Real life “reality” without the TV cameras

After a five-day visit to Langkawi in which we caught up with friends, stocked up on food for the freezer from Sailors, bought alcohol supplies for the months ahead, purchased fresh fruit and vegetables and dealt with our outboard which wouldn’t start, we headed south – our final destination being Sambas in West Kalimantan, Borneo where we propose to join the month-long West Kalimantan rally on 2 July. 

Signs of life behind those trees but who were they and what were they doing?

We had an uneventful motor sail to our first overnight – Pulau Bidan – but had to keep a sharp eye out for “fishing s##t” as there were flags, sticks and buoys galore – all hard to see until we were almost on them. 

The sort of fishing s##t we have to watch out for

This was the second time we had anchored at Pulau Bidan, the first being on our way north after the Indonesian rally in 2015, but backbthen didn’t have time to go ashore. 

This time we arrived mid-afternoon which meant we had time to explore the island. We could see it was inhabited but it was quite obvious that this was no fishing village or Kampung – we were intrigued. 

We were wondering who built this structure

We took the dinghy in and landed at the small beach. There were a number of structures, wooden shelters, concrete shower block, another military looking accommodation block. 

The notice says Don’t leave your trash take it back with you!

There were fruit trees, neatly kept vegetable gardens and flower beds and flowering shrubs. 

Healthy looking pawpaws
One of the vegetable patches
An abundant vine

Then a young man came to greet us and offered us a drink from the well – he turned out to be from the Blue Mountains near Sydney. He explained that he and the others there were volunteers helping to create and sustain a community that protects the island from irresponsible use and conserve its natural ecology through the use of permaculture and eco tourism.  There was also another part to the project – a nearby oyster farm where the volunteers also worked. 

Water from the well

Nibbling on the delicious fresh coconut we had been given, we chatted with about half a dozen volunteers from all corners of the world – Australia, USA, Germany, Scandinavia – who had found out about the project through the “Workaway” website. 

Some of the volunteers we met

All were open hearted, enthusiastic, and energetic and numbered amongst the 500 plus volunteers of all ages and abilities who had worked here over the project’s two years of existence. 

A cross between Survivor and The Beach?

Many of the volunteers we spoke to had returned to the island several times to work here as they had enjoyed it so much. 

One of the founders of the project

We had a long chat with one of the projects founders, a young and very charming Malaysian, who told us that the concrete structures had been built by the Australian military originally. The project rebuilt them, put new roofs on, painted and made them liveable. 

The well equipped and clean kitchen

Reminiscent of a reality TV program but with no cameras and real life situations, it was easy to feel the beautiful energy and happiness that the project generates. Maybe next time we will stay a while longer?!

Although we had been very kindly been invited for dinner, we didn’t stay as we had already prepared a meal and were quite tired from the day’s travels. 

Some of the retired buildinns

We left armed with a huge pawpaw and intended to return the next morning with a loaf of bread and a bag of rice. Unfortunately the sea was up the next morning and we decided a dinghy trip there and back would have been too tricky. So if any yachts pass by in the future and call into see the project in action maybe you could take a bag of rice or something and say Bali Hai sent you?!  

If you would like to know more about this project go to Pulau Bidan Permakultur on Facebook or

Published by

Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s