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Labuanbajo, Flores, Indonesia

Magical Komodo National Park


By the time we got to KL airport the boys would already be in the sky somewhere on their way home. We had a brilliant couple of weeks with them but now it was time for a new adventure in Indonesia. We should have shares in AirAsia the amount of times we seem to have flown with them recently. We arrived at Bali airport in the evening and had pre-booked a hotel near the airport as we were flying to Labuanbajo the next morning.

Although it was a brief overnight stop in Bali, it was one I was looking forward to because I had booked a hotel room with a bath. All that know me well, know that there's nothing more I love than a bath... I literally can't remember the last time I got to have one. For £10 a night Anika Melati Hotel was worth every penny; bath, air con, a proper thick duvet, spa, pool and a short walk to the airport. We'll definitely be back.

The next morning we were off to the airport again. I'm pretty sure it was the first time I'd been in a propeller aeroplane (or at least that I can remember) and as we were walking up to it I couldn't help but think it looked like a toy plane... let's hope for a safe landing.

We'd already arranged our accommodation and activities in Labuanbajo because we'd emailed quite a few dive shops to enquire about their rates and activities in the Komodo National Park. We headed straight to Manta Rhei Dive Shop and were met by Jules who got us immediately kitted up with our dive gear for the next few days... I was so excited to be under the water again. The dive shop also had a resident dog named puffer (I assume named after the puffer fish). We were staying in their homestay for free because we were diving with them for two days. Whilst we were waiting to be shown to our homestay we had an oxtail soup lunch and found a coffee shop with internet (and air con!). Once shown to our room we were quite pleased; our own room and ensuite plus an entire house to ourselves.


Labuanbajo is the main hub for people to access the Komodo National Park from. It's relatively small with a main street filled with dive shops and Italian restaurants (don't ask me why, but all food there was either Indonesian or Italian). There's a small working fishing harbour where you can see them bringing in the days catch and a local market near the pier. If we'd had enough time we could have hired a motorbike to explore the bat caves, waterfalls and spider web rice terraces near to Labuanbajo, but unfortunately we didn't.


Our first day diving Komodo National Park was incredible. The sun was shining, our boat had comfy bean bags for us to lounge in, breakfast on top deck and a breathtaking landscape. The National Park is a series of islands, which at the time of our visit were lush green mounds popping out of the sea in every direction. I can think of no better way to spend a morning.


The first dive, Tarawa Basar, was a beautiful bright coral bed with tonnes of tropical fish. We saw a crocodile flathead fish as soon as we entered the water and 3 hawksbill turtles munching on the coral. They were so close you could touch them (but obviously this isn't allowed). Then our dive guide, Rennee, tapped her tank to get our attention and there, right in front of us, was a 3 metre manta ray gliding gracefully straight towards Jason...all J could do was hope that there was no collision and enjoy the moment.


Could the diving in the park get any better when on our first dive encounter we saw hawksbill turtles, black and white tip sharks, a crocodile flathead fish, giant sweetlips, a black velutinid and a majestic manta ray?! Oh yes, Batu Balong was a beautiful reef garden and coral wall that was jam packed with tropical fish (you name it, it was there); white tip sharks, sweetlips, lionfish, pufferfish, bat fish, moray eels, parrot fish, snappers, wrasse, unicorn fish, sea snakes, the list goes on... All I could do was float around and marvel at the coloured coral and abundance of sea life. Jason was also thrilled because he managed to find himself a pink metal scuba stick with attached wristband; a lot of divers carry them so you can point at objects, tap your tanks for attention and anchor into the sea bed whilst observing in stronger currents.


Rather than doing a third dive in the day we opted to get off the boat at Rinca Island to see the komodo dragons. We'd seen quite a few monitor lizards on our travels, which were frankly too big for my liking anyway, so the prospect of seeing the deadly komodo dragons made me apprehensive. I'd researched beforehand and knew that the dragons were extremely dangerous creatures, so was surprised when our guide met us off the boat with only a stick as self defence (I was hoping for a machete/gun combo). I'd even put my shoes on because didn't fancy the idea of having flip flops if I needed to run away (I am Safety Soph after all).


Komodo dragons can only be found on Komodo, Rinca and Flores, and there are only about 4000 worldwide. The park ranger informed us that they don't feed them because they don't want them to relate food to humans; however it's strange how a lot of the dragons congregate around the staff kitchen (sceptical). Nevertheless, it gave us a great opportunity to see them up close.


One had just finished a feast and we could see its leftovers around its chops...I think it made him look particularly menacing. Their tongues poke in and out of their mouths as they sense what's around them and I was just hoping it wasn't me as their next meal.


The guide took us on a short walk around the island and explained a little more about the dragons and the park. I quizzed him about 'death by dragons', 'guides attacked by dragons', 'tourist injuries by dragons'... let's just say I didn't feel anymore reassured. There was a nice viewing spot at the top of the island where we enjoyed the views and sea breeze, but unfortunately we didn't get the brochure photo of the view with the dragon in the foreground, just me instead.


The 2 hour boat ride back to Labuanbajo was bliss. We had afternoon tea and cakes served on the top deck and took a snooze in the sun as we sailed back to the mainland. The dive company really treat you well and their boat seemed to be one of the best in the harbour. In the evening we enjoyed a lovely Italian meal by the waterfront and had an early night ready for our early start diving the next day.


The diving the next day was equally spectacular. Pengah Kecil and Siabah dive sites were beautiful and filled with sea life, however the highlight of our day was Manta Point. I think this was up there with the thresher shark dive we'd done in Malapascua, Philippines. As we submerged into the water there was instantly a huge 4 metre manta ray beneath us at a cleaning station. As we drifted along the sea bed there was another three circling each other, then another two, then another... and another! I lost count how many we saw. It took all of my energy to deflate and grip onto the sea bed against the current so that I could watch these magnificent creatures. They are so graceful against the current... I on the otherhand was struggling to keep my balance. Jason's new pink stick came in handy as he could dig it into the sandy floor and balance himself against the strong currents. Even if you don't scuba dive you can get a really good view of the rays on snorkelling trips as the water is only 5-10 metres deep. At one point one of them swiftly changed direction and glided straight over our heads... incredible! I'm running out of superlative to describe the whole experience.


When we got back there was just enough time to see a sunset over Labuanbajo from a rooftop bar with a large Bintang beer... Magical!


If there's ever a holiday where you want to see natural beauty, unworldly creatures, paradise beaches, great food and beautiful local people... you should book a holiday to Komodo National Park. There's so much more we wanted to see and I definitely want to go back again!


Note: we need to invest in a red filter for our underwater camera because you lose colour in deep water and our photographs don't capture just how bright it was down there.

Posted by bloorsontour 03:28 Archived in Indonesia

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Amazing. One of the best so far.

by the wrinklies

I can't believe how close you got to the komodo dragons! It looks like an amazing place xxx

by mutsi

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