What to expect
Upon arrival at our campsite, everything will already be set up by our guides. The tents will be pitched and equipped with mattresses and blankets, the fire pit will have wood ready to be lit, there will be a gallon of water or two, depending on how many volunteers we have at that point, the hammocks will be hung up and the snorkeling and spearfishing gear should be in one of the tents, or in the wood cabin behind the campsite. There will be cooking gear available as well.
You will settle down, get your bearings and just enjoy the rest of the day on the campsite. You will have the choice to go into Taliwang with one of the guides to get some additional gear if you need/want it, like fishing gear, pellet guns or even guitars, as well as the food you would like to eat for the next few days, or you can simply make a list and give it to one of the guides who will go and get it all for you. They will let you know roughly how much all of it will cost, so just give them the cash and they will bring you back your change along with the supplies you asked for. You can trust our guys with this.
The guides are there to do everything for you if need be. If you want them to cook your food for you, which they will assume is the case, they will cook every meal for you either on the beach or in the cabin. If you would rather cook your own food for whatever reason, just kindly tell them so and they will leave you to your own devices when it comes to food.
Enjoy the beach for what it is – a wonder of nature with little or no other people to disturb you. Surf your brains out on one of the three breaks right in front of you, snorkel, spearfish, or even work out! This experience is what you make of it.
If you want to add facilities to the campsite, feel free to build and customize anything you want to your specification. It’s the Wild West out there, and the site that we currently have is the way it is because of the work that past volunteers have done on it – so it will constantly be changing and will in effect evolve with time!
We also have a nice little beruga right behind the site that is for us to use, built there by our neighboring land-owner who is sympathetic to our cause. If you want, you can even sleep there! In the rainy season, something that might be nice to do is get a mosquito net and wrap it all around the beruga, and then simply hang up your hammocks and sleep out there instead of in the tents.
I personally find that the tents can get quite hot at times, so I prefer to sleep outside in my hammock. A great way to do this is to take one of the single mattresses and take it with you in the hammock, as well as a blanket to put over you. It might take a night or two to get used to it, but I can guarantee you that after those first couple of nights, you will never want to sleep in a bed again. It is a good idea to put some mosquito spray on at night if you do this, as although there are not nearly as many mosquitoes in Sumbawa as there are in Bali, especially in the dry season, there are still a few and the spray keeps them at bay quite effectively. What I do is hang up a mosquito net over my hammock that I sometimes use, sometimes just wrap up and leave aside.
Oh and by the way - there are no toilets. This is camping, as in REAL camping, but there is a well with clean water that people can use freely about 50 meters north-west of the campsite. This water is not drinkable, but you can use it to shower or clean plates and cooking equipment etc. if you don’t want to use the seawater.
Volunteers also need to be aware that we can use the cabin north-east of the campsite to sleep in during the dry or rainy season. Hanging hammocks on the porch is ideal as it is protected by the wind and also provides protection against rain and insects on the ground. Bear in mind though that this cabin is free to use by the public, so on Sundays and big wave days, you might get visitors like local surfers and one or two other locals who want to come and just hang out watching the surf. For privacy, you are much better off on the campsite, but just know that you have that option available to you if need it. During the wet season, the cabin is used by a local farmer who comes and sometimes sleeps there for days at a time with his wife and kids to maintain this crops. You can share the cabin with them, as they are very welcoming to us and are sympathetic to our cause. They will help keep your stuff secure while you are surfing etc, but privacy is not something you will get if you choose to stay there while they are there too!
If you ding your surfboard, we have a guy called Danny here to help, a local from Taliwang who was sent to Bali in September 2016 for a two month ding repair apprenticeship. We sponsored this trip and arranged for him to come back with all the equipment needed to open up his own surf repair workshop. Another local, Upik, was sent at the same time and has stayed there since, only planning on coming back at the end of October 2017 to keep working with Fair Nomad and Danny. These two are fully trained and capable of fixing your boards, Upik having the most experience and expertise, and will do so for a local price. We are trying to help them develop their own surfboard repair business on our beach, so please bear this in mind. If ever you do have a ding and want to get in touch with either Danny or Upik because they are not with you on the beach, get in touch with me, I will send them to meet you and see what's up.
