Stranded in Paradise

Trip Start Aug 21, 2011
Trip End Jul 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Kanawa Island Resort
What I did
Lionfish, Bat fish, Eagle Rays

Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It has slowly become apparent that my hopes of seeing the Komodo dragons and diving in Komodo national park were ill conceived. The end of January and beginning of February are the worst part of the rainy season. Almost all of the boat tours, ferries and dive trips have stopped running. The ones that continue to go are doing so at high risk.

The dive shop operators frankly recommend leaving town and coming back next week. But if you talk to the locals, it might be better to return next month. Technically the harbour should reopen on the 22nd, but who really knows if this is a storm that will pass or a season that could linger.

Several other backpackers I met had plans to travel east. They booked a car and driver to take them to see some traditional villages and hillside tribes. I don't know why, but none of this interested me.

I also thought about taking my rescue dive course. It would be a way to kill the time while waiting for good weather and a next step in my scuba diving education, but the course is also stressful and I didn’t really want to take it alone.

So instead , on Sunday morning I wandered over to the Kanawa Island Resort booking office. They told me that there were people on the Island and beachfront Bungalows available for 300,000 Rp ($30) a night.

A little history on Kanawa Island: for the last few months I’d been frequently googling Komodo and searching for accommodation/activities for my holiday. And during this time, Kanawa Island Resort kept coming up on Tripadvisor with excellent ratings. It also appealed to my desire to get lost in the middle of nowhere. The small, private island is an hour and a half boat ride away from Labuan Bajo. The pictures show a wooden pier, white sand beaches and beautiful coral reef surrounding the small, vibrant green island. The choices of accommodation are Bungalow, Camping in tents or staying in Bale Bale (pronounced Ball-eee). I was initially intrigued by the Bale bale, as they are essentially a small thatched hut with a mattress, a mosquito net and in the place of walls, bamboo screens that can be completely rolled up to let the breeze pass through. The trip advisor reviews either rated the place as paradise or incredibly boring.

So with nothing to do and the desire to do nothing, I booked a bungalow, checked out of my dorm and packed up, ready to catch the shuttle boat to the island at noon.

I was pleasantly surprised to see 5 other guests would be heading over to the island. We were lead to the boat, which was larger than most of the other boats in the harbour, and I proceeded to the roof. From my dive trip the day before I knew that on the rough seas I would likely stay the driest up above. It was also covered and offered the most complete shade. What I didn’t predict was how terrifying it was being stuck on the roof of a boat that was keeling 45 degrees in alternate directions as we steered through the huge swells which were the reason all the other boats were stuck in the harbour. As I clutched the railing and pondered the consequences of going overboard, I was content to know that my iphone and passport were safely on my body in a waterproof bag.  The 2 hour boat ride was rough. Luckily, I was too terrified to be sea sick, and the breeze/strong wind was refreshing and cool on what was otherwise a hot, muggy Indonesian day.

I arrived at Kanawa Island with a mix of relief and trepidation, knowing that the only way off the island would be back on the boat.  And with the weather not likely to get better, the hopes for smooth sailing were nil.

But the Island, oh, let me tell you about the Island.

The beaches were small at high tide, but empty and covered with fine white sand, sea shells and leaves that had naturally fallen from the scattered green, green trees. I was quickly checked in and lead to my bungalow: a perfect, thatched hut that was mostly a covered patio with a hammock, a day bed and a small, open air en-suite, which was why I had chosen the bungalow over the bale bale. The bungalow faced the ocean, but was sheltered from the rain and wind by the hill behind and a tree in the front.

In the reception I met Sara, a fellow traveler from my cancelled flight two days ago.  As I checked in I asked her, "How is the Island?" She responded with a sly smile and a head nod. Yes. This was where I wanted to be.

Most of my two days on the island were spent doing very little, but I did manage to hike the hill, snorkel, dive and do walk around the island at low tide.

 The food at Kanawa was good. The chef, Hero, quickly befriended me on the boat ride over and joined me for a beer before dinner, until he departed to cook my dinner. The staff at the dive shop was also really friendly. A nice, young divemaster named Alex took me on a 1 hour shore dive on the House Reef. I saw lionfish, scorpionfish, crocodile fish and an eagle ray. The diversity was impressive and the coral abundant.

The next day in Kanawa it rained and rained and rained. The boat attempted to leave in the morning to return to Labuan bajo, but quickly turned around when informed that the harbour was still closed. the one passenger who had tried to return to the mainland was forced to stay another night. The other guests on the island watched this happen with interest, then went back to our own schedule of doing very little. We all showed up to dinner with a book in hand, having spent most of the day reading. I kind of like when days are spent waiting between meals. It was very relaxing.

That night there was a sunset. This was a big deal. It brought hope that the weather would change. Some others asked if we could do a Rinca trip to see the dragons the next day. The guide said maybe. I decided if the tour would go I would stay one more day. If the tour didn’t go then I’d leave in the morning.

That night, we could see stars. They opened up the beach bar and we sat outside until 11:00 enjoying the cool evening.

The weather was nicer in the morning, but the waves were too big to go to Rinca. So back to Labuan Bajo I went. So long, Kanawa. Hopefully I’ll be back soon!
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Scott on

The bungalow looks sweet, but a beach tent is also very, very appealing. It's tough to decide between the three options!

The boat ride sounds fun! It's a way cooler story than if the seas were flat! :P

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