Lintang North West channel.
Scuba Diving. If you can find somewhere to anchor, a reef survey team told me that there is a very good wall dive off the north coast of Pulua Gembili near 02°45.83N 106°10.33E.
7.6 Central Region - Potential Anchorages
North of Airabu is a group of small islands - Mengkait, Temiang, Udgung, Lubang Tamban and Telibang. We sailed around these islands, exploring potential anchorages with the following results:
Pulau Mengkait (02°54.51N 106°08.11E) - This is being promoted by the tourist office as a place to visit where it’s possible to lodge in a “Home Stay”. It’s a very small island with quite a large village and scores of small fishing boats on moorings at the north east side. Interestingly, the island has a Christian church and most of the villagers are Christian. The water around the island is over 30 metres deep, so we didn’t attempt to anchor.
The nearby islands called Pulau Temiang and Pulau Udgung don't appear to have any suitable anchorages - the sea bed seems to be at 35 metres rising rapidly to a very shallow fringing reef.
Lubang Tamban (02°57.98N 106°09.52E) - We found a spectacular little bay on the west side with four lagoons/pools, but they are all protected by reefs. After crossing the first reef with a depth of 5 metres, we found a lagoon that was 12 metres deep, but it was only 50 metres in diameter and too tight for us to anchor. A great shame because the colours were stunning. It would be possible to anchor outside the fringing reef in deep water.
7.7 Dekar Reef (Dikar)
Dekar Reef (03°00.16N 106°08.17E) is a pretty anchorage on a 6 metre deep sand shelf between the reef and the deep channel between Dekar and Telibang. The colour of the water is stunning and this makes a very useful lunch stop or could be an overnight stop in very settled conditions. It is exposed from the south-west through to the north-east.
Snorkelling. The snorkelling is okay on the reef on the fringes of the sandy area.
7.8 Pulau Telaga North
PulauTelagaNorth (03°05.545N 105°58.010E) is a very nice anchorage at the north end of Pulau Telaga. There’s a shelf of sand at a depth of 15-20 metres, next to the fringing reef. At the edge of the shelf, the sea bed drops off quickly from 20 metres to over 30 metres. The anchorage area is roughly 200 metres long and 100 metres wide and there’s space for 2 or 3 boats. The holding is excellent in white sand, but the anchorage can be rolly and is open to the north and south.
Alternative Anchorage. It would also be possible to anchor in the channel to the east at 03°05.34N 105°58.42E, which has a similar, but smaller sandy shelf.
Ashore. There’s a small fishing village with 100 inhabitants about ¾ mile to the south, so be prepared to be visited. We traded a diving mask for a Wahoo with guys from one of the large fishing boats that anchor off the village.
We visited the very friendly village (Telaga Kecil) and had a pleasant two hours being shown around by an entourage of children and some adults. They have a junior school and extensive gardens stretching over the hill to a beach on the west coast.
Snorkelling. The snorkelling on the reef at the edge of the anchorage is good and varied. We tried around the headland to the north, but the sea bed is very rocky. We spent half an hour snorkelling next to the large cave in the cliffs which appears to be home to many swallows. The snorkelling was average, but we did see a huge shoal of hundreds of Greenthroat Parrotfish. “Amulet” reported that the snorkelling around the rock at 03°05.64N 105°58.49E was good.
Scuba Diving. As the south wind was quite strong, we took the dinghy across the channel and anchored in the shelter of a small headland at 03°05.71N 105°57.80E. We descended to 22 metres and turned south following the bottom of the reef. There was a lot of sediment and small jellyfish in the water, but the hard and soft corals were in very good condition.
When our tanks were down to 100 bar, we headed up to 12 metres and returned to the dinghy. We spotted a couple of nudibranchs and some fabulous Soft Corals. It was a surprisingly good dive. I suspect that the other side of the channel at 03°05.72N 105°58.05E will be as good.
7.9 Genting Unjut
Genting Unjut (03°09.241N 106°05.360E) This is a pleasant looking anchorage off a nice looking beach. There’s a sandy shelf at 6-8 metres depth, but it looks tight between the fringing reefs. Alternatively could anchor in 18 metres off the sandy patch.
7.10 Pulau Durai
Pulau Durai. (03°20.38N 106°02.83E) This island is a nesting site for hundreds of turtles. Until recently, the turtle eggs were harvested for human consumption, but the island is now a marine park and the turtles are being actively protected. It’s about 12 mile to the north-west of Tarempa Town.
It’s a challenge to find a good, protected anchorage because the island is mall and the reef is deep. After looking at a few places, we opted to drop our anchor at 03°20.42N 106°02.76E in 28 metres - this is on the north side of the island, giving us a little protection from the prevailing south winds. I snorkelled down to check the anchor and we were anchored in coral rubble and sand, just outside the main fringing reef. We were a little close to a reef which sticks out from the north tip of the island, so it might be better to anchor a little further east at 03°20.38N 106°02.83E.
Ashore. The best beach to land on is on the east coast. There were dozens of tracks of large turtles coming out of the sea to lay their eggs and hundreds of smaller tracks made by the baby turtles returning to the sea. It’s a pretty beach apart from the tonnes of plastic rubbish that litters the sand.
At the south end of the beach, there’s a track leading up over rocks through the trees. This path leads down to another beach on the south of the island, which also has lots of turtle tracks and more plastic. There’s a small settlement of a few houses at the edge of this beach, where I believe people live who are helping to protect the turtles. There was nobody around, but we saw a small hatchery protected by chicken wire.
Scuba Dive. We anchored our dinghy at 03°20.40N 106°02.66E in 10 metres to the east of a large rock awash. The area where we were anchored is a huge area of coral stretching for hundreds of metres. The water is very clear and the coral is very pretty and healthy.
We headed north-east for 100 metres and then descended a coral covered slope to 24 metres, where the sea bed was coral rubble and sand. (At this point, we could see Alba above us.) We stayed in the deeper water for ten minutes and then returned to investigate the flat reef at 10 metres, which was much more interesting. It was a nice dive; we saw a huge shoal of Golden Spadefish, but no turtles.