I can't seem to make any sense of the Pelni website. I am looking for the schedule of the KM Tidar, which I would like to take from Ambon to Banda, and maybe to the Keis and back, too.
I compared the April schedules already, but I am not sure what that says about May? All I can seem to find is this PDF, but I'm afraid I don't understand it: http://www.pelni.co.id/content/file/jadwal-kapal-pelni-2013.pdf
Does anybody know more? Also, did anyone take the Tidar yet, what were your experiences? Heard bad things about the other boats that go to the Bandas...
Should someone also be in the Bandas in early/mid May and would like to team up for trips and activities, drop me a line! Female single traveller, 29 years old, first time travelling in Indonesia but have travelled in South East Asia before.
Get in touch with SBE (a long-time poster here on TF) - she's familiar with Pelni and might be able to help make sense of the schedule. (It IS bloody confusing!). To contact her, you'll have to enable your Private Message (in Member Centre, enable PM and make your profile public), then search in Indo forum for a previous post she's made and click on the Private Message link).
I would think, by looking at the Pelni website, that the schedules are finalised for May, so even if you DID interpret the PDF doc, it's probably going to be an unreliable indicator.
It's OK, I'm here. Popped in to see what people were saying about the Lion Air crash and airport closure on Bali... nowt I see!
Pelni don't do schedules that far in advance. You're lucky, there used to be just a schedule that was about 10 years old, it's vast improvement having one for the current year!
I don't know what the KM Tidur is like, never been on it, but the Ciremai used to run on a two week schedule. The next Ambon-Banda sailing on KM Tidur is scheduled for April 17th (a Wednesday) so my best guess is that it'll be leaving Ambon on Wednesday May 1st and Wednesday May 15th too. You could try contacting one of the guesthouses on Bandaneira to ask if it's on a 2 week schedule like before. Abba (Mutiara Guesthouse) or Bahri (Delfika 1&2) are your best bets as they both have internet access in their guesthouses. They'd also be able to tell you if the plane is running again or not. There were 4 NBA flights the week I left at the end of last year but prior to that there had been weeks with no flights or just one or two flights. I've a feeling NBA may have stopped flying to Banda altogether now but I'm not sure.
Nobody, not even Pelni, knows exactly when their ferries will leave or arrive because it depends on weather and how much cargo they have to load and unload etc. Don't rely on the departure times given on the Pelni site. The Ciremai was nearly always several hours behind schedule but I've seen it leave Ambon two hours early too... Indonesian rubber time!
Once you get to the Bandas you'll probably spend more time than you'd like trying to figure out how to leave. There's a Pelni office on Bandaneira but the schedules written on the board outside frequently get modified as information arrives by phone or pigeon or whatever it is they use in there. They still didn't have a computer last time I looked. The Pelni.co.id website usually has an accurate schedule up before the Bandaneira Pelni office does....if you can get online to look at it. There are a couple of internet cafes in town but they're often closed because the connection is down and it's an excruciatingly slow connection even when it is working.
If you get a 1st or 2nd class cabin it's relatively painless travelling on Pelni, swarms of cockroaches but otherwise pretty comfortable. Ekonomi is a bit tougher, dirty and very crowded and nowhere to sit except on the floor or in the cafeteria but the majority of tourists travel to Banda in ekonomi as 8 hours is short journey by Pelni standards. Getting on and off is the toughest part, lots of pushing and shoving (especially the porters) and you need to watch out for pickpockets. If you've got a cabin you don't need to rush to get on because you don't need to stake out a spot on the floor. Wait till things have calmed down before boarding. There are 3 horn blasts when the ship is about to leave and you don't have to get on until after you've heard 2 horn blasts if you've got a cabin. If you can't afford a cabin then try and hook up with other tourists heading to the Bandas while you're waiting for the ferry. You'll no doubt need to go to the loo at some point and it's not easy doing that with a big backpack, better to have someone keeping an eye on it for you.
The Keis don't have as good snorkeling as the Bandas but it's much easier to get there and away. There are two Lion Air flights a day as well as the Pelni ship and my Lion Air flight from there didn't crash.
Thank you so much busylizzy and SBE, this has been really heplful! That Lion Air crash had me horrified...
I actually compared February, March, and April schedules for the boats Tidar and Kelimutu and think I may have found a pattern. Can't find anything on the Ciremai, other than horrifying stories from other travellers
Posting this as my estimate, not confirmed in any way:
Wed May 1 Ambon - Banda
Thur May 2 Banda - Tual
Sun May 5 Tual - Banda
Mon May 6 Banda - Ambon
Wed May 15 Ambon - Banda
Thur May 16 Banda - Tual
Sun May 19 Tual - Banda
Mon May 20 Banda - Ambon
Sun May 5 Ambon - Banda ?
Fri May 17 or Sun May 19 Banda - Ambon ?
I'll be back as soon as I learn more.
Anything else you'd recommend for Bandas and Keis? I am somewhat worried about travelling by myself, I have done this numerous times and found it very easy, but I've usually stuck to your usual Backpacker routes, more or less, and have had zero problems meeting other people, locals and travellers alike. Of course I am aware that the Bandas and Keis see less tourists than, say, Bali/Lombok/Gilis etc., but is it mainly couples that go there?
