Charm - Indonesia - Medana Bay


Medana Bay Marina was not immediately impressive. After fighting a strong current in the Atlas Strait for most of the day, we were anxious to get to our destination. We arrived close to dusk and called the ARC staff, learning that we would have to spend the night on the boat and clear the next day. The “marina” was actually a series of mooring buoys in a small space, surrounded by coral. As we threaded our way through the ARC boats that had already arrived, we learned that an atypical wind had been blowing all day which had raised significant waves that were rolling everyone around. A few hours before we arrived, a non-ARC boat had chafed through its mooring line and was now lying on the beach.

We grabbed a mooring ball and got all our lines affixed, only to discover that it dragged and left us about one foot away from EQ2 (an ARC boat that arrived before us). So, we dropped the ball and decided to anchor. We found a good spot, dropped the hook, and thought we were good for the night. It was almost low tide so we should have been able to see any dangers around although the water was quite cloudy from all the wave action so visibility was poor. The kids went out on the swings while I started a last-minute dinner (we thought we would be able to clear so had planned on eating ashore).

A few minutes later, Marin called from the swing and said, “Daddy – you might want to look at the big rock right there.” Two minutes later, Joe turned the engines on and we pulled up the anchor, passing within inches of a coral reef in the process. We had anchored in a fine spot but the boat swings in a circle around the anchor. Part of our anchor circle infringed upon an uncomfortably shallow area. Back to a mooring ball that, according to EQ2, was missing a reinforced line but still seemed serviceable. This held us for the night and then, the next morning, Joe offered the mooring ball (the last available) up to Fidelio who, being a monohull, had to stay in deeper water, and we went in closer to the beach and dropped our anchor and tied off to a tree on land to keep us from swinging. Quite the process! During this whole time, a young man named Donny, from the marina, was in a dinghy, trying to help us find a spot. It helped to know the marina was making an effort.

After hosting a contingent of very kind and helpful Indonesian officials to clear us into the country (and answer the kids’ questions about Indonesia for school), we finally made it to land. When I asked the officials what would be fun for kids to do, one of the Indonesian ladies suggested we visit a park nearby where the kids could pet elephants. We had lunch at the marina restaurant and Soraya, the extremely competent manager of the marina, made a phone call, and a car showed up to pick us up and take us to the Wildlife Park. I think you will have to see the photos and videos to get the full impact. As soon as we stepped into the park, polite tour guides placed large birds on us and handed us baskets of fruit to feed them and all the other animals in the park. Like some sort of odd derivation of Little Red Riding Hood, we wandered (escorted) through the park with our baskets on our arms, feeding all sorts of exotic creatures. Within minutes, we were feeding elephants bites of cucumbers or entire pineapples. Shortly after that, we were throwing peanuts for gibbons to catch.

Our guides took us around a beautifully landscaped, shady area with birds, pygmy hippos, Asian bears, eagles, orangutans, elephants and a bearcat or something like that. We threw food to all of them or, in the case of the hippos, petted their knobbly little heads while dropping spinach into their wide-open mouths. I had purchased the “all-inclusive” ticket for 470,000 rupiah (maybe $40 US - our dollars stretch quite far here) which included several animal encounters. I hadn’t really paid attention but knew that we were doing something with baby orangutans. Sure enough, our guide led us to a small jungle-gym like play area inside a low stucco wall. Inside, a woman in a headdress (Lombok is 85% Muslim) played with two baby orangutans named Kiki and Kaka, offspring of two different orangutan couples at the park. They were absolutely adorable and behaved in much the way any human toddler would. Kaka kept walking down into the moat that surrounded his playground built on a dirt hill. Then he would reach up for his keeper to pull him back up the hill. She would scold him and haul him up the hill where he would immediately tumble back down to the bottom so he could do it again.

Later, a man came over and reached down and Kaka walked right over to be lifted out by this man. The keeper told us he was the owner and could do whatever he wanted. The owner picked Kaka up and our little band gathered around to watch. Kaka held his “Dad’s” arms and offered up his feet to one of the kids so he could be swung back and forth. At closing time, we saw the keeper taking both orangutans out of the enclosure. She carried one on her front and one on her back, both wearing diapers for bedtime.

This seemed like the highlight of the day but we still had one more appointment that we had paid for. We went to an area with a large concentration of people (we had been on our own for most of the tour) and sat down to wait for whatever was next. There was a large orangutan on sort of a wooden stage with lots of people gathered around. One by one the groups would have a session with this orangutan which mostly involved them posing for photos with the orangutan although he would occasionally interact with them in some way. Everyone left and it was just our group, the last of the day. The kids went up on stage and Valentino (the orangutan and Kaka’s father) started playing with them. He would grab their hands and move them to various places on the stage or sniff their shoes or make them lay down. It was fascinating to watch.

He mostly interacted with the boys although he also rearranged Marin a few times. Tully stayed out of range and he left her alone to pet his back. The kids must have played for ten minutes before I realized no one was going to cut them off. I told them to let the rest of us have a turn and Tyler and Larissa had a good time and then Joe and I had our turn. Then the kids went back up and played some more. We must have had 20 – 30 minutes with that orangutan, with the keeper nearby, feeding him peanuts but otherwise not interfering. Valentino was particularly forceful with Tyler and Joe, obviously recognizing them as males that could be potential threats. He nipped Joe on the side in their initial meeting, and pushed both of them into a prone position early in their interactions. He didn’t bother much with me or Larissa although he did let me drop peanuts into his open mouth. It was an amazing opportunity. I’m not sure where else you could have this kind of interaction with an animal like this. I have no idea if these animals were rescued (we heard that they were) or purchased or how and why the owner developed this park but it did seem that he cared deeply for his creatures and this care was exhibited by all of the park employees. It’s always difficult to see animals in captivity but having this interaction with them will hopefully give even more reasons to our kids to learn more about problems they face and what we can do to help them.

Medana Bay eventually won us over with its efficient staff, lovely grounds, and beautiful water that became clearer and clearer the longer we stayed. Cobin, Carl and I all were the beneficiaries of rides on the backs of motor scooters to visit the ATMs or the supermarket. Taxis were hard to come by so the staff would just run us out to wherever we needed to go. Peter, the owner, and his family members were pleasant and interesting people. Peter’s wife is about to travel to New York City to receive an award for her work helping people in the aftermath of the earthquake that hit the area just over a year ago.

The impact of the earthquake was evident everywhere in the northern part of the island. Just outside the gates of the marina, piles of rubble sat next to piles of bricks and lumber, waiting to be turned into new homes. People were evacuated from the volcano last year as the earthquake destroyed trails to the peak and the crater and tourism died off as the island rebuilt after a series of tremors. It did appear that the government was coming through for at least some people. Based on the extent of their damage, they could request varying amounts of funding. We saw signs of many new and repaired homes on our drives in the countryside and the hikers seemed to be back in force on Mt. Rinjani.