Komodo Boat Survivors Recall Sinking Horror

Komodo Boat Survivors Recall Sinking Horror


A 10-month-old baby was among those aboard a boat that sank off Komodo island in the middle of a stormy night, forcing terror-filled guests and crew to swim to safety.

No one was injured in the March 28 incident involving 17 tourists — American, Argentinean, British, Canadian, Danish, Dutch and Swiss — and eight crew aboard a vessel owned and operated by the Bali-based Perama tour company.

Abandoned: The Perama boat as it sinks. Photograph by Kate McCulley

BC, a Hungarian who requested her name not be used, was one of those on board. She told The Bali Times that everyone jumped into high seas as the craft was going down.

“Our boat ran into rocks in rough weather at 2am and got stuck. When it started flipping over we had to jump into the waves in heavy rain and swim ashore. We climbed over some slippery rocks to inside a protected bay where we were picked up by the dinghy of a liveaboard diveboat, Moana.

“I went into shock for hours. People were holding me and trying to keep me awake … some of the others went into shock later.”

American travel writer Kate McCulley, 26, was a guest of Perama on the doomed craft. She said it had been raining hard on Sunday night and two-meter swells were making many passengers seasick, including herself.

She told The Bali Times: “I woke up to a loud scraping noise. A few minutes later crew members ran onto the deck, where most of us were sleeping, turned on the light, and said: “Everybody, put your lifejackets on.”

However the life-preservers were not functional.

“Most of the lifejackets could not be used. They were knotted, tied together and stuck underneath a mesh cloth that was difficult to open.  It took me several minutes before I could even pull one life jacket out.”

After the crew steered the stricken boat near a small island off Komodo, famous for its man-eating dragons, it was discovered that the vessel’s lifeboat was also not operational, McCulley said.

“I prepared to get into the lifeboat, getting my bag with my computer ready. Then we were told by the crew that the lifeboat could not be used, so we had to jump into the water. I left my computer and other valuables on the boat.

“At this point, the starboard side of the boat was sinking. We gathered around the port side at the bow and jumped off, one by one, and swam to land. We were quite close to land, about 20 meters or so. The land was all rocks, so we had to climb them. After everybody was on land, the crew instructed us to climb along the rocks, moving further down the island. We climbed for approximately 30 minutes, at which point a speedboat showed up.”

Danish nationals Anne Katrine Kurtzhals and her friend Catherine were just starting out on a two-month visit to Indonesia when the incident happened. Anne Katrine recalls the fateful night: “We woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a scream and to the boat that hit rocks; the inside of my stomack flipped. At this time I wasn’t sure whether we where in the middle of the sea or near land, so I expected the worst and I was quite sure we wouldn’t make it.”

She said there was little assistance from the crew as the boat was sinking.

“The crew members were not that good in telling us passengers what to do. But eventually we gathered — I had a lifejacket; I heard some of the others had problems with theirs — on the deck and one by one we jumped into the sea and climbed the rocks. Only one member of the staff — Garry, 19 years old — stood ready to guide us. He didn’t know exactly what to tell us but he tried and now I am very grateful to this one young man.”

Both women flew to Denpasar and although their passports had been lost, the crew managed to find them.

After their dramatic rescue, the tourists spent the rest of the night on board the Moana diveboat before the harbour master at the port of Labuanbajo on the neighbouring island of Flores arrived at 9.45am on Monday with a rescue craft.

Safe: Traumatised tourists after being rescued by a diveboat. Photograph by Kate McCulley

Perama is well-known locally for its low-fare bus routes, and was running a Hunting Komodo by Camera tour that departed Bali last Saturday. Perama’s manager, Diana Perama Aryati, declined requests from The Bali Times to comment on the incident.

McCulley said, however, that the company refunded their guests the cost of the trip and paid for two nights’ accommodation at Labuanbajo, including two meals, but refused to pay for flights to Bali or for the loss of personal items.

The Perama guests filed reports with the police at Labuanbajo but were told the cause of the incident was “a combination of weather, the crew not being able to see where they were going and hitting a reef,” said McCulley.

