Flores and the Komodo National Park

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 in Asia, Featured, Indonesia, Travel | 0 comments

Flores and the Komodo National Park

Labuan Bajo

Located on the west side of the island of Flores, Labuan Bajo is a small harbour town, once a fishing village it’s now  predominantly used as a diving base.  There are several dive shops set up in Labuan Bajo as it’s the gateway to the spectacular Komodo National Park, which is exactly why we headed there.  We flew with Wings Air whose tag line was worryingly “fly is cheap“, but managed to arrive safely.

Being in Labuan Bajo was like being inside an oven, it was so hot with no wind or rain, not even a breeze.  We stayed at Bayview Gardens up on the hill, which had excellent (air-conditioned!) rooms and a great view, not to mention lovely staff who always greeted you with a big smile.  If you wanted to have dinner there you needed to tell them in advance (at the latest that morning) because otherwise they wouldn’t have a chef or any food.

However there are several other places to eat down on the main street, there’s even two Italian places Made In Italy and Mediterraneo that are pretty good.  Tree Top has a fun vibe, good views and local cuisine.  Sky Bar is a good spot to have a sunset drink or two up on the rooftop.

From Bayview Gardens you can get down to the main street by walking down a path through where the locals live, which reminded me of pictures of the favelas in Brazil, but without the danger.  At one point we were asked if we wanted to buy a baby, they were joking (I think..)  The other ways of getting to the main street are to catch the locally run “shuttle buses” called bemo’s (graffiti covered vans that loop around) or to jump on the back of a friendly motorbike rider.

 

Em Labuan Bajo

On our balcony at Bayview Gardens looking out at Komodo National Park and dreaming of diving..

 

Waecicu Beach

We hadn’t booked anything in advance, and ended up having a few days to kill before our dive trip.  Rather than staying in the inferno of Labuan Bajo we decided to getaway to nearby Waecicu Beach.  This is a great little beach hidden away from the rest of the world, perfect to escape and relax.

We stayed at Waecicu Eden Beach Hotel, a small place with bungalows built into the hill.  The bungalows were been built using local natural materials like wood, bamboo and coconut, all with thatched roofs to keep them cool.  The view from the rooms is stunning.

This is not a place to come if you are a bit precious, and it’s copped some bad reviews on TripAdvisor.  We were more than happy here for a couple of days.  Yes the wifi is pitiful, yes there is an abundance of wildlife (we had a large tokay gecko who definitely thought we were invading his house, not the other way round!), you have to wait a while for food (it’s island time), but overall the place has great character and we thought the French owner was a really nice guy.

 

Arriving from Labuan Bajo, the hotel is straight ahead nestled in the trees

Arriving by boat from Labuan Bajo, you can see the hotel straight ahead nestled in the trees

 

Watching the sunset from W Beach

Watching the sunset from Waecicu Beach

 

Komodo National Park

The Komodo National Park is home to ancient giant lizards (Komodo Dragons) and some of the best dive sites in the world.  It is a truly fascinating and unspoilt island world that has a unique sense of mystery and wonderment to it.

Diving

We went on a four night liveaboard dive trip with Dive Komdo on their boat Tatawa.  We could not have been happier with these guys, the local crew were awesome, the dive instructors were knowledgeable, the food was amazing (even more amazing when you see the tiny size of the “kitchen”!), the boat clean and comfortable.

Now onto the diving, it was seriously incredible.  We would dive three or four times each day, and every single time were left with a feeling of amazement at the array of life in the National Park.  We saw a huge variety of fish and coral, several types of reef shark, sea snakes, sea turtles, crabs, octopus and my favourite, manta rays.

 

A manta ray glides past us

A manta ray glides past us.  There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being in the water with these magnificent creatures.

 

This was our first time doing liveaboard diving and I don’t think we’ll ever go back to doing day trips.  There are so many benefits to being on a live aboard – you can wait for the perfect tides because you don’t have to be back in harbour by a certain time, you wake up and dive before the day boats have even headed out, and of course you get to do night dives.

Not only this, but it is so relaxed.  You fall into a rhythm of dive, eat, sleep, repeat, only broken by sea gazing, drinking tea and reading books.  Of an evening locals would pull up alongside our boat and try to sell us some dragon carvings, but were really there to get some hot water from Tatawa for their tea and coffee.

 

Chilling out between dives

Chilling out between dives

 

This trip reminded me how to just be.  Somewhere along the way of all the hustle and bustle and busyness of life I had forgotten how to stop, slow down and surrender.  On Tatawa I would find myself just sitting, quietly gazing out to sea, our boat anchored in a gorgeous still bay.

There was no internet, phone reception, television or computers, no social media and buzzing of notifications.  I felt close to nature, close to myself, and it was bliss.  In those moments with my mind empty, I was completely at peace.

Watching the sunset over craggy islands that look like they haven’t changed in a thousand years, after a day spent diving with manta rays, sharks and turtles it’s impossible not to feel like you’ve found paradise.

 

Afternoon hike to watch the sunset

Afternoon hike to watch the sunset

 

Tatawa, our home for a few days

Tatawa, our home for a few days

 

Where to next

Where to next?

 

To read about our adventures diving with a whale shark in Thailand click here!

 

Boat tour from Flores to Lombok 

After our dive trip we took a three night Perama boat tour to get from Flores to Lombok.  The first night we boarded the boat in the afternoon while at Labuan Bajo, the boat actually stayed in the harbour most of the night and set off for Rinca Island at about 5am.  Because of this, many locals (mainly the teenagers) come on board for the first night party, where there is plenty of music, arak and dancing.  I have memories of Wayne and a young Indonesian boy with their arms draped over each other singing Sweet Child of Mine – such a random, crazy and fun night!  In the early hours of the morning the locals all slip away home, and the boat leaves the harbour.

The first stop was Rinca Island, the second biggest island in the Komodo National Park.  Rinca is famous for being home to the Komodo Dragon, as well as wild deer, buffalo, boar and monkeys.  We saw several Komodo Dragons on Rinca, they are seriously intimidating when they start walking towards you with their tongues tasting the air.  This intimidation is somewhat increased as the local guides only carry long sticks to protect you, and to be honest I’m not sure what good they would do.

Komodo Dragons are the largest living species of lizard, growing to 3m long.  They eat large mammals like deer and water buffalo, as well as other dragons.  Even if their prey manages to escape, once they have been bitten it’s all over.  The saliva of the Komodo Dragon has over 50 strains of bacteria and within 24 hours their prey will die from blood poisoning.  After biting it’s prey the Komodo Dragon will calmly stalk their prey simply waiting for the bacteria to take effect.

 

A Komodo Dragon stares us down on Rinca Island

A Komodo Dragon stares us down on Rinca Island

 

After visiting Rinca Island we stopped for some swimming and snorkelling, and set off for Moyo Island, a beautiful small island with very friendly local children.  We arrived at Moyo on the second day, where we walked through the local village and followed the kids to their favourite place, the waterfall.  Some of the adults came along with a bar of soap, this was obviously their shower time.  After Moyo we went to Keramat Island, a great spot for lazing about and swimming.  This was the end of the trip, and we then arrived at Lombok.

 

The locals show us how it's done at the waterfall

The locals show us how it’s done at the waterfall on Moyo Island

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