living the wild life
Glamping on Moyo Island
Sublimely beautiful and tranquil Moyo Island ( Pulau Moyo) is a nature lovers’ and adventureseekers’ idyll, hidden deep in Indonesia’s Nusa Tenggara archipelago. Eight degrees north of the Equator and 15 kilometres off Sumbawa Island, Moyo is ridiculously off-the-radar and seemingly a million miles away from bustling Bali – far, far westward. One of Indonesia’s worst kept secrets, you may not know about Moyo Island. And that’s precisely Moyo’s attraction – well, a miniscule part of it. Thanks to its long-standing nature reserve status, this 350-square-kilometre island is virtually untouched, with heavily forested hills fringed with coral white beaches and crystalclear azure water. There are just a handful of villages, a few dirt tracks, almost no commercial development and just one “resort”. But this is more a wilderness camp (albeit luxury). Fellow residents include wild boars, macaque monkeys and indigenous rusa or deer – Moyo is a protected deer sanctuary – while vibrant bird life covers ospreys and endangered species such as yellow-crested cockatoos. Here, the rhythm of life is at one with nature, where timelines are set by sunrise, sunset and stargazing. Besides wild beauty and splendid isolation, Moyo’s main draw card is its underwater world, offering some of Indonesia’s – and Asia’s – premium diving. A
protected marine park covering much of the island and ringed by reefs, Moyo is home to more than thirty different nudibranchs, slugs and huge beds of stag horn and plate coral, while the surrounding Flores Sea provides one of the world’s richest marine environments, an underwater paradise with pristine iridescent coral reefs and immense coral varieties. Around 3,000 species of marine life including surgeon and parrot fish, moray eels, blue spotted rays, turtles, dolphins, and giant manta rays and other migrating sea life are occasionally spotted.
There is a price to pay for the ultimate island hideaway, but the all-inclusive rate of approximately USD917 per night is well worth it. Secluded on the island’s western side, Moyo’s sole resort, Amanwana, is part of the exclusive Aman brand’s portfolio. Respecting its nature reserve surroundings, this low-key Aman resort comes with a strong eco-commitment, and has just 20 tent pavilions spaced well-apart along Amanwana Bay’s crunchy coral beach, subtly blending in with the tropical rainforest backdrop. Although replicating the “Out of
"Except for an openair 'Music Pavilion', throughout the property,
there are no music systems and TVs, just the sounds of the ocean,
wildlife and jungle."
Africa” colonial era, modern comforts are not forsaken. Under waterproofed canvas roofs, airconditioned accommodation features timbered floors, vintage wood furnishings and canopied beds, with a hardwood private veranda facing the beach. Don’t expect any ultra-modern bathrooms or appliances though. Except for an open-air “Music Pavilion” (providing iPods with music library) throughout the property, there are no music systems and TVs, just the sounds of the ocean, wildlife and jungle. Facilities merely stretch to a boutique, a library, a dive and activity centre and a dining roombar housed in a soaring traditional open-air pavilion. Much of the natural, fresh and organic produce is sourced from nearby islands, Moyo and Amanwana’s own organic gardens. There is however a cliff-top helipad for VIPs who wish to fly in, as did the late H.R.H. Princess Diana, a guest here in 1996.
THE WILD SIDE
The true star here though is Moyo’s natural treasures, with Amanwana a mere base-camp allowing guests to leisurely indulge in backto-nature adventures and other wondrous experiences. You don’t have to go far to interact with nature. The deer wander around freely in the borderless camp and macaque monkeys scamper along the beach early in the morning. From November to April, Green and Hawksbill turtles lay their eggs around Moyo’s shores; Amanwana’s beach provides a designated zone for rescued turtle nests and a rare spot for people to observe them hatch and scramble down into the water. The nature reserve hiking trails, ascending to rugged cliff-top tracks high above the bay, or along jungle coastal paths parallel to dazzling white sand coves, get you up-close to Moyo’s birds, native trees and odd rustic stilt-houses. By speedboat ride and
vintage Japanese jeep, the half-day Waterfall Excursion transports you deep into Moyo’s interior to a forested waterfall cascading into multiple limestone terraced pools – strip-off for a refreshing swim au
Amanwana’s excellent dive and activity centre provides windsurfing boards, ocean kayaks, along with speedboats, catamarans, 16-metre traditional outriggers and two impressive custom-made, traditional Phinisistyle overnight vessels – the largest at 52-metres – equipped with luxurious amenities. All are suitable to charter for islandhopping, beachcombing armed
with picnic lunches, deep-sea fishing (reeling in a black marlin for dinner), and, most of all, spectacular diving and snorkelling. Moyo’s marine park and the surrounding Flores Sea offer a mind-blowing array of dive sites rarely visited by other boats, with some of the premium spots no more than a ten-minute boat ride away. Even off Amanwana’s jetty, the “house reef” vertical wall descends 40 metres, revealing schools of reef fish and gorgonian fans aplenty, while protected dive sites nearby include “Turtle Street’’, with its resident turtles and black-tip reef sharks. Strictly for certified divers, a 15-minute boat ride off the island takes you to the magnificent outer reefs and multiple dive sites, with a shore wall dropping 100 metres plus. Coral at the Tanjung Menangis site dates back more than a century, boasting some of the planet’s most immaculate reef conditions.
Whatever you choose to do (and that may include lazing at the spring-fed rock pool or Jungle Cove Spa), be sure to stroll in the late afternoon to Crocodile Head, a rocky headland, for unobstructed views of the sun sinking into the Flores Sea. After the scarlet glow finally diminishes around distant Mount Rinjani – Indonesia’s third tallest volcano – the island action continues with night diving and snorkelling. Here, reefs change shape and colour, and come vividly alive as feeding and spawning activities get underway in the darkness – your torchlight may pick out sleeping turtles, dazzling reef fish and baby octopuses. Set aside time later for gazing up at the archipelago’s inky black sky and glittering galaxy of stars – even better from the deck of a Stargazing Cruise – before being lulled to sleep by the sounds of the sea lapping on the shore. Really, who needs TV? After a few blissful days holed-up here, I almost have to be dragged out to the awaiting seaplane, such is my reluctance to leave. Awesome memories and Moyo’s island-grown specialities, cashew nuts and wild organic honey, are a small compensation.