With regards to electrical equipment and connectivity, you will be better off with a TelecomCell sim card which can be bought locally in Taliwang for very cheap, as well as loads of data. XL also works, but less often. The signal on the beach is intermittent, which means that is comes and goes and is not reliable all the time, but you should have a god enough connection to send and receive emails and phone calls etc. Whales and Waves have free Wi-Fi for our volunteers, as well as a restaurant, and a real toilet. Anything that you need to charge can be brought there, they also have scooters for rent if need one, for 80K per day.
They even have beer! Cheers!!
The job of the guides that will be with you is simply to take care of you from A to Z. They will cook for you, unless you tell them not to, get supplies from town, take you to and from the schools where you will be teaching, get the campsite ready for your arrival and pack it up after you leave. They have a bunch of different equipment at their disposal that I have sourced for the project from Bali and the UK, so if you want anything that is not on the campsite, please ask the guides in case it is something that they already have available. If not, they will take you to town and show you where to get whatever it is you need. We can even have gear imported from Bali, so if need be, contact me and I will make all the necessary arrangements.
The guides can also give you surf lessons, show you the best snorkeling and surf spots around the region, all of which are not known by the general public, and even take you to local attractions such as blue waterfalls and buffalo racing!
At the start of every week, the suggested payment is 500K per volunteer. The number of guides working with each group that arrives will be proportional to the size of the group, at a ratio of about 1:2. But only pay them this amount for the coming week if they have showed up every single day, and taken care of you in every way, as is required of them. They know the drill, and I have briefed them that if they do not get paid the 500K, it is because the volunteers feel like they did not do enough to earn that money. I will source other guides if there any problems whatsoever with any of the guys you are initially introduced to. This has never happened per say, but there is a first time for everything!
It is part of what we are trying to achieve out there on the ground – create jobs for these guys who would normally only be able to work in mines or on farms, and earn less than 50K per full day of labor. Our guides are very, very happy to work with us as they are usually locals who surf and camp as a hobby, and this also gives them the opportunity to learn better English. Out there, this is a skill that gets people well paid jobs, so people who work for us as guides get a lot of benefits from doing so. They do what they love doing, get paid for it, and learn skills that they can use in the future to help their careers, whatever these may be. So it is important that we help this happen in a sustainable way, and that we teach them to not take anything for granted. It sounds patronizing, but it is crucial that we help sustain a good work ethic in our guides and that we do not develop in them a belief that money just falls out of the pockets of tourists for free. This would ruin all of our efforts on the ground, as we rely on these guys for absolutely everything we do. It is a very delicate balance that we need to maintain, and if any of our volunteers feel any concerns at all about how out guides are working or behaving on the ground, I urge you to get in touch with me personally as fast as possible.
Finally, for any health concerns, we work closely with the most qualified doctor in the region, who is the person that deals with any tourist that has a bad day within 100 kilometers of Taliwang. He owns his own pharmacy on top of working full time in the main Hospital, and regularly visits the schools we work with to provide free checks and healthcare to the kids who cannot afford to see a healthcare professional by their own means.
His name is Headshot. Remember this name.
We are eternally indebted to Headshot for all his hard work and good will. I am personally continuously inspired by the initiative he shows to make his medical and linguistic skills available to our volunteers as well as anybody less fortunate than he is...if you are fortunate enough to meet Headshot on the ground, please take a moment to shake his hand and acknowledge his hard, selfless work. Then give him a hug, and tell him “This is from me and Khalil. Thank you.”
You will already have been introduced to the school where you will spend your time helping the local teachers by the guides who will have a letter of invitation from the school addressed to you. You will go into the school on your first or second day at camp, to introduce yourself formally to the headmaster of the school, who will arrange with you directly a suitable daily slot for you to come in and help teach the kids. Depending on what age group you choose or is assigned to you, you could be joined by adults who also wish to benefit from this exchange of knowledge. I did say exchange of knowledge, because outside of the classroom, the guides and other locals will try and teach you about their local language and culture. It is of paramount importance that we do not come across as colonials, trying to come in and tell people how to run their lives, that our language and way of life is superior, because this is far from being the case.
