It was an absolute delight flying over Indonesian islands, spotting the southern beaches of Lombok and volcanoes of Sumbawa. The Nam Air plane windows were dirty as fuck so I couldn't make a decent photo. Arriving over the Komodo National Park was especially beautiful with all those green-grass-covered hills scattered over turquoise waters.
Labuan Bajo is a starting point for island hopping in Komodo, so that's where the airport is. We took a taxi to town and located our hotel Le Pirate. It seemed like an oasis in an obviously shitty town. But really, we weren't impressed with Labuan Bajo. The street was dirty, people were somewhat strange and we didn't really feel welcome. The food was ok, but quite expensive. The aggressive 24/7 prayer over the loud speaker didn't help either. We didn't spend much time in the town anyway so no big deal.
Le Pirate however, was great. We had a clean, small harbour view room with a/c. There's also a nice restaurant and a rooftop bar. It's a more western approach and the prices are quite high. We also checked out other restaurants in the area and were always happy with the food, especially in Bajo Bay Fisherman's Club.
We booked a 3 day/2 night boat trip with Le Pirate, but we had one free day prior to that. I really wanted to see Padar island so I asked around if I could get on a boat tour the next day. I booked a trip with some teenagers across the street from Le Pirate. It was a tour of Padar island, Komodo island, Pink beach snorkel and Manta point.
Komodo Boat trip
So we woke up at 4:30 and waited for the boat until 6:00. Apparently the captain got drunk the night before. It took us about 3 hours to reach Padar. But it was absolutely stunning. The short hike to a viewpoint rewards you with the most amazing view of the island and its three beaches; black, white and pink. This was one of my favourite moments of our trip.
The following wasn't all that great. We continued towards Komodo island for another hike and a chance to spot some Komodo dragons. It started weird. One by one in the ranger's office, very old fashioned ticket stamping and lots of money spent. That alone took another 30 minutes. Due to badly organised trip we were quite late, so we only managed to do the 15 min hike in the forest, marked path, guides with sticks and naturally no dragons. It wasn't even our priority to see them but it was part of the tour so we might as well. We finished the stroll next to the kitchen area with four lazy dragons sleeping in the shade. I suppose they feed them. The guides woke them up and the tourists got to take pictures behind them. What a lame and expensive experience. Total rip-off.
As anticipated, our schedule shifted drastically so we had to skip the snorkeling and headed towards Manta point. It was getting dark and there were no mantas. They made a few circles and headed back to Labuan Bajo. We returned about 4 hours later than scheduled.
Padar alone was worth the day trip and we did it, sadly the rest was fairly shitty.
Le Pirate Explorer
Another 3 days of sailing. This time on a proper boat with Le Pirate. We booked this trip way ahead as the boat only has 8 spots and they fill up pretty quickly. I think they have 3 Explorers now and another, larger sailboat Nataraja. We couldn't be happier with this boat trip, it was a perfect combination of relaxing and exploring.
We started with Kanawa island, snorkled around the amazing coral reef and relaxed on the beach. Our second snorkeling spot was Sebayur island and it just kept getting better. Awesome visibility and crazy marine life. We finished our first day by anchoring at Gili Lawar and hiking up the viewpoint for sunset. That was amazing. The light was spectacular and I must've taken more than 500 photos.
Another cool sight was Gunung Sangeang, two volcanic cones next to Sumbawa, smoking like crazy.
The waters in Komodo National Park are extremely rich in nutrients as the currents are super strong. Sometimes it seems like a river is flowing on the surface of the sea. So for most of our snorkeling they simply dropped us off and waited for us where the current took us. The nutritious water is home to diverse marine life. Turtles and dolphins were a regular sighting. Whale sightings were also reported here during their season.
I wasn't feeling all too well the next day, so I didn't manage to do all the activities. But in general our route was Crystal Rock - Batu Bolong - Manta Point - Take Makassar - Mauwang island - Siaba island. The first two are just rocks in the sea but a true treasure is hidden below. There are reefs all around and the craziest snorkeling I've ever done. Batu Bolong is definitely the best I've seen - turtles, huge tuna fish, a million other colourful fish and amazing corals, not yet damaged at all.
Next up - Manta Point. This time we were lucky and spotted a huge manta and jumped in. She just cruised around peacefully so we swam with her for half an hour only to be accompanied by the second, smaller one. I don't have any underwater footage this time, but that would have been worth it!
Take Makassar was a tropical scene 101. Beautiful bright blue water from the postcards, tiny white sand islands and full-on sunshine. We stopped at Mauwang to access the beautiful beach but the waves were too high so we sailed on to Siaba for a good night's sleep.
The nature of Komodo National park is sumblime and the water is really clean. The only thing I can really criticize is some of the beaches we've seen. There's still a certain amount of rubbish and with this being a National park I figured they'd take care of that.
On our third and final day we went snorkeling at Penga island and visited Mangiatan beach. Our last stop before Labuan Bajo was Kelor island and the trip was done.