We arrived in Labuan Bajo after a one-night stopover in Ende and a seriously long (12 hour) drive across the beautiful island of Flores. We left from Maumere—it took about 5 hours to reach Ende, where we stayed overnight (me, Jen, Holly, Jon, Adam, and Adam’s friend, Dave, visiting from the US to take footage of the camps for a video). We roamed about Ende in search of a recommended restaurant in Lonely Planet, only to find it no longer existed and so we settled on an Indonesian version of fast food: kripsy chicken. Yep, Kripsy. Not Krispy. I don’t know why I’m even writing about it. Gross. Even grosser in Ende, were the five cockroaches Jon had to kill at our hotel. So we left there pretty soon!
The following day, Jon, Jen, Holly, and I had arranged for a van to drive us to Labuan Bajo—an 11-12 hour drive that we were anxious to get done with. We got on the road a bit later than planned (drivers fault!) but we made it. It wasn’t as terrible as I’d expected, but it was a very long and tiring day. We did make a few stops at particularly beautiful places to take photos!
We finally arrived in Labuan Bajo and we met up with our friend Bryan and his friend visiting from the US. They had been in town for a few days already so they had the place scoped out for us and arranged for us to stay where they were staying.
Labuan Bajo (every time I type that I automatically type banjo—I need to get back to Virginia!!) Anyway, Labuan Bajo is the town that’s the jumping off point for people who want to go to Komodo Island. It is this groovy spot on the Western tip of the island of Flores that is still very Indonesian, but has some touristy comforts, including an awesome Italian restaurant with a sea view, beanbags, amazing food, and drinks! In our 4 days in town, it became our spot, and we’d run into each other there without planning on it. You can see that living in Indonesia for 5 months had made us really appreciate the little things (like a cool restaurant).
We wandered Labuan Bajo and checked out the cool bars and restaurants—everything with an amazing view.
We enjoyed being in a touristy place for a bit, and then we booked a boat to take us out to Komodo and Rinca islands. (Rinca is the island between Flores and Komodo that also has just as many komodo dragons on it).
I’d been recommended by my friend, Annalisa, to rent a boat for 2 days and a night—she said it was a really cool experience. Plus, Komodo Island is a bit further out than Rinca, so we’d be able to do both islands at a more leisurely pace—PLUS we’d get to sleep on a boat!
Now, I was really excited to live on a boat for two days, and I didn’t let the thought creep into my mind (too often) that I’d gotten sick on a ferry out to the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland in college. I was a little nervous, but I’d bought some seasickness pills at the pharmacy in Labuan Bajo—so I was ready.
We got onto our boat Wednesday morning, and tried not to have boat envy of our neighbors. There was a pretty awesome pirate ship nearby.
Life on the boat was pretty awesome. We had three guys with us—oh captain, our captain, and his two mates. I never figured out who was first mate and who was second mate. They were all pretty chummy. One of them was a pretty great cook though!
Wednesday we set off from Labuan Bajo and marveled at the spectacularly green little droplets of islands nearby. We read, napped, took photos—I wrote down our goings on so I would remember all our adventures!
We went to the island of Rinca first (which is part of the Komodo National Park), our boat dropped us and our 1st or 2nd mate walked us up to the ‘office’. It was pretty intimidating to arrive on Rinca and KNOW those beasts were out there waiting…lurking… okay, dramatic I know, but those things can kill a person! So we got to the office, and we had to sign some stuff and pay a bit, but we got discounts with our KITAS (card that shows we live and work here).
You must have a guide when you visit, and ours was this older Indonesian man, who carried the pitchfork-like stick that all the guides carry. He led us on our ‘long trek’ (we had a choice of short, medium, or long and he asked us MANY times if we were sure we wanted to do the long trek. I think he didn’t want to—which I don’t blame him for.) We arrived around 1pm, the hottest part of the day, and it was supposed to take two hours.
We set out from the area with a few guesthouses and a kitchen and there were about 4-5 komodo dragons just hanging out by the kitchen. They looked so lethargic. They were creepy and scary because you ddint’ really notice them at first, they blended in so well with the ground. One did stand and walk a bit, and watching it move was super freaky—almost human-like (but obviously on 4 legs).
It’s a good thing they have some of the dragons by the kitchens because it’s pretty hard to see them in the wild, even though there are supposed to be a several thousand of them out there. Shortly after we started walking and had once again reconfirmed our desire to take the long trek, our guide stopped us and told us to wait there, while he shot off into the woods. It really was pretty scary at first, because you just think they could be lurking around anywhere—and they’re so well-camouflaged! He came back and said to come on. (I wonder if it was part of his act). He told us that when baby Komodos are born they live in trees so they don’t get eaten by other Komodos. So he took us to this big scary looking tree (like an evil tree from a Disney movie) and pointed one out on a branch. Only problem—non of us could see it. After staring and him trying to explain in his low-level English where it was, Holly finally saw. He took pictures, zoomed, Holly tried to explain, then Jon saw it—attempted to explain AGAIN. Finally Jen saw it, and there was just blind me. But I got there in the end. It was pretty hilarious that it took us that long—and I still think I actually saw it at first but then thought our guide was talking about another one. (Yeah, right, Deirdre).
I spotted a wild boar which was really cool—PUMBA! Then, when we were walking, a tree branch off a palm tree made a huge noise and broke right as we were walking under it—sending us scattering (and me yelling a bad word). CREEPY ISLAND!
We saw some water buffalo and had an awesome view from the top down to the sea and of the surrounding islands.
We saw one Komodo dragon in the wild—chillin on a rock where he must always be, because our guide knew. Still pretty freaky!
So we survived Rinca. We got back on the boat, went on past more islands—so many islands! (Did you know Indonesia is made up of around 17,000 of them?) Well now I believe it!
Our boat guys took us to a good snorkeling spot, and we swam around, looking at all the fish. It was really beautiful. I did inhale a lot of water at first though, which was a bummer, but which Holly found amusing at least!
After that, we went on towards Komodo and anchored near some other boats in the middle of the water. Soon, some canoes started paddling towards us. Jon and Jen thought they were bringing dinner, but no—they were bringing lots of stuff to sell! Pearls, wooden dragons, etc. A very persistent group—many of us retreated to the bunks. They finally go the hint. We went on the roof of the boat and lay down—looking up to try and see some starts through the clouds that are pretty common during the rainy season. It was so beautiful, the moon lit up the islands around and there was an occasional distant flash of lightning. I fell asleep on a mat for a little bit, but then went down to dinner.
I slept on the top bunk and woke when the sun was rising. It was such a cool view from the window of the cabin. (Another enjoyable sunrise experience! Uh ohhhh).
Thursday we were right by Komodo Island where we had docked. (THEY CAN SWIM, TOO!) We got a bit closer, and we actually spotted one walking along the beach. (romantic, eh?)
Komodo Island was pretty similar to Rinca island—and Rinca was a bit more exciting actually—trekking and through the mud and hot fields.
We didn’t see much on Komodo until the end when there were 3-4 dragons hanging out by the kitchen—just like Rinca.
We did go on another trek though—and had some cool views, and got our photo with some dragons behind us.
Afterwards, we got back on the boat and did some more relaxing. We were perfecting this art.
We arrived back in Labuan Bajo Thursday late afternoon, and had one more chance to hit up our Italian restaurant before flying out the next morning.
We all survived the Komodos, the threatening sea, and eating ourselves silly at the Italian spot. Well done, Fellows.
Now, on to West Timor!