Komodo from the air
One of the many great islands in the park
After a brief visit to Bali we went by propeller plane to Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. Labuan Bajo is a special place because it is the harbor giving access to the Unesco protected Komodo national park.
We were picked up in the airport and taken straight to our nice hotel, Golo Hilltop. The hotel has a perfect location with an amazing view to the beautiful hilly hinterland and the ocean. We had chosen to save a bit of money and not have air condition. It was a BIG mistake. The heat was excessive and quite a bit warmer than usual. Even a swim in the pool couldn’t cool us off. After our liveaboard we bought air condition, which was a very good idea. Our Komodo chapter was primarily about diving. We dived with a Dutch company called Divine Diving. Marij and her crew are great and are highly recommended. We went on 4 daytrips and a 3 day liveaboard.
On the daytrips we went on the nice boat called Naring. The park is pretty big, so it took us up till 3 hours to get to the dive spots. It was no problem though, since the
Dolphin and sharks
A simply fantastic encounter
boat was very comfortable and we could enjoy the beautiful views of the islands on our way. Komodo is unique above and below the surface. On our very first dive we already hit jackpot. On Crystal Rock we had a special encounter with 3 dolphins. We saw them briefly and after a few seconds they came back hunting for something surrounded by sharks and GT’s. Wow, what a start. It is only the third time we have seen dolphins under water, so a very promising start indeed.
After this great start we had to find some supper in Labuan Bajo. The town is not the greatest place on earth (however we did start to like it after getting acclimatized to it). Once again we met a few rat friends, and the scent of open sewers and a fish market, was probably not something Chanel would use in their next collection. Nonetheless we found two really good restaurants in town. Mediterraneo and Made in Italy really had some good food on offer. The portions on Mediterraneo were quite small though, so Made in Italy quickly became our favorite, and we have to say, that they made the best pizzas we
Clown trigger fish
Very beautiful fish in very blue water
ever had. It was kind of funny to have that kind of culinary experience in Labuan Bajo. Also great that the nice owner, Marco, took his time to ask the guests, if everything was ok.
After this great start to our Komodo chapter we started out on our 3 day liveaboard. We shared the boat and 2 bathrooms with a Belgian couple, a Swedish/German couple and a guy from Finland. Our dive guides were Niels from Holland and Juvens from Labuan Bajo. Once again we were very lucky with our travel companions. They were really nice people and the boat was very nice albeit not to spacey. But that is quite alright when we take the price into consideration.
The 3 days went to fast. We had 3 dives per day and also did a couple of land excursions. We went for a small trek on the island of Rinca to look for the Komodo dragons. We managed to find four dragons in the wild. Our ranger guide was rather nervous getting to close to the animals. Unfortunately 2 rangers were attacked recently and were hurt pretty badly. We believe that they survived, but an attack from a
View from our hotel
The great view from Golo Hilltop
3 meter monster with saliva full of bacteria and also some poison is a very serious matter. As a photographer it was a bit annoying to keep the distance, but at least we didn’t get bit.
Another great experience was seeing the sunset at Wainilu. At this time hundreds of big fruit bats fly to the mainland to hunt for fruit. It was quite a view.
Diving wise the very highlight was our encounters with the manta rays at Makassar Reef. This is a very special place. The rays both forage and get cleaned in this area. The dive plan was to dive with the current and spread out on a line to look out for the manta rays. When we saw a ray we went down and stayed put on the bottom and try to hold on to something in the current. The bottom is composed of dead rubble, so it is not an issue. Sometimes the manta rays would just pass and we had them in vision for maybe 30 seconds. Other times we were lucky to encounter a ray getting cleaned. Our best encounter lasted for 25 minutes, where a 3½ meter ray stayed with
A friendly turtle posing at the end of a great dive in the cauldron
us and was within touching distance. That was fantastic. Regarding currents, Komodo is rather famous for its strong currents. It is due to the tidal changes and the fact that the water on has a very narrow path to go though. The currents can be so strong strength so that smaller boats can sail for hours and not move at all. In regard to diving, it is not a problem. But you need a good dive operator who knows the local conditions. For example the rock Batu Bolong often has a very strong current. From the surface we could witness how crazy the water moved. It was like a wild river. The dive profile is very simple. You dive on the lee side of the rock and zig zag avoiding getting into the current. It is rather simple and even novice divers can enjoy this dive site without any issues at all.
On our dives we were spoiled with a rich and diverse marine life. We saw quite a few sharks, big schools of fusiliers, big napoleon fish, sea snakes, manta rays and a lot more. Komodo and Sipadan have been the diving highlights on our trip and we
Beautiful fish, but don't touch the spines. It will hurt!
would pick Komodo as a winner with a small margin.
On our last afternoon on the boat we went for a hike on the island of Gili Lawa Darat. It was quite a hike to the top of the hill around 150 meters above the sea. But the view was well worth it. It was fantastic to have a look at the park from this perspective.
After diving and encounters with the Komodo dragons, de extremely poisonous sea snakes and a lot of sharks we could happily conclude that we had no accidents at all. Ironically an encounter with a local dog became the most dangerous encounter. I (C) managed to get bitten in my hand and the blood poured out (well at least it oozed out) from a new wound to my collection. It was a bit unnerving since it happened just before the liveaboard. As our guide, Niels, said: “Don’t get sick in Labuan Bajo”. It is difficult to get proper medical care in Labuan Bajo so I was rather relieved when there was not any sign of blood poisoning or infection the day after. I am finished talking to the local dogs.
The liveaboard boat of Divine Diving
left Labuan Bajo we made two land excursions. One was a success, the other not so much. We had rented a car with driver to have a little look on Flores. Unfortunately we ran into our only rainy day on our stay. The roads on Flores are pretty winding and both of us suffered from motion sickness. The driver was a little too fast going into the curves, so we needed a bit of fresh air. We got a nice experience when a local woman stopped and gave us a handshake before wandering off. A little later the same happened to us in a rice field, when we met a schoolboy. None of them wanted anything from us. It was nice to experience this politeness.
We were supposed to trek to a waterfall, but the heavy rain made it impossible. We were quite lucky because two of our diving friends was on the same trip and made it to the waterfall. However they couldn’t get back due to rising water in a river. They had to seek shelter with a local woman and waited for 7 hours before some locals cut down some bamboo and made a small bridge.
Skunk anemone fish
Another colorful inhabitant of the reef
While they experienced this drama, we were enjoying a massage in Labuan Bajo. It was a little different experience, since the employees were handicapped people either suffering from hearing loss or blindness. It is nice that they are given this kind of opportunity and the massage was rather good.
Our last expedition in Labuan Bajo was a trek in the hills surrounding the town. We had another special experience. Shortly into our trek, a local man stopped in his big black four wheels drive with very black windows. He asked where we were heading to and offered us a lift. Inge was not so keen, but given the air temperature I was happy to join, so off we went. It turned out that he owned a restaurant in Labuan Bajo and was on his way to inspect a piece of land he owned on a beach. It was a good idea to accept the lift. It turned out to be a rather long walk. We hiked into the hills and were rewarded with amazing views over the bay of Labuan Bajo and the hinterland of Flores. To our joy our new friend waited for us, and he gave us
Sweetlip on Batu Bolong with Inge in the background
a lift back to our hotel. We paid him back by having lunch in his restaurant. It was ok food, but not quite on level with Made in Italy.
We finished off in Labuan Bajo with yet another dinner on Made in Italy. I had my last pepperoni pizza and we enjoyed the food in company with our new friends from Switzerland, Birgit and Alex. We were lucky to see them again on Lembongan. You’ll learn more about this in our next chapter.
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