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Komodo: dragons, boat trips and snorkelling

Shooting Komodo dragons (only with camera of course) and sailing around Indonesian paradise, before leaving Flores

When I overnighted in Ruteng, between Bajawa and Labuan Bajo I wanted to visit one more traditional village, this time quite remote as it’s only accessible after 3 hours trek, but while I was waiting for the bus next morning to take me to the village where the trek starts from, the idea of 4 more hours in Flores buses to get to that village and 4 hours next day to get back plus 6-7 hours of trekking in daytime heat made me change my plans on last minute and I took the bus straight to Labuan Bajo, the “terminal station” of Flores. Labuan Bajo is a port town from which everybody does boat trips to Komodo National Park, comprised of two larger islands – Komodo and Rinca – inhabited by those famous Komodo Dragons, and myriad of small uninhabited islands with paradisiac beaches and even more paradisiac snorkeling and diving. It’s also the place where liveaboard ships and ferries to Subwama and Lombok - islands between Flores and Bali – leave from, and I had intention to board one of them to make it to Lombok and indulge in sweet doing-nothing. I really need summer vacation from all these travels :-)

Unfortunately Labuan Bajo turned out to be totally overcrowded, so it was almost impossible to find a free room and all the cruises to Lombok were sold out for the whole next week, so I had to change my plans. Being here alone is not a good option, because there are no “public tours” which you can join, you have to charter a whole boat, which is prohibitively expensive if you don’t share the cost with someone else. And so I looked for some more desperate souls looking for an available room in this sold-out town and shared the room with them and in the morning I went to the harbor and looked for white faces going for a cruise and asked to join them. I joint 4 nice Swiss people who went snorkeling around the nearby islands and later I joint them for a dinner. Oh, food. It’s fucking expensive here in Labuan Bajo (I mean expensive by Indonesian standards, it’s still delightfully cheap by Australian standards) but there is western food here! After 2 weeks of eating Ayam Goreng (fried chicken), Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Mie Goreng (fried noodles) and Pisang Goreng (fried banana) – yes here people are obsessed with frying, it’s almost impossible to find any food which is not deep fried – a fantastic pizza in a real Italian restaurant and grilled barracuda were just the right things for my appetite craving for “normal” food. Yes, I paid 7-11 EUR for the dinner and beer, compared to normal 2 EUR in Indoensian warung (hole-in-wall restaurants where I usually feed myself), but pizza almighty and even panacotta desert, yes you blessed my soul. Or at least my stomach.

Did I mention that the snorkeling was fantastic? Beautiful corals, heaps of amazingly pretty feather-fish, sponges, lots of coral fish and I even saw (my first time) 3 cuttlefish! Now that was great, they really do change the color as they float around the reef. Big like!

The second day in Labuan Bajo I wanted to go to Rinca islands to see those notorious dragons, and I was lucky again, as my room-sharer for the night (a French guy) had a flight in the afternoon and he wanted to see the dragons before he leaves and so he chartered a boat at 5:00am and I joined him for reasonable money. It was the best of possible things to happen to go at such an early hour, because all the people who had been to Rinca or Komodo before told me that they were quite disappointed because during the day the lizards are completely comatose and sleep in the shadow and that the rangers told them that the best time to visit is early morning when the lizards are still active. It would be impossible to find any party to join at 5:00am (more than 1 hour before sunrise) in the harbor, but thanks to my French roommate I managed to get to Rinca early enough to see the dragons “alive”. Few of them always hang around rangers’ kitchen (and these few lazy bastards are often the only ones that the visitors see), but as it was early morning we could do a 1,5 hour walking without melting (but anyway it was around 28 degrees at 7:30) and we managed to spot 5 wild Komodo dragons. While they are maybe slightly less imposing as you would imagine, they surely are huge and seeing them was another of those things that I had always dreamed about but never really expected to happen. Seeing a dragon – check.

After the trip to Rinca I checked out from my hotel and headed for 16:00 ferry to Sumbawa island which I would have to cross by bus (instead of sailing along its shore for 2 days as I intended but couldn’t do as all tours were booked out), only to find out that the ferry was cancelled and so I headed back to the town in search of room, accompanied by to 2 French girls who also wanted to take the ferry and spent the rest of the day writing this blog and editing photos.
Right now, as I’m writing this I’m on the ferry which left the next day morning, finally leaving Flores and headed to Lombok, after crossing of Sumbawa by a night bus, as Sumbawa is not supposed to be very interesting and friendly place and I’m really in mood of sweet beach time and surfing in Lombok.

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak