Jun 242012

After my food poisoning incident earlier in the week at Matahari Restaurant, we were careful to go to our hotel’s recommendations for dinner. Bayview Gardens was a great pick for lodging, fantastic views over the harbor though a bit on the pricey side.

Sunset View from our Private Balcony at Bayview Gardens

Our last night on Labuanbajo, we ate at Pesona, which serves Indonesian food at a pretty cheap price.  I got the grilled chicken and Mike got seafood steamed in a banana leaf.  Both were delicious!  The chicken had wonderfully crispy skin and great flavor.  Perfectly cooked.  I’m also obsessed with the fresh chili sauce they make here, sambal.  Fresh tomatoes with a hint of smoky habanero.  Probably one of the best meals we’ve had in Indonesia so far.

Delicious BBQ Chicken with Chili

Steamed Seafood in Banana Leaf

That wraps up our Komodo adventure!  Next up: Bali.  Here’s another favorite photo from the top of one of the small Komodo islands.  We dove earlier in the day at the bay down below known as Crystal Bay and we would go in later that night for a night dive.

On One of the Small Komodo Islands Above Crystal Bay

Jun 202012

Using Labuanbajo as our base in Flores, we booked an overnight boat trip to go see the Komodo dragons on Komodo and Rinca islands.  Rinca is relatively close (about 2 hour boat ride), but Komodo is at least 4 hours away which is why people do the overnight boat trip.  The overnight trip was expensive though so I think if we were to do it again, we’d just break it up into two day trips and sleep comfortably on land.  Unfortunately I got a really bad case of food poisoning (the worst of the trip) and the first day of the boat trip wasn’t too enjoyable throwing up over the side of the boat. Ugh.  We booked through Perama, which is a relatively big tour operator in Indonesia and unfortunately our boat was nicknamed by Mike the “cockroach express.”  Good times. =)

But, we got to see Komodo dragons!  They are the largest species of lizard and also known as monitor lizards.  They’re only found on these islands in Indonesia and only a few thousand are left.  Many think that Komodo dragons could have been the inspiration for the appearances of mythical dragons and the Chinese dragon.  We went to Rinca island on the first day and immediately came across 7 dragons lying near the ranger cottages—of course, near the kitchen.  They have a really good sense of smell and can smell from up to 5 km away.

Dragons Basking in the Sun

What You Looking At?

We saw a number of humongous water buffalo on our 2 hour trek—they were much larger than the domestic ones we’ve seen.  The Komodo dragons will sneak up behind them and bite them on the leg.  The poison from their bite slowly gets to the buffalo and the dragon will follow the injured buffalo until they die.  Dragons can eat up to 40 kg at a time but they only feed once a month or so.

Water Buffalo

While we were watching a water buffalo, suddenly we heard a rustle and a Komodo dragon came on the trail and was heading towards us.  Probably to check out the water buffalo.  That thing was not afraid of us at all.  Our guide (who was a teenage intern!) has a pronged stick just for these incidences.  He jabs the stick at the Komodo dragon’s neck to shove it away.  It barely deterred the dragon but enough for us to get out of the way.  It was super tense and we were all on edge.  They warned us not to run, since the dragons take sudden movement as aggressive behavior.  Yikes!

Dragon Coming Our Way!

Holding Our Breath

After the dragon passed us, it looked at the water buffalo for a second.  The water buffalo looked back at him as if saying “I see you” and they stared at each other.  Then the dragon moved on.  Whew!  We thought we might witness an attack.

That night we anchored near Komodo Island and saw an incredible sunset on the boat.  The boat wasn’t too comfortable to sleep on—the air is humid and salty so you just feel sticky the whole time.  I couldn’t really eat dinner because of my stomach problems and threw up any rice that I had managed to get down.  Not good.

Beautiful Sunset Clouds

The next morning, we did a 2 hour trek on Komodo.  We didn’t see as many dragons, but we had a great guide who pointed out unique plants and birds to us.  At the top of the hill, we saw flocks of yellow and white wild cockatoos flying around.  It’s strange to see them wild when your whole life you’ve seen them as pets!

Yellow Snail

Our ranger pointed out some Komodo dragon droppings—they are white because of the bones they eat.  We saw one that probably ate a wild deer because there was a lot of fur too!

Deer for Dinner Last Night?

We saw some wild boar and deer on the trek too.  The boars are funny—they run really quickly and are pretty shy.  Just like the warthogs we saw on safari in Africa.

