Living on a deserted island and Komodo dragons
Trip Start Sep 24, 2009
69Trip End Apr 30, 2010
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Where I stayed
Kanawa Island Bungalows
One night in the port town of Labuanbajo was more than enough. Now that we knew we would need to fill in 4 days before our flight back to Bali, we figured we would base ourselves on a small island, Kanawa Island, about 45 mins by boat out of Labuanbajo.
OK – picture this. A small little island surrounded by beautiful blue tropical waters teaming with colourful coral and fish. Lush grassy grounds with cute little bungalows dotted along the beach. An open-air restaurant serving divine Indonesian food and pina coladas next to the infinity pool. And a handful of fellow travellers to share it with – just enough to make it interesting, but not so many that it feels crowded.
OK – that's NOT where we were
We were taken to the open-air restaurant and pretty much just left there. (No singing guitar-playing welcome party with shell lei necklaces to be found here!). Someone, without actually speaking to us, eventually showed us to our bungalow.
The island is extremely dry, arid and dusty. We walked past several bungalows until we reached our one (the farthest one away) and I swear it felt like a ghost town here. The place just has an abandoned feel to it. Doors were swinging in the breeze; some had broken windows with curtains flapping outside. A broken chair was lying outside another. We were waiting for the tumbleweed to blow down the walkway. Our 'guide’ opened our door and walked away. No welcome, no introduction or explanation.
We were the only guests here – for the entire 4 days that we spent here
We didn’t actually have a shower or toilet; this was an old-style outdoor Indonesian bathroom with a squat ‘hole in the ground’ toilet and a ‘mandi’. The mandi is a large container of water and you use a small handheld bucket to scoop up the water to pour over yourself to bathe, or to flush the toilet.
All of this was manageable – but service of any form was non-existent! There were maybe 4 ‘staff’ working here – and I use that term very loosely! No one took the slightest bit of notice of us. Mostly they just spend time on texting on their cell phones, or sitting around their table. We walked into the restaurant – and after 10 mins or so, would get the menus ourselves. We then walked back up to tell them what we wanted. And then we waited. And waited – for an hour (no kidding) for our meal to come! Honestly, how long does it take to cook up fried rice and fried noodles? And the food was so bad that by Day 2 I decided I just wanted scrambled eggs on toast
Having said all of that, we DID at least have beautiful tropical waters teaming with colourful fish! We did lots of snorkelling right off the beach and saw a good range of marine life, including eels, small rays, sunfish, starfish, an octopus and my favourite – dozens of little Nemo’s!
The island was so quiet. No cars and motorbikes, mosque calls to prayer, and only one rooster to announce that it was (almost) time to wake up. Mosquitoes were non-existent. There was a lovely breeze blowing most of the time which meant the temperature was really pleasant. At night we could sleep with the door open and enjoy the fresh sea breeze. And the snorkelling really was quite good.
Aside from reading and snorkelling there really isn’t anything else to do here
Alan tends to have one beer a day, usually with dinner. After the 3rd day, I told Alan that I knew we had been here for 3 days as there were 3 empty bottles lined up on the floor. Having nothing better to do one night while waiting for dinner, I rewrote this little ditty:
3 bottles of beer on the floor; 3 bottles of beer.
Another night, Alan has one more,
4 bottles of beer on the floor.
Yep – things are pretty quiet on this island…..!
At the end of our 4th day, we got our bags organized for the boat trip back to Labuanbajo and for the flight back to Bali. We went to the restaurant to try and rustle someone up for our final ‘feast’ – and one of the guys handed me his cell phone
We decided that we would head back to Labuanbajo the next day anyhow as it would get us just that much closer to the airport. Knowing our luck, if we stayed another day a cyclone would move in and prevent us from leaving the island!
Up close and personal with Komodo dragons
Before we left Labuanbajo, we had arranged to do a day trip to Rinca Island to see the Komodo dragons, one of the key reasons for coming to Flores in the first place. The dragons can be seen on both Komodo and Rinca islands, but apparently they are more abundant on Rinca
Komodo dragons are large monitor lizards that can grow up to 3m long. One dragon can bring down a buffalo with a single, poisonous bite. They can run up to 18km an hour I think so would have no problem catching one of us!. They are not something you want to mess around with.
We enjoyed a 2 hour boat ride to Rinca past lots of islands – it was lovely to just get off our own little island for the day and see something different. On Rinca, we had a guide to take us for a 2 hour walk to see the dragons along with buffalo and monkeys. The guide carries a large stick to keep the dragons at bay.
As we wander along the track, we spotted a few nesting dragons. They just stare as we walk by, within 15-20 feet. Lucky for us (?!), a dragon had taken down a buffalo that morning further up stream, so we were taken there to check it out. It was pretty ghastly. Most of the skin had been ripped off the buffalo, and there were 3-4 dragons chowing down as we watched. Alan was busy photographing, and I was doing my best to not watch the feast. I preferred to keep an eye on the dragon that was crawling up behind Alan, who was sitting between the dragon and the buffalo. It’s amazing to think that we were so close to such dangerous animals: no fences to keep them separated from us! And of course, I’m not sure what good the guide and his stick would have been if one decided to eat one of us for dessert!
It was a fascinating day! Afterwards, the boat dropped us off for some more snorkelling – which was a nice respite from the heat of Rinca.
So now, we are back in Labuanbajo, killing time, drinking yummy mixed fruit juices at the only decent restaurant in Labuanbajo and making use of their internet, connection. With a bit of luck, we’ll catch our flight tomorrow. Fingers crossed!