We were all up for breakfast at 4:30 am and we are down at the waterside by 5:30. The boat turned up and we ferried ourselves and our gear out to it in a dugout canoe. The harbour was still peaceful at that hour with only a few small boats on the sea as we chugged out of the bay and across a smooth stretch of water to a small island where the crew moored the boat on a white beach. We all disembarked and walked along the shore then inland across the rocky ground to a promontory where we could look out across the ocean: blue and calm, and dotted with steep islands. We all split up and went separate ways to explore and I followed the beach back to the boat where Dan and I proceeded to frolic in the beautiful, cool, clear water by running down the beach and crashing and headlong into the waves and playing catch with a coconut.
The crew served a coffee and it was then that we noticed the clouds of small colourful fish around the boat. I put on a mask and snorkel and then discovered for the first time the amazing spectacle of coral. Once I’d mastered the correct way to breathe – something which, until now, I’ve never been able to do – it was amazingly easy to just float above the coral and peer down at the pageant below.
And what a pageant it was. Corals in shapes and colours of such variety that the sense of sight would barely comprehend; delicate branches, solid, bulbous, swaying in the current, rooted to the bottom and amongst it all the fish. They made the colours of the rainbow look pale insipid compared to the array of colours of the fish: such blues I’ve never seen or imagined; such crimsons, purples, hues of green and gold and grey.
We snorkelled for an hour or so then put to sea again and ate a delicious meal of fish, rice and vegetables. At Rinca Island, we went ashore and a guy took us for a walk up into the hills where wild horses snorted at us from the shade and the sun beat down on the landscape of dry hills dotted with palm trees and patches of dry scrubby bush. It was far too hot for walking around trying to spot animals, and apart from the horses and a Komodo dragon near the Ranger Station, we saw nothing on our walk.
Back at the boat, we sailed out amongst a maze of islands with the sun beginning to dip towards the sea which shone like glass. We anchored for the night offshore from a small mangrove-covered island and the crew set about preparing an evening meal while we drink cocktails of arak and orange squash. As the sun set the western sky aflame and tinted the eastern sky with violet and indigo, thousands upon thousands of fruit bats took flight from amongst the forest on the island and flew silently eastward towards Flores. The stream of huge winged creatures continued until well after dark and the orange moon, full and languorous, rose behind the shadowed outline of the mainland.
East of the sun west of the moon we slept comfortably beneath a blanket of stars, lulled by the gentle sway of the ocean.