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Indonesia: The Amazing Anambas

By SY Alba — last modified Sep 29, 2016 09:53 AM
In July and August 2016, my wife and I completed a 2 month cruise in the Anambas Islands in Indonesia on “Alba” our Hallberg Rassy 42F. There are over 200 islands in this small Archipelago, which is only 150 miles to the east of Singapore. To my amazement, there are very few cruisers that visit this beautiful place

Published: 2016-09-09 23:00:00
Countries: Indonesia

Indonesia: The Amazing Anambas

Ritan - courtesy of SY Alba

During our time, there we were sometimes accompanied by “Amulet” (USA) and “Sea Monkey” (AUS); but otherwise, we only saw four other yachts.

We had fabulous time there and visited over 50 anchorages.  We’ve produced some Cruising Notes which can be found at: http://www.thehowarths.net/cruising-information/cruising-notes.

Once a year, a small rally of Singapore powerboats visits for a week in June and the East Malaysia Rally visits at the end of May for one week.  Both rallies go to the main town of Tarempa and an island called Bawah - the other anchorages are rarely visited.

There are three reasons why cruisers don’t visit the region - Piracy, Corruption and Too Much Hassle.  I’d like to dispel these myths.

1.  Pirates.

Cruisers have been avoiding the Anambas for years because of rumours of piracy.  While the cruising community acknowledges that the piracy attacks in the region are focused on commercial shipping, there are fears that this could spread to attacks on yachts.

The 2016 East Malaysia Rally Cruising Guide states “There have been a number of recent reports of piracy off the Indonesian Anambas and Natuna islands. To date these attacks have been restricted to merchant ships, but yachts are vulnerable.  It is suggested that a route be chosen to keep well away from these islands.”

To our knowledge there have been NO reports of piracy attacks or boarding of cruising yachts.

I had many discussions with the local people and officials in the Anambas. The Tourist Office in Tarempa were shocked that cruisers think that the Anambas Islands are dangerous.  I talked to the Navy and they constantly patrol the Anambas waters with outposts dotted around the islands.  During our various visits to Tarempa Town, we saw about a dozen armed ships belonging to the coast guard, navy and police.  I believe that these all patrol the area.

Along the same lines, cruisers are worried about anchoring in remote places, where they believe envious locals are constantly plotting to rob them.  The Anambas people and the fishermen were curious about our yacht, but are surprisingly shy (unlike some other places in the world.)  The small fishing boats chug past slowly to have a look and a quick wave will be sufficient to receive a beaming smile.

When we have shared remote anchorages, the fishermen normally keep a respectful distance and we never felt threatened about being boarded at night.  How about going over to have a chat with the locals and see if they have any fish for sale, instead of eyeing them suspiciously?

2.  Corrupt Officials.

There’s one damning report on Noonsite from 2006, which states” a British-flagged yacht was boarded, harassed and had a camera stolen by an official patrol boat and uniformed men in the Anambas Islands.

Also, there was an incident a couple of years ago where a rally from Singapore arrived with incorrect paperwork and the small fleet of boats was impounded for a few days, while the administration was sorted out.  The rumours are that a substantial amount of money exchanged hands.

Indonesia used to have problems with poorly paid and greedy officials, but that has been sorted out by new controls put in place by the government.

All of the officials that we met in the Anambas were extremely friendly, pleased to see us and there was no suggestion of bribes.  The customs office even had a large sign saying that customs officers should not be offered tips and the Immigration office has a price list prominently displayed.

We were woken up by the Navy one night in Tarempa at 02:00.  They were very polite and asked if they could come aboard.  As we were by then awake, we invited them on board and had a long chat. They wanted to see our papers, but I think that they were mostly curious about who we were and what we were doing in the Anambas Islands.

3.  It’s too much Hassle.

It used to be a paperwork nightmare to clear into and out of Indonesia, but things have changed with new regulations.  There is no longer a requirement for a “Cruising Application for Indonesian Territory” (CAIT). Also the other CIPQ (Customs, Immigration, Port Captain, Quarantine) processes have been streamlined.  I have all the details in our Cruising Notes. (http://www.thehowarths.net/cruising-information/cruising-notes).

We cleared in and out at Nongsa Point Marina, where the process took two hours - we handed over our documents to the marina staff and two hours later they brought back our clearance papers. It cost us 500,000 Rupiah (£25) - a bargain.

Another reason that cruisers have avoided the Anambas Islands is that obtaining international clearance has not been possible in Tarempa.  With the prevailing south to south-west winds in the summer, it would be logical to sail from the Anambas to either Borneo or Tioman, but without being able to clear out, cruisers are faced with a 150 mile slog upwind to Nongsa Point marina to clear out.

In 2016, there were CIPQ offices in Tarempa in the Anambas. HOWEVER, they are not allowed to do INTERNATIONAL clearances.  We have been told that Tarempa will be made into an International Clearance Port in the near future - contact Prakash, the Manager of Nongsa Marina (prakash@nongsapointmarina.com) who will know the latest situation.

By the way, we were able to extend our Indonesian visas by 30 days in Tarempa, where the friendly Immigration officers helped us fill in our applications and returned our passports the next day.  It only cost £18.

So in summary:

The Anambas is a beautiful place untouched by tourism.  There are stunning anchorages on remote uninhabited islands; small fishing villages, where people are friendly and welcoming; fishermen coming in to anchor next to you overnight, from whom you can buy fresh fish; and good snorkelling and diving on coral reefs.

Hopefully, you will be able to clear in and out of Tarempa in 2017 and not have to bash 140 miles back to Nongsa Point Marina, but, even if you do have to spend one night bashing to windward, it’s worth it to visit the Amazing Anambas.

Neville Howarth
Yacht Alba
www.thehowarths.net

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