What do you do all day?

We used to get this question a lot from non-boaties when we were cruising on Toucan. People assumed we would be bored and have nothing to do. Even now we get the same question, and ironically it’s often from yachties who are visiting the bay, who can’t imagine being confined to a small island.

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Yes, it’s different to constantly travelling and discovering new places, but I can honestly say that so far we’ve never been bored on Pulau Dayan. There’s always something to do.

A typical day for me will usually start about 6.30 am (a bit later for Bruce!). First item on the agenda is a liberal application of mozzie repellant, followed by some yoga and stretching in the beach cabana watching the sunrise and sometimes the juvenile sharks and turtles in the shallows on the back beach.

A beautiful place to start the day

Next is a cup of tea, and if we’re lucky enough to have some internet coverage, a look at the day’s news and a catch up on FB.  There’s the daily check of the meagre veggies and herbs I’m trying to grow and the endless battle to keep the grasshoppers, crabs, and mealy bugs away using a garlic and soapy water spray on the leaves.  We recently finished constructing a bench and a full enclosure to place the more vulnerable seedlings in, so I’m hoping that will slow the invaders down…

The new, improved seedling enclosure – let’s hope it works!

Inevitably, most days we need to do a beach clean-up of the plastic that washes up, from bottles to rubber thongs, toothbrushes, cigarette lighters and sadly even the occasional syringe. It breaks my heart to see the lack of care for the ocean.  Unfortunately, we have to burn the plastics as there’s no other way to dispose of them here.

We have the same regular household chores as any home, just slightly different. The bowls for rinsing the sand off your feet before entering the buildings have to be emptied and refilled with seawater, verandahs and floors need to be swept for the inevitable sand that still finds its way in, and there’s always washing and cooking to be done.  We do a major shop every 3-4 weeks in Sorong for food, fuel, and gas (a six-hour round trip in the boat) and then the boat has to be unloaded and everything packed away when we arrive back at the island. The cooking is a bit more labour-intensive than if we were in the city, as I make our own sourdough bread and toasted muesli, and we often have to make sauces and marinades from scratch. But with a functioning fridge and freezer we never go hungry.

Then, of course, there’s the snorkelling and diving, which isn’t just the time in the water but the setting up of the gear, the dismantling and rinsing of the gear and cameras, filling the dive tanks, downloading the images and editing where necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, it’s just time-consuming and often half the day is gone before we know it.  I’m loving learning how to take macro photos and it’s opened up a whole new incredible underwater world for me. Bruce likes the bigger wide-angle scenes, but sadly just as he’d recovered enough from his rib fracture to start diving again, his underwater camera housing failed which flooded his camera. It’s now been sent back to the States for replacement under warranty (another whole drama with DHL in Sorong but that’s another story), so in the meantime here are some of my recent macro shots…

Cuttlefish up close – how pretty is he?!
A pair of ringed pipefish
Denise’s pygmy seahorses – tiny, tiny beautiful little creatures
one of the many gorgeous nudibranchs in these parts – this one is Hypselodoris tryoni
A hawkfish with a mohawk
Spinecheek anemone

Our watermaker is working like a charm, but we need to run it for an hour or two every other day, and it requires some monitoring during that time. And there are always ongoing projects to complete – our most recent was preparing and installing bigger signs to keep the tourists at bay. It’s a shame we have to do it as they’re not aesthetically pleasing, but they’re a necessity to stop the regular incursions.  Mostly, they seem to be working.

There are also the odd, unexpected projects. We have hundreds of hermit crabs everywhere and we try very hard to avoid stepping on them, but last week we accidentally trod on one and crushed his shell.  The poor little guy was beside himself trying to piece his home back together, so there was nothing for it but to go on a quest to find him a new home – which proved almost as difficult as finding a rental property in Australia at present, as all the shells we found were occupied.  Then I remembered I had a jar full of small shells I’d collected over the years, so we found a few potentials and laid them out for his consideration.  Before long, he’d taken up the lease on a brand new home and is probably now the envy of all his mates.  The things we do…! Here’s a short video of his re-homing:


By midday we’re usually both a sweaty mess – the humidity is relentless and exhausting so after lunch it’s siesta time for a bit of a rest, a read, or a nap, sometimes in the hammock. And if we have the energy, we hack around on the guitars and ukulele for a bit before dinner and watch the sunset. We don’t have a TV or good enough internet to stream anything, but we can watch previously downloaded TV shows or movies on our laptop after dinner if we’re not too tired, or there’s always the option of thrashing each other at board games. However,  we still seem to adhere to the cruisers’ bedtime of 9.30-ish as by then we’re usually ready to crash.