Wild Boar Running Away

Roaming Deer

There was one huge Komodo dragon lying near the end of our path near a ranger cottage.  Here’s a close up of the hind paw—it’s much bigger than human hands of course!  Check out those claws.

Sharp Claws

To end the boat trip, we went snorkeling at Kanawa Island.  Some great snorkeling but we figured we were in for much better sights on our upcoming diving liveaboard trip!

Sea Urchin Patch

Sea Turtle Coming Up For Air

Giant Clam

We saw a crazy camouflaged fish called the crocodilefish, which is part of the scorpionfish family.  It has both eyes on the top of its head.

Crocodile Fish

Jun 182012

Indonesia is composed of so many islands and it’s actually not that easy to get from one end to the other unless you fly.  Since flying is much more expensive, we decided to take an overnight boat from Lombok to the island of Flores one way and then fly back to Bali on the way back.  We looked up information on the Pelni boat, which makes the journey from island to island heading East once every 2 weeks.  We managed to sync it up with our itinerary and caught it going out of Lembar on Lombok and then landing in Labuan Bajo on Flores.  Labuan Bajo is where most people base out of when they do day trips to the Komodo Islands.  The tickets cost about $16 each and the journey takes 27 hours.  27 hours!!!  Our longest transit time yet.  Another alternative is to go in a minibus overland which takes a little less than 24 hours, but you have a ton of transfers and the journey is broken up into 5 hour chunks.  We heard a lot of bad things about the bus trip, so we went for the Pelni instead.

What’s scary is that the night before we left, I broke out in a rash all over my entire body and I thought it was hives.  It was hot and super blotchy.  I still wasn’t feeling well from my cold. After Mike did some research, we figured out that I was allergic to the antibiotic I started taking for the cold, Z-Pak (azithromycin), and got a photoallergic reaction.  I’ve never had my skin break out all blotchy like that before.  I took an antihistamine and went to bed, and miraculously it was gone in the morning.  Whew!  Needless to say, I stopped taking the Z-Pak.

We headed out of Gili T and down to Lembar really early so we could make sure to leave plenty of time to get tickets and everything.  The ticket office is in a random port away from all the other tourist boats, so it took a while to find.  It wasn’t open yet; we were the only tourists there.  An hour later, a window opened and then Mike waiting in this “bench” line to buy tickets.  Pretty hilarious.  All local men.

Getting Tickets at the Pelni Window in Lembar

Tickets in hand, we still had 2 hours before the boat would leave, so we headed down to the pier with all the others.  This was really off the beaten track, and I think total we saw maybe 2-3 other small tourist groups the whole time.

The Huge Pelni Boat

The Waiting Crowd

The boat arrived an hour later than the scheduled time (as expected) and everyone crowded to board the boat.  It was insanity, people running, pushing, and shoving to get up the stairs.  I guess the spaces fill up pretty quickly so everyone wanted to get on the boat first to stake out their spots.  Mike and I were really lucky and found two spots next to each other after circling the floor a couple of times.  So college students had a section and let us have two of their spots after seeing us wander around frantically.  It’s important to get a spot with a thin mattress pad since the journey is so long.  Another tourist group we saw wasn’t so lucky and couldn’t find pads—I’m not sure where they ended up, but some people end up sitting on the floor.

Pelni Smoke-Filled Economy Class

The boat holds a capacity of around 500 passengers but it felt like there were much more than that on the boat!  There are 5 levels of economy and only a few rooms for first/second class (at a much higher price).  Many people smoke in Indonesia, so it made the inside pretty hot and smoky.  Kind of feels like sleeping in a casino with everyone smoking around you.  All of our clothes and bags reeked by the time we got off.  We talked some with the Indonesians around us and a group of girls particularly took to Mike and sang us some Indonesian songs.  Too cute!

Singing Indonesian Songs For Us

Whenever we stopped in a port, vendors would come on board to sell food and water, and that’s when our friends signaled to us that it’s time to buy food now.  Otherwise the food on the boat is 3 times the price.  We got some pretty good snack lunches for just 50 cents!

After 27 hours on the boat, we felt pretty disgusting and were exhausted.  The bathrooms on the boat were pretty awful so it wasn’t fun trying to limit the number of times you had to go.  Getting off the boat was even more crowded than getting on the boat!  The pier in Labuan Bajo was jam packed all the way back.  Thankfully we got through okay.  What an experience.  Thank goodness we’re flying back, but I guess it was interesting to go through it once and super cheap!