By Tommy Schultz.
Stretching further than the width of the entire continental U.S., the more than 17,000 islands of Indonesia have a mind-boggling 54,000 kilometers of coastline.
That’s a LOT of beaches – more than even the most dedicated beach-addict could hope to see in a lifetime. But to be totally honest, I am that beach addict.
So when I heard the Seven Seas was going on an exploratory mission to check out some secret beaches and coral reefs well outside the boundaries of Komodo National Park, I dropped everything to join the adventure.
We launched from Labuan Bajo on a cloudless blue-bird day, traversing the rugged islands of Komodo. We spent the first few dives in and around the legendary seamounts in the Park, watching a pack of cruising white tip sharks while they hunted, an unforgettable safety stop spent with a friendly eagle ray.
But Captain Wahyu and the Seven Seas crew had a weather eye trained to the west, waiting for the optimum conditions to sail across the Sape Strait.
We made our passage overnight, arriving in the pre-dawn hours on the coast of Sumbawa. Previous surf trips have brought me to the island, but until our trip on the Seven Seas I had never seen the sheltered bays lying beyond the reach of powerful Indian Ocean swells.
Waking up in Sumbawa, the rugged coastline rose up to frame our anchorage, a lone fishing boat the only other humans in sight.
We decided to hop in one of the Phinisi’s three tender boats to see if we could find one of Sumbawa’s famed ‘secret beaches’.
Our journey passed limestone cliffs reminiscent of South Bali, dramatic caves carved out of the soft rock. Below the surface, flashes of brilliant color flickered as the morning sun illuminated a kaleidoscope of shallow coral reef.
Rounding the corner into a sheltered bay, a perfect crescent of white sand stretched for hundreds of meters, the gin-clear water shining sapphire.
The. PERFECT. Beach!
From more than 100 meters off-shore, the shadow of our boat appeared on the eggshell-white seafloor. The aerial view from my drone at times looked like we were floating on a magical cushion of air.
This is the stuff that island hopping dreams are made of – a perfect beach without a soul in sight. Diving into the clear water from the Zodiak, it was incredible to think that a place this beautiful is still off the tourist trail.
We spent the next two days exploring more hidden beaches and diving some of the most beautiful shallow reefs i’ve seen anywhere on earth. We had sunset cocktails and an unforgettable barbecue on one beach, the glowing arc of the Milky Way appearing as the embers from our campfire faded, leaving only the sounds of the guitars and laughter of the Seven Seas crew.
The next day we returned to Komodo, leaving our newly-discovered beach paradise to the waves and the wind.
Returning to Komodo, I couldn’t shake the memory of the sunlit coral gardens of Sumbawa, shimmering in the afternoon light. So when the chance came up to dive ‘Valerie’s Rock’ with the one and only Valerie Taylor, I was more than happy to spend the last dives of our twelve-day trip within snorkeling range of the surface.
The rock itself is a craggy seamount, home to some of the most beautiful shallow corals in the world – yet surrounded by roiling currents as the tide ebbs and flows. Without the lifetime of experience from Valerie and the Seven Seas crew, our relaxing swim through the coral garden could have turned into an adrenaline-charged rush of navigating the undersea maelstrom.
As always, our time about the Seven Seas passed in a blink and before I knew it, the time had come to pack up the dive gear and get ready to adjust to life back on land. But life on land is so much more bearable when you remember the magical beaches hidden across the corners of the map in Indonesia.