Our last stop before our next official stopping place, Maumere, where we had to renew our visas, was Pulau Besar, a small island off Flores where the cruising guide implied there was a stilt village out on the water.
The reality was nothing like the rather romantic looking water village in the book – instead the village was firmly built on the land although admittedly the houses were mostly on stilts!
On our way into the anchorage I was looking around to check if there were any uncharted reefs and saw a long line of splashes in the middle distance. Definitely no reef on the charts there so I looked more closely and realised that the splashes were being made by about 40 or 50 creatures rising to the surface and then diving under again, all in a long line.
My first thought was that it was dolphins but their movement was much slower and more stately than the classic exuberant ducking and weaving of dolphins.
We then realised they looked as if they were much larger than dolphins – maybe two or three times bigger. We also noticed that they had distinctive scimitar shaped fins. Maybe whales of some kind?
Later we looked on the Internet and think that what we saw was either a pod of pilot whales or melon head whales. Whichever they were, it was a wonderful sight.
After we had made our way through the channel between the reefs to the anchorage (quite easy this time but we were following our friends on Carrie in!) we launched the dinghy and went into the small stilt village.
The villagers were really delightful and very friendly. The first man who talked to us explained through sign language, a few words of English and helped by consultation of our phrase book, that he lived in the brand new, extremely neat, village on the hillside that we had noticed on our arrival.
Turns out it had been built when a “Gunung Api” (volcano) erupted and destroyed his village , we think on mainland Flores. There appeared to be no infrastructure other than a ferry wharf and we wondered what life must be like for those displaced villagers.
There were very few lights shining that night on the hillside and we assumed that not many had taken up the offer of a new home in a strange place and who can blame them.
We enjoyed chatting with villagers and taking photos – the kids thought their photos hilarious and even the adults seemed to enjoy being photographed and seeing the results!