May 2, 2013 by 2sorefeet
A collective sigh of relief marked our arrival in Labuan Bajo, Flores. We arrived safe and sound at Komodo “airport” where we quickly found out that health and safety had not yet arrived on this island. (You can smoke in the airport, plus anyone can just walk out on to the runway) The flight, particularly the landing was breath-taking. Flying right over Komodo national park, we had a view of countless beautiful, little islands and the clearest blue water imaginable.
After checking into the inaccurately named Hotel Kharisma, we went for a stroll around the small harbour town and were greeted with the same kind of enthusiasm from the locals as we were in rural India. The only similarity between Flores and Bali is that they both fly the Indonesian flag. Whereas Bali is well catered for the thousands upon thousands of tourists, Labuan Bajo only has a few guesthouses and restaurants.
The one street town is lined with little shabby tour operators/travel agents offering trips to the nearby islands of Rinca & Komodo, 2 of the 4 islands in the world where the star of the region, the Komodo dragon can be found. We booked ourselves onto a 2 day/1 night trip leaving bright and early the following morning.
A turquoise sea with loads of beautiful green islands sticking out of the water surrounded us for the coming 2 days. We started the trip with 2 Spaniards, and along the way picked up another 2 from a bungalow resort on one of the nearby islands. We all got on really great which made the trip even more fantastic.
The first stop of the day was at Rinca Island to get up close and personal with the Komodo dragons- the moment Marie was dreading!
Before starting the trek on the island, the guide told us how his friend was attacked in February and is still in hospital, so we were not to walk by ourselves at any stage… but he also told us not to worry, that he was going to be armed with a stick for protection during the trek. Yes, a stick.
After a couple of minutes we saw our first dragons. Thankfully they were not in predator mode but more lounging about near the guide’s kitchen, attracted by the smell of food. Although stretched out in the shade, it was still impressive to see the sheer size of them.
A gruelling walk of an hour in the midday sun resulted in sightings of plenty of wildlife such as buffalos, snakes and monkeys, but unluckily (or luckily, depending on your stance) no dragons on the prowl. Limps intact, it was time to return to the boat for some delicious lunch and a snorkel an hour or so away from Rinca.
Marie & I have only snorkelled a handful of times. On those occasions we have seen plenty of fish, but nothing compared to what we experienced here. When we jumped into the water, which was surprisingly cold – it was absolutely breath-taking! Pristine multi coloured coral reef and hundreds of species of coral fish, each one weirder looking than the other. It was such a fantastic experience seeing all that for the first time. The expression “another world” has never been more relevant.
After a fun night with our new Spanish friends and a spectacular night’s sleep on the deck of the boat under an amazing star filled sky it was time to head to Komodo Island for some more dragon watching.
This time we saw one in the wild, hiding under the shade of trees in an open area of the forest it was camouflaged waiting to attack at a nearby watering hole. But we were all completely reassured as the guides on Komodo also have sticks – so nothing to worry about! Have a look at some pictures below of Komodo Island and its’ inhabitants.
Pumped up after our reptile watching, the last and final stop of our trip was to Manta Point for another spot of snorkeling. Our captain told us if we were lucky, we might see one or two manta rays. After a few minutes in the middle of the sea, we heard Antonio (the captain) shouting from the boat and told us to go where he was pointing. Around 4 metres beneath us a giant manta ray, 2-3metres long and almost the same width drifted elegantly past us. And then another. And then another. In the 45 minutes in the water, we saw nearly 20 of them in total. The Komodo dragons were not a patch on these. Like giant UFOs flying against the current with hardly any movement, it was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had and the possible highlight of our trip, just a shame we don’t have an underwater camera to share it with you.
On the way back to the mainland, we decided (along with Inaki & Bianca) that we would get dropped off on the island where we picked up the 2 Spanish sisters, Marie Sol & Lara (who were also returning to the island) for 2 nights. So the 6 of us spent time chilling out on the beautiful tiny island of Kanawa. Surrounded by coral reef and white sandy beaches, we spent 2 days snorkelling around the island where we saw sea turtles, a sea snake, one of favourites -clownfish (Nemo!) and many more.
But unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, so after 2 days, the time came to say goodbye and we all went our separate ways and continued on our travels. While the others were going west back to Bali and Kuala Lumpur, we were going east to continue our Flores adventure… more on that later.
What a great couple of days, I think we will remember these for a long long time.