Due to the Corona virus, our resort is closed and the island of Pef shut down for external visitors until further notice. All tourism activities have been banned by the Regent of Raja Ampat, and we had to put ourselves into self-quarantine to protect the island and our employees. At least the ones that are still here, since half the staff chose to go back home for an undetermined period of time.
So, the island is rather quiet at the moment. And this time it’s not the same as when we close for cleaning and renovation three times a year. Nobody knows when we will be able to reopen the resort. On the one hand, we are all very happy to be here and feel comparatively safe on our remote little island. On the other hand, we don’t know how long we will have to stay here and whether we will still have a job once this crisis is over. The financial loss is huge and for a small resort like ours, this is dramatic.
For now, we are still busy trying to teach our employees how to stay safe, e.g. how to wash their hands correctly, to keep their distance and most importantly – not to mix with anybody from outside the island, not even with their family or friends from the villages. This must be very hard for them as they are used to living in big families, and the ones with relatives in nearby villages used to have them come over to Pef to visit on a regular basis. This will not be possible for an indefinite time, unless they go back home and don’t return until the crisis is over.
This also means that we will not buy any more fish from local fishermen and no fruit and vegetables from the village nearby. Bad news for me since my diet mainly consists of fish and vegetables and fruit… We have rice and dry foods for quite a while, so we are not going to starve, but the meals will definitely be less varied.
You may think: «What’s her problem? She’s on an island in paradise and she’s complaining about the food?!» You’re right, of course. I shouldn’t be complaining. But it’s probably more the underlying feeling that this crisis may take a lot longer than we think, that gets to me. I feel, Indonesia may take a while to fight the virus because it’s such a big country with comparatively few medical resources compared to western countries that are struggling already.
So, what do we do in the evenings, now that there are no guests around to entertain? Dinner is a rather quick event now, and afterwards, most of the employees go to their rooms to watch movies or call their relatives and friends. The first evening, I felt a bit lost, as I like to be around people, and I am not an early sleeper. And there’s no TV or streaming of movies here as the internet is too weak. But I will soon get used to the new rhythm and probably read in my room or have a chat with Maya or someone else that speaks English well enough (as you may remember, my Bahasa Indonesia is still not at a level to have a proper conversation…). Time will tell, and it will be ok.
Having no guests around also gives me more time for sports after work: workout, jogging or go for a snorkel at the house reef. I used to think, our island is small and there’s not enough space to move around. Now, it has suddenly become rather big compared to the apartments and houses my family and friends are currently confined to. I guess, it’s all a matter of perspective…
It’s pretty hard to believe, but I just spent 10 days on a dive vacation in North Sulawesi. I had a wonderful time and the best thing about it - everything seemed normal at the resort, we just didn’t shake hands or get close to each other. But we went diving, laughed and had meals or drinks with other guests at the same table, as if nothing had happened. So far, Indonesia is not hit as hard by Corona as other countries, but they may just not really know…
I was very curious to check out another dive resort and see how they run their business. I hear from our guests that Raja4Divers is a unique and wonderful place, like no other. And I strongly believe this is true. But I was never able to compare us to other places since I started here, so I was very much looking forward to this vacation.
The biggest difference is that the island the resort is located on is not very far from Manado and the mainland. And there are other resorts and a village on the same island. So, it doesn’t feel like you are at the end of the world as it does on Pef. We are in the middle of the jungle, there is only us on the Pef. This has its disadvantages, but it also has its charm. We are one with nature, and I really like that.
The resort I stayed at is very nice, about double the size of ours and features more luxury than Raja4Divers (A/C and sweet water showers in all the bungalows, a big swimming pool and a beautiful spa). The dive center is bigger too, very well run and their dive guides speak good English and have a very good knowledge of their marine life. And their staff as well as their management are extremely friendly and go out of their way to make you have a wonderful time.
But – I still prefer Raja4Divers! OK, you may say I have to because I work for them. Of course, I do, you’re right. But it’s also a very personal feeling. After only a few days, I started missing Pef: its nature, its birds, its wilderness, the sound of the waves at night and its people! The bungalows of the resort I stayed at have brick walls, so you don’t hear any sounds from nature during the night. There are also no birds which was surprising to me, as we have so many on Pef.
Although the diving was very good – lots of turtles, beautiful walls and interesting muck dives - Raja Ampat is just a whole different league in my opinion. The abundance of corals and fish we have here is simply spectacular. I’m not sure you can find this anywhere else in the world, but then again, I haven’t dived in that many places yet.
I still take home some ideas that I think are worth looking into, because there’s always room for improvement. It’s little details sometimes that give you this wonderful all-round experience and if we could add some to the many we already offer, this could only be a good thing. I’m glad, I got to experience a different resort, because I don’t consider them and us competitors. They are different and so are we. And both are great places to spend your vacation.
But I’m also very happy to go back to Pef tomorrow – back home to «my» island in Raja Ampat, our paradise at the other end of this currently very crazy world.
Every once in a while, we have visitors from a yacht that’s passing by Pulau Pef, looking for a safe and peaceful place for mooring. Our mangrove lagoon at the back of the island is the perfect place for that and features two moorings that can be rented for the night. The owners of the yachts and their guests or crew sometimes also like to have a few drinks at our bar and chat with us or our guests. Or they go for a snorkel at our house reef or explore the island by foot. It’s a change from their yacht routine.
Some of these yachtsmen or -women have been cruising for years, sometimes all by themselves, sometimes with family members or changing guests. The single-handed sailors fascinate me the most. How can they bear to be alone for such long times - just them, the boat and the ocean? What if something happens? This always reminds me of the film «All Is Lost» in which Robert Redford plays a single-handed sailor getting into distress at sea. Absolutely wonderful movie, you should check it out if you haven’t seen it yet. But terrifying too, as he is absolutely by himself with no one to help!
I think it’s not so much the being scared part of sailing, but the being alone all the time that would bother me. I like being around people and couldn’t bear the thought of being by myself for such a long time. On the other hand, they get around and tell us about all the beautiful places they have been to. This, of course, is the part that’s appealing to me. I love travelling and have also been sailing a few times. The feeling of cruising just using the wind is incredible. And to be able to get around the world like that is amazing. I envy yacht people for this.
But I realize that I like to have the comfort of my house (or room in the case of my current situation) and enjoy the company of my Pef family and our guests. You are never alone on a small island like ours. This can be an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time, as there’s no privacy either. But I prefer to accept this and have people around me - to talk to and laugh with when I’m feeling good, but also to give me comfort, when I’m feeling down.
I would love to go sailing again, for a few weeks maybe. But then I would also love to come back and enjoy the company of people. This is why I work at Raja4Divers and don’t cruise the world on a sailing yacht.
Back home, I used to work out regularly at the fitness studio and go jogging once in a while, whenever my knees and the weather would allow. I have always needed to exercise on a regular basis in order to feel comfortable. So, coming to work at a small remote island seemed like a challenge, also in this respect. How was I going to even walk enough on this island when «getting to work» would only take me 30 seconds? Let alone jog or work out with hardly any place to hide from the guests?
I quickly found out that the back part of the island with the beautiful mangrove forest and the peaceful lagoon were the perfect place for some exercise. I started out by simply walking along the jetty, back and forth a few times as it’s not very long, and also along the narrow footbridge towards our spring and a little chili garden. I soon came to love the peace and the different noises you find in the mangroves after work in the evening before it gets dark. The front of the island, where the resort and the bungalows are, is the spectacular side of Pulau Pef, with its gorgeous reef and the beautiful sunsets. But it’s also the wild side with quite some wind and waves on certain days. The back of the island is the charming side with hardly any wind nor waves, a mystical touch and a calming silence.
After a while, I started doing some exercises on the footbridge where no guests could see me. And I also started jogging on the mangrove jetty – back and forth until my workout lasted for about 45 minutes in total. It felt really good to move again, as I had the impression, I was only sitting at my desk all day and getting lazier and lazier…
But then I found out that even on the days I didn’t have time to jog or work out, I still walked my 10’000 steps. How come? I was surprised, since it didn’t feel like much walking. On the other hand, I walk about the resort quite a lot, going to the restaurant to get a tea, coffee or more water or walking to the printer in the climatized room, because the other printer we have in the office is currently not working. Then I also walk our kayaking guests to the lagoon in the back to help them board the kayaks and take a picture as they take off. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but the short distances here add up, because I walk them more often than at home.
I still miss a good workout or group lesson at the fitness centre once in a while, but I have found an acceptable rhythm here and feel I am getting enough exercise for now. And if I’m a little lazy but, still feel like moving it, I take my mask, snorkel and fins and jump in the water after work to admire the incredible world below the water just in front of our resort. Snorkelling or diving after work – I mean, can it get any better?
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…