Saturday, September 20, 2014

Festival Sangihe 2014

We didn't really know what to expect. This was our first ever Rally and our first experience with Indonesia. Since we were going with the Rally, and since we were only staying in Indonesia for about 10 days, we didn't really do our normal research work when heading for a new country. So I felt a bit behind the game (language-wise) when we arrived.

Apparently the Indonesia Tourism Department sponsors these rallies. The tourism departments of the various districts "bid" for the money to hold a festival, and it rotates around somewhat. Last year the big festival was in Morotai (the second stop on this year's rally). But for the first time, Sangihe got the nod, and in my opinion they outdid themselves.

We were not the only featured guests, but we were the most numerous, and definitely the focus of the event. We ended up with 17 sailboats in the harbor--a record for Sangihe. Some of the things that the Sangihe Tourism Department and the town of Sangihe, and their associated sponsors did for us are:

- Processed our paperwork, so the CAIT (Cruising Permit) and Social Visas (for stays up to 3 months) in advance, for free.
- Sent a representative to the marina to give us a personal briefing on Indonesia and the rally.
- Put in 20 deep-water moorings (60-100 feet deep)
- Put in a custom-made floating dinghy dock
- Provided an english-speaking agent to handle all our paperwork on arrival
- Had all the check-in officials standing by all week long to process the boats as they arrived
- Built a festival area along the waterfront, with stage, eating tents, small business booths, etc.
- Put on a week-long festival with nightly cultural events--singing, dancing, bamboo orchestra, and even a rock concert.
- Gave every boat 2 free sim cards for our phones and internet devices
- Made available a free wifi hotspot just for our use
- Loaded us up on a Coast Guard boat and took us to a "typical village" at the southern end of the island, where we were feted and taken out to see a "traditional fishing" demonstration
- Did two all-day tours by bus to see various features, including a waterfall hike, a beach visit, the mountain lookout point, a museum, and a "sago factory".
- Took us on a walking tour of the Bamboo Instrument Factory.
- Gave us free 100 liters of diesel fuel
- Fed us 2 dinners, 3 lunches, and breakfast every day... all for free
- Brought a water truck down to the dinghy dock so we could fill water jugs
- Handled numerous personal requests (help with arranging drinking water, laundry, etc etc).

And on top of all that, we were treated like Rock Stars by the officials and all the people in the town. Every time we came ashore, there were kids and adults hanging around near the dinghy dock, waiting to get their pictures taken with us--we were even giving autographs at one point! Every night at the festivities, we were invite to sit up on stage in the "guest of honor" seats (which made it hard to sneak out for a beer or a pee). As we traveled through small towns in our tourist bus, people came out of their houses to smile and wave at us.

The only negative experience we had all week was the swell in the bay. Though the weather itself was great, every third day or so the wind from the SW would whip up and push a big swell into the west-facing bay. That, combined with the nearly 6-ft tide always made things interesting. During the day, the wind would point us mostly into the swell. But at night, the wind died and the currents swirled us around, setting us sideways (sometimes) to a pretty nasty swell. And we had trouble at night with boats drifting too close to each other--the long mooring lines combined with swirly currents caused a couple of of bumper boats in the middle of the night (us included). We ended up having to move to a different mooring at 2am one night.

One particularly bad night the, the tide was very low and the swells were crashing in, and the dinghy dock nearly got destroyed. But within a few hours the next day, the officials had rebuilt it and resecured it. Meanwhile, they arranged for a local boat to pick us up from our boats that day, so we wouldn't have to leave our dinghies at the dock in those conditions.

In addition to the Rally boats, there was a small group of scuba divers, a group of paragliders, and a bunch of tourism-related people from Jakarta.

Sangihe is an incredibly beautiful island, and as a non-tourist destination, it is completely unspoiled. We hope they are successful in developing a tourism business that creates jobs and some needed cash flow, without ruining the local people.

We can't wait to go back to Indonesia and experience it more on our own. And we will be sure to visit Sangihe again.

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1 comment:

  1. The Indonesian rally sounds totally amazing and to be looked after like that... It is a dream. If only other places could learn from it and realise we may be poor liveaboards but we want to meet the locals and buy there products when we can.
    Thank you for telling us about this.