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Published: April 26th 2011
Started the day with a walk to the closest ATM, at 7am it is already hot and we both perspire all the way there and back again then it was a traditional Mie Goreng for breakfast in the hotel dining area. It is nice to relax and do nothing this morning but enjoy the outdoor shower and watch an old movie. At 12pm we were delivered to the airport domestic terminal where we gorged ourselves on Dunkin Donuts before checking in for our Wings Air flight at 1pm. It was a smallish prop plane and it was quite full, lucky we werent hungry or thirsty because there was nothing available on this flight. At 3pm we descended into Labuanbajo and I swear it was the most scary landing I have ever endured, we slid all over the runway before coming to a stop near the terminal.
The airport is a small regional affair similar to those we experienced in Aitutaki in the Cook Islands minus the crabs running around everywhere. We were met at the airport by Augustin, I never bothered to keep baggage slips as I have never been asked to produce one, until today. Augustin helped me get
by bag after some arguing with the baggage handlers and we were on our way. The short drive to our hotel traversed tropical landscapes with some beautiful views of an impressive harbour. I was interested to see the old people on the sides of the road breaking up big rocks into small and bagging these for later sale as building materials, talk about hard work. Now I know why they made prisoners break rocks in the olden days.
Our hotel is perfectly located in the centre of Labuanbajo and sits on the side of a hill over looking the harbour, outside is a table and chairs which are a great place to watch the sun rise or set over the harbour. I organised our trip out to Komodo it will cost five hundred thousand rupiah or $284 for the boat, crew and full board for two days, not bad at all. Later we wandered around town, it is quite small and in poor repair considering it is the regional capital, but it does have some good restaurants and an ATM that excepts foreign cards. We visited a restaurant called the Lounge for a pretty good dinner and a few
drinks before retiring for the night.
I slept poorly the clowns in the rooms next door made a huge amount of noise eventually I got up and told them to shut up, they did but the damage was done. At 7am we went down for a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast before packing our gear. Augustin introduced us to our guide "Echo" around 8.30am and we headed down to the harbour detouring along the way to get some snorkelling gear. Our boat was a sturdy old wooden vessel with two engines a canopy over the deck and a good clean toilet, it was apparently built in Sulawesi many years before. Initially the waters were rough but they soon smoothed out looking more like glass than water.
It was a two hour trip through the archipelago of the Komodo National Park to our first stop at Rinca Islands Loh Buaya, as we approached the dock we glimpsed Long Tailed Macaques on the jetty and in the nearby trees and not one but two Komodo Dragons or Ora to the locals. The smaller was maybe four or five years old and about the size of a Goanna the
other was much older and much much larger. It was a short walk through some mangroves to the Park headquarters, Echo accompanied us with his long forked anti dragon stick, pointing out crabs and mud skippers along the way.
We paid our entrance fees at the park head quarters and were assigned a guide to lead us on a trek into the park, after a brief introduction and safety warning we headed towards the parks kitchens where we were astounded to se a dozen or so big dragons laying in the shade of the kitchen building. Most of these were big males of at least 30 years of age and seemed docile enough as they tend to be most active in the mornings and the evenings. I spent sometime here taking numerous photos of the beasts while every now and then another would join its fellows.
It was soon time to begin our walk on Rinca, it was damn hot wandering around the island and unfortunately we saw no further wildlife until we returned to the camp were we saw a dragon climbing some stairs as it attempted to enter one of the buildings before being evicted by
a man with a stick. Not long later we were back on our boat and out on the water enjoying the cool breeze, after a fantastic traditional lunch we anchored in a cove nearby and enjoyed some snorkelling.
I can never get enough of the reef, the numbers and colours of the fish and corals just never gets boring, floating through schools of amazingly coloured fish, some of which were just huge is always a highlight. Both Ruth and I had a great time.
Two more hours of chugging through a light rain storm saw us arrive near Flying Fox Island where flying foxes hang upside down through the daylight hours until heading for Komodo Island with the dusk to feed on fruits. A number of local Bugis approached the boat like a swarm of torpedos in their canoes, one minute there was none in sight the next they were everywhere putting carved wooden dragons up on the sides of the boats. One of the Bugis paddled into the mangroves making noise which resulted in some of the Flying Foxes taking to the air.
Soon we arrived at the wharf at Loh Liang on Komodo Island, we
decided to stay at the accomodation in the National Park rather than on the boat moored of Flying Fox Island as is the norm, on our way to our room we saw some Timor Deer and Wild Pig. The room was modern but basic, no aircon or shower but there is a western toilet that doesnt flush and was covered in ants.
About half an hour later Echo returned to escort us back to the boat where we sat on the jetty watching the flying foxes fly overhead as dusk approached, we then enjoyed a simple but great meal of vegetables, rice and tofu before the lads escorted us back to our room in the darkness. The generator comes on at 6pm so we had power for lights and the little fan as it is stiflingly hot in our room, but we cant leave the widows or doors open as this may encourage unwanted guests.
I had a bad night no power after midnight and a bad stomach saw me stumbling back and forth from my bed to the toilet in the dark, still it was better than being on that boat as a huge storm blew in
and flooded everyone out. We awoke at 6.30am and the rain is still pouring down, I am unwell and reluctant to go on the trek as my stomach and bowels refuse to behave, still after a small breakfast on the boat while watching deer and dragons on the beach, I decided to bight the bullet and go and I am glad I did as we were able to get quite close to an extremely large and old Dragon, following him for some distance through the forest. The rest of the trek was pleasant our guide pointed out anything of interest and talked about Steve Irwin when he was there and about the Dragons hunting habits, it was good fun and the weather was also improving.
We visited the souvenir shop and then visited the local souvenir area where the local Bugis touts sell there carvings it was pretty full on as we were the only customers and they swarmed all over us, we managed to do a very good deal for our dragon. We then boarded our boat for the the pink sands of Pantai Merah where we were soon in the water snorkelling over some incredible coral and
Komodo National Park
fish, unfortunately the currents here are strong and Ruth struggled to get back to the boat, one of the crew jumped over board and helped her onto the boat. The poor thing was quite distressed.
After lunch we began the four hour trip back to Labuanbajo, I laid out a mattress on the deck and went to sleep awaking shortly before our 2.30pm arrival back in town. After that we headed back to our room for a rest, the heavy rain catching up to us at about 5pm, I hadnt eaten all day and was getting hungry so we ventured out into he rain and mud to revisit the Lounge for an enjoyable dinner.
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