Take yourself away from Bali and head East to find an entirely new adventure filled with unworldly experiences; an adventure you could only dream of.
Situated between West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara, Komodo National Park is made up of three main islands – Komodo Island, Rinca and Padar, plus twenty-six smaller islands. It is home to the only natural habitat of the Komodo Dragon and it holds (alongside Indonesia) thirty percent of the planets thriving coral reefs.
Komodo National Park is home to beautiful hiking paths, manta-rays, dolphins, turtles, sharks, millions of fish, pink beaches and the powerful Komodo Dragon and can be explored by either day trips or live aboard cruises. The nearest place to begin either of these is the small port town of Labuan Bajo, Flores where a flight from Bali is as little as £30 and can be found on Sky Scanner.
We favoured the cruise option and set sail on a four day/three night journey aboard Le Pirate Explorer, immediately excited by the prospect of being disconnected and the unknown of the activities we were about to indulge in. Le Pirate Explorer was the most incredible experience and one I will most certainly never forget.
After boarding The Explorer, we settled into our new home. Guests sleep on the upper deck in private double cabins equipped with lights, beanbags and plenty of space to store luggage. Our specific boat housed five young couples but despite this, the boat never felt crowded. A delicious lunch of beef burgers (and tempe burgers for the vegetarians) was served and we were dropped at our first two snorkelling points surrounding Sebayur Island. Within minutes we’d seen an array of sea life inclusive of flourishing coral, turtles, barracudas and fish, which set the tone highly for the rest of the trip.
Later that afternoon we also got to witness a large pod of dolphins elegantly jumping through the waves from a distance. After our first sunset on the boat, a movie screening of ‘Finding Dory’ on the deck and a tuna steak dinner, we got some shut eye ready for day two.
Without needing to move a muscle, we watched our first sunrise over the ocean from our bed. To say this was special is an understatement. The day began after breakfast with the short trek up to the viewpoint on the third largest island within Komodo National Park – Padar Island. Despite the sweat and slight nausea from the exercise, stunning views awaited us.
Following this, the itinerary for Day two included Pink Beach, our first encounter with Manta Rays and Sandy Beach (a tiny sand island curated by the currents), with plenty of sunbathing and relaxing between destinations. One incredibly uplifting observation I have about Komodo National Park is the natural beauty and cleanliness. Over the stretch of Pink Beach on Padar Island (one of only seven pink beaches on our planet), not one piece of plastic or rubbish was in sight, which was refreshing and sparked a wave of relief within the group. The adrenaline and excitement from day two’s activity was evidently exhausting as not long after dinner most of us retired to our cabins to sleep.
Our Manta meeting from Day Two was beyond satisfying and we were thrilled with the encounter, however, waking up on Day Three we had absolutely no idea how rapidly this satisfaction would change and what awaited us. Day Three saw us having the most unimaginable rendezvous with these magnificent giants of the ocean. Totally over thirty Mantas on two separate occasions before 11am, we were lucky enough to swim close to the surface as these animals floated up to feed (unluckily for us, they feed on jellyfish.) We were only eight snorkelling and we were entirely surrounded.
My GoPro footage is undoubtedly muffled by swearing, as the harmless creatures swam directly alongside us. These were remarkable moments that I will cherish forever and moments that, just this once, were worth jellyfish stings.
After lunch, and a wonderful stop off at Makassar Coral Reef (where saw even more impeccable coral and various characters from Finding Nemo), we anchored in a northern bay on Rinca Island - home to over a thousand Komodo Dragons. This surprisingly docile, yet terrifying creature can weigh up to seventy kilograms and run speeds of up to twenty kilometers per hour. Their presence was extraordinary as during the afternoon sun, they’re more comfortable asleep and camouflaged in the shade, which made them somewhat less intimidating. Our rangers swiftly reminded us that camouflage is a hunting technique and that we should remain distant from them at all times as he pointed out multiple Dragons throughout the trek that we were oblivious to.
This knowledge close at hand with the stories of accidents and deaths told to us by our boat supervisor was enough to keep us on our toes. The hike included sightings of monkeys, buffalo and deer.
As if we couldn’t be spoilt enough, our sunset on this evening was accompanied by thousands of bats at Kalong Island; A sight not to be missed if sailing through Komodo National Park. A few more Bintangs down and multiple card games on deck concluded our third evening on The Explorer.
Tip: Sky View makes for fascinating evening entertainment.
If there’s only one thing that can inspire you to go on an adventure like this then let it be the idea of waking up every morning to a sunrise over completely still water, silent, without another boat in sight. A slight sadness came over us on the morning of Day Four, as this would be our last on The Explorer. Multiple snorkelling points after breakfast allowed us to get our final fix of Nemo’s, Dory’s and vibrant coral under the surface. As per usual, I frantically held my breath to get those all-important underwater GoPro shots.
Kalor hill would be the last of our on land exploring; a small but steep island viewpoint, which gave a panoramic view of the surrounding islands. Make sure you take trainers though, as your girl had to do it barefoot which was a little too sketchy for my liking. Komodo National Park is made up of islands, so as much as you’ll be living in your bikini, be prepared for hiking! Kalor Island is also a lovely spot to cool off and have a swim. Our boat docked at Le Pirate Private Island later in the afternoon on Day Four and our time on the sea was over.
Top Travel Tips before you sail:
Living on a boat is fun but as I’m sure everyone knows; the wind can be deceiving and sunburn is inevitable. Take suncream and apply lots of it frequently.
2. Respect Your Environment
This counts for respecting your boat supervisors, your captain, the local wildlife and local rules. If you’re told not to step on the coral then it’s for a reason; as 50% of the oceans coral reefs have died in the last 30 years, your opportunity to see incredible live reefs won’t be around for long so take care of them.
3. Enjoy being off grid
It’s unlikely that you’ll have Wi-Fi on your boat or that you’ll get any service. Embrace this. Make new friends, absorb the views and take everything in. It’s worth it.
4. Do your research.
You’ll be sleeping, eating, relaxing and going to the toilet on the same boat for the full extent of your trip. Make sure you’ve done your research into what you’ll find most comfortable and within your budget.
I am one for dramatics but I can honestly say that this adventure was one more wonderful, exciting and peaceful than any other. It was a special expedition and I can’t recommend it more. If you’re planning a trip to Indonesia, my advice would be to cut Bali short and get a flight over to Labuan Bajo to jump onto a liveaboard cruise like Le Pirate. Prices aboard Le Pirate Explorer start from 9,000,000IDR per cabin @ https://lepirate.com/explorer/ Be sure to book in advance as their boats are usually sold out!
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