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FLORES & KOMODO NATIONAL PARK - INDONESIA

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!!!

sunny 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!
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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.
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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
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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.
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Sailing away from Labuan Bajo.
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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!
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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.
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Right off the bat we spotted this Komodo Dragon snoozing in the shade near the ranger station!
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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!
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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
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This was the lookout point we were rewarded with.
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Back at the dock we noticed 100s of teeny tiny Fiddler Crabs! The whole thing was no bigger than my thumbnail!!
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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!
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While we ate we sailed towards Pink Beach, which was our next stop for some snorkeling and relaxing on a beautiful beach.
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Pink Beach ... the sand has a slight pink hue to it due to the red coral offshore.
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Some locals chillin' on their boat anchored at Pink Beach
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One of said locals offered to lead me down a trail, and up a small hill to this lookout point over the beach.
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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.
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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.
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Sunset from our boat
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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.
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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.

DAY 2
The next morning we were woken up by the rising sun, around 5:45am, grooooooan.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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??
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Costa apple growing on a tree
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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.
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I love the mountains here, they have a Jurassic feel to them ... quite fitting since the Komodos look like little dinosaurs :)
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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!
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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.
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All of the trails on Komodo Island were made entirely of broken coral & seashells!
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Guys working on the trails
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Filling bags with broken coral
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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.
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The beach & pier in front of the ranger station
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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.
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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.
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Paradise ...
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Two-tone blue water :)
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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.
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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 :)
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Well thats got to be my longest post ever! Hope you enjoyed all the photos & stories :)

Posted by ChantelleS 20:10 Archived in Indonesia Tagged landscapes beaches boats islands water boat ocean wildlife beach indonesia volcano cruise blue island sand coastline dock bay pool tropical lizard asia komodo Comments (0)

CAPE PENINSULA, SOUTH AFRICA

African Penguins, ostriches, scenic coastline, Cape of Good Hope, lighthouse, and Table Mountain cable car! So much to do & see on the peninsula!

sunny 20 °C

I spent a few days in the Cape Peninsula (the area from Cape Town, south all the way to the Cape of Good Hope). One morning I took the train from Simonstown up to Cape Town. It took about an hour and cost $2 Canadian! Steal of a deal compared to a taxi which would've cost $46 Canadian. And very scenic as it follows the coastline for quite a ways before cutting inland. If you travel the way the locals do, you can save alot of money! From the train station in Cape Town I took a cab up to Table Mountain to take the cable car to the top.
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But it was too windy so the cable car was closed :( And here I thought I had picked a good day cuz it was sunny and clear, with barely a breeze, but at the top of the mountain that breeze was wind. I stuck around for 2hrs waiting for the wind to die down (no point in heading back to Simonstown just yet, I came all this way, I wanted to see something!). This was the view from the lower cable station.
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While waiting there were a few gift shops to look through, a place to grab a cheap lunch (chicken & mushroom pie for $2.25 Canadian), an ice cream booth, etc. After the 2hr wait I was in luck! The wind died down and they opened the gates. It cost $205 Rand ($26 Canadian). It only took 4min to ascend 1065m (3195ft)! It rotated 360 degrees as it rose, so no matter where u stand u get a good view, just make sure to grab a spot by a window ... unless your scared of heights, its really high!
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Follow the cables ... aaaaaaall the waaaaaay down! Thats how high 1065m is! If the cables look nearly vertical to you, thats because they are! By far the steepest cable car I've ever been on!
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Once at the top, it was FREEZING cold!! The sign at the lower cable station said it was +3C at the top, but with the windchill it was below freezing! Bring a jacket for sure! I had a hoodie & jacket, but could have also used a toque & gloves ... my fingers were freezing from taking photos. There were many trails to follow with signage explaining the flora, history, etc. I only stayed up there about 20min or so, cuz it was THAT cold & windy. Heres some photos I managed to get of the various views from the top.
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One brave little birdie in the cold!
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The next day I made the mistake of going on a Peninsula Tour. I should've just rented a car, or even a taxi for the day. The tour was a waste of time, especially if you're a photographer. They advertized a huge list of places to be visited on the tour, but what they didnt mention is that you dont actually stop at them, you just drive by at high speeds as your guide says "Oh and that was an ostrich farm", or "Oh that back there was Long Beach", etc. We made a few, very brief stops, but thats about it. So I didnt take too many photos, as there werent very many photo ops ... unless blurry pictures taken through the vehicle's window at high speeds is your kind of photography.

