Bye Gili Meno! It was great to hang out after Rinjani, but we’re all ready for more adventure. Komodo Island, I think, will deliver. In addition to the famed Komodo dragon, it’s got some of the best scuba diving on the planet. And we’re going to see it all from a huge private boat for four days.
Getting around Indonesia isn’t that easy. There aren’t many planes from island to island. You generally have to pass back through Bali or Jakarta. In some respects it’s not unlike other hub and spoke systems for big countries, but the flights are mostly middle of the day and often late.
Today is mostly a travel day. 10 minutes from Gili to shore, 2 hours to Lombok airport, 1 hour to Bali, 2 hours back to Labuan Bajo, Flores, which is the closest island and airport to (mostly) uninhabited Komodo island.
And that doesn’t include waiting time, plane delays etc…, so Day 10 is basically a waiting day. We joke around a little bit and listen to music (Spotify premium is essential on trips like this.) I edit some photographs from Rinjani and Gili Islands.
Upon arrival at Labuan Bajo, we try on scuba gear at the Wunderpus (that’s the awesome name of the boat) office and go to a local hotel that was super cheap called Luwansa. We don’t sail till tomorrow morning. Sadly the resort sucks. There is a wedding going on that takes over everything, there is a sign that the pool is contaminated and the cold institutional feel is unwelcoming. It’s just a bed, so I don’t really care, but it’s a small mistake I would correct another time.
Our boat leaves at 7am. We are dropped off on the dock and shuttled by speedboat across the Labuan Bajo harbor which is full of boats. The Wonderpus is just ahead. I’m excited. This is one of the most expensive activities we’ve ever done, rivaling the costs of African safari for which I needed a second mortgage and help from an inheritance (Thank you Aunt Betty!).
I debated long and hard whether we could afford it or not, and in particular whether to go with a better boat and private charter. The extra costs were not trivial, but I also had a hunch that being alone on the boat and getting extra attention would be magical here. Sometimes it’s worth it. There is also the issue of diving, which is tricky with two beginners, Emma and Lily. With others on the boat, they might not get the same concern. So I splurged a little.
The 82 foot boat is absolutely gorgeous, built entirely in teak and ironwood. Ed and crew get us aboard and show us the adorable small but functional cabins. It normally fits 8, but we are the only four. There is a crew of 8, divemaster, porter, chef, speedboat driver, captain, engineer and another helper or two.
We’ll be spending most of our time on the main deck, with a wooden dining table and a place for rinsing and storing scuba gear. Above the inner cabin, used if we hit high seas or uncomfortable heat (we won’t) is a lounging area with lots of bean bag chairs. here we have our first dive briefing as we learn about the simple dive plan. Mostly the first dive is to check skills and test out the gear.
We take a little speedboat to the dive site, and back-roll entry into the water. It’s a first for Emma, Lily and Amanda. We have to time it to get in 1-2-3 go! And Splash, we are in the Java sea, part of the Pacific ocean. Other than Hawaii, it’s my first diving in the Pacific. The water is warm and clear, visibility is unusually good.
And the coral! This is a modest site for viewing stuff, not too far from the main city and a place Ed used to dive a lot with the resort on the island just a few hundred meters from where we are.
But it’s spectacular. I’ve never seen so much robust and vibrant coral diversity. It’s breathtaking. We see a turtle, banded coral shrimp, blue spotted sting ray, psychedelic huge clam, a hilarious yellow juvenile box fish, and bridled monocle bream.
The next dive is a little deeper, called Sebayur Kecil (Little Sebayur Island) and we see a massive broadclub cuttlefish, big hawkbill turtle, playful garden eels, leaf scorpion fish, clown fish, clown triggerfish. It’s amazing.
Our third dive is just Amanda and me called ‘The Passage’. It gets a little more current and the girls are tired. We see a huge green moray, beautiful table coral with baby fish, sweet lips, a flounder, red big eye, and a juvenile midnight snapper.
So far the diving is spectacular and we haven’t even made it to the Komodo island. Before dinner, which will come after dark, we head up to the peak of a small hill nearby for a sunset. The small harbor has a few other liveaboard boats whose divers have come along with us. Ours is the most beautiful boat by far.
Dinner is tasty, pasta, tempeh and some salad. There isn’t much to do on a boat after dinner. We chat a bit with Ed about tomorrow’s plan, the big day at the North Komodo dive sites starting with an adult-only dive in the morning. The cabins are air conditioned, but we only need it lightly to keep the humidity down.
Everyone passes out…