Dragons and Diving in Komodo National Park

Trip Start Jan 07, 2009
Trip End Aug 04, 2009

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Friday, May 1, 2009

Oh my, I have so much to write about this week!!!! There's so much that I don't know where to start. Actually I've done so many amazing things this week that I can't remember how they all felt anymore.

It all began with a 4 day/3 night boat trip heading East from Lombok to Labuan Bajo, making stops on many islands along the way, including the famous KOMODO ISLAND! :) So I had no idea what to expect from this trip, because the price was so reasonable that I truly wondered what I would get for that price...but it turned out to be alright in most ways. Probably not actually the safest, but I made it so it's all good. lol. So when I signed up for such a long boat trip, I had my fingers crossed that there would be some cool people on the boat because well, I was going to be stuck with them for four whole days in a small space. But alas, you  can't control such things and it was a very quiet group of people that didn't particularly mesh that well. There were two other solo backpackers who were cool, and then there were 3 british guys who didn't seem to care to talk to others, two really really young british guys, and a quiet austrian couple...At least we had our crazy guide Adi to liven things up a bit and make people talk. Oh the crazy Indonesian guys on the boat. Crazy crazy guys, sometimes bordering on inappropriate, but at least entertaining. Indonesian guys are just crazy in general though. Sometimes it does get to be a bit much and it can be frustrating, but mostly it is funny. (Basically, it's almost impossible for me to sit alone in a cafe here, an Indonesian guy always has to come talk to me...harmless enough though.)

Anyway, we were kept quite busy on this boat trip! We stopped to snorkle at many islands...probably did about 2 or 3 hours of snorkling every day! Some of this snorkling was even better than the scuba diving I had done in Thailand! It was even better because for the second and third day we didn't even see a single other boat anywhere, so it really felt like we had all these amazing coral reefs to ourselves! One day we took a short but very steep hike to the top on a mountain on one of these islands and had the most amazing view I have ever seen in my life. Absolutely brilliant! (See, you can tell I have been hanging around irish and english people when I start to call everything "brilliant" and "lovely" instead of the canadian "awesome"!) Anyway, all these places that I can't describe and to which photos can't do justice have convinced me that Indonesia is my favorite place I have been so far. the best!!!!

On the second night the boat had to keep sailing through the night because we had a lot of distance to cover. So far, the sea had been calm and flat and easy and comfortable, but this time we were heading further from shore and it was very...very...very...VERY rocky! I don't think anyone was able to sleep. I spent a lot of the night wondering if it was safe, and on many occasions was terrified of the fact that I hadn't seen any lifejackets on board because I felt like there was a chance we might need them. Seriously, it was insane, we were sleeping on the covered top deck of the boat, and I was getting sprayed from the waves all the way up there. Yikes, it was scary. But when I woke up from my half-asleep state, there was the most perfect sunrise I have ever seen, and the sea was calm again, so it was alright. :) We made it through the night......

One of the highlights of this trip was getting the chance to see the infamous KOMODO DRAGON, the huge carnivorous lizard that only lives on the archipelago of Komodo National Park, of which we visited two islands: the largest is Komodo Island, and the second largest is Rinca. We did a hike on both islands, but were only able to spot the dragons on Rinca. There were a few lazy ones that hang out near the restaurant, but we saw quite a few in the park in the wild, which was much cooler. They are just so unique...it's one of those crazy animals that I probably thought were very cool when I was a kid and loved reading Owl magazine. :P

Eventually we arrived in Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores, and I was quite ready to have a shower and get the salt out of my hair after four days...four days that just flew by, actually! Labuan Bajo itself is a bit of a strange place. It has beautiful sunset views over the islands...but the town is such a mess! Even though there isn't much to do, I decided to take a day off to just hang out, and I'm glad I did, because in the evening a few of us from the boat met a cool local guy, Francisco, who offered to show me around the next day. We knew he was a cool guy when he said he was from a town "not in the Lonely Planet", and he could speak 5 languages "mais pas francais". He spent 2 years in Europe and one year in New Zealand...I haven't met many Indonesians who travel so much! He had quite the crazy stories about these trips and his first experiences abroad. I think my favorite was his description of his first camping trip. With his limited english, he thought that camping was a place, and they were going "Camping". So he was like "Is Camping nice?". And then his description of what he saw when he arrived at the campsite was "a woman making spaghetti and a man drinking a beer with no shirt on"...and I think I laughed at that description all night. But maybe you had to be there to understand why this was funny. But it was.

Anyway, he very kindly gave me a good tour of Labuan Bajo. We went to some caves, but forgot to bring a flashlight, which sort of ruins it. After going through just maybe 40 metres of tunnels, we came to a bigger part of the cave with many tunnels, and I was so scared that we wouldn't be able to find the right path to get back out that I chickened out and we never got to the end of the cave...but it was still cool. Then we drove to some smaller villages in the mountains, where I had a very nice view! Then at dinner we got him to order us to "real" Indonesian food, which probably wasn't actually on the menu. It was quite nice. :)

But the best part, without a doubt, was the diving I did yesterday in the waters of Komodo National Park. WOW. There is no diving that can compare to this diving. It was perfect on every level. Firstly, I got on the boat and it was full of solo backpackers of the coolest kind...(why couldn't they have been on my 4 day boat trip??) All very cool, down to earth people, who were very enthusiastic about diving. I think half the group was Canadian, which proves that Canadians are the coolest. :) Anyway, after a 2 hour boat ride back out to Komodo, we got our first dive briefing, which made it sound quite crazy. The currents out there are very intense. We had to jump off the boat and make a descent as quickly as possible, or else we would get swept up in the current and have to swim against it...which is not really doable. (Actually, apparently last year a group of divers got swept up in the current and ended up very very far away, and ended up on Rinca, fighting off Komodo dragons for two days until they were finally found. After doing this dive, I can believe that this can happen.) So we made the decent and landed in the most intense and beautiful corals I have ever seen, way more colorful and plentiful that I have ever seen. There were so many fish and so much going on that I didn't know where to look!!! At some point in the dive though, there was a current that goes around a big rock for maybe 100 metres (more? I'm not sure) and there is no fighting it, you just have the let it carry you. It's the first time that I've experienced that, so it was a bit terrifying to feel like you can't stop even if you wanted to, but once around the big rock it calmed down a little bit, and I felt better. The second dive had an even crazier dive plan, and involved even stronger currents, but I think it was even more impressive than the first dive! At one point, a strong current pulled us through a small passage between two walls that were covered with bright orange soft corals (and always tons of fish), and it was just amazing. I guess you can't really describe a dive though, so I'll stop trying. We did a third dive as well, which was much more mellow. The sea was completely calm and there were no currents on this dive site, so basically the description of the dive was just "there's a big rock, we're going to dive on it", and it was all very mellow. We saw lots of whitetip reef sharks, and got to hang out with them for a while. We saw lots of dolphins from the boat, and some of the group saw one during the dive, but I missed it. Sad to have missed the dolphin. :) We made it make to town around 6PM and everyone went to the bar with the good sunset view to keep talking about diving and traveling, and it made me wish I could know this cool crew of people for more than just one day, but alas I had booked my flight the next morning.

It wasn't a very tough call to chose to fly back though, because the other option was to be on a bus for 3days/2nights...and doesn't cost that much less than a flight, so this morning I took my very scenic flight to Bali, and tonight I'm on a night bus heading towards Java! Oh so much to see and do in this amazing country!
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