A fish called wonder

To say our journey to Bali was hideous is an understatement. Katy managed to squeeze in a couple of hours sleep at Singapore airport while I watched the Barcelona vs Chelsea game in a 24 hour café. We arrived at Denpasar after 30 hours of travelling, shattered and somewhat unprepared.

Surfers on Kuta beach

Surfers on Kuta beach

I’m not sure whether we’ve become more blasé about things since we left, but we arrived at immigration with no money to pay the $50 visa fee. There were no ATMs before the immigration counter, so we were a bit worried. We managed to persuade them to let me through to use the ATMs on the other side if they held onto my passport. This sounded fine until on my return to pick up my passport, it had gone. After not sleeping for 30 hours, you could say that my sense of humour had failed me. As the immigration officer laughed about it and sent his friend off to try to find it, all I could do was wait and hope. Katy was still on the other side of immigration wondering what was going on. It was a stressful 15 minutes, but thankfully the passport turned up. We paid the visa fee and grabbed a cab to our hostel.

We were staying in Kuta which is supposed to be the lively area of Bali, but all we wanted to do was have a shower, grab some food and have an early night. The next day whilst exploring all of the tiny back-streets selling a multitude of tat, we booked a flight to Labuan Bajo for the next day.

Labuan Bajo town

Labuan Bajo town

We had an early start the next day, and after a short flight we arrived at probably the most basic airport I will ever see. Labuan Bajo town is a quiet street with a few places to eat and drink, but the main reason that people come here is for Komodo National Park. We were only here for four days, so we had quite a lot to squeeze in during that time. We checked into a guesthouse recommended by our friends Alex and Emma. I think Katy had been hoping for a bit of luxury, with swimming pools and air-conditioning mentioned beforehand. Instead we got a fan room with a squat toilet and no sink so you had to brush your teeth over the toilet. It was however half the price of everywhere else, it was clean and it came with breakfast.

Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park

We spent the afternoon looking around for deals for our dive the next day, and once that was sorted we had a look around the town before getting an early night. The next day we left town at 06:45 on a small boat with four other people, and headed to Komodo National Park. It was a two-hour ride to the park, so we just soaked up the morning sun and took in the amazing scenery around us. The first dive site we went to was Castle Rock just North of Komodo, and had been recommended by several people.

The dive itself was amazing, and definitely the best we have done so far. We saw sleeping white-tipped sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, turtles and a huge amount of very big fish. It was a drift dive, and was actually quite hard work. There was a really strong current, so we had to be careful not to get carried away into the ‘cauldron’ which dropped off as far as the eye could see.

After an hour break, we headed off to the next dive site, Crystal Rock for our second dive. This was another great dive where was saw baby white-tipped sharks, napoleon wrasse, a big school of giant travelli, but the highlight of the dive was watching an eagle ray doing somersaults right in front of us. Even the dive master who has done thousands of dives said she’d never seen anything like it. After lunch we started to make our way back to Labuan Bajo. We had a choice to have a third dive, but our budget wouldn’t stretch to that. So instead we went snorkelling and topped up our tans on the boat. On the way back, we were followed into town by a group of dolphins, with the sun setting in the background. It was a brilliant day, and although it was expensive it was definitely worth the money.

Komodo dragons

Komodo dragons

After a day recovering from diving, we had another trip to Rinca to see the Komodo Dragons. It was another early start and another two-hour boat trip. This time we were the only people on the boat, so we had plenty of room to spread out and relax. The weather was great, and we were greeted at the island by our dragon ranger, Nana. He was a native of the island and was very knowledgeable about the dragons. We walked for about an hour before seeing our first dragon who was sat protecting her nest. After a few photos we continued on to the base where there were about eight dragons just chilling out by the kitchens so we took loads of photos and just sat and watched them for a while.

Komodo dragon

Komodo dragon

On the way back to the boat the heavens opened and we got soaked (seems to be a running theme on all our treks so far). Once on the boat, the Captain did his best to keep ahead of the storm and we stopped off for some snorkelling but soon had to get back on the boat as the rain had caught up with us. We then moved onto another spot for more snorkelling (still raining) and at first we thought we would just give it a miss but then we saw baby black tip sharks swimming close to the shore so we got in to take a closer a look. I’m glad we did as the corals and fish were great and swimming so closely to the baby sharks was amazing. We were very wet and freezing by the time we got back to the hotel, nothing that a nice warm shower could have sorted out…shame that wasn’t an option.

The next day we caught our flight back to Bali and spent the afternoon shopping around for our next dive trip and watching the surfers whilst the sun set. We knew we wanted to dive in Tulamben as we’d be told about an amazing wreck dive there. Liberty wreck is an American cargo ship which was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942. It sank on the sand floor at a depth of 5m and it slopes down to about 35m. As it’s so close to the shore, we did a beach entry to the wreck. It was our first wreck dive so we were really excited. After two and a half hours we finally arrived, and we weren’t the only ones. There must have been about 50 people there. We did two dives and both were great as we got to explore the outside and the inside of the wreck. The fish life wasn’t as exciting as previous dives but having to swim through small holes and into the actual wreck made up for it.

Yesterday we enjoyed some delicious local food and had an early night in preparation for our 6am pick. Today we arrived in the Gili islands on Gili Air for Katy’s birthday weekend and we plan on staying there for about four nights but I guess that will depend on how many Katy treats there are. We’ve checked into a very nice beach bungalow; a birthday present to Katy from our friend Samantha (thank you very much). We have nothing planned other than sunning ourselves and maybe a few cocktails.

We’re struggling to upload images due to a very slow internet connection, but as always all of our images available via the RSS feed on the blog, or via the following link:

Until the next time…

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About Sam Thompson

Currently taking a break from everything and travelling around the world. For how long, who knows.

Posted on 03/05/2012, in Indonesia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. OMG that happened to us in Gambia. Didn’t have the £5 fee (didn’t even know about it) and no ATMs inside OR Outside. Had to call the tour rep to come through to customs and lend us £5, but then they pretended they ‘lost’ our passports for half an hour.

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  3. Moshe Feder

    I suppose you guys are used to hearing how lucky you are to visit so many fabulous places. My envy is somewhat assuaged by the excellent photos you are kind enough to share with us.

    In this case, I just had to complement you on that gorgeous headshot of the komodo dragon. I had no idea they could have such brilliant colors. That photo instantly became one of my all-time-favorite KD shots. Keep up the good work, and. always, bon voyage!

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