Swimming to Kodingareng Keke, just a personal thing

- this event took place on 1 December 2007
- this article was published earlier on the website of Forum Makassar Straits
- text and photos by Sybout Porte

It is just a few minutes after five when I arrive at "Sari Laut", the open space at the sea side in front of Ford Rotterdam. Though above land the first signs of the starting new day are visible, the sea is still dark with only now and then lightning illuminating black rain clouds. Besides some people sitting in a corner (or are they sleeping?), there is nobody around. Where are the people I am supposed to meet here? My friend Jan could have been here by now, and the person who is expected to become the hero of the day, Marek, should be busy with preparations, like a warming-up; or is this not needed? I am here to join Jan in the boat that will follow Marek swimming from town to Jan's little island Kodingareng Keke, an incredible distance of about 12 kilometers. This exiting attempt I really want to witness. For a moment the thought that I have been fooled comes up, but no, this is the 1st of December and not April Fools' Day. After a few phone calls I am confident again: everybody involved turns out to be a bit late, but on their way already.

About half an hour later the group is ready and leaves in one of the "skoci" (small boat) used for transportation between the islands. Marek is sipping form a pack of chocolate milk and thinks it is wise not to start his swim here, but get out of the dirty water of the harbour first. Looking around I see that Marek's hygienic worries are not shared by all people living in Makassar: "Sari Laut" turns out to be a place where many people bathe in the morning. People are not really swimming, but are chatting in groups while standing up to their neck in the water.

Marek making preparations

Shiny of sunblock and Vaseline

By the time we have passed the opening between the dams protecting the harbour, Marek has covered his skin with a layer of sun block and Vaseline and is ready. The long distance swim is going to start. Though there are still thunderstorms in the distance, there is almost no wind and the sea is smooth. In the east the sky has turned red. The time is twelve to six when Marek fixes his mask and snorkel and makes his first strokes. The first stop, Samalona island, looks far away.

Marek starts his swim
Not long after the start

After half an hour we have passed the last ship anchored in front of the harbour. Now it really feels to be in open sea.

passing the last ship
Passing a ship anchored in front of harbour

Marek's strokes are strong and regular all the time. Our boat follows beside or behind the swimmer. Nobody on board can imagine doing what this swimmer does.

After one hour in the water Marek asks for something to drink. It looks like we are half way to Samalona Island now.

drink stop
Short drink stop

The swim continues as easy as it looked before, and at 07.47, exactly two hours after the start near the dam of Lae-Lae, Marek gets ashore at Samalona. Here we will have a short break at one of the "warung" (little restaurant) on the island. Only Marek turns out to be thirsty; he finishes a bottle of Bintang beer. "Good for adding some carbohydrates", he says. Further he explains that he hopes the alcohol will give him something extra next to "the boring blue screen" he had all these hours before his eyes.

passing the last ship
Break on Samalona Island - Jan Munneke, his son Vincent and Marek

At 08.35 Marek is in the water again to start his next lap to the island Kodingareng Keke. Now things start to be more difficult: the wind has become strong and waves with now and then white heads come from the right. Marek asks us to sail in front of him, because in between the waves it is hard for him to see the island. Our boat has to show him in which direction to go. In spite of the rougher circumstances, our swimmer still keeps a regular pace. It is only our boat that up to three times has engine problems and has to stop during repairs.

An other two hour swimming has nearly passed when our skipper starts panicking. A liner of Pelni is showing up between us and town. Though it looks like the boat just left the harbour of Makassar, our skipper wants to get out of the way as soon as possible: Marek has to come aboard and has to move to a safer place with us. First I feel the skipper is over-worried, but when I see that after the last repair he didn't take the effort to put the cover of the outboard engine back in place, I think it is better not to risk another engine-failure just in front of the Pelni liner. Marek comes aboard and we move to a safe distance from the route of the liner and let the boat pass before continuing.

Pelni liner passing
Pelni liner "Awu" passing at safe distance

It turns out that we are about half away between Samolona and Kodingareng Keke now. Marek has still a long way to go. And there he goes again, still with the same pace, but now and then changing crawl with breaststroke. Later Marek tells us that this is because of a strong pain in his shoulder. When we get nearer to the island, the sky is still dark, but the wind diminishes and the waves become lower.

dark skies
Still a dark sky, but waves becoming smaller

Though until now almost not moving, Kodingareng Keke is clearly getting closer and closer. It looks like Marek is going to complete this incredible long swim!

Kodingareng Keke getting closer
Kodingareng Keke is getting close now

above the corals
Above the corals at Kedingareng Keke

A few minutes after we saw the first corals on the bottom, Marek walks to the beach of Kodingareng Keke Island. There we join him and give our congratulations. It is 11.45: two minutes short, six hours have passed since Marek started his swim in front of the harbour of Makassar. Everybody agrees that something very special has been done. "I am sure you are the first person ever swimming to this island", says Jan. I ask Marek why he didn't invite more people to witness this event. "No, it is just a personal thing", he answers.

Once again: congratulations Marek, you did it!

Some data (that were valid on 01 Dec 2007):
name: Marek Smith
age: 32
nationality: British (Polish mother)
status: single
profession: English language teacher (at English First - Makassar)
residence: Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia
swim route: Makassar - Samalona - Kodingareng Keke (about 12 km minus the distance from town to the dam)
swimming time: 5 hours and 58 minutes
air temperature: 27 - 31 dgr. C.
water temperature: 28 dgr. C


The pages in the categories "animals" and "plants" give an impression of life in the front- and backyard of my house in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. The photos were made in a period of several years.