This is a reconstruct of my memories. I lost my first post of Pef when I messed up the blog. The blog is correct now, all except this post. So… here goes…
We had planned on getting to Metti Cottages for the holidays. They were across the Halmahera Sea on the N. end of Halmahera. After we had some crappy weather while siting at Gam, it became clear to us that making the passage could be rather thorny. As cruisers we’ve try to avoid schedules. Schedules create problems. Mother Nature abhors cruisers schedules.
We wished for another place to hang for the holidays. Neither of us are religious fanatics. Yet, growing up with Christmas traditions have become embedded in our DNA. I had read of Pef on Facebook. It sounded like a place that would meet our needs. A secure anchorage and holiday celebrations.
We made our way there. Pef has two moorings in their inner harbor. We pulled in. Both were available so we picked one up. After a bit of cleaning up the boat, we put the engine on the dinghy and went to shore. To Explore.
An Indonesian harbor master greeted us at the dock. We had tried to contact Pef a couple of days earlier inquiring about a mooring. But they didn’t have a phone number direct to the island. All their correspondence is via email and Whats app. Their office in Sarong wasn’t much help.
We crossed a mangrove swamp on a rock solid boardwalk without railings. I wouldn’t want to make that walk with any amount of alcohol in my blood! At the main office we met Mei (pronounced May) who was the resort Manager. As she was telling us a little about Pef Maya (the founder – owner) came out and we met her. She had a bit of a sad face. She thought the moorings were a bit too close. they had a reservation and she didn’t know if it would work; Andrew and Donna on Infinity had one reserved. Wow! We knew them and said didn’t think it would be an issue. We chatted some more. I think she was vetting us, she said, “Oh, we did just have a cancellation, we will be able to accomodate you!” Sweet! Thus we were invited and included in their holiday celebrations and festivities.
Later in our trip I had heard that some sailors had taken advantage of the resort. Yacht owners and their kids running rough shod over guests and the grounds. We’re members of the SSCA and the OCC. Both organizations believe, and encourage cruisers to “Leave a Clean Wake”. We are guests not only at the resort but in the country. It is in our long term interests to act like guests.
After our interview, Mei took us on a short tour. The mooring was 20 euros / person (yes a bit high for Indo standards and fair for European standards). But; it did offer a few cruiser friendly incentives: it included laundry service, garbage disposal, coffee and morning snacks, a bit of internet access, and 24 hours security in the harbor.
Few cruisers have a laundry machine aboard. If they do they still use heaps of fresh water. Further, keeping unlaundered items in a pile – they tend to ferment. Yuck. The snacks were cookies and biscuits fresh made every morning. And… they were good. Mei pointed out the trail head is for the mountain (hill) that offers a 360º view of the island. She indicated the path to the heliport; not used since the French Survivor TV show 10 years ago. We chatted at the board with all the employees names and positions. She had to point out the the bar with a large Iron Wood chess set (said they have it for exercise), and restaurant. We met Jessica the marketing guru who lead us here with the Facebook post. We would miss the gathering on Halmahera with some of our other cruiser friends. Pef looked to be a good replacement.
Back at the boat we rested and planned our next day. Foremost on my mind was climbing the mountain and getting the 360 view. At home on the boat the water in the harbor was clear and calm even when the wind blew. Of course between the “mountains’ the winds blew right over the top of us. Our awnings were up, life good.
After brekkie (as the Aussies call it) we headed in for our climb. At the dock the
Dock Master met us again and helped with the dinghy. We traveled through the mangrove forest and located the trailhead to the summit. Up we went. It was only 200 steps or so. 200 steps almost straight up. The resort had been quite thoughtful and where needed there were two ladders. Many of the more tenuous sections had ropes to assist. At the top was a covered wooden structure where we could hang for a bit, enjoy the breeze and the view. We forgot water. Oh well, tomorrow. As we were checking out the view another yacht pulled in. We couldn’t identify if it was True Blue V or Infinity. Yeah, my eyes aren’t what they use to be! Either one would add to the fun.
After descending we saw Craig and Leanne being vetted by Maya. Craig and Leanne aboard True Blue V. Maya seemed surprised we all knew each other. Again that helped in their also being invited to the holiday celebrations. There are only about 20 cruising boats in this area of Indonesia right now. We talked them into doing the mountain climb the following day and then returned back to the boat for some R n R . Rested a bit we went back in and invited Jessica out to the boat. She being a newest member of the management team didn’t know much of the cruising lifestyle and how that might fit into Pef. It was great sharing life stories, she from Germany, working in Pef as a marketing person and we from America looking at the world from the deck of a yacht.
