Don’t Worry Be Happy at Pulau Bokori

There is a small community of reggae enthusiasts here in rural South East Sulawesi.

The village we departed from.

The village we departed from.

I never see them anywhere in town during the week except on Thursdays, when suddenly there are dreadlocked groups of young people congregating at Rock Cafe for the weekly reggae music night.

In a town with no nightlife to speak of the discovery of reggae night was a very exciting moment for me.

My sudden appearance one night was a bit of a shock to the band and everyone at the cafe, but as weeks went by I started to get to know everyone and now the singer will often chat with me to practice his English in between sets or proclaim dedications of the next song to me.

One week I received a text from Dede, the lead singer, to ask if I wanted to join him and his friends to go to one of the nearby islands for a day trip.

I thought why not, and the next day, in an assortment of tie dye and Bob Marley appreciation T-shirts, we were off early winding through the jungle coastline north of Kendari.

On our way to Palau Bokori

On our way to Palau Bokori

After around a one hour drive we arrived at the small village where we would be renting a boat to take us to the island.

There was around 16 of us and because we were late we had to wait for the tide to rise so that the boat could leave the harbour.

So we sat in someones front yard waiting for the tide to rise whilst the boys smoked and chatted and a family of goats wandered past.

Finally we were ready to depart and after winding our way past some of the village houses to the beach we then had to pull ourselves up on to the deck of the traditional fishing boat.

This was a struggle, there are no ladders here.

It is almost a way of the island testing you, only those able to get into the boat may reach its shores.

Once aboard the boat was pushed out into the open water by a combination of long pole and a few of the sailors wading through the chest deep water.

Once out into the open water they climbed aboard and the motor was started.

Palau Bokori.

Palau Bokori.

A few of the local kids jumped aboard and hitched a ride with us out to the island and took a lot of delight in staring at me and making each other laugh to get my attention.

Coming into the island the one thing that stands out is the large ship wreck just off the beach.

In fact it almost looks like an oversized and rusted jetty pocking up out of the sand as the boat was resting on its deck.

The second thing that grabbed my attention was the buildings along the shore line, they were all abandoned and being re claimed by the sea and nature.

My friend told me that there was an earthquake a few years ago and the few people who lived on the island have since returned to the mainland leaving the few dwellings to crumble back to the earth.

Arriving at the island the boat went as far into shore as it could and we jumped down into the water and rushed ashore.

Some of the guys were carrying big containers that I soon found out were filled with rice, fish and noodles.

We sat under a tree and ate lunch overlooking the water.

I was itching to explore the island, shaped in a horseshoe, as soon a possible and set off to see what I could find.

Palm tree paradise.

Palm tree paradise.

The island was small, it took less than 20 minutes to go as far around the coast as I could but it was beautiful in its sad state of abandonment.

Palm trees were everywhere and the azure blue water lapping at the shore made me wish I could stay forever.

In the middle of the island was a lake that many people fish at.

Now, in Indonesia many people will swim at the beach in their clothes, and as I was with the locals it was numerous fully clothed swims for me that day.

After lunch and exploring the island a few of us jumped back into the boat to go and search for good fishing spots.

Here we saw some stunning fish and one big, bright blue star fish.

Some of the fisherman shared a local snack with me of black rice cooked in a coconut leaf, it was really delicious.

We returned to the island where we spent the rest of the afternoon listening to Bob Marley tunes, who else?, and swimming between Bokori Island and another mangrove fringed smaller island next to it.

As the sun started to slowly set local fisherman began to make their way home past us in their boats and I have honestly never felt happier floating, fully clothed, between two islands as the sky turned bright orange and pink in South East Sulawesi.

Reggae meets tropical island.

Reggae meets tropical island.

If you ever get the chance to travel to this region of the world make sure you go out to Pulau Bokori, it really does make you feel like you are discovering the remnants of Robinson Curuso’s shipwrecked life.

And play some Bob Marley whilst you are there, I can promise you, it will make everything be alright.


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