This place is a dream come true! Literally ... it looks like paradise (beacuse it is), and I got to see Komodo Dragons in the wild!!!
27.02.2014 - 05.03.2014 40 °C
After a bunch of rainy days in Jakarta I flew all the way over to the island of Flores. I knew I would love this place even before the plane landed. The views from my tiny airplane window upon landing were spectacular!!! It flew over volcanoes and 100s of vibrant green islands surrounded by a ring of turqoise water!
The airport in Labuan Bajo is tiny. And by tiny, I mean they off-load your bags and leave them on the tarmac for you to pick up, lol! I didn't have any luggage to wait for, cuz I travel with only a carry-on size backpack, so I headed straight to where the taxis were waiting. The exit doors to get out of the airport were locked though ... but not to keep me in ... to keep all the taxi touts out! You should have seen them, it was hystercal! They were all pressed up against the windows, like children trying to peek into a toy store, lol! Their faces were smooshed up against the glass and everything. A guard unlocked the doors for me and I was instantly bombarded by every single taxi driver trying to get my business. You can definitely tell its low season and they are hard up for some business. I chose a driver and told him to take me to a beachfront resort. He took me to La Prima. One of the best parts about traveling in low season is the good deals. This fancy resort that was beachfront, had a big infinity pool with a swim up bar, massage parlor & spa, free breakfast & wifi, etc, was $120 a night in high season, but only $51 in low season
This was the fabulous view from my balcony!
Turns out my taxi driver's brother runs houseboating tours to Komodo National Park, so as soon as I mentioned I was interested, he called up his brother who arrived in under 5min to give me his business shpiel before I even had a chance to bring my backpack up to my room! Once again I got a steal of a deal cuz of low season!! This has got to be the best deal of 'em all! I booked a 2 day/ 1 night houseboating tour to Rinca Island & Komodo Island for only $75!!! Regular $300 in high season (accordingly to my Lonely Planet guide)! I was smiling for the rest of the day After I gave him a deposit, I dropped my bag off in my room and headed to the pool/beach.
So this next story I'm about to tell has never happened to me anywhere else in the world, but its happened over & over again every island I've visited in Indonesia ... random locals will approach me wanting their photo taken with me, or will be taking selfies but making sure that I'm in the background, or hide in a bush to take my photo! Some just walk right up to me while I'm tanning poolside and take my photo without asking! Its so annoying, I hate it! Has this happened to anyone else?! Do I look like someone famous (I dont think I do), or is just cuz I'm tall, white, and have blond hair??? Whatever the reason, it got real annoying, real quick. Now I 100% always ask a local if I can take their photo rather than trying to be sneaky about it, cuz now I know how it feels having someone invade your privacy. This is what African wildlife must feel like when a jeep full of tourists shows up and starts clicking away, lol!
My first amazing Indonesian sunset :D
The next day I checked out of my hotel, but left the majority of my stuff there in storage (just took enough with me for my 2 day adventure), and promised I'd be back for it. My taxi driver's brother was supposed to pick me up at 6:30am to take me to the marina to join the other people on my houseboating tour. After 15min of waiting I was beginning to think I'd been scammed. But finally, around the 20min late mark, he showed up. I joined 5 other Canadians for the adventure of a lifetime
This was my home for 2 days & 1 night. The open part in the front was our sitting area by day with all our luggage piled in the middle, and our sleeping area by night. Thank goodness for perfect weather, cuz I wouldnt wanna sleep out in the open if it was raining! It was not the fancy yacht I was expecting, more of a beater putzing along, lol! But the scenery & company made up for it The captain & crew got bunkbeds; we slept in the open on the floor (more photos to come of our sleeping arrangements a little later). There was a toilet (squatty potty version), but no shower.
Sailing away from Labuan Bajo.
Our first stop was Rinca Island. It wasnt too far away, under 2hrs, but I cant remember exactly how long it took. I was too mezmorized by the scenery to pay attention to the time. Everything was so wonderfully green!
Upon arriving at Rinca Island we were assigned a ranger / guide. This we found out, is not included in the price we already paid. Plus there was a fee to bring a camera. I cant remember how much the extras fees were since this trip took place 9mths ago, but it wasnt outageous or anything. Theres 4 people to a guide, so you split the cost between 4ppl, and you each pay your own camera fee.
Right off the bat we spotted this Komodo Dragon snoozing in the shade near the ranger station!
Before the 2hr hike began, we were given a quick safety briefing and a stick to ward off any dragons lurking in the tall grass. I'm pretty sure a twig isnt gonna save my life. We were told that twice in recent years Komodo Dragons had walked into the ranger station and cornered the ranger working in there! There is only one door, and so no way to escape. One bite from a Komodo will kill you! Not from venom, but from so much bacteria. Its a long, slow death. After being told that, me & my stick were on high alert!!
The first hour of the hike was more of a walk than an actual hike. We were taken to a Komodo nest to see where they lay their eggs in holes they have dug in the ground.
We spotted this baby Komodo peeking his head up above the grass, and another one lumbering down the very path we were walking on!
The 2nd hour turned into an actual hike ... through a furnace! The first half was in the forest, which provided shade from the 45C heat (although its still about 37C in the shade)!! The second half was out in the open, no trees for any cover at all, and straight up a hill to a lookout point. It was honestly like being in a furnace. If you've been to Mexico or the Caribbean and think you know what hot weather is ... think again! Travel to the equator, and then you'll know what real heat is like! You know how during Canadian winters the cold & wind can freeze your skin in seconds ... thats how the heat is here! You burn in 2.0 seconds. And by burn I mean it feels like your skin is on fire! So wear a hat and preferable light linen pants/shirt unless you like sunburns And dont forget to pack sunscreen & water!