We made a 5min stop at Camps Bay Beach. Once we were back in the van and on the road again our guide decided to mention that the mountains in the background were the 12 Apostles. Would've been nice to know that while looking at them.
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Next up was Hout Bay. We actually stopped here for an hour ... for an optional boat cruise out to Seal Island. This was an extra cost. I chose not to, since Seal Island is where my shark boat anchored offshore from a few days prior. So I wasted an hour looking at the many souvenir stands, and had some toast & coffee at a nearby restaurant.
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Another 5min stop at a lookout point overlooking Hout Bay.
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Then we drove along the very scenic Chapman's Peak Drive. It was absolutely gorgeous ... but we didnt stop even once to take photos anywhere of it! Ugh! So this is a 'drive by shooting' of the twisty turny road that clung to the mountainside.
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We started to see some wildlife the closer we got to the tip of the peninsula. We actually stopped for 2 bontebok (a type of antelope I never knew existed), 7 ostriches, 5 eland, and an itty bitty tortoise on the road.

Bontebok ... crappy photo I know, but they were far away. I only bothered to take a photo cuz I've never heard of, nor seen them before.
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Ostrich on the road!
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Eland, the largest of all antelope.
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Then we stopped at the Cape of Good Hope ... The south-western most point of the African continent. There was really nothing there but a sign ... and at least 50 ppl lined up to take a photo with it. I tried uploading the photo, but it wont post :(

We then had lunch at the very expensive Two Oceans restaurant at the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula. The menu was mostly seafood & meat, so I got a milkshake and headed to the snack shop next door for cheap pizza, lol! Thats a backpacker's budget for ya! I'm glad I did though, cuz while everyone else was wasting their time waiting for their expensive meals, I took the funicular (like a cable car on a train track) up to the lighthouse at Cape Point. Only $6 Canadian, or you can walk the whole way up for free. If I'd had more time I would've. By the time they were all done eating, they only had about 10min to look around, whereas I had a whole hour. This is the view from the restaurant.
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The funicular only takes you this far ... then you have no choice but to climb those steps to get to the very top.
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The sign at Cape Point, right before you start climbing the stairs. There were also 'Beware of Baboon' signs, but I didnt see any baboons.
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The lighthouse at the top
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View of the cliffs. This is where the Indian & Atlantic Oceans meet! Very turbulent waters!
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The last stop on the tour was my fave ... Boulders Beach, home of the African Penguin!! Again, we only had about 10min here, which is most definitely not enough, so the following day, the last day of my whole trip, I walked 20min from my hotel in Simonstown to this beach, and spent the WHOLE day with the penguins :)
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It cost 45 Rand ($5.60 Canadian) to access Boulders Beach. They give you a ticket which also gets you into Foxy Beach, so be sure to hold onto it. Boulders Beach is where 99% of the penguins are. They can be founding nesting, swimming, sleeping, suntanning, etc. The African Penguin is a protected species so you have to stick to the boardwalks. Theres penguins all along the walk, but if you just walk straight to the very end of the boardwalk, thats where the majority of them will be!
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Beautiful Boulders Beach!
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Two penguins in love :)
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Braying penguins ... the sound they make sounds like a honking donkey, lol!
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Nesting area on the beach
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I absolutely loved watching them waddle around! Its seriously the cutest thing in the world!!!!
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Waddle, waddle, waddle :)
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Mama and baby penguins
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Babies huddled together for warmth.
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A young penguin shaking himself off after a swim in the chilly water.
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Young penguin losing his fluff.
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Suntanning penguins!
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Weeeeeeee! Bodysurfing right onto shore!
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Kissy kissy!
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There were also a few Rock Hyraxes, aka Dassies, to be found.
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Black Crakes at the beach
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Well thats it, that all! I'm finally done my Africa blog, yay me :) Only took 8mths, lol!
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Posted by ChantelleS 19:50 Archived in South Africa Tagged penguin wildlife car bird south coastline africa cable scenic cliff lighthouse ostrich peninsula Comments (0)

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