It’s a wonderful life, albeit challenging at times, but there’s always something new to discover both underwater and above ground. We wouldn’t swap it for quids.

Two Years in Review

It’s just over two years ago that our madcap idea of living on a remote island in Raja Ampat started to take shape. During that time we’ve literally shed blood, sweat, and tears to get where we are now, but I think we’re finally at the stage where we’re really starting to enjoy this magical and spectacular location.

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Big Hearts, Empty Pockets

It all started with a chance encounter when shopping at Saga supermarket in Sorong three years ago. A cruiser friend of ours, Carol, got chatting to a lovely local lady, Nurjannah Nana, a volunteer English teacher at Istianah Foundation school. She was very keen to have some native English speakers visit her students and so Carol agreed and asked me to go along with her.

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It was a fabulous experience (albeit a bit overwhelming) to meet all the students and staff, and we got to hear a little of the history of the school.  It was founded in 2014 as a charitable organisation to assist orphaned Papuan kids whose futures would otherwise have been very bleak.  The founder, Dr Karsiman, was a university lecturer with a big heart who wanted to help disadvantaged kids. He managed to raise the funds single-handedly with only a small contribution from the Government.  In order to raise more funds they opened the school to local fee-paying Muslim students as well, so it’s unique in that it caters for both Muslim and Christian students.

It all started 3 years ago when Carol and I first visited the school. Here we are with the founder, Mr Karstiman, Nurjannah Nana and staff
The kids are always very happy to have visitors

Sadly, Dr Karstiman passed away in 2020, and while the school is still running, they are struggling to make ends meet. 

Many of the staff, including Nana, are volunteer teachers and support workers, and the school’s now grown to include almost 300 children spanning elementary to middle school.  Of those, many are orphans and are given free lodging and education.  But their dormitories are extremely basic and always flood when it rains heavily in Sorong (which is often). A new dormitory is being built on higher ground, but progress has stalled due to the lack of funds. Similarly, many of the classrooms have bare earth floors and require tiling.

The current dormitories are bleak and flood whenever it rains
The girls’ dormitory is overcrowded and very basic
The unfinished new dormitory block
Still a lot of work to do before it’s ready for the students

Since that first visit, Nana has become a good friend and I visit whenever I can to help the children with their English lessons, although their resources are very limited.  On our last trip back from Australia I was able to bring some English reading books, but we were hampered by our baggage allowance so it’s a drop in the ocean compared to what they need. Bruce and I donate when we can, and have recently agreed to sponsor the education costs for one student, which amounts to the very affordable sum of roughly AU $15 per month or $180 per annum.

Mam Nana as she is known to her students is still volunteering her time but is now the Principal of the school, and with the help of Mr Karsiman’s widow they are attempting to find more sponsors for the orphan students, and more funding for the capital works.

With Mrs Karsiman, who still plays an active role in trying to continue her husband’s good works

We’re so blessed to live where we are, and so fortunate that when our kids were growing up they were able to have such a great education in Australia with state-of-the-art facilities and an education system that we often take for granted.  On their recent visit, Rob and Teneile also came to visit the school with me, which of course was hugely exciting for the kids – they certainly make foreigners feel like celebrities which is a bit embarrassing, but their joy and exuberance is infectious and there’s always time for one more photo!

Rob, Teneile, and I with Mam Nana – we’re all looking a bit hot as there are no fans or aircon in the classrooms
Rob and Teneile were a great hit with the kids
They just love having their photos taken!

We will continue to do what we can to support the school, but I’ve also started a GoFundMe page in order to raise some money for the capital works so please check out the link here:

Also, if anyone is interested in sponsoring the education of one of the orphaned kids (even if it’s just for one year) please get in touch and we can discuss the details.

Thanks guys, any donation no matter how small will be so gratefully received by the school and students.

Home Sweet Home

Finally, we’re home after 5 months in Australia seeing family and friends and getting my much-needed knee replacement surgery.  It was great to see everyone, and thankfully my surgery was successful – although I needed every bit of those 5 months to feel confident about travelling and living back on the island with my new knee.  It was a slow and painful recovery but I can now walk without pain so it was definitely worth it. There’s still a way to go, but I’m hoping the hydrotherapy of the beautiful warm water of Raja Ampat will speed the process along.

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