After another night of travel on the boat we were finally nearing our desitination- Flores. lying on the front of a boat in complete darkness out at sea, cool wind in your hair, countless shooting stars, clear sky, new moon, phosphorescents glistening along the water, cup of tea or a cool Bintang in hand, and the conversation and company of new friends is something I will never forget.
As we woke to sunrise over yet another different landscape, this time barren rusty red plains that wouldn't be out of place in the Wild West, turquoise seas and countless islands big and small, we had arrived in the stunning Komodo National Park.
First stop a little post brekkie boat jumping and swim to a deserted island whilst the crew had a rest after a nights boating. We'd become a little blasé about deserted islands by this point so no need to waste time with details, there were lots of fish and some nice coral and a beautiful view, par for the course in Indonesia.
As we slowly chugged our way onward through the national parks waters we were met with one of the most beautiful landscapes of our travels so far. The national park is number 1 on Lonely Planets top 20 experiences and it's easy to see why. The crew then informed us we had reached the famous Manta Point, but we would be lucky to see the Manta Rays that give this place it's name, they come here to feed on the endless plankton, but if you miss them when they're hungry, then you're out of luck. Engines were killed, all hands on deck leaning over the boat Manta spotting, and then all of a sudden the crew got excited, they'd spotted a Ray. Everyone started rushing to get snorkels and masks, trunks on, and on command we jumped in to be greeted not just by one manta ray but by 8 schooling Manta Rays. I can't explain how incredible a sight it is to see Mantas each following the other with their huge gaping mouth spread wide coming straight at you and then duck diving under your feet. They then circled around our group twice seemingly loving the attention. We also saw 2 reef sharks but it was the jaw dropping Mantas that blew our minds. People pay good money to come and dive here to see what we were lucky enough to see simply with mask and snorkel off the side of a boat. ( GoPro problem means no photos yet...)
How to top this? Well let's go to the only place in the world where man eating Komodo Dragons live in the wild. We saw some dolphins swimming alongside the boat on the way there as well.
Could the famed Komodo top the Manta? Land vs. Sea who wins... We decide.
Arriving on Komodo you are greeted by a guide and embark on a short 'trek' (event though it's marked as a 'medium' trek, how short can the 'short trek' really be?) along a trail through the island. 2 locals have been killed by the creatures in the past 20 years and last year a guide was attacked in their office on the island (survived) yet our guide only hand a wooden stick to protect us.
When we saw our first dragon by the watering hole, with a full belly, the lack of protection made sense, whilst deadly Komodo Dragons are so docile. We were within metres and the only recognition of 13 awestruck tourists was turning its head. It was still quite a feeling being that close to a creature I saw in London Zoo devour the carcass of a goat but not the exhilarating thrill ride you dream of (thankfully?).
We then walked across the island in searing afternoon sun, I don't think I've ever been so hot. We didn't see any more dragons on the tour until we reached the end of our walk at the cafe, and we found two more dragons resting underneath the stilts of a proper horror movie cabin in the woods, which appeared to be a kitchen/ dining room place.
We couldn't help but feel that although they have now stopped feeding the Dragons, the notoriously lazy creatures aren't just hanging around a kitchen because they like the smell.
To the surprise of the audience in today's battle of Manta Ray vs. Komodo Dragon the Manta Ray wins, trust me when you see the video I have of the Mantas it will all make sense.
We watched the sunset from another white sand beach on a deserted island, the crew bought fish for dinner from a local boat, we played beach football against some local kids who came over from Komodo Village on tiny paddling boats trying to sell us souvenirs, Frisbee was thrown and a perfect end to a perfect day was had by all. (GoPro photos to come, we had to swim to shore)
We spent our last night on the boat in a kind of car park for liveaboards, several other rather more luxurious looking boats surrounded us ( all with intrusively loud generators) but we wouldn't have changed our boat for anything.
On our final day we went to the much more impressive Rinca Island another speck of land home to the famous Komodo Dragon, here we saw several dragons and the walk around the island whilst also super hot was really pleasant accompanied with great views and an informative and friendly guiding trio
We then headed to the island of Flores and the harbour of Labuanbajo a picturesque hillside town, for a much needed shower.
A highlight of our time in Indonesia and sure to be a memory not quickly forgotten.
If anyone from the boat happens to be reading this now, hope you're all well, thanks again for being such great company, apologies we didn't make it up to find you for dinner on the last night in Labuanbajo, hope you all had a safe onward journey! Happy travels.