We’re willing guinea pigs for Hans, who’s setting up a homestay at Dayang and wants to work out what adventures his guests might like. So we’re more than happy to oblige when he asks us to play tourists for the day.
We haven’t explored the west side of Batanta Island yet, so we’re keen to see what it has to offer. We set off with Hans, Debora and their friend Ramadan (yes, that really is his name) in Hans’s traditional Papuan longboat with two 40hp motors on the back. These boats track remarkably well through the water and get up to about 14 knots, but I make a mental note to suggest that cushioned seats for the tourists could be a welcome addition.
First stop is a trip to the waterfall, about halfway down the coast. It’s low tide, so we leave the boat at the mouth of the shallow creek and walk about 1/2 km up the creek bed. We’ve had a surprisingly dry spell after weeks of rain, so Hans tells us the waterfall is not quite as spectacular as usual, but we have fun cooling off and goofing off – and taking a gazillion photos, of course.
Next stop is “Batman’s Cave” as Hans calls it. He nudges the boat into the entrance of a cave where hundreds of bats are roosting. It’s noisy and smelly, so we don’t stay long, and unfortunately there isn’t enough light to get any decent photos of our batty friends. No sign of Batman either…
We keep going down to the south west tip of the island and then out to a small island lying to the west. Hans tells us all this land and the island belong to his family, and the island is his favourite place to have an unimpeded view of the sunset. We pull up at a rocky beach and Hans shimmies up the coconut palms to provide us with a welcome drink of sweet, fresh, coconut water.
We’ve come to see the sunset, but it’s only 2pm, so Bruce and I wonder how we’re going to fill in 4 hours – and I make another mental note to suggest a later departure time for the day trip. As it turns out, the time goes fast. Hans is an excellent spearfisherman and in the space of half an hour he’s caught two fish – a tang and a large bluefin trevally.
Meanwhile, Debora has been busy building a firepit with logs and palm frond branches and weaving a platter out of palm leaves for the fish. It’s all so beautifully simple and clever.
They even make individual tongs for us out of pieces of palm frond stems. Fish don’t come any fresher than this, and it’s absolutely delicious. Debora shows us another neat trick – dip your cooked fish in a coconut shell filled with seawater and hey presto – some salty seasoning!
We’ve had our fill of fish, and by now the sun is going down, so we make our way round to the western side of the island. There’s no beach, just another rocky inlet and it seems Hans wants us to scramble up the treacherous-looking rocks to get a vantage point for the sunset. Sorry, Hans – your tourists just went on strike! It’s one thing getting up there in the daylight, but quite another trying to get back down in the dark on slippery rocks.
I’m sure he’s disappointed that we’re not more adventurous, but he good-naturedly accepts our proposal to watch the sunset from the boat. And it is, indeed, another glorious Raja Ampat sunset, and a wonderful way to end a fabulous day’s adventure with our friends.