As soon as we were back on land we found a great dive centre called Wicked Diving who had been recommended in one of the many blogs we read. They were friendly, efficient and passionate about diving. The was price a little more expensive than we had hoped for but the other 23 dive centres on the one road in Labuan Bajo were pretty similar if not more expensive. We were kitted then and there and told everything would be in place when we arrived the next day. Exhausted, we met the others for an extortionately priced pizza before heading back to the lovely Versace for a final night on the boat. Worst night’s sleep ever!
The air was damp so everything was wet when I woke in the middle of the night. It was noisy because we were in port alongside large vessels, rubbing against them whilst they demobbed and mobilised supplies.
At 4:45 I was wide awake packing and wanting to get off the boat ASAP.
I ended up waking poor Jean-Max in the process who didn’t complain and quite happy to leave. We had had enough and wanted a real bed and a freshwater shower.
Before that could happen we had a day’s diving ahead of us!! Yay! Plus I’d already arranged accommodation for that night so we knew shower time was close. The other two staying on boat with us also left at the same time. I think the remaining crew thought they had done something wrong because we couldn’t get off fast enough!
We were due to meet at 7:15am for diving. We arrived 30 minutes early but offered a free coffee because of it. The day was fantastic – We arrived at the boat with 3 instructors/divemasters and 5 of us diving. They were all motivated and happy to help with anything. We were waited on hand and food and all our equipment was set up. VIP treatment! We had signed up for 3 dives but we were under no pressure to do all of them if we didn’t want to.
All I can say is wow! Wow! Wow!
The first dive was really lovely and a place where our divemaster could assess our standards etc. It was still very beautiful and lots of thing to see plus there were no currents which the national park is renowned for.
Unfortunately JM was on the verge of Hypothermia and therefore couldn’t enjoy it as much as us but it was a good start to the day (obviously not for JM).
The second dive JM chose to sit out.
1) Because the spot was much colder and 2) he still hadn’t warmed up from the last dive.
Dive 2 was at Manta point where we had snorkelled two days before. Yay MANTAS! And this time hopefully diving with them! We were warned it was a pretty boring dive with quite strong currents but of course there’s the chance of MANTAS! (Have i said MANTAS!!!! enough?) As soon as I hit the water it was cold! It was a good thing JM sat this one out – and yes it was also a very boring dive. It wasn’t until the last 15 minutes that we turned around and a small Manta swam straight over our heads and disappeared! I saw another manta! – Not as impressive and as big as those we’d seen snorkelling but it was still incredible! This time when we surfaced Alex, who had joined me on the dive decided to do a ‘JM’ and almost get hypothermia too. Not a good day for the boys!
Best dive ever?
The 3rd and final dive was the best I have ever done. After a drift test (undertaken by one of the divemasters before most dives) our dive master Liz had a funny look on her face. The current is medium so it would be a serious drift dive for the majority of the dive. JM was warm enough for this one and was my buddy again. Before the dive Marcel another dive master told us this is his favourite dive spot in the world and its Indonesian name translates as Big Smile in English! He said we’d have the biggest smiles on our faces after the dive!
We were advised to get in the water and descend immediately so not to drift too much at the start. As we descend we just drifted. But we drifted whilst watching a beautiful wall of soft and hard corals. Fish EVERYWHERE and a nice black tip shark came to say hello! The visibility wasn’t at its best but we were loving what we saw – I can’t imagine what it would be like on a good day! Incredible. As we drifted the ‘big smile’ already started to appear. At times we had to swim into the current to slow a little and appreciate it more. Finally we got to a point where we needed to kick hard to get round the corner and out of the current. If not it would make things difficult!
Kick, kick, kick, and we were round the south side of the island completely protected and free to relax a little more. At this point barracudas, groupers and a turtle appeared.
I tilted my head up and an enormous Manta swam over the top of the reef and over me!
No one saw! I swam as quickly as possible to JM and Alex (the other guy in our group) who turned just in time but I couldn’t get to Liz! That shot of it coming over the reef was something straight out of a documentary. I was so happy. More turtles then appeared, another asleep on the reef and another swimming. WOW WOW WOW. As we ascended and reached the surface my smile was huge.
The spot should be renamed huge smile not big smile. JM even said to me after diving many many times together….. – I now see why you like diving so much!! Duh!!!
Another sunset on another boat…. hard life…. we arrived and headed to our hostel exhausted! As we arrived our Versace group were all there! We thought they would have left but they decided to stay another day. We showered for the first time 5 days – It felt good! And went for a drink with everyone. Tiredness overcame everyone and it was an early night for us all. Excited for a lie in the next morning for the first time in 6 weeks we slept OKish and woke at 4:45am with no chance of sleeping anymore!!!