Hiking out in the open
This was the lookout point we were rewarded with.
Back at the dock we noticed 100s of teeny tiny Fiddler Crabs! The whole thing was no bigger than my thumbnail!!
Back on board we were served a tastey lunch. The captain was also our chef, and if you could have seen the kitchen he was working in, you'd be amazed by the meals he put out!
While we ate we sailed towards Pink Beach, which was our next stop for some snorkeling and relaxing on a beautiful beach.
Pink Beach ... the sand has a slight pink hue to it due to the red coral offshore.
Some locals chillin' on their boat anchored at Pink Beach
One of said locals offered to lead me down a trail, and up a small hill to this lookout point over the beach.
So guess what I did? I mooned the captain. By accident of course! After swimming we all needed to change into dry clothes. There's not alot of privacy on the boat, so everyone would try to find a corner and change with a sarong wrapped around themselves for privacy. So I did the same ... changed from wet bikini to dry underwear. Then I came out of my corner with my sarong still wrapped around me, to let someone else use that corner. As I was struggling to keep the sarong up, but pull on some shorts at the same time, I decided to just drop the sarong. Panties are no different than a bikini bottom ... unless your wearing a thong! OMG! I totally forgot what kind of underwear I had on, LOL! My back was to a wall, or so I thought, so no big deal, right? Wrong! The 'wall' had a window for the captain to look out while he drove the boat. And guess who happened to be looking out the window when I dropped my sarong? Yup, Mr Captain got a good view of me ars, lol!
After a few hours here, we sailed over to Flying Fox Bay where we anchored for the evening. We watched the sunset by climbing onto the roof of the captains bunk.
We were told 100s of Flying Foxes (giant fruit bats) would fly across the bay at sunset ... there were 10. One at a time. Not the spectacle we were waiting for, lol! There were also a few of these birds fishing/diving into the water around our boat.
Sunset from our boat
So our sleeping arrangements ... not ideal. Near bed time we were told to drag all our luggage out on to the bow of the boat cuz we'd be sleeping on the floor! The captain dragged out 6 flat mattresses for us to sleep on. But only 2 sheets and 2 blankets (and 6 smelly pillows)!!! Luckily the 2 sheets were large enough to cover all 6 little mattresses. But the blankets were to fit 3 people per blanket! Um, what? I dont know any of these people, I dont want to snuggle with 2 strangers under my blanket! Thankfully it was 27C at night with no chilly wind, so I didnt even need the balnket. I just used my sarong to cover my legs a bit. Again, so thankful for perfect weather, lol! Here is a crappy iPhone photo of our 'spooning train'! Thats me on the end in the pink shirt.
I actually slept really good considering. Sleeping under a clear sky speckled with stars in Indonesia ... awesome!! But bring earplugs, unless you enjoy listening to 5 other people breathing & snoring.
The next morning we were woken up by the rising sun, around 5:45am, grooooooan.
We cleared out the mattresses & bedding, and brought our bags & benches back in while the captain made us banana pancakes for breakfast. Then we sailed to Komodo Island, only 10min away.
Once again we were assigned a guide/ ranger, and had to pay extra fees for him (you cannot go hiking without a guide so you have no choice but to pay the fee) and for a camera. There were a few different hikes to choose from. We ended up splitting our group up into 2. Myself & the French couple did the easy 1.5hr hike, and the other 3 did the more strenuous 2hr hike.
My hike started along the beach where we waved hello to a few local ladies walking past from nearby Komodo Village.
We saw 7 Komodos total today Two babies (which look alot like Monitor Lizards in Africa and are the same size too), 2 fully grown ones in the forest, and the rest were by the ranger station.
In addition to the dragons, we also saw Roosa Deer (I'm sure I've spelt that wrong), and one cockatoo. This one was missing an antler??
Costa apple growing on a tree
After taking photos of the villagers, komodos by the ranger station, and deer, we headed into the forest. Our first stop was atop Fregata Hill for a great view over the area.
I love the mountains here, they have a Jurassic feel to them ... quite fitting since the Komodos look like little dinosaurs
After a short break at the lookout point, we headed back into the forest where we eventually came across 2 big Komodo Dragons! A little orange butterfly landed on the dragons nose!!! Brave!
Anyone who was brave enough could stand behind a Komodo and the ranger would take your photo with it. Yes please! Thats me in the middle.
All of the trails on Komodo Island were made entirely of broken coral & seashells!
Guys working on the trails
Filling bags with broken coral
Our hike ended at the beach where we started. We had about 20min to wait for the other group to finish their hike. In the meantime I made friends with this little guy.
The beach & pier in front of the ranger station
Our next stop was Manta Point for some snorkeling with Manta Rays! (I didnt take any photos, no underwater camera). There were about 30 or so of them gliding effortlessly through the water.
After about 40min here, we made one last stop at one of the many little islands for more snorkeling / swimming / tanning. This is my boat anchored at the beach.
Two-tone blue water
Thats it, thats all! By far my fave part of my whole month long trip, and definitely one of my Top 5 travel experiences ever!!! Then we sailed back to Labuan Bajo and said our goodbyes. I spent an additional 3 days back at La Prima Hotel relaxing poolside by day, and enjoying the incredible sunsets by night.
One evening a storm rolled in. I watched it come for miles before it finally reached me. My balcony was covered so I was able to watch the storm and not get wet
Well thats got to be my longest post ever! Hope you enjoyed all the photos & stories