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Location 16, 17, 18: Wakatobi, Gili Islands & Lombok, Indonesia

INDONESIA | Thursday, 2 June 2016 | Views [490] | Comments [1]

Wakatobi, Gili Islands & Lombok, Indonesia

The last couple weeks have been a compilation of jumping from one island to the next by every means of transport possible.  I initially heard about Wakatobi from the dive school where I got certified, in Texas.  The instructor at the school spoke very highly of the massive reefs, thriving corals and unbelievable sea life, so I decided to book a 4 day trip prior to me leaving the states.  Since I was on Bali at the time I knew it was going to be a bit of a trek to make it there, but not to the extent it ended up being.  I left Denpasar, Bali on Friday night and arrived in Makassar, Sulawesi that evening.  I spent the night in Makassar and then woke up and flew to Kendari, Sulawesi, once we landed in Kendari I boarded another plane and flew to Wangi Wangi, one of the islands that makes up Wakatobi. I was picked up by a local driver and was dropped off at a ferry boat 25 minutes from the airport (the airport is 1 runway strip, 1 security scanner, 1 small baggage conveyor, and 15 seats in the gate area - smallest airport I have ever seen).  Once we arrived at the ferry, the driver loaded my bag on the boat and I boarded.  The boat is not a typical ferry I had been on previously, all it had was a large flatbed for everyone to sit on while the boat traveled to Kaledupa.  The ride was approximately 2 hours and then I was picked up in a canoe and taken across the channel to Hoga Island.  The dive "resort" was not a "resort" from our standards.  I had a hammock, a bed with a mosquito net, a toilet bowl with no running water and a barrel of water to use to as a shower and to flush the toilet with.  I was alone on this island with the exception of an old German couple, who were snorkeling there for the last 8 days.  The island gets electricity from 5pm-7pm, so just enough time to charge cameras, phones, etc.  I have some data on my Indonesian phone, but I essentially put it aside for the duration of my stay. Overall the accommodation was suitable, it was just hot and humid all the time.  I will say that it was all worth it though because the diving was unbelievable.  I was fortunate enough to be the sole diver with the dive master all 3 days of diving.  We were the only people out there the entire time, not one single dive boat joined.  Each day we went to different reefs that all showed a uniqueness to this part of the world.  I saw a school of barracuda about 300 strong, several sea snakes, turtles, eels, many blue-spotted rays, and beautiful coral cliffs (30-40M deep).  The experience was wonderful, despite the long journey to get there (24 hrs total) and somewhat dodgy accommodations.

*One side note is that Sulawesi has very few western travelers that visit, so from the moment I landed in Makassar I was constantly being stopped for pictures.  I was collecting my bag at baggage claim and was immediately inundated with people shoving their camera phones in my face.  At first it was kind of funny and a bit cool, but it took me close to 30 minutes to get to my taxi because of how many times I was stopped.  

I left Wakatobi and in one day traveled all the way back, arriving in Bali around 9pm (4am wake up call to get back to Kaledupa).  I checked into my hostel for two nights to do laundry and just spend some time figuring out next steps.  I decided to take a speed boat from Bali to Gili Air, which is one of three islands about 1 hour from Bali.  Gili Air is small and quiet, with no vehicles and only horse drawn carriages.  I met a few people on the boat and we walked from the pier to our hostel.  The hostel was great and it was tucked into the back of the island and was only about a 3 minute walk to the beach.  I didn't do much here with the exception of one day we did a snorkel trip to all three Gili islands and then ate lunch on Gili Meno.  The snorkeling trip was great because we actually got to see ~5 turtles that day and a bunch of other beautiful fish.  The last day on Gili Air I just spent hanging by the beach and talking to other people.  The next day I headed to Gili Trawangan with a few friends I had met and we picked the hostel noted for its social scene.  I met a ton of new people there and I ended up staying for 4 nights as opposed to the planned 2.  On Gili T you can basically dive or hang by the water, so since I just did a full 4 day diving trip and I have another in the Philippines coming up, I opted to just relax and get to know people.  It was a great 4 days, but was happy to head to my next stop.

The final destination for this journal entry is going to hit on my trip to Lombok, which is a larger island about 15 minutes by ferry from Gili T.  It is nearly the size of Bali, but has a completely different vibe.  The number of westerns you see here are far less than in Bali and it made the stay more interesting for sure.  Once I arrived in Lombok I met up with my friend, who I had met a few weeks prior in Bali.  He had found a home stay (no real hostels on Lombok, almost entirely made up of home stays) that was only 90,000 rupiah a night (~$6.75 a night) and it included breakfast.  I got a private room, a private bath and a queen bed (score!).  The room didn't have AC, but it did have an oscillating fan, which honestly is all you really need when you have that much space to yourself.  Once I dropped my stuff off we grabbed a few beers and ended up merging with a few guys from the Netherlands.  We went out that night to the bar that was throwing the "party" and met a ton of other backpackers.  We were staying in Kuta, which is one village on Lombok, since it is small only one venue stays open late each night.  The bar had a live band and we spent several hours there before heading in for the night.  The next day I finally bit the bullet and rented my first motorbike.  I have been intentionally avoiding this for the last 2 months because of all the major injuries I have seen people walk away with.  The problem is that on Lombok it is really the only way to get around, so I knew I needed to just do it.  We then drove the bikes about 12 kilometers to the north to find Mawun beach, which was a beautifully enclosed bay with bright blue water.  We spent the day there and then headed back around sunset.  The next couple days kind of depicted the same type of agenda, but overall the stay on Lombok was great and really inexpensive.  We did meet a few local guys who took us to some things that westerns really don't get exposed to and they certainly were experiences.  If interested, ask me offline... 

The final night on Lombok we all decided to book a 4 day/3 night boat cruise from Lombok to Flores (another Island in Indonesia).  We were told there would be great snorkeling, potential opportunity to see manta rays and a visit to Komodo National Park, I have just returned from the trip and it was a great experience, but with some minor bumps along the way, stay tuned…

Neill

See photos here.

Tags: beaches, indonesia

 

Comments

1

Hi, we are planning to visit Indonesia around 20 August, we only have 2 weeks. We may visit 2 of area you have visited recently. Lombok and Komodo in Flores or Wakatobi only as the transport to Wakatobi is not straight forward, we'll fly from UK then transit in Jakarta.
I am a scuba diver but my husband doesn't and our son just strated to learn scuba diving. I am not sure which one more suit for us. We all love clean beach, they do snorkeling and I do diving. Safety is important for us. Any sugestion will be appreciated.

  Julian Jun 3, 2016 8:10 PM

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