She sought assistance from Aryati to return to Bali. “She responded that I should have empathy for the company as they were going through a difficult time. I responded that I found it incredibly inappropriate that she asked us, the passengers, to feel empathy for the company after we nearly lost our lives due to their actions.”

Argentinean Juan Ortiz, who was on the trip with his girlfriend, said he was traumatized by the incident and “very upset about the way Perama treated us, leaving us without any answers or help.”

He said: “I understand the risks, but not with this company that makes lots of money every day. We are from Argentina, in another part of the world, and coming to Indonesia required a big effort. It was kind of a dream, a very expensive one, and we are very sad that it finished like this.”

It is the second such incident involving a tourist boat in Komodo waters in six months. Last September a diveboat operated by Blue Dragon Indonesia sank with 12 tourists on board after it also hit rocks. Two crew members were injured as all on board swam to shore.


  1. John says:

    WoW scarying Story! The could have been alos attacked by the Komodo dragons!


    The boat company is so bad about safety…

  2. It’s indeed a big disaster. I wish all the victims are doing good right now.

    Why Perama didn’t change at all? I used their services 3 times and it’s more than enough.

    I remember my trip from Senggigi to Gili Trawangan with 15+ people and full with luggages (note: in a SMALL fishing boat). Yikeess!

  3. This is Kate McCulley. I also took a video on the rescue boat right after we sank:


    Expect much coverage of the shipwreck starting Monday, April 4, on AdventurousKate.com.

  4. Gili Boy says:

    STOP IT! Tourist please stop to find cheap trip to Gili or Komodo, they all are the same, they dont care about you, they just grab your money and when you lost your life who cares, they dont care, not even apologize, its your fault to choose them! because you try to save some money on cheap trip!there is plenty ways to enjoy your trip and enjoy safe trip but tourist must not spent money to company like this!

  5. BC says:

    Gili Boy – only problem here is that this was not a cheap trip. we chose Bali’s most reputable company for a reason.
    it absolutely makes me sick when people hint that we deserved to sink. nobody deserves that, even if they make a horrible decision.

  6. Olaf says:

    Thank you Gili Boy !!! My company operate a diving center on Flores and it is a mess for m as a European to see what boats are operating there – but it is also a shame for me to see how the European tourists are only interested to safe money … i never wish anyone an accident but the ones to who some like this is happens, will never use a cheap offer anymore … I am sorry for the involved guests !!
    The problem is in the system by self, as long the safety rules are very low and as long there are always ways (for locals) to go around this rules and as long the tourists accept it …. how it will be change ????
    Again: I am very sorry for the involved guests !!!!

  7. […] Over the next few days, police reports were filed.  Sarongs and toothpaste were purchased.  Thrillingly, I was interviewed for a story in the Bali Times. […]

  8. Glad everyone is OK. Also very fortunate it was only 20 feet from shore, could have been worse. Not sure the other options but cheap transport is very risky in most places of the world.

  9. amanda says:

    my friends where in that boat. i cant beleive that the company didnt care a shit about peoples situations, loosing all their belongings and dont even have money to phone the family or clothes to keep going on your trip.Its not about saving money but safety on ships, companies will sell you excursions that involve risk and do not care about your safety just want your money!! and also its about beeing more humanitarian in front of disasters like this. imagine that someone is drawning or the baby on board. i hope after this the company review the safety on ships.

  10. amanda says:

    tourists in all Asia should start to think seriusly where they spend their money

  11. adriano says:

    hey gili.are you on the boat.when the got an accident.if you were not on the boat,please don’t talk so much.i believe perama is the best company. ………la’e demam me..

  12. Kelly Tokunaga says:

    Thank you Gili Boy! Here in Indonesia, we buy our safty. Cheap ! has a reason to be cheap…We should consider the value of its quality

  13. Erika says:

    I took several trips with Perama Tours and I can honestly say that after visiting more than 80 countries this is the worst travel company I have ever encountered. They dont hesitate to lie about what will be provided and safety is entirely disregarded.

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