I was sent for an assignment by Gaya Travel Magazine after the Wonderful Indonesia media campaign of Makassar – Lombok – Banyuwangi – Bandung. This time it was a dive trip to Komodo National Park, a dive destination of dream. Unlike the earlier trip of social media influencers, the dive trip was meant for printed media, travel agencies and magazines. Yay but no yay, I was pretty nervous before and during the trip.
Komodo National Park is known as one of the best dive sites in the world and home for the Komodo dragons. My formal article has been published in Gaya Travel Magazine Edition 11.6, so this serves as informal account with elaborated details that did not make it to the magazine.
It was a transit day in Bali for our flight to Labuanbajo was scheduled on the next day. We stayed near the new Bali International Airport, which is very impressive. But it did not mean we escaped the traffic as it took us almost 30 minutes to get to our hotel which was located just 1km away.
It was also the day when we broke the ice between the Malaysian and Singaporean divers. I met the Malaysian divers while waiting for the flight to Bali and the rest during the dinner at Legian where we had to introduce ourselves. It occurred to me that everyone was very serious diver who had a setup to organize dive trips or own dive cameras shop or run a dive centre or a professional diving photographer.
There I was the least experienced diver in the team, who had logged less than 50 dives. The fact that Komodo is meant for an experienced diver didn’t help me ease out the pressure – details to follow below. I was lucky to have befriended a couple of encouraging divers during the trip.
The flight from Bali to Labuanbajo took xx minutes. The journey was smooth going as Adam and I chatted away to kill the time while enjoying the view. I saw Mount Tambora too! Volcano spotting over Indonesia makes me miss Edgar though!
That aside, we landed safely at Labuanbajo and retrieved our diving gears and loaded them in the van.
While our bags were taken straight to La Prima Hotel, we headed to the pier to pay respect to the inhabitants of this faraway land. The komodo dragons! Labuanbajo airport smacks right in the city centre and within minutes, our van drove us down the hill to the pier. With eyes glued to the right and left windows whichever the views were curtailed, I could not contain the excitement at the first sight of the ocean.
Before long, we rode the boat for 1 hour to go to Loh Buaya. It is one of the two entry tourist points to spot the komodo dragons. Located in the Rinca Island, it is famous for trekking in search of the komodo dragons. The best time of the day to visit is in the morning when the komodo will come near the ranger houses because of the smell of food. Do you know they can smell from as far as 2km?
From the wooden pier, the boardwalk brought us through a dry savannah leading to the headquarters. When we arrived it was already 11am and the sun was almost above our heads. It was hot beyond words.
We walked pass a couple of buffalos’ bones, which I believe had been savoured by the komodo dragons.
Under a sheltered tree, I saw a deer standing on its two feet munching on the leaves. Less than 100meters, the first komodo dragon of our visit lying down on the ground half asleep, either too tired or too full.
It didn’t bother the presence of the deer behind it for his focus was merely on our presence, which was obviously pose a larger threat than the harmful deer. The ranger prohibited us to be in 50 meter radius from the komodo. He had a stick with a ‘V’ end just in case of a surprise attack from the komodo. Let us not be deceived with the gigantic size and such lazy appearance, the komodo dragons are known to be fast predators and a bite and a splash of its saliva is an agony of a month long slow death.
We gathered in front of the Loh Buaya’s main office to be briefed on the trekking we were about to undertake. There were plenty routes to choose from and a lot of do’s and don’ts. For the ladies who are having their menstrual period, it’s best to inform the attending ranger for your invitation to treat is a concern for your safety. Well, you can still join the trekking but an extra caution is important. Since we arrived quite late, the chance of sighting the prehistoric beasts became lesser as they were mostly in the jungle resting. The first 15 minutes, we were actually looking under the stilt ranger houses, for it was there than the komodo dragons are often seen waiting for any prospect of food. They are always attracted to the smell of food cooked by the ranger officers, but never fed. They have to hunt for their own food.
As we advanced further into the jungle full of dry leaves, we walked in a file and made little noise. It was in deed a dry season for the landscape was brown.
The female komodo dragon was guarding her eggs. We had just missed the mating season by a month.
The trek continued to the peak of Loh Buaya for a stunning view of the vast plain and the sea. It was unbelievable to be able to trek at the natural habitat of ferocious Komodo dragons. The Komodo dragons easily outnumbered us. At all times during the trekking, we were accompanied by the rangers who secured our safety.
You can buy some souvenirs at the souvenir shop. There is also a canteen where you can buy drinks and snacks.
Since it was a leisure day for us, we were then sent to snorkel at Kanawa Island. The water around Kanawa Island was crystal clear. I could see the corals as I walked from the jetty to the shore. Eager to explore the waters, the Malay idiom of “don’t assume still waters hold no crocodiles” hit me in the face. Boy, the current was strong as we snorkelled. No chance to leisurely enjoy the snorkelling without proper fins and good swimming skills.
I had no notice of any other patrons except those from our group. It’s quite thrilling to have the island to ourselves. For those who eventually gave up the snorkelling in the pretext of saving the energy for big day tomorrow, they slept on the lazy beach chairs lined along the shores or enjoyed drinks from a cafe by the beach. There was a proper toilet and shower room for us to change, but I remember being all too wary for the presence of a huge gecko in the toilet.
It is possible to stay overnight at Kanawa Beach Bungalows for IDR700,000 per night.
After spending almost two hours at Kanawa Island, we travelled back to La Prima Hotel, where a stunning sunset awaited.
La Prima Hotel is atleast 10 minutes drive from the Labuan Bajo town. As our dinner was arranged at Bajo Bay Fishermen’s Club, I had my first glimpse of the night life at Labuan Bajo.
The fishing village is thriving with exclusive restaurants and bars amidst the dive centres and souvenir shops. But, almost all restaurants and bars will be closed by 10 pm. If you want to enjoy cheap seafood which opened beyond 10 pm, you can always go to the local street food court locally known as Wisata Kuliner Kampung Ujung (Kampung Ujung Food Tourism).
Back to the food we had at Bajo Bay..
Patiently waiting for the food. Bajo Bay Fishermen’s Club serves fresh seafood in a local and fusion cuisine.
After we enjoyed our sumptuous dinner, Pak Condo, the legendary dive instructor went around the table to ask on our diving skills. He later briefed us of the dives tomorrow. I was excited but pretty nervous as one of the divers kept on telling me that Komodo is meant for really professional divers. Lucky I had other divers who told me I would do fine.
The dive trip to Komodo National Park was made possible by Wonderful Indonesia dive tourism campaign for Malaysia and Singapore market from 19.09.2016 – 23.09.2016. A report of the dive fam trip was also published in Gaya Travel Magazine 11.6.