9th-12th October, 2014
After five days spent relaxing on the beach and snorkelling with turtles on Gili Trawangan it was time for us to move on, so we signed up for “Komodo Adventure”; a four day boat cruise across the Flores Sea which would take us past Sumbawa and stop at many islands along the way, including Komodo and Rinca, where we would be able to see the dragons.
We were now three: Roy and I had been joined by his sister, Kate, who would be accompanying us for the rest of our journey through Indonesia.
At around lunchtime we reached Labuan Lombok harbour and caught our first glimpse of the boat which would be our home for the next four days.
We also started to get acquainted with our other companions for the journey; two French girls, an American, seven Dutch, and five locals.
After the crew had safely stowed our backpacks in the cargo hold underneath the deck we swiftly set sail, leaving Lombok behind and heading east. Within a few minutes we were at sea and we could see the mountains of Sumbawa on the horizon.
Some of the passengers felt a bit seasick for the first few hours. The tide was particularly choppy that afternoon but I also think it was because they were just getting used to life aboard. By the time we reached Gili Bola, where the boat anchored just after sundown, most of us were feeling well enough to eat supper.
We slept upon thin mattresses on the deck and were each given a pillow and blanket. It wasn’t the most comfortable conditions I have ever lived in, but what can I say? There were twenty three of us on a relatively small boat. The sea breeze was quite pleasant, the sky was starry, and the moon, when it first appeared at the horizon, was red.
In the early hours the engine ignited, bringing a swift end to my brief slumber. The sea was particularly rough for the rest of the night; it swung the boat back and forth, side to side, and water kept sloshing up onto the deck.
We arrived at Moyo Island the next morning, feeling very tired. After a quick breakfast we were told we were going to have to swim to the shore. Some people grumbled over this, but jumping into the water was exactly the kind of wakeup call that I needed.
Our guide took us on a short walk through the jungle to reach a small waterfall, which we climbed.
And at the top there was a rather nice pool to swim in.
Our second stop that day was at Satonda Island, which had both fantastic snorkelling with beautiful coral, and an inner sulphurous lake which was just a short walk away from the beach.
That evening we witnessed our first active Indonesian volcano; Gunung Tambora, which had a bright red lava flow we could see all the way from our boat at sea.
I laid back on the bow-deck and watched the stars for a while, feeling very contented. The Milky Way was very visible that night, and the sea was much calmer. Sleep was less challenging.
By the third morning we had, technically, reached Komodo National Park; the boundaries of the protected area actually includes a whole archipelago and a marine area, as well as the three islands that the dragons happen to live on. Before we were taken to see the dragons we first made a quick stop at Laba Island, where we climbed a mountain for some stunning panoramic views.
And we were also taken for snorkelling around Pink Beach, which was teeming with fish and had beautiful coral.
Then, after lunch, we were finally taken to the Komodo Island’s interior.
It took four rangers, in all, to escort us, and all of them were carrying thick, pronged sticks. They were surprisingly light-hearted and chatty, despite their slightly precarious job, but behind this jovial demeanour they were actually very wary, and their keen eyes were always quick to spot any dragons lurking nearby.
Only five minutes into our walk we saw our first dragon. It was hiding beneath some of the undergrowth – probably hoping to surprise one of the numerous Javan deer which prance around the island.
The rangers rushed over to show it to us as soon as one of them spotted it, and – while carefully placing the prongs of their spears between the creatures tail to stop it from lashing out – let some of us get close enough to have photos like this taken with it.
We spotted about ten that day, in all. Although half of that number were ones which just happened to be hanging around outside the kitchens near the headquarters, lured there by the scent of the food. I am not quite sure how “wild” that particular sighting was.
That night I slept very well. I didn’t even notice the engine starting up when the boat began sailing again, so maybe I was just getting used to it. I woke the next morning and looked outside to see that we were surrounded by a mangrove forest.
We were at Rinca Island; Komodo Island’s twin, home to the same species of giant lizards. We were taken on another trek and, once again, escorted by several rangers. We saw more dragons that day than we did on Komodo.
We even came across a group of them busily gnawing away at the last remains of a very smelly buffalo carcass. It was a sight we were, apparently, quite lucky to see.
After our trek around Rinca, our four days at sea were pretty much over. The crew took us for one last spot of snorkelling at a nearby island – where we spotted some lion fish – and then they steered the boat towards Labuanbajo, where we would get off and the next chapter of mine, Roy and Kate’s travelling adventures would begin.