Now there are direct flights from Jakarta to Labuan Bajo, a Komodo Island adventure is the perfect weekend getaway destination for city weary folks. Labuan Bajo is developing fast, but still has a magical tropical village charm. Think traditional buildings, working fishing harbour, scuba diving, beaches and some high quality restaurants and you would be correct. Furthermore, it’s easy to hire live-aboard boats and go to see the famous Komodo dragons in the national park and UNESCO world heritage site. More active people can climb Pulau Padar hill for stunning views and go snorkelling in clean clear water.
The quality of this destination is not to be underestimated.
Getting to Labuan Bajo
The Garuda direct flight takes you to Labuan Bajo in time to have a little walk on the beach before dark. We stayed for a night at Sylvia Hotel. The hotel has about 60 lodges and a few swimming pools spread over quite a large area. The beach looked pretty clean and there are a number of recliners if you want to take it easy.
That night, we headed for Paradise Bar. It’s my second visit to Paradise, and although this time beer was not served, it was still pretty good. We had a welcome dinner, met some local bloggers and Uncle Louis from the forestry police who was to be our Komodo Island adventure guide.
Embarking on Noah
Everyone was up early the next day. We were all aboard an ark sized boat named Noah. She had 14 cabins with accommodation for at least 20 people. On Noah, we chugged through the morning light, drank coffee, ate fried bananas and enjoyed seeing the dolphins splashing in the sea.
We arrived at Pulau Padar first. The hilltop of Padar is an Instagram hotspot. You can climb to the top and have your photo taken against one of the most impressive backdrops imaginable. It’s blue sea, white beach, jagged mountains and blue skies, all in the space of one wide angle photo.
The local site management team are busy building a flight of steps to the top of the hill, and some flattened viewing platforms so that everyone can enjoy the place. If you do climb this hill, remember to pack sunscreen and plenty of water. It’s not that high, or far, but there’s not much shade and the sun is blistering at 11am.
After a group photo opportunity, we headed for Rinca Island to see the giant Komodo Dragons. Although Flores, Labuan Bajo, Padar and the marine life round here are amazing, they are subsumed by the Komodo Dragons. Giant lizards, marooned here by strong currents and evolved to be the largest lizards on Earth. They will eat any flesh, can be aggressive, and are ambush hunters, just a shade slower than an Olympic sprinter. Did I mention they can swim and climb trees too? Luckily they are not the smartest, and the guides carry a forked stick in case they go for you. In such time, they will pin the lizard to the ground by its head, and have a word with them about the tourist dollar, and the need to be an ambassador for the nation. Anyway, this trip passed without incident and the Komodo dragons behaved admirably.
Live aboard the boat
We sailed on to our evening mooring, and watched thousands of bats emerging at sunset from their trees and setting off in search of food for the night. It was one of those moments where, under falling darkness, it was better to cease the photos and enjoy the spectacle. Later, on Noah, our dinner was delicious, varied and well prepared. It was fish, chicken, vegetables, rice and plenty of fresh fruits. I spent the evening talking to the crew, and laughing as they unsuccessfully encouraged me to sing.
Next day, although sleep didn’t come easy in the bowels of Noah, we went to Kampung Rinca, the main village on Rinca Island. At heart, it’s a fishing village where the catch is laid out on racks to dry in the sun. Continuing the Komodo Island adventure, we were trekking for Batu Balok. I’d been told it was a mysterious place, where there were megalithic stones, and no-one knew where they came from, or anything about the people who might have used them.
It was a lovely walk through the woodland, although it pays to be on alert round here, and the stench of death is all over. We saw a few Komodo nests, and eventually climbed a dry river bed to the site. Turns out it was cooled rock columns, just like the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. I mentioned this to one of the guys on the trip, and we finally settled it back on the boat, where you could look at the mountainside, and see many columns, just the same, clinging to the sides of the hill.
Strawberry hill and snorkelling
We set sail again, and had a look at Strawberry hill but were short of time for attempting an ascent. Instead, Noah moored up again for some snorkelling and a dose of vitamin sea. The coral was in reasonable condition and there were plenty of fish. Finally, the brave or dumb folks, jumped off the boat into the sea below. Our Komodo Island Adventure ended when we returned to Labuan Bajo, in time to catch the 3pm flight back to Jakarta. Lucky we did, as Gunung Agung in neighbouring Bali exploded and closed all the airports in the region. Although I could think of worse places to be stuck!
Thanks to the guys at the Ministry Of Tourism who organised this Komodo Island Adventure trip. Further thanks to Wonderful Indonesia, and Pak Edo, Uncle Louis and the crew of Noah. Thanks also to the other bloggers Sinyo, Tika, Titi, Defi, Nda and Indah. Really great to meet you all!
Komodo Island Adventure
In summary, this trip to Labuan Bajo and the Komodo National Park was a fantastic nature adventure. The aim for the region is to become a much higher profile resort, and it has many of the right ingredients. There are beautiful beaches, a native culture, plenty of activities and some great places to eat. It’s not over developed yet, but the area around Labuan Bajo has sprouted quite a few hotels since the first time I came here in 2012. In a similar theme, Pulau Padar is just one of the many hills in the region. There must be plenty of other hiking and exploration opportunities if you talk to your guides and boat masters. Camping on high peaks looks possible for the adventurous, and I bet the sky scape is dramatic at night.
Have you had a Komodo Island Adventure? Been to Rinca or Padar? I’d like to hear your views on the place. Let me know in the comments.