Sailing Through the Indian Ocean aboard Sri Noa Noa
From the Western tip to the last border of the Indonesian archipelago and the easternmost part facing Australia, we’ve been surfing and exploring a huge part of the Indian Ocean’s coastline. Although the level of stoke never drops, it gets harder everyday to experience the feeling of surprise that you usually have when stepping down into a new place. It also gets harder to find empty waves, even in some destinations we thought to be very remote.
Indonesia has this thing that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Beyond the cliché of perfect waves, white sand beaches, tropical scenery and friendly locals, each island feels like a country of its own. Here you find the wildest fauna and flora, which differs from island to island and incredible diversity of cultures and people that will make you feel home in each of their 13,000 islands.
Our trip aboard Sri Noa Noa embodied nothing else other than what we’ve just stated. From the time we embarked the boat in Kupang until the moment we finished cruising in West Sumba, every single day was an experience of its own, boasting diverse island landscapes and cultures. From lush-green jungles to dry-yellow cliffs over white sandy beaches and turquoise water, we were introduced to different cultures in the best way possible. From the previously Christian Portuguese colony of Rote, to the friendliest and most remote Muslim island of Halura, we finally anchored off the animism island of Sumba where the locals still commute by horses.
Meanwhile, those 10-days of smooth sailing spoiled us with perfect empty waves, which we had just to ourselves.
Our Travel Diary – 6 Islands, 40-Hours of Cruising, 10-Days, Endless Number of Waves Ridden
Forty hours of cruising can seem like a lot, especially to those who’ve already been on surf charters in the Mentawai islands where cruising time is significantly less and where all you do is literally chase waves.
Sri Noa Noa prides herself in the experience of sailing while being environmentally friendly. The boat cruises at an average speed of 5-knots combining its low-consumption engine to a sail, being pushed by the wind. Taking it slow is the mantra that reigns aboard.
Our adventure started in Kupang where we were greeted by captain Heri, his crew and by pumping waves at T-Land the next morning . This world class yet accessible left-hander reef break is surrounded by pristine colors from the nature that evolve throughout the day, closing the day with a mesmerizing sunset.
From our second day onwards, we didn’t meet a single surfer in the water…
There was a healthy crowd of surfers at T-Land. The vibe was mellow and Rote was a good opportunity to set foot on land, meet new foreigners and locals, witness the work of local craftsmen and have a last walk on land before heading into the open ocean. We stayed only two-days in Rote and what we loved most wasn’t T-Land but some other breaks that awake during the beginning of the wet season with off-shore winds. From our second day onwards, we didn’t meet a single surfer in the water…
Nearly 15-hours later, cruising slowly onto the Indian Ocean, we passed by the pristine islands of Savu and Raijua. The scenery was stunning but the waves were too gnarly for our group of surfers on that day. After too many wipeouts, we all gathered and interrogated our onboard encyclopedia -aka Captain Heri. His stories sounded like myths, almost unbelievable to be true but according to him and the forecasts, we were chasing some jewels that are the dream of every surfer. We decided to keep cruising.
The second morning of our endless cruise, we encountered ourselves with the picturesque lighthouse of Mengkudu island, a place we’ve never heard of before this trip. The left-hander breaking in front of this light-house is spectacular and although it seemed nobody ever lived there, Captain Heri mentioned a surf-camp used to be there but only lasted 2 years because of maritime / governmental Indonesian regulations.
Not only the wave was spectacular here, but the fishing was exceptional too. One afternoon that we were all sore from surfing, we went on a fishing competition with the three other Aussie guys that were aboard and it was more of a physical experience than we thought! Long story short, we had a feast and too many bintangs. “Eat-Surf-Sleep-Repeat” went on for another day while we anchored at a different spot every night, laying on the deck facing a starlit sky until falling into the dream world counting the stars.
One afternoon we took a break to visit Halura, a colourful island that is nestled, literally, in the middle of nowhere. We met, on Halura island, a friendly muslim community that lives from fishing, their colourful fishing boats anchored in the transparent turquoise water while kids play football on the white sandy beach. There is no phone signal, not even an hour away, or 2, or 3…. No doubt they seem like the most happy people on Earth. However, 20-meters away from where kids played soccer, the beach just turns into an endless carpet of trash, which doesn’t come from them as they burn their trash daily, but is being brought by the Ocean everyday…
After a magical evening spent off the island of Halura, we finally headed to Sumba where according to Captain Heri, the wave we’ll find would be worth as much as our 6 previous days of epicness, that’s how spoiled he thinks we’ve been.
Another six-hours of cruising led us to East of Sumba. Bummer, the wind wasn’t right, the wave wasn’t working and we saw the face of Heri changing and starting to doubt. We all know that the Ocean is unpredictable and we can’t blame Heri for it, we had no surf on this day so we followed the Aussie tradition and drank bintangs happily. Nothing had changed the next day. We made the most of the beautiful bay, snorkeled, read books aboard, and took the speedboat out looking for other waves around, but it just seemed that the swell had not arrived yet. As the winds shifted in the evening, Heri decided to move the boat way more inside the bay.
First light, everyone was up and a right-hander was peeling perfectly over 300-meters.
Heri did right. A 6 to 9-foot swell started hitting us overnight and we barely slept, not because the boat was rocking as hell but because we were too excited to see what the wave looked like. First light, everyone was up and a right-hander was peeling perfectly over 300-meters. The first section seemed like an easy, perfect barrel, not breaking too fast making us think we could sit deep inside before catching the next long and cruisy sections with plenty of opportunities to rip the wave. Our first attempt to sit in this first barrel section ended up with a snapped board. It was much heavier than it looked but we ended up understanding the wave, surfing like we never did. A surf veteran also appeared out of nowhere with his “gun” surfboard, like Heri he knew about the wave and was prepared.
This morning at the no-name spot in East Sumba is one of the best memories of our surfing life. We loved the wave that much that we even decided to not cruise further West towards Nihiwatu and other spots. We missed the traditional Sumbanese houses and other surf-breaks around there but the addiction that grew in us for that wave kept us stuck there for the last 3-days of our trip. Though, Heri did mention he will do surf-cruises purely around Sumba next year so there’ll be other opportunities to get there ☺
Why we loved Sri Noa Noa
Apart from the fact that we scored epic empty waves just to ourselves and discovered some of Mother Earth’s wonders, we spent a great amount of time aboard just chilling. For us, It was important to have a good connection with the place we lived in for those 10-days.
The teak wood sailing boat was built 25-years ago by ex French Olympic and Americas Cup sailor, Philippe Petiniaud. It was created in such a way that it would not consume much while running optimally for surf-cruises to reach each destination on schedule. It is also equipped of solar panels to get warm water and electricity onboard. Sri Noa Noa can only cater to 6-guests at a time and we thought it was just perfect that way.
Few Words About the Captain
(Because he deserves it.)
Having spent 21-years onboard as the captain of Sri Noa Noa, Captain Heri is the heart and soul of the boatoa. Originally from Flores (a Christian island east of Bali), Heri has spent his life by the sea. He is a child from the sea and knows better than anyone else how to navigate in this part of the Ocean and can sense each swell and wind movements. Always joyful and attentive to the guests, we were impressed by how Heri performed his job onboard. We even wondered if he was a real human as we’ve never seen him sleep in 10-days and was always dedicated with the same energy. What’s more, when we were surfing he was taking the most epic shots of us with his camera, many of them have also been published in surf magazines such as Surfline etc. We’ll remember Heri as one of the most intriguing and charismatic persons we’ve met during our travels in Indonesia.
Photos & Words by Uriel @IndoSurfCrew