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Its all part of the adventure

King Kong, Komodo Dragons and Under the Sea Magic.

INDONESIA | Wednesday, 14 March 2012 | Views [1563]

Our ancient Indonesian fishing boat that allowed us to explore the beautiful Flores Archipelago

Our ancient Indonesian fishing boat that allowed us to explore the beautiful Flores Archipelago

I’m reluctant to write too much about my Flores experience for fear that I may influence more travellers to discover this piece of paradise but my humble ego tells me I’m not that influential.

Our decision to visit Flores was fairly random, a friend was going as part of a research trip for the travel industry and it sounded fun, the kind of adventurous holiday we’re attracted to. I’d never even heard of Flores before, despite travelling to Indonesia many times.

And besides, it was the Year of the Dragon and Flores (surrounding islands) is home to the biggest lizards in the world - the Komodo Dragon.

Flores did not disappoint. Imagine the movie King Kong, the part where the little steamboat glides fearlessly into an archipelago of tiny islands housing jagged mountains and imposing volcanoes. Naomi Watts stands on the deck a little excited and a little apprehensive. The air is clear, apart from the small clouds that hang on the peaks. Now you're picturing my view as I travelled around the beautiful islands of Flores in an ancient fishing boat, painted pink and blue.

It was the end of the rainy season in Indonesia and the islands are lush green with thick jungles and palm trees. While there are plenty of land activities on Flores to take part in, we decided to spend most of our time getting to know the water, and it is easy to hire a boat with crew and just lazily move from reef to reef, island hopping. The water is crystal clear, various shades of blue indicate the reefs, the rocks and the deep drops where manta ray play. Flying fish provide entertainment, as does the wondrous reef life of bright corals, sea enenimies, manta rays, turtles sea horses, starfish, lion fish and every other type of gorgeous tropical fish you can imagine.

When feeling water logged, a land day was had. The mountainous countryside of Flores behind Labun Bajo is dotted with numerous cultural villages leading into the most amazing bush walks. One day we travelled for a few hours by 4WD into the highlands. Indonesian time was estimated at an hours drive, I have since come to learn to triple Indonesian time and then add an hour. We had time, so it wasn't a stress, and the drive up to the mountain was spectacular. Small roadside stands sell bananas and avocados, which was all we really needed for lunch. On reaching the rangers station and negotiating our guide and desired walk (we wanted to do the waterfall AND the cave much to his concern), we trekked through deep jungle until we came to an amazing waterfall. Hours later after splashing about we ascended the steep mountain again. This bush walk gave me exercise for a week, there was a high degree of difficulty and once you add in the humidity, it was pushing past my comfort levels. I was a bright shade of deep pink. And then we did it all again to the cave, only this time it was much steeper, more jungle vines to grab at my ankles and less of a path to navigate. I slid down most of the mountain on my backside. I swore a lot. And my mantra was "I will laugh at this one day". As soon as I reached the car a few hours later, I did just that. Where we were rewarded with a waterfall to swim in on the first walk, I felt cheated on reaching the cave after such a difficult descent. Lesson learnt.

Soon we were back on our traditional Indonesian fishing boat again and we headed to the Komodo National Park. Our first stop Rinca. I wasn't feeling the best, and decided to remain in the tea house while the others went in search of dragons with the guide. Rinca felt barren, hot and uncomfortable. There is a small village where the guides live on a 10day rotation basis, and this was really where most of the dragons lazed around.

My first sight of the dragon was impressive. Although large, ugly, scary creatures, their presence commands respect. If they were human, they would be the alpha males of Manhattan. Or Western Sydney. Unlike the alpha males in the world, they are limited in numbers with less than 3000 living today. Mostly over two islands, Rinca and Komodo.

That afternoon we motored our boat (well, the captain did the work) to yet another beautiful bay for snorkelling with turtles and pearl divers. After a visit around Komodo village, we slept on our boat moored offshore and woke at 4am to the "call to prayer" and the fisherman arriving back with boatloads of bounty. As the sunrise over Komodo Island, silver and blue fish jumped out of the water around us and our boat crew caught dinner for that night.

Komodo Island (park) was close by and we managed to be the first tourists to crawl off our boat onto the aged jetty, I managed to be the person who slipped and fell from our boat onto the jetty. Class act to impress the dragons. The National Park is quite impressive, with four guided walks through lovely forest. We chose the medium difficulty one after my day of sliding down mountains - I can confirm this was a breeze, especially first thing in the morning when the sun had not yet heated the island but the light made everything look spectacular. We soon came across a waterhole where numerous dragons were playing, fighting, grunting and in search of food - human or otherwise.

The rest of our time in Flores was spent snorkeling, sea kayaking around islands and exploring some very nice restaurants.

The people of Flores are genuinely lovely, they want you to visit and they want you to have a great time. Someone once mentioned to me that Flores is the Bali of 30years ago but I am yet to see the parallels. And yes, I was in Bali (almost) 30 years ago. Its tropical and green, surrounded by water - and cheap for a Westerner to sit back and down a few Bintangs while trying to speak in Bahasa. But that was about it. Flores is Flores with its own unique culture and I cant wait to go back and explore it some more.


Tags: flores, indonesian fishing boats, komodo dragons, komodo island, rinca, scuba diving, snorkeling


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