We have a lot to learn from these people, and their way of life might not seem as appealing as ours at first, but remember that everything is relative. Once you have spent a sufficient amount of time there, you will notice that your perspective will change and you will start questioning some of the things you do on a daily basis back home…I will not elaborate further on this, and instead will leave it for you to discover. We are all different, and everybody who has come to spend time with us has had the experience impact them in slightly different ways.
Bear in mind that what you choose to do with the teacher and his or her class is entirely up to you! We have had one volunteer come with a bunch of soccer gear for the kids, which he personally sourced from Bali by organizing a charity run out there. His name is Luke Diaz. He spent his time coaching the kids outdoors and playing sports with them.
Another has spent her time teaching art, and a few others on how to dispose of trash sustainably and how to recycle some of the trash and make a small business out of it.
The most notable example of what one can achieve is Michael, otherwise known as "Ging Beeman". Michael is our most driven and dedicated volunteer. Back in Australia, Micheal single-handedly pulled together hundreds of books, board games, as well as three laptops, and initiated a library project for the kids in Tua Nanga, a poor fishing village we are involved with. He is now a Hero amongst the locals, and his hard, selfless work has been truly eye-opening to all of us...Michael is a big part of what keeps us going, keeping me personally motivated to work on this project. He keeps on remind us all how good human beings inherently are.
I will never be able to thank Michael enough for everything he has done for our cause.
You may want to teach Maths, Geography, some History of your country, the choice is entirely up to you. Just bear in mind that it is a Muslim island, and that some things should not be encroached on. There are no taboo subjects, but we should in no way try and embellish our traditions or religions, like Christmas, Easter, or even New Year’s Eve. Be sensitive and use common sense, and just do the best you can to achieve as much good as you can. Be receptive to their desire to teach you about the way they do things. If offered to go and see someone’s father or home, the more open you are, the more receptive the kids and adults will be to you and what you have to say.
When walking or driving around, try and be as respectful as possible. Say or wave hello to anybody you go past, as even though not everybody will reciprocate your move, you will build up a sense of respect amongst the locals, as it is seen as a sign of respect for foreigners to acknowledge locals. Remember, this is their home, their ancestral land, and we are but guests there.
If you want to do more, or something different for one or two days a week, then you can help us with our beach clean-up project! We are making signs that say “Put rubbish in bins” and posting them up all along the beaches around us, as well as building bins next to the signs. We are also picking up trash, burning what can be burned and taking to town the plastics so that they can be disposed of properly. This is to encourage the locals to not just throw out their trash anywhere on the beaches as these beaches are what will bring them more business and more tourists, something that will bring them jobs in the long term and help them out of poverty. These tourists will come anyways, one day or another, with plans for many hotels already being put forward to local authorities. So what we really want is for these locals to have their own businesses already established, giving a true sense of what Indonesia is about, before any of the big boys come in and monopolize the market. We want these beaches and this part of Indonesia to remain eco-friendly, clean, and corporation-free. To achieve this we need to help the locals start making something of themselves in a sustainable way, starting now.
Now this is a personal request from me to all prospective volunteers.
The most effective and powerful thing we can do right now is find a way to recycle various plastics locally, and from the product of this recycling make something that the locals can use to help themselves, or turn into some sort of long term business. For example, if we can find a way to melt and compact all plastics into bricks, which can them be built modularly into any structure, just like Lego, it would be worth gold for the locals. It would be an incentive for them to pick up their own plastic rubbish, as they could make money from it. Something like this has the potential to solve trash problems all around the world! My Lego idea is but a little example, and I am sure if we have enough brains working on the same problem, we can find a way to incentivize the locals to pick up their own plastic, and using a simple and cheap method, make from it something useful that could eventually generate revenue.