The next day we wore actual shoes for the climb. Flip flops were not the most comfortable or stable on the mountain. Although the previous day two employees were replacing one of the ladders. I noticed one employee had climbed the hill in … bare feet!
Maya was quite generous with the yachts. She invited us to the festivities for the staff and the guests. At one such event we heard they provide massages here! W/ and I just discovered the perfect Xmas gifts for each other. We arranged to have massages the following day – after we snorkeled the house reef. It was suggested we walk the trail to the helipad and enter the water there. The reef was close to shore. We entered the water and snorkeled along the outside of the reef back to the resort. Schools of fish moved about the coral. In any Aquarium shop in the US those schools would have been worth 100’s of thousands of dollars. Moorish Idols, Tangs, a large Sweet Lips, and heaps of Damsels etc . You can check out the video on Raja4Divers home page (about half way down) to get a good sense of what the diving at the resort is like. To top it off, as we reached the resort we came across several Giant Clams. The resort is collecting them and hoping they reproduce. The Giant Clams are becoming endangered in Raja Ampat.
In the afternoon we enjoyed our massages in one of the unused guest cabanas. We relaxed listening to the gentle lapping of the sea along the shore with a gentle warm breeze.
The evening festivities concluded with a gift ceremony for the staff and some guests. Many of the staff had returned to their home island and families for the holidays. They had already received their gifts. Those that remained received them tonight. Maya bragged about each of them as she handed out the gifts. This one had moved to boat crew, this one was now a chief in training, this one… on and on. She was proud of them. And they seemed proud of her and their job at Pef.
Many resorts had closed during Covid and of those many went broke with owners walking away. In Pef, Maya kept all the staff on. She paid them all through Covid. Remember; this is Indonesia, to my knowledge they never had a Covid Stimulus package. With her philosophy, kindness and willingness to pay her staff, the resort was ready to roll when tourism began again. I was impressed with the relationship between her and the staff. She respected them and they her. As a manager / boss she had their backs and they had the resorts back. Everyone of the staff were pleasant and courteous. It was a joy to be with people that cared about each other. I’m not saying everything was “perfect”. It never is, but the direction Pef is taking with the community and their staff, well I admired it.
The resort buys as much local as possible. If they build another cabana, Pef purchases the wood from the local villiges. Seasonal fruit is bought from the local villages . Pef has established relationships with all the villages around them. And what they can’t get from the villages they weekly boat from Sarong. Sarong is where they pick up their guests. As the boat brings guests it also brings supplies. Had we been there longer and another time Maya said we could order supplies and they would bring them out on their boat! How awesome is that? Between Sarong and the N of Raja there are no stores for supplies. Villages have small markets and limited fruits and vegetables. Not enough variety for a cruising boat.
As the evening festivities went on and gifts were given we were surprised when Maya called our names. Not only ours but True Blue V and Infinity. We all received gifts! Pef’s master wood carver crafted them. A real treasure. As the evening wore on our eye lids were dropping. We crossed the mangrove swamp without falling in! The dock master helped us into the dinghy (not that we needed it- but it was low tide). As we motored home while he lit our boat up with a torch. It was late and it was dark .
Christmas Day we lulled around till it was time for dinner. We met more guests and staff. I was amazed that many of the guests we met have visited the resort multiple years. One guest couple had actually been a guest the first year it opened a decade ago. What better way to understand the quality of a resort by how many guests actually return and how often. The resort had a holiday dinner and we were lucky to be invited. And the desert, well the desert was really, really grand. As the evening wore on Mei told us that if we needed any stores for the boat we should ask. If they had them in their food locker we could buy any that we felt we needed. Like Mana from Heaven! I don’t know if they would do this for all cruisers all the time. As the holiday was at its peak, Pef was shutting down for two weeks. Every couple of months the resort shuts down for a deep clean. Every unit, every building, every piece of dive gear, everything; gets cleaned. And then off they go again.
From my understanding it is not “cheap” staying there. They have various packages for enjoying the water and just lulling about in the tropics. Get on their email list if interested, sign up down near the bottom of the page. But, and this is important for the younger set, they have at times had two weeks for one specials for the under 30’s crowd. So take a look at their web page and scroll down to the bottom, get on their email list. And maybe if you want something special make a reservation. But beware, in 2023 you will be on a wait list, they are already booked out!
We regretted leaving on Boxing Day. The resort was running their remaining guests back to Sarong and we headed N to Equator Island; Kawe. We were working our way to Wayag, said to be the pinnacle of Raja Ampat.