TOOL TRIP

Luxury Cruise – Lombok to Flores

sunset boatOne of the many things we’d been looking forward to in Indonesia was the Lombok to Flores, Komodo national park boat trip (4 days 3 nights). Finally after 5 weeks the time had come!

Good Start…..

Our trip started with a pick up from our awful hostel at 8:30am. Boy were we glad to get out of there! We were taken to the small port of Bangsal, north of Sengiggi and dropped off at a random café where we were told to wait until 11:30am. We arrived to find 12 others already waiting and it was only 09:00. A 2 and half hour wait!!! We were totally confused and a little angry because we’d been told we were catching the boat from the other side of Lombok, the east coast which was a 3 hour drive away. We initially thought after waiting all this time we’d have to get back into a bus, head back past Sengiggi (the only fast route to the east) then across Lombok. What a waste of a day and why hadn’t we been picked up en route rather than dropped here to return back!!! It wasn’t until 20 minutes later that we were told we were waiting for 5/6 others before we walk 5 minutes to the boat. Confused but very relieved we decided to ask the guy in charge of the restaurant what exactly was the plan for the next few days on-board the boat, therefore we wouldn’t have any more unnecessary surprises…..

versace

At 11:30am and pretty restless, everyone decided to put their bags on their backs and look ready to walk to the boat. It worked and we were showed the way. On arrival it was exactly what we expected.

A very basic wooden boat with not much else.

The crew were very welcoming and we all got on and found our beds. 13 mattresses all together on the top deck covered by a thin layer of ply wood. Very luxurious! There were cabins on the main deck but they were even worse (and cost more!) They were right next to the noisy engine and smelly toilets and home to cockroaches and bed bugs. Nice!

bed

Unfortunately 2 older women were rather surprised at the state of their cabin after being shown photos of a 4* standard room at the agency. It took a while for them to settle down. Things got a bit heated again later in the day when they were told there was no freshwater to shower for 4 days……. Luckily JM and I were well informed from the start!

Our trip was made up of 23 people in total. A lot but nothing compared to another boat which left at the same time as us and who had over 30 on-board plus the crew!

Our boat called ‘Versace’ had 5 crew members, 4 French, 3 Portuguese, 2 Germans, 4 English, 2 Dutch, 1 Italian, 1 Swiss and 1 American on board.

Day 1

Day 1 consisted of a lot of motoring. A lot of noise but the views were incredible. We stopped for some snorkelling and for a peaceful dinner before a night transiting over the north of Lombok and the island of Sumbawa. Although we didn’t do much it was a great chance to meet the other on the boat and interact. cia talkOur first night wasn’t the most comfortable. It pitched and rolled for the first 3 hours or so as we passed over the strait between the two islands! A lot of people were rather uncomfortable, rather sea sick and rather scared. For JM and I it felt like home in the North Sea but unfortunately we knew the boat wasn’t of the same build! After a few hours away from the strait the water became flat calm and some of us managed to sleep.

dorm

Cozy!

Day 2

– as expected we all woke up early between 5 and 6. It wasn’t exactly difficult when there’s a beautiful sunrise and the engine finally stopped!

sunrise soph

After a morning breakfast of banana pancakes and coffee we were taken to Moyo Island to snorkel and see a waterfall. Each time there was something to see on land we would all jumped into the water and swim whilst and one of the crew would paddle a small wooden boat with all our cameras and clothes on to the beach – A good little system. The snorkelling was pretty darn good but the waterfall very below average. Unfortunately we arrived at the same time as the other boat of 30+ people all of whom seemed pretty grumpy because apparently there wasn’t enough food for them all the night before and at breakfast. Due to the lack of rainfall there wasn’t much ‘water falling’, it was a little more stagnant than anticipated! But……we made the most of it and climbed up and around it and found a fun freshwater plunge pool with a swing that we had fun using for 30 odd minutes.

china waterfall

I think our crew realised we weren’t that happy arriving at the same place as another large boat and it would be much nicer staggering the arrival times if this was going to happen at every stop. In fact after that morning we didn’t seen much of the other boat except in passing. After some more diving at Moyo we moved on to Satonda Island and snorkelled some more. Again there was so much to see. On the island was a huge lake and a few walking paths.

satonda lakeWe tried exploring a few paths but the sun was really pounding down at around 1pm so we headed back into the sea. This was our last stop of the day as we motored across the north of Sumbawa for 1 more night of transit. The sunset was stunning, made better with Dolphins on the horizon.

beer time

This is THE life!

sunrise

As darkness approached JM and I were slightly amused by the navigation and communication systems on board our vessel. It consisted of 1 compass and the captain waving a torch at the bow of the boat looking out for the 100s of small finishing boats in the vicinity. They seemed to have it all under control and we are still here to tell the tale.

safety first

Life raft in good condition!

Day 3

After a noisy but smooth night we arrived at the rather barren island of Gili Lawa. At 6am we snorkelled to shore and climbed to the top of the island for the most fantastic 360 degree panoramic of Komodo National Park.

viewpoint

One of our favourite moments of the boat trip! After a couple of hours of walking and snorkelling the time had come to head to MANTA POINT!!!! With butterflies in my stomach we arrived at the spot where a handful of diving boat were spending their day and already finishing their 2nd dives. We asked the dive boats if the mantas were in the vicinity. They were around their boats! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh so excited!! I had my snorkel in my hand and, even though the boat was moving I was searching and ready to jump in at any moment!! I think everyone else thought I was a little weird. JM was by my side ready too. Eventually there was no need rush and the boat slowed for us to get in. I swam and swam and swam looking 360 non-stop for about 10 minutes. And then………………………. 2 huge enormous beautiful mantas swam underneath me. I shout with all my might to everyone else MANTA!!!! MANTA!!!! They all swim as quickly as possible and lucky for us one of the mantas wanted to show off so we were able to follow it for almost half an hour. I was so ridiculously happy.

