This weekend was Lombok’s infamous Bau Nyale festival. Following a Sasak legend thousands of locals flocked to the beaches along Lombok’s southern coastline in a quest for sea worms.
Many years ago there was Sasak Princess called Mandalika. She was the most beautiful woman anyone had ever seen. All over the land, men would compete for her affection. Jealousy and violence spread throughout Lombok causing chaos amongst the many villages.
Mandalika was so distressed by the fighting that she climbed up one of the highest cliffs and flung herself into the ocean. Many men dove into the ocean in an attempt to save the princess – but she could not be found. Instead they found thousands and thousands of Nyale – sea worms.
Since that day there has been an annual pilgrimage. Locals turn up in droves, fishing nets in hand, hoping to collect a bucket full of sea worms. This is called bau Nyale – Sasak language for ‘collect the nyale sea worms.’
The event lasts all night. Those who turn up early can enjoy a picnic on some of Lombok’s most beautiful beaches. There is music, food and dramatic re-enactments of the Princess Mandalika saga.
Later that night – more and more people start to arrive. They come by car, by motor bike, they come in truckloads… and they just keep coming! Thousands and thousands of people flock to the area all through the night – filling the beach with noise and heavy smoke from old motorbikes.
Everyone is carrying fishing nets and buckets to scoop up the sea worms. Later they hope to eat them. Apparently they are a great source of protein.
At about four o’clock in the morning I sat on the rocks in the ocean taking in the scene. I watched as the droves of people passed by me – all of them heading into the water. I could see many small dotted lights all around the ocean as people collected the worms.
Finally the sun rose to reveal hundreds of people still in the water – scooping up the last of the Sea worms to take back to their family. The sea worm migration was over until next year.