” Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream ! ” . This is kind of right soundtrack to be the background music while travelling to Labuan Bajo and islands, Flores. Strolling around the wonderful beaches, snorkeling with those lovely fishes and hiking to capture all the picturesque landscape from the top of the hill. It really is an unforgettable travelling experience in Flores. So, can’t wait to share it to you guys!
DAY 1 : Rinca, Kelor and Made in Italy
Rushing to the Soekarno – Hatta airport in the dawn while everyone else still caught in their dream at 4.00 am in the morning is such a great compulsion. I didn’t feel that I was forced to do so as there would be days of enjoyment awaits. It might not be only for the body, relaxing by the beach but also these eyes would see and the camera would capture the amazing God’s creations.
Morning flight with Sriwijaya Air, the weather was lovely as it was bright and shine. Sitting next to the window, enabled me to capture and enjoy the island from above. Not forgetting the amenities from the flight, it helped me to chill and sleep for a while before experiencing the islands.
4-hours of flight including flight exchange from Bali to Labuan Bajo, it was such a long flight and it’s lucky that we could transit in Ngurah Rai Airport, Bali and had some noodle for breakfast before continuing our journey to Labuan Bajo.
It’s 11 in the morning and it such a relief that we could safely touched down in Labuan Bajo which is the largest island with airport and such facilities to support the travel business. Don’t expect a luxurious airport there, It’s a small airport that you could easily walk from the plane to the airport building in under 5 minutes. Fetch by hotel transport from the airport after claimed our baggage, we headed straight to the port to begin our island-hopping journey while our baggage were transferred directly to the hotel by the transport car.
Not big but spacious, covered in rainbow-color, it’s a motor-wooden boat, KM Liberty to help us hopped from an island to another island. KM Liberty is 2 stories boat that has 2 bedrooms of 4 beds each and 1 bathroom. The great thing about this boat was, it had kind of quarter in the second story for us to play games or chill, it also provided us a clear view of the ocean. Captained by local citizen, the crews were also come from local islander who use to sail across the ocean. Lucky us, the captain and crews were friendly, they answered our repeating question about our whereabout and when we reached our destination.
As the clock ticking, it showed us that the hour hand was pointing at 12 pm and just the right time for us having some lunch and it’s gonna be lunch on board ! Freshly cooked on the boat, they served us some local delicacies. It’s more like a feast than usual lunch as they served us soy sauce chicken, fried local fish and sweet-sour squid in huge portion. Portion of 20, 20 of us still couldn’t finished our meal even though it was a delicious feast. We also got watermelon and our pre-ordered chilled drinks as desserts.
As we finished our lunch, we still got some time to chill and take a nap before reaching our first destination, Rinca Island.
It didn’t take so long, after around 2 hours sailed in the vast ocean, we approached an island and prepared to land as the crews were walking to the forecastle deck, took the rope and waited until the boat reached the dock.
Not just us, there were 2 boats docked there and we were the third. As the crew tied the boat to the dock, we were so ready to step our feet to the island and joined another passengers from 2 other motor ships . It’s a hallway to wonder, simple wooden dock with wooden step welcoming us to a place where the ancient Komodo Dragons living and breathing.
Looks old but still sturdy, just an exact feeling needed while walking in the hallway as we would find 1 of the 7 wonders, ancient and ruthless Komodo. After finishing some administrative in the entrance, we walked accompanied by island ranger to the main lodge. It took us 5 minutes walk until reaching the main lodge, but we did enjoy the walk by looking the island’s beautiful scenery. Once we reached the main lodge, the ranger held a short brief to explain us about the island which is inhabited by various animals including cows, birds, snakes and komodos, definitely. They also warned us to stay close in group and not to do any lunatic acts because the Komodo are so ready to bite with their deadly poisonous saliva which covered their teeth.
The Rinca island has several tracks from short to long track which are about several kilometers long, as we did not have such a long time to stay in Rinca island, we only took the shortest track that took us only about 30 – 45 minutes including taking some pictures and else. It also has the largest komodo population which more than 1,000 komodos live there and the population is larger than Komodo island itself, that’s why we prefer Rinca island to Komodo island. In order to prevent the komodos entering the lodge, they built the lodge on the stilts, so the komodos are not easily enter the lodge.. at least.
After a while, we started to begin our journey in Rinca island and it just took us few steps until we saw the komodos ! They were staying under the lodge stilts, from the largest (about 2 meters length) to the smallest which still above 1 meter length and they were just lay down. ” They are digesting their food and they won’t have any meal for a month “, one of the rangers explained. He said that the komodos recently had their meal by hunted and devour cows, so they were so quiet and relaxed. “Don’t be tricked by these calm komodos as they once attacked the ranger lodge and got 2 rangers bitten to death by their poisonous bite”, said the ranger.
