If we would try to find the most unforgettable experience of our travels, it would be hard to find one that would top this boat trip. It was exhilarating and sometimes a bit scary, but now when we are looking back to it, it was mostly fun.
We came to Labuan Bajo with just one purpose, to take a trip to Komodo National Park.
If you want to see the Komodo dragon, which is the main purpose for the most people that come in Labuan Bajo you can choose between different trips. You can go on a 1 day trip or 2 day/1 night trip or more. We decided to take 4days/3nights trip from Labuan Bajo to Lombok Island, because it stops on both komodo inhabited islands (Komodo Island and Rinca Island), some other small islands with lakes and waterfalls and offers a lot of snorkeling.
Our tourist agency of trust was Flores Komodo Expedition, because it has good reviews and looks reliable. We made a contact already online, but no reservations. At arrival to town, we went straight to the tourist agency to arrange everything needed. There we met a very nice “localized” German (he lives in Indonesia for a few years), who was very friendly. He arranged everything for our trip and also found us a room to spend the night.
In high season this boats are packed with tourists. Usually these boats can accompany 20-25 people. We were “lucky” because we had a boat just for ourselves with 5 crew members. It may sound great and romantic, but if only one of them barely speaks English (and is of course very interested in talking to you), it can get a little awkward.
Boats that offer this kind of trips are backpacker style. No matter which tour operator you choose, the boats look quite the same and the price doesn’t wary much. Our boat had these features:
It was in the back of the boat. Frankly, I would barely manage to cook a coffee in that kitchen, but our cook managed to make some quite impressing meals. Respect!
It was situated right next to the kitchen. It had tiles on the floor (on wooden boat!). It was so small, that you couldn’t sit down normally. Toilet was like home with a seat, but without flushing system and no sink (just a large bucket of water for toilet and sink). I may sound weird, but we never really used this toilet.
Bedroom is situated in the upper part of the boat. You sleep on a simple mattress with a pillow. All passengers (except for the crew) sleep together in the same space.
- Boat engine
That brought back memories of childhood; old Tomos 4 (Slovenian specialty) – speed was about the same (around 18 km/h). Our crew was fixing that engine a lot. They were also making some wooden spare parts, with which they fixed the boat. To start that engine it took about 5 minutes; however it always started.
- Rescue boat
Or should we call it an Indian canoe? Size was about the same.
Yes, it was also a sailboat. Well our sail was actually large plastic sheet at the front of the boat. It didn’t look like it was really helping.
Our crew wasn’t very talkative. They were more or less minding their own business. They all had cell phones (which were working all the time, even in the middle of nowhere) and were all smoking. Our guide was the only one speaking English. He was quite nice, explaining us everything and he even played us a guitar during our dinner.
Where we went and how we got scared
You can find trip’s itinerary online. Ours was like that with a few last minute adjustments.
On the first day we went to Rinca Island to see the komodo dragons (komodo dragons deserve a special post, so more about them next time). After that we had a few snorkeling stops until we got to Kalong Island for overnight stay. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any flying foxes up close, though we heard that they usually fly around the island in the evening. We had a nice dinner with private guitar player/singer. The only thing that bothered us, were local kids selling souvenirs. They were very determined to sell us something.
Next morning we woke up into rainy day. It rained so heavily, that we had to skip Komodo Island. We were very disappointed. Luckily, it stopped raining, so we had two more snorkeling stops. We didn’t see any manta rays at Manta point, but we got to enjoy the beautiful Pink beach. Since we didn’t go to Komodo Island, we were mostly sailing for the whole day. As scheduled, we were sailing on for the whole night, which was very unpleasant. Sea got a bit rough and because the boat was small and slow, it was rocking us all the time and we didn’t get much sleep.
On the third day we stopped at the salt lake, fresh waterfall and for more snorkeling. Beside that, we made a few unannounced stops. Our captain stopped at his wife’s island, because he had to take some material to the village. We stopped also at his home island for a crew change. For this night we were supposed to sleep anchored, but we had another overnight sailing. This time the sea was even worse. Much worse. We passed trough quite a few thunder storms. We are used to all kinds of boats, small ones, big ones, open boats, closed boats, you name it. The waves don’t bother us at all and we don’t easily get scared, but this time we got concerned, because we didn’t see any shore light in the distance. And if that wasn’t enough, we were sailing in wrong direction for quite some time. Instead towards the islands, we sailed into the open sea! We couldn’t sleep, because the boat was rocking so hard, that all our things and backpacks were flying in all directions as were we. We couldn’t even lie on our mattresses, because it was bouncing us really hard. We barely closed our eyes the whole night.
Luckily, we made it and we were on Lombok the next day as scheduled.
Although we experienced quite rough sea and the boat wasn’t in the best condition, we still recommend the trip, especially if you like snorkeling. We saw something new each day. The tour agency was reliable. And in the end it turned out like an adventure. 🙂
More about the things we saw in our next post. You’ll also get to know, if we were eaten by komodo dragons 🙂