What better way to end our time in Indonesia than an epic bus journey!
Since day one flights from Flores to Lombok had been expensive. The alternative and cheaper route was travelling overland and sea for approximately 20 hours.
Let’s do this we thought! – A great opportunity to see some of Sumbawa, an Island which we would traverse by bus for the majority of the trip.
The route consisted of a ferry from Labuan Bajo, Flores to the port of Sape, Sumbawa. We then needed to take two buses – The first, Sape to Bima, then from Bima to Mataram in Lombok with a ferry in-between Sumbawa and Lombok.
We’d been warned not to buy a continuous ticket from Flores to Lombok because no buses match up and you are likely to get stuck, be restricted and/or lose money if you do. We decided to take ever stage as it comes.
Our first ferry left on time (4pm) from Labuan Bajo destination Sape, Sumbawa. We arrived late in Sumbawa but all the locals were heading to the same place as us, Bima, so we followed them. Typical Indonesia there were no buses at the ferry terminal because we were an hour late. Instead locals boarded a pick up (which cost a bomb – 10 times more than a bus but locals paid the same rate!) and signalled for us to get on.
The 1 hour journey to Bima seemed to go on forever. All crammed in like sardines but at least we were making progress. Finally we arrived in Bima to a deserted bus terminal. All the locals jumped out and walked off. Some small street food restaurants were open and we decided to try and ask when the night bus would arrive to take us to Lombok.
No night bus and only 1 bus a day at 7pm they responded. It was 2:00am at this point!
Completely confused, tired, pissed off etc. we took a coffee and reassessed the situation. We couldn’t wait until 7pm because we had a flight the next day (remember it was 2am) at midday. We’d never make it. There has to be more than 1 bus direct to Mataram and if not we would have to take all the local buses in the world to get to the airport. (If the airport was even open – It had been closed for 2 and half weeks because of the Rinjani eruption!)
Whilst having coffee we saw some disgruntled Indonesia tourists from Java arrive. They had been on the same ferry as us. They were in deep conversation and all on telephones trying to arrange something. JM went over to ask if they were ok and where they were heading. Maybe they knew something that we didn’t? It turned out they were also trying to get to Lombok but they had booked a ticket for the whole way and already had to pay extra for the pickup from Sape because their bus wasn’t there to collect them. Now there was no bus in Bima – the same one we were expecting!
They asked us to join them. The rest of their group were waiting at the bus agency in town – The same agency who they had booked their tickets through in Flores. They had opened up especially for the 8 of them. They were told at this time of night nothing could be done. Sleep there and the agency would try to arrange a minibus the next morning at 9am. The locals were so so kind. We all slept on the concrete floor for about 3 hours.
At 7am we tried to organise the minibus a bit more. The driver unfortunately wasn’t used to driving in the daytime but with the Indonesian holiday makers and us they almost had a full bus.
By 8:30am the agency had telephoned some passengers due on the later bus to come early. They arrived and we were ready to go. A little bit of luck we thought. If we hadn’t have met the lovely Indonesians on holiday from Java who knows what we would have done or where we would be.
The minibus was new and swanky and very comfortable. Or so we thought. The AC decided to break and the bus had no windows except for the driver’s window to open to let some air in.
It was so ridiculously hot! The driver kept adding water to the system every hour to try and kick start it, but nothing worked. In the end he drove like a manic (a 7 hour journey turned into 5 hours) to reach Sumbawa Besar and get it fixed. We all got out dehydrated, sweating and in a bit of a dizzy state. We demanded food and drink. The driver arranged for a bus with working AC to come and pick us up and drive us to the restaurant planned along the route. Meanwhile they would fix the AC in our bus. 4 sprites and 2 large bottles of water later (plus some weird food!) the bus arrived in working order. By 4pm we were on the road and still in the middle of Sumbawa. 7 hours later we finally arrived in Mataram, Lombok. With no guesthouse booked and the amazing group from Java inviting us to stay with them and eat with them that night….We kindly declined due to exhaustion! We checked the lonely planet asked the bus driver to drop us nearby and found a room.
We slept like babies, awoke, caught the airport shuttle bus to the airport and were ready for our next adventure to Kuala Lumpur. The airport had opened the day before!!
We had the most incredible time in Indonesia. After writing this blog article in Myanmar a few weeks later we still miss the country and reflex on the amazing adventures all the time.
We’ve already decided on our next trip to Indo. We plan to explore the islands of Flores, Sulawesi and Papua. Can’t wait!!