And, do guesthouses there have mosquito nets or should I bring my own? Is vegetarian food difficult to come by? I am not super strict when I am travelling, and am well aware of Indonesian vegetarian food in general, but I'd appreciate some information or reading about other veggie travellers's experiences.
Thank you all!
@SBE Sam flew in this afternoon from Sumba, the Lionair plane is still there, but she was on the wrong side of the plane to get a pic. I'm flying out tomorrow, am sure the plane will still be there and will try and get a pic for you
Am Bangkok bound then heading to Ko Kut - you still in Thailand?
Don't know what's happened to the Ciremai...it was the main ferry from Ambon to the Bandas until recently. Maybe it's in dry dock for repairs or something? I've always managed to avoid using the Kelimutu but I heard it's not as comfortable as the Ciremai. It's slower too and can be days rather than hours late. When I was in the Bandas a couple of years ago a BBC film crew doing a documentary missed their flight back to the UK because the Kelimutu was 5 days late! I thought it had a once a month schedule, not a fortnightly one, so double check that info you found.
The Bandas is a bit off the beaten track compared to other places you've been to in Indonesia, not at all suitable as a destination for party animals, and most (but not all) of the tourists who go there do tend to travel with a partner or friend, but you shouldn't have any problem meeting other people. Bandaneira a small place with relatively few tourists so you'll find probably find yourself bumping into the same people all the time while you're there. Your guesthouse will no doubt be arranging snorkeling trips and spending a day on a boat together is a great way to get to know people. Getting to know the locals may be a bit more difficult because of the language barrier but sometimes people want to practice their English and progress beyond "hello mister".
It's a very good idea to try and learn at least some Bahasa before you go anyway (assuming you don't already speak Indonesian). It'll be very useful in Ambon and on the Pelni ship as well as in the Bandas.There are free lessons available online... google "Learning Indonesian"
It shouldn't be too hard to find vegetarian food. Just say you don't want any fish! Red meat (like goat) is usually reserved for big festivals like Idul Fitri there and even chicken is quite hard to come by outside Bandaneira. Toufu or tempeh is often available though. The food in the Bandas is better and more varied than many places in Indonesia. They make good use of their spices and have delicious specialities that you won't find anywhere else like aubergines with kenari nut sauce and nutmeg jam. BTW, Mutiara Guesthouse does a huge and excellent buffet every night which has lots of different vegetable dishes and salads ... as well as one or two gigantic fish of course. You need to book in advance but it's available for non residents as well as their own guests. Somewhat pricey (70,000Rp if I remember right) but it's a good place to meet up with other tourists if you're feeling in need of company in the evening.
Yes, good idea to bring a mosquito net. None of the guesthouses have them and unlike many other places in SE Asia there is a real malaria and dengue risk there. Not sure how you'd attach the net though?
@Somtam. Sorry, have already left now and am vacillating between Europe and West Africa at the moment! Glad Sam is OK. Is she going to do a write up on Sumba? Cool! I went to Sumbawa once but couldn't face doing a detour to Sumba...travelling on local buses on Sumbawa was possibly the worst transport experience in my entire life. At least the circulation in your legs doesn't get totally cut off for 10 hours on a Pelni ship. How was Flores? I bet you hired a limo...
@SBE Flores was just amazing. Copy should start coming onto the site by the end of the week. The snorkelling was the best I'd ever seen - better than Fiji... snorkelled with manta rays - amazing
Sumba trip wasn't for TF, but we'll be checking it out. She loved it.
"Yes, good idea to bring a mosquito net. None of the guesthouses have them and unlike many other places in SE Asia there is a real malaria and dengue risk there. Not sure how you'd attach the net though?"
When I carry a net, I always carry a small C-shaped, screw in hook and fishing line in the pouch that the net comes in. I've been able to re-use holes in ceilings, push the hook through bamboo thatch, etc. (I try not to create new holes though.) And sometimes you can use the fishing line to string them up somehow. It's light stuff to carry and sometimes can help you out of a bind.
The Pelni website has just updated the schedules. Still no Ciremai! But the Tidar route is up now, and it differs from what I've estimated.
Only Posting the Ambon - Banda - Tual stops:
AMBON BANDA 9 01-05-2013 | 16:00 02-05-2013 | 00:00
BANDA TUAL 9 02-05-2013 | 02:00 02-05-2013 | 14:00
TUAL BANDA 9 05-05-2013 | 17:00 06-05-2013 | 05:00
BANDA AMBON 9 06-05-2013 | 07:00 06-05-2013 | 15:00
AMBON BANDA 10 26-05-2013 | 16:00 27-05-2013 | 00:00
BANDA TUAL 10 27-05-2013 | 02:00 27-05-2013 | 14:00
TUAL BANDA 10 30-05-2013 | 17:00 31-05-2013 | 05:00
BANDA AMBON 10 31-05-2013 | 07:00 31-05-2013 | 15:00