Flores - Labuan Bajo

Trip Start Mar 12, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Golo Hilltop Hotel & Restaurant Labuan Bajo
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Thursday, November 29, 2012

What LP says: A picturesque fishing community clinging to the western tip of Flores, Labuanbajo has an agreeably weathered, slightly ramshackle charm. It’s the main jumping-off point for Komodo and Rinca, and with dozens of world-class dive sites and fine snorkelling nearby there’s every reason to spend a few days here. The attractive harbour is scattered with outrigger fishing boats and is sheltered by the islands, giving the impression that you’re standing on the shores of a vast lake.

We checked out of our hotel at 7:30am and made our way to the public boat dock, where we were told to check in by 7:45am to make the 8:00am boat, only the boat was not until 8:30am.  A guy came up to us saying he was with the tour company and would be accompanying us to Lombok.  He tried to put us on a boat that was way too full but I refused to get on the boat and eventually someone from the boat dock came down and told the guy that he was trying to put us on the wrong boat.  We should of foreseen that this was the start of a very bad journey and stayed there but we pushed on and would soon begin to consider this the worst journey of our whole trip.

We were eventually put on the right boat and when we got off at Lombok, I was surrounded by men demanding to see our ticket but the guy who was supposed to be escorting us to the minibus did nothing to help, even when they hemmed me in and I had to shout out for Craig to come back.  One of the guys harassing me told me not to believe that this guy was helping us and to make our own way but we didn't know who to believe.  Eventually a guy from the tour operator came over and told the guy who'd met us in Gili T to take us straight to the tour office so we wouldn't get harassed.  

 We were left at the tour office for another hour with no word of what was happening and eventually a bus turned up with two Hungarian guys and we were told to get on board.  Next, we stopped at the bus station and picked up a girl.  Still no one told us what was happening and we set off towards the town of Sengiggi to pick up more passengers.  

Eventually we got dropped off on the side of a road and were told we were being given the bus tickets for the main bus that was supposed to be taking us to the island of Sumbawa.  However, it was only 10am and the guy said the bus wasn't until 3pm.  We'd already been told it would take half the day to make it to Sumbawa and we needed to be there in time for the evening ferry.  I asked the guy why we had to wait that long for the bus but he started having a go at me, telling me if I didn't like it, he'd take us back to Gili T as his bus was worth millions and he could sell our ticket three times over - not a great way to be selling tickets.  The girl we'd picked up at the bus station was refused a ticket as she wouldn't buy his forward ticket for the next part of her journey so he packed her off in a taxi.  Craig then had a row with the bus ticket guy about having to wait around for the bus driver to have his lunch so eventually we were packed off to the bus station.

The bus station was in the middle of nowhere.  The ticket man came over to apologise for his behaviour and offered to phone the police for us to report the tour operator for lying to us and said he could get him thrown in jail just for lying to us - whatever!  This guy was a first class jerk!  He went on to tell us that the reason why our bus wouldn't be coming until 3pm was because it was being cleaned and how great this bus was.  Imagine our surprise when the bus turned up and was absolutely filthy and falling apart - worth millions my a#se!  

The Hungarian guys had checked several times about their being a toilet on board and we were reassured there was, it even had it stamped on our ticket.  3pm arrived and we boarded the bus but the seats were all broken so most of our journey was spent lying down as the seats wouldn't go upright.  A little into the journey, one of the Hungarians went to the toilet to find out there wasn't one - just a hole in the floor!  We stopped of at a restaurant en-route for our "free meal".  Even the locals wouldn't eat it, that's how bad it was!  We did as the locals and only ate the rice,  

Our first ferry ride over to Sumbawa was uneventful and we also got chatting to the German and Spanish couple who were also on our journey from hell.  After the ferry, the first driver came to the back of the bus and sat behind us and to the left of the Hungarians.   This guy obviously had a bad cough but he still smoked like a chimney.  I have never felt like I wanted to kill someone as much as I did him.  He coughed all of the time without putting his hand to his mouth so he was actually coughing right onto me or if he was on his side, directly onto the Hungarians.  The Hungarians were also getting angry and were making gestures which looked like they wanted to slit his throat.  The other bus driver also had a real problem with pressing the horn - continuously.  Add to this, a baby onboard who cried when any loud noise was made.  So here was our bus journey for the next 4 hours - cough, baby screamed, horn honked, baby screamed, cough, baby screamed - note the pattern!

 At around 4am the next morning, we were told to get off the bus onto a death trap of a minibus with the smallest seats I have ever seen, even dwarfs would struggle for leg room.  We were told this would take us to the ferry to Flores, which was leaving at 9am.  

We made it to ferry dock at around 7am and when we asked for our ferry tickets, the whole bus started to laugh at us and started shouting 5pm, ferry at 5pm.  You can imagine how p@ssed off everyone was as, in actual fact, we should of already been at our destination by now.  We headed over to the ferry dock as the bus driver said he didn't speak English and were told the ferry had broken down and wouldn't be leaving until 5pm.  This ferry port was in a town with nothing in it, they offered us a snorkelling trip to while away the time and said they'd have everything arranged for us when we got back however, we were all unsure if they were lying to us (seeing as they had all along) and decided against going.  Instead we holed ourselves up in the local internet cafe (their other suggestion) so we could let the hotels know we were all going to be late.  

