Absolute nightmare of a start.
A very hungover group of five set out from Canggu to catch a flight to Labuan Bajo. Some seriously bad traffic and a complacent taxi driver led to us missing that flight. After what I’m told was a comedic moment of me throwing my hat across the airport and an even more comedic moment of Brinkley shouting ‘let me out of the taxi you batty boy’ we assessed the situation, had a laugh at ourselves and managed to book onto another flight for about $60 so not too damaging!
Still, our trials were not over. After the one hour flight on a tiny little prop plane, we had a terrifying landing at the swelteringly hot Labuan Bajo airport. Normally, I’d be ignoring the tour touts outside an airport/bus station/port in Asia but as we had no booking for a tour we had to face the throng. We’d looked into it in advance and the best quote we had been given online was $1200 USD for a boat, so we knew what price we wanted – a quarter of that!
We had already missed out on the flying foxes as we had landed too late, so we chilled on board with a beer and chatted a bit to the Indonesian lads who run the boat – Ari and Won – while heading for Komodo. In the pitch dark, with no lights. I’ll never know how I’m alive. The engine stopped three times!
Anyway, we made it to Komodo and were taken to the homestay that we were assured was there. You have to remember how poor these people are in the village because it is seriously basic and we were welcomed into a small house and directed to one double and one single mattress between five of us. Not going to work! We managed to get another mattress and some Mi Goreng and settled in for a sweaty, ant bitten night, awoken repeatedly by cocks crowing, babies screaming and Jack’s snoring.
At 5.30, we gave up sleeping and headed back to the boat to head for the national park. The way that the previous day had gone, I think we had all expected to see no dragons until one bit us but we found five around the village at the entrance before one of the rangers (Achmed) took us out in the bush and we found several more, along with a few deer and pigs. Sadly, I don’t think we are going to be asked to film for Planet Earth 3 but we were all stoked to see the dragons. For me it was massive bucket list moment – they are terrifyingly primal looking animals but an amazing thing to see, especially the wild ones roaming around the bush.
Given that it was not even 8am, that seemed like a pretty decent start to the day. The hope of seeing manta rays in the afternoon was equally exciting. One incredible wildlife sighting a day is great, two is even better!
Before heading to Manta Point, our first stop off was Pink Beach, an absolutely top notch snorkel spot full of tropical fish and stingrays. After a bit of a swim about, fighting a very strong current, we did want to go and see the stingray’s big brother instead.
And see him we did. With Won looking over the front of the boat, we suddenly heard a shout of ‘Manta!’ and rushed to get our snorkels and fins on as fast as we could before diving over the side to find about ten Manta all around us, slowly flapping their way majestically along the sea floor after plankton.
With that, its back to Labuan Bajo for a flight back to Denpasar. What a whistle stop but incredible 24hours!