My trip to Tanimbar Kei was beautiful, rewarding, and difficult. Not many tourists go to Tanimbar Kei and it only advisable if you have a lot of time and like remote destinations.
There are about 3 boats a week to Tanimbar Kei from Debut but there isn’t a fixed schedule and they will only leave in good weather conditions. The public boat I took was supposed to leave at about 6 a.m. but it didn’t leave until 8 a.m. because it was waiting for passengers arriving from Tual. Still, 2 hours late isn’t too bad for a local boat in Indonesia. Here’s a photo of the boat:
It took three and a half hours to reach Tanimbar. The first hour was calm with negligible waves. The next hour and a half were fairly choppy and the last hour in the open sea was very rough–it wasn’t possible to take photos because I needed both hands to hold on. The boat wasn’t crowded and probably could have handled double or triple the number of passengers. On the way there were distant views of Ngur Tafur as well as Ur, Wetir, Nuhuta and a number of smaller islands.
In the afternoon I explored the upper village which has all of the traditional houses–the lower village has typical Indonesian concrete houses. The buildings are nice but they aren’t inspirational (ie: Don’t come here for the houses):
There is a nice view from the upper village too:
The next morning I took a boat with the family I was staying with and visited and climbed the 40 meter high lighthouse tower, which is scary but very worthwhile. There are also a couple of beaches in the tower area but they don’t really measure up to other beaches in Kei. The lighthouse is an easy 15 minute (one way) boat trip from the village and on a clear day there should be amazing views. I should also mention that access to the platform at the top was locked on my trip and we were only able to climb to directly underneath it.
In the afternoon I walked with a couple of teenage boys to the beach on the other side of the island. The walk was nice but there isn’t a clear route so it is definitely recommended to go with a local the first time. It took about 20 minutes to get there, passing a nice cliff on the way.
Arriving at the beach I was surprised by how good this beach is because I hadn’t heard anything about beaches in Tanimbar Kei. At high tide the waves are very large and there isn’t much beach. At low tide however, there is a lot of beach and swimming is possible. I went here twice actually, here are a couple pics:
The next afternoon I went with my local family to the Muslim village of Mun–about 20 minutes each way. It was nice to view another area of the island but I didn’t see anything special here. I did see some people making boats as well as some cute children:
The next morning there was a boat back to Debut so I asked to go back with it. The return journey was a day and a half adventure due to delays and a one day stop on the island of Nuhuta.
The boat was supposed to leave Tanimbar Kei in the morning but ended up leaving in the late afternoon. On the way to Nuhuta the sail broke (very rough seas!) so we just used the engines after that.
The boat stopped in Nuhuta so locals could collect coconuts and get fish eggs. Nuhuta was quite fun actually and at low tide there is an epic sand bar:
Accommodation was very rustic on Nuhuta island:
They said we would leave pagi pagi (very early in the morning) which apparently meant 1:30 p.m. because that’s when we left. On the boat from Nuhuta to Debut they caught some fish off the back of the boat:
And someone’s hat that fell into the water, but the fisherman caught it with their fishing lines!
We arrived back in Debut and literally everyone and everything on the boat went in one truck to Tual. I enjoyed my trip to Tanimbar Kei and it was plenty interesting. Most tourists won’t have time for this excursion but if you do, it is definitely a cool and remote side trip very far from any kind of beaten path!
A big thank you to Lucy at Savana Cottages for helping me organize accommodation and boat details for Tanimbar Kei. Also a very big thank you to Gersson for taking me to Debut at 5:30 a.m.!