At around 3pm, Craig and one of the Hungarian guys took a walk up to the ferry port and noticed that the ferry had just arrived however, no-one had thought to let us know.  We all rushed back to the port to get our tickets and found out that the bus driver had left with our tickets and the money for new ones.  We decided to get the police involved at this point as everyone else seemed to be trying to rip us off.  The policeman had the bus drivers number in his phone (honestly?!) and rang him to tell him we were really angry as he'd known we were waiting in the internet shop and that he had to come back with our tickets.  They made an arrangement to go and get the money for new tickets from his wife and that he'd sort it all out tomorrow with the policeman.  

Eventually we set off and we took our places on the ferry only to be told we had to pay for where we sat.  We refused and got up and moved only to see all the local people get on and be given the seats we were in, for free.  I'd given up getting angry at this point as I just wanted to get to our hotel as we were all coated in dirt and sweat

At 1am we made it to Labuan Bajo, where again the taxi driver tried to rip us off so we told him we knew he was ripping us off and said we'd walk.  He came running after us with the right price but we told him it was too late as he'd lied to us.  The hotel was a long half hour slog up hill and when we got to the hotel no-one was around.  Eventually we worked out that they'd left the keys on one of the doors so after a long shower, we climbed into bed exhausted.

We got up to move rooms the next morning and after breakfast we decided we'd spend the day around the pool.  It was pretty hot so we stayed in the shade all day.  However, after showers that evening, both of us noticed we were fried!  

On our last full day, we headed to Rinca Island to meet the Komodo dragons.  It was a really nice boat journey through the surrounding islands, if you ignored the floating rubbish and plastic bottles that is.  

We arrived at Rinca and met our guide and headed into the National Park.  Literally minutes into entering, we met a baby Komodo, who was much bigger than I'd expected and they look especially menancing too, even as a baby.  

We opted for the medium hike around the park as it meant we had the best chance of seeing the dragons.  Before the hike, we got to read all about the deaths that occurred at the National Park as a result of dragon attacks, it looks like there are about one a year and in most cases, even if the people don't die immediately, most die as a result of the Komodo bite. 

Once we'd set off, we saw a buffalo with her two calves, which incidentally were more dangerous than the Komodo dragons, and then we saw a family of monkeys.  We hiked to the top of a hill, which gave us an overview of Rinca Island.  We then headed back into the bush where we stopped at a tree where a ranger had been attacked by a Komodo earlier in the year.  He'd been showing an Australian couple round who had to hide in a tree while the ranger got away from the Komodo.  He managed to escape up a tree but the Komodo was that angry it started to climb the tree to finish his attack so the ranger had to keep hitting him with a branch to get him to back off.  He did eventually get the Komodo to back off but they had to stay in the trees for a few hours incase any more Komodos came back.  They made it back to camp later that day and it took the Ranger six months to recover from the bite.  

After that pleasant tale, we set off in search of the Komodo nests.  We managed to find one but the mother Komodo was not around.  We saw another nest, there are several holes around the nest as the mother lays the eggs and then digs several other holes as a decoy to other animals who try to steal the eggs - mostly birds.  After leaving the nest, we came across the mother who stalked towards us.  We had to stand behind the ranger whilst she walked back to her nest, and she watched us the whole time and it was pretty intimidating to be honest.

After that, we headed back to the camp where there were several very large male Komodo dragons hanging around the kitchen in the hope of some food.  We were told we could take photos but not get too close.  The ranger told us that children are never allowed to roam around the village as they would make a very easy meal for the Komodos - I sure wouldn't have liked to have grown up there.  

After visiting the Komodos, we set off back to Labuan Bajo but stopped off first on an isolated island to go snorkelling.  The fish were amazing and were all the colours of the rainbow.  The current was pretty strong so I only stayed in the sea for a while but Craig and the boat captain went off into the deep and Craig told me it was some of the best snorkelling he'd ever done.  On the way back, we saw the two Hungarians on their own boat on their way to see the Komodo dragon.    

We got back mid afternoon and spent the rest of the afternoon hanging around the pool.  That evening we walked down to another hotel to have dinner and watch the sunset.  

We were heading back to Bali the next morning and we'd been told by the travel agent who booked our tickets that we could walk to the airport, it's a good job we didn't as it was a half hour taxi away.  We arrived at the airport but were told that our bags were not within the weight limits, even though our ticket said they were, so we again had to pay another charge, which we demanded a receipt for so we could complain.  We then got charged to leave the airport, even though we were also told it was included in our flight cost.  The plane was an hour late taking off but whilst waiting for the plane, the German and Spanish couple came into the airport so whiled away the time talking to them.  

All in all, it was obviously a very bad journey but the Komodo dragons more than made for it but next time, I'd definitely just fly there and back to go and see them.   


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