Something else that could be VERY useful to future volunteers, would be for some fort of rustic toilet to be built somewhere close to the campsite. Toilet seats and such can be bought in town for not much, but a sustainable system needs to be designed and implemented for any future volunteer to be able to use. Be mindful though of building anything on dry riverbeds – these get flash flooded in heavy rains.
The best part of our project, if you ask me, is that there is no format to the type of help that volunteers can give. Anything is possible out there, and you are limited by nothing but your own imagination and drive. Having said that, you need to show initiative and a sense of self-motivation to be able to help in an effective way. Nobody is going to take you by the hand and say; ok walk into that class, and read this paragraph for them. Nobody is going to show you how to keep the beaches clean, and nobody is going to tell you how to be comfortable on our campsite. Anything you want and need can be sourced in Taliwang, or imported from Bali, but the engine behind anything happening is you!
We are trying to push our volunteers to help empower the women in these communities, a move initiated by Christian, one of our very first volunteers. This can be achieved by walking around the village and asking for a paid meal when coming across a woman cooking in her back yard for example. If you tell her that you will be back the next day, and do this several days in a row, you will notice that she will start planning these meals in advance, and getting some of her family and friends to help streamline the process. It is important that you choose these locations strategically, at busy intersections for example or next to a school or a large flat area used for sports occasionally, for this new venture to last longer than the duration of your stay.
There are many little “shacks” on the beach in front of Whales and Waves. What we have been trying to do there, is also get the women running these shacks who sell drinks to also make food and rent out beach gear to people, like maybe sunbeds that we can help them make. Anything that can potentially generate further revenue and make these women feel more independent is something that we can to encourage as much as possible.
In the classes that we help teach, sometimes when offered to do a sport instead of an academic subject, the girls will sit inside while all the boys go running out to play. It is important to us that the girls partake in these activities as much as the boys do, so we ask out volunteers to push the girls as much as possible to join the boys and play sports with them. If they do not want to because they do not like the sport, then we ask our volunteers to offer at least two sports when they run these activities instead of only one. There are a lot of sports played internationally better by women than by men, so you will need to show some initiative and come up with things that both the girls and boys can do. If only the boys are active and the girls are sitting on the side watching, for us, that is a failure, and we are reinforcing a mentality that is simply not fair.
I come from a multicultural background, and understand the importance of traditions - and we respect these traditions - so don’t think that me saying this means that I want to wipe the slate clean and do away with how things have been happening for a long time out there. Just know that the Muslim religion was imported to Indonesia and that it is by no means an ancestral way of life. So why not try to encourage a bit of equality and see what happens? At all times, if told by school authorities that what is happening is not good, stop immediately and carry on with a different activity. When the day is done, get in touch with me and we will try and work out a compromise with the schools for the next day. Never get into a confrontation with anybody, and be respectful at all times while in Indonesia. If we don’t have the minds and hearts of the people on our side, we are achieving nothing at all. Our project becomes a way to have a cheap camping holiday for people, and we will need to cease all activity.
Something else that I would like to ask of our volunteers is to come up with different ways to empower women in these communities. One thing that could help is for a class to be held on various significant achievements made by women all around the world for instance. Maybe also a class on different places around the world where women are in charge, but this must be done carefully without being disrespectful to the school authorities and local customs. We are not trying to teach people that women are better than men – we are just different, and in the big picture, the exact same. Also remember that it is a man writing all of this!
To achieve independence is the most powerful things we can do to help the women out there. So put your thinking caps on...
At the end of your time-
When you come to the end of your time with us, you do not need to worry about packing up the campsite. This is the job of the guides, who will take all the equipment to a safe location either in Kertasari or in Taliwang. All I ask is that you dispose of any trash you have in a sustainable way, and not to leave this to the guides to do. It is important that we lead by example, and show that we not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. Burn anything that is not made of plastic, throw in the field anything that is biodegradable, and bring all plastics with you to Taliwang to dispose of accordingly. The guides can show you where this can be done.
Thank you for your time in reading this. I hope that this document has helped you gain a better understanding of what we are doing and why - and more importantly motivate you to click on that "Send" button in the email you are writing me to say that you are on your way!! :-)