Survivors Warn Against Dirt-Cheap Indonesian Boat Trip Tickets


Survivors of the tourist boat that sunk in Sangeang, Lombok Indonesia - New Zealanders Gaylene Wilkinson and Tony Lawton - warns against buying dirt-cheap tickets for island tours.

Wilkinson and Lawton said that they bought their tickets for a four day boat tour for $NZ175 ($AU160) each from a travel agency along the main street of Senggigi.

The two later found out that in the four day boat tour, they will be riding a wooden boat without GPS or any navigational equipment. In the very moment that the boat sunk, they found out that it has no flares and that the aluminium lifeboat has no oars, no motor and can only accommodate 6 people.

"You get what you pay for. As soon as we'd bought the ticket, I said to Tony I think we've picked the wrong boat," Wilkinson told Fairfax Media.

For the first part of the boat tour, the trip went well. However, as the boat braved the heavy seas off Sangeang, the engine stopped because the hull was flooded. The boat then had a hole and within an hour it was already 90 per cent submerged in the water, Lawton recalls.

Wilkinson said that the crew were obviously clueless how to handle the disaster. The tourists were the ones who got pails and started desperately removing water from the boat.

Another boat sailed nearby. However, there was no way to get it attention as they do not have flares.

"Our Indonesian guide got a broomstick with a rag on the end and some kero, and had a live flame he was waving around. It was pretty frightening because by that stage there was fuel all through the water," Wilkinson said.

Trying to scramble for safety, 6 tourists got in the lifeboat with the other 19 tourists hanging on the sides of the boat with their bodies in the water. They stayed at this situation for twenty hours until it became more dangerous as big waves were already coming.

Some of the tourists then decided to swim a nearby island while the others stayed on the life boat and started kicking the waters towards the island.

It took them six-and-a-half hours to reach the shore. The next day they were finally rescued by five-star dive boat, the Mermaid Liveaboard.

Unfortunately, two Spanish men were never found.

On Monday, the rescue operations have been called off as there were no signs of them after scouring the island.

"The search operation officially ended on Saturday after the last search failed to find them. According to procedures, if nothing is found after seven days, search efforts will be called off," West Nusa Tenggara Search and Rescue (SAR) head Budiman said.

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