I have waited to see these amazing creatures for 14 years! JM was so chuffed too.

MantaJM

MantaSophWe returned to the boat after about 45 minutes and the vessel repositioned for us to spend a bit more time searching for even more. What we couldn’t understand is some people didn’t even go in the first time!! What! Are they crazy!!? Even if you’ve seen them before you should never miss the opportunity to see them again!! Crazy crazy people! For the next Manta spotting session we saw two – an adult and baby. JM luckily saw another one but by the time I swam over it had swam off! After almost 2 hours at manta point and fulfilling my dream of swimming with mantas plus some serious sunburn on our backs, we headed to Red Beach snorkel some more.

Well Red Beach is exaggerating a little bit. Maybe ‘A Slight Tint of Pink Beach’ would be a better name for it.

Either way it was a beautiful beach with some of the best snorkelling, if not the best snorkelling I have ever done – Large soft red coral gardens, (hence the beach being slightly pink) fish of all shapes, sizes and colours, sponges and coral all in great health. The colours and diversity of flora and fauna were just phenomenal!!

pink beach

Pinkish Beach

dreamteam

Fun and games

After an incredible day we headed to a small local village for a chocolate and cookie run before watching the sunset by a mangrove forest home to flying foxes.

brazil

Chocolate run

Day 4
sunrise jm and soph

Good Morning!

Our final day started well as we woke to another beautiful sunrise with dolphins breaching on the horizon. After breakfast we headed to Komodo Island to see the dragons!!

komodo parkAnother exciting day ahead – We were welcomed ish…. by a large number of guides and helpers ready to take us for a small trek across a very small area of the Island. As we entered under the huge komodo park archway a huge dragon decided to walk straight in front of us. Knowing they are dangerous and we had no guide or stick with us we were a little cautious. What was even funnier was half our group were chatting excitedly -So much so that they didn’t see it until it was almost 5m in front of them almost scaring the life out of them! The dragon continued on his morning walk along the beach with no intent on eating us at all! When we arrived at the ticket booth we could already see another 2/3 dragons sleeping in the shade under one of the buildings. Curious and excited we stayed well back but wanted to take photos. We were approximately 10m away from the ticket booth when some guide working at the park shouted at us like naughty school children but a little more aggressive asking where was our guide! “Get back with your guide right now!” – Good morning to you too we thought. What a nice welcome!

komodo close

Eventually we set off and finally allowed to take photos of the dragons under the house. There were 19 of us and we had one lead guide and 3 helpers with long sticks ready to protect us. Our trek lasted about 40 minutes and we saw 8 dragons in total. ‘Not bad’ apparently according to our guide.

komodo up

Our experience seeing the dragons was great although the staff working at the park (except our own guide and helpers who were really nice!) were pretty unfriendly and to be honest the dragons themselves didn’t seem as impressive as what we’d seen from the National Geographic. Media hey!! However, we were really pleased to have seen them and stepped foot on the island.

komodo jm

Our trip also included a visit to Rinca Island. Another Island home to Komodo Dragons. We arrived amongst mangroves and had to hop across 4 boats to get onto the jetty. The heat was crazy hot and the island very barren. We were greeted by our extremely friendly guide who explained we would be 80% likely to see dragons on the island that day. We walked 2 minutes and voila! 9 Komodo dragons all lazily chilling under the team’s kitchen.

baby komodo Apparently they are drawn by the smell. Although an incredible sight we couldn’t help think after hearing from the guide that we would be lucky to see dragons and then 9 of them are under the kitchen 1 minute away from the introductory talk that it was all a set up. We asked if they feed the dragons but apparently they are not allowed. To us this seemed highly unlikely. No dragons = No tourists = No money. We continued our walk on Rinca and unfortunately saw no other Dragons for 45 minutes. The guide even cut our trek short because he said it was too hot. Mmmmmm – Not that impressed with the set up, but we enjoyed ourselves anyway!

komodo fight

By midday we left Rinca direction Labuan Bajo, Flores via one last snorkelling spot. After two walks on very hot and barren islands everyone was feeling really hot and bothered. Desperate times lead to desperate measures and the boys decided to jump in as the boat was motoring full blast. Clever when the currents are some of the strongest in the world and our old boat doesn’t exactly respond quickly to movements! By the look of panic in the captain’s eyes I thought he was going to have a heart attack.

captain

Relief after the spontaneous swimming session!

Eventually engine off and testing the currents he gave the go ahead for the rest of us to go in if we wanted. Everyone jumped in and it was a welcomed relief. When JM and I jumped in we’re sure we heard the water sizzled as it cooled us down.

These 4 days really had been an incredible trip with life long memories. The crew was great, the rest of the people on-board the nicest, and the National Park stunning. We made one final crazy decision and took up the offer to sleep on the boat for one more night.

Free of charge. Why not right? Anything to save money even if we were in desperate need of a shower after 4 days!

viewpoint soph

I love Indonesia!

Before we even moored up alongside another boat, people were jumping ashore. We don’t think it’s because they didn’t enjoy themselves, far from it. More likely they were desperate for a shower and in search of a good night sleep on a proper bed. Only 4 of us stayed the extra night on-board.

That evening we arranged to all meet up and have dinner. In the meantime instead of showering we went in search of a dive school for the next day. More about it in the next post!…..

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