There is no attraction in lay down, so the rangers put out a salted fish, tied with string and lured the komodos. It worked ! as soon as the rangers put out the salted fish, the komodos started to wake up and followed the fish as it has a strong fishy scent. “They mostly used their smell to hunt than their eyes”, explained the ranger, so they are more react to the fishy odor than the object seen.
To my amazement, their mouth produced a loud sound which sounded like ” HAP ! ” when they tried to munch the fish. Not stopped there, one of the ranger then ran while luring the biggest komodo which automatically made the komodo running to chase the salted fish lure. The komodo ran so fast and the ranger then stopped in the woods, let go the salted fish to the komodo and then the komodo returned to where it lay down right after munched the lure.
As the attraction over, the ranger took us around the island on the short track. He also shared his experience as a ranger which kind of fun but risky as the komodos are ready to bite everything when they were starving.
After minutes of tracking, we reached into the depth of woods, surrounded by humid atmosphere, we found a big hole under a great tree. Don’t forget to watch your steps while exploring the woods that you might stepped into the mud and get your sneakers dirty. “That’s the komodos lair”, said the ranger. The komodos lay their eggs deep down to protect the eggs and let the eggs hatched after 8 months. “The baby komodos have to climb the tree before the mother came or they will be eaten by their mom, that’s kind of nature selection in order to produce strong komodos”, explained the ranger. In the beginning, the young komodos don’t have any poison in their, as they have to eat animal corpse in order to survive, they also get the poisonous bacteria from the corpse.
Enough seeing the wonders, we return to the our boat and moved forward to the next island, Kelor island. It took us another 2 hours to reach Kelor island, a small island with a hill, great view and serenity.
As we reached the island, the crew started to prepare the anchor since there is no dock in the island. Climbed down by wooden ladder, we stepped our feet straight to the water. One important advise, you might want to wear outdoor sandal since it suitable to hike that it has a strong grips or strolling in the beach since not all islands have boat dock and you have to step right into the water. Of course, you don’t want to ruin your sneakers by let it soaked by the water or filthy by mud and sand. ” Let’s snorkel ! “, one of my colleague yelled happily. KM Liberty, our boat was also provided snorkeling kit and life jacket in order to support us for snorkeling activity. As some of my colleagues snorkeled, I and some other colleagues chose to tracked around the island.
As the hill quite steep, I did not managed to hike until the top of the hill as I brought a bag full of photo equipments so it’s quite risky to force myself hiked the steep steps. So I just strolling around the beach and taking some pictures. It did not take us long there, we returned to the boat after an hour and sailed back to Labuan Bajo.
Reached our hotel, Laprima hotel at 6 pm, we rushed to our room and got some shower before having our dinner. I got room at 7th floor and it has a stunning view during the sunset.
Overall, the Laprima hotel is quite nice, it has swimming pool, several stories and quite nice rooms, it might not as good as Plataran but again quality comes with price.
After got ourselves squeaky clean, we walked to the only authentic italian restaurant in island, Made in Italy. Managed and cooked by Italian, it served authentic italian cuisines from cheese platter to pizzas.
5 minutes walks from our hotel, this restaurant has a big sign in front of the restaurant. It has a small green yard and stone steps right after passing through the sign. lightened by yellow warm lightnings, it provides warm ambiance and welcoming atmosphere for the guests. Simple yet modern design with wooden furniture really made us comfortable while enjoying our foods and satisfied our starving belly.
Basket of bread and these unknown starter dipped in tomato sauce tasted so good ! It’s light and a bit crisp outside. We also could asked for another bowl of breads while waiting for the food. I didn’t expect to find such a nice Italian restaurant in the middle of nowhere. For appetizer, we ordered cheese platter, consist of Pecorino Romano, Gorgonzola and Grana Padano cheese, it accompanied with honey, walnuts, balsamic vinegar and fruits. And yes, the cheese platter were great, if you are a cheese-lover, you might love this !
As for the mains, we had pizzas, pastas and chef specials. The pizzas were scrumptious, even the margarita was great and other pizzas were delicious as well. The crust was thin and crisp, the cheese was flavorful and not greasy. As for the pastas, the only pasta we liked was the tagliatelle alla bolognese, while the other pastas tasted like chinese food. The tagliatelle has right firmness and tomato sauce mixed well with the pasta, yeah.. it’s right that tomato sauce never goes wrong with pasta. We also had chef specials which consisted of 2 menus, fish and meat dishes. The fish is the local fish which had had shell and didn’t tasted well but the meat dish was great. It was beef covered with bacon and served with paprika, the meat was tender and grilled well to medium.
Got our appetite fulfilled, we closed our dinner by ordering a tiramisu. They served the tiramisu on the pot with sunflower on the top. It may looked nice but it tasted just so-so.
Overall, it was a nice Italian Restaurant that served great appetizers, pizzas and meat dishes. Called it a day, we returned to the hotel and had a rest as another adventure awaited for us in the next day.
(To be continued)