Bit of travelling and some diving in Komodo National Park
07.06.2008 - 25.06.2008 27 °C
Timor was once again little more than a stepping stone for us – the main city of Kupang simply being the cheapest and most convenient way to get to eastern Nusa Tenggara from Jakarta. So we arrived late in the evening, and left on a flight to Flores the next day. Our plan was to go to Maumere and do a few dives there, before heading west. This plan was altered, however, as our flight to Maumere was cancelled. The only other way to get to Flores was to fly to Ende, so we did.
In Flores, we headed from Ende airport straight to the village of Moni, about two hours away. Here you can see the supposedly amazing crater lakes of Kelimutu. There are three lakes, each a different colour, and they all change colours more or less regularly, probably due to minerals leaking into the lakes from the volcanic soil. Used to be one blue lake, one red and one white, which is what you see in most postcards – now the lakes are brown, black and bright green. We slept one night in Moni, and then got up at 4.30 am to ride up the mountain on the back of motorbikes to see these lakes. On the ride up the curvy mountain roads, it was dark and ominous – the mountains looming like even darker shadows against the dark night sky. We arrived at the end of the road and then walked about 20 minutes in the pale dawn light to the edge of the crater. Unfortunately for us, it was a very cloudy day, and even though we waited several hours, we never caught much more than a fleeting glimpse of the green lake – which was indeed very very luminous. The brown and black lakes remained more or less hidden in clouds.
Quite a disappointment, but that is how it goes sometimes. On the drive back down, we did see some lovely scenery though. We quickly came out of the cloud and the lower parts of the mountains here were amazingly fertile areas, covered in lush green vegetation that we had not been able to see on the way up. We drove through beautiful cloud forests, and crossed several bubbling streams. The mountains sides were covered in a strange combination of pine trees and palm trees, ferns and fruit trees, side by side. The forest was interspersed with agriculture of various kinds, growing cabbage and carrots alongside dates and oranges. What a beautiful area!
Back in Moni, we caught a bus onwards to Bajawa, in the mountains further east in Flores. Here we spent the night, and due to the terrible state of the roads, and the extreme discomfort of the public buses, we then rented a private bemo (minivan) to drive us the further 10 hours or so to get to Labuanbajo. Even with this private transport, the trip was still a nightmare. The road was in terrible condition, with huge potholes everywhere and lots of roadwork’s slowing us down. Many places had seen recent rock slides, creating blockages of the road. The tight hairpin turns made my stomach instantly queasy. Despite us renting the car, the guy was still insistent on playing very loud music the whole way, which they seem to view as a necessity here. Mostly they play bad Indonesian pop music, or, for some reason, country western sung by Indonesians. This guys tape deck was not functioning properly though, so only two tapes worked: one with Indonesian pop, and one with Shania Twain – and he alternated the two at full volume for nearly 10 hours. (We did convince him to turn it off regularly, but he would soon have it back on). By the time we arrived in Labuan, we felt like shell shocked survivors from some disaster or other, and just wanted to sleep.
The next day, we hunted for a dive shop, and looked at the possibilities of a liveaboard. It looked like most of the sites were reachable on day trips from here though, and so we dropped the liveaboard. We booked 10 days of diving with the shop Bajo Dive Club. We did sites such as Crystal and Castle Rock, Batu Bolong, Manta Point, Lonely Tree, Tetawa Kecil and Besar. Out of these sites, Crystal and Castle Rock were probably the best, with the largest concentration of fish life.
The diving was good, although maybe not excellent – but maybe we are becoming too critical. We saw lots of fish life, and some very large trevally and jacks, many white tip reef sharks, some nice large eagle rays, turtles, sea snakes, a juvenile bat fish that we had never seen before. And mixed in, there is even some quite good macro life – nudis, crabs, the first ribbon eel I had ever seen etc. The visibility was great - most dives we had 20-25 m plus. I think we were just a bit disappointed because we never had the luck to find the manta rays which they see at manta point regularly. If we had had the added bonus of the mantas, I think I would have called the diving here fantastic.
On our last day of diving we jumped on a boat trip to Rinca island after the diving. Rinca is supposed to be better than Komodo itself for seeing Komodo dragons. I was quite disappointed with them though – I think I had an idea in my head of some huge dinosaurs, but the largest Komodos grow to about 3.1 meters – and this is only the large males. We never found any males, only saw the large females that hang around the kitchen in the camp there – on the walk we did we saw nothing larger than a wild pig with piglets. Anyway, we had to do it, it would have been strange to leave the Komodo area without seeing them.
After leaving Labuanbajo, we flew to Mataram in Lombok (via Bali, as there are no direct flights). From there, we went to Senggigi – a beach town north of Mataram (capital of Lombok). Senggigi is labelled as the ‘premier beach resort’ in Lombok, and it does have a series of lovely bays with stretches of decent sand beaches. We did not find it particularly charming though, as it was all centred around the busy main road, rather that focused on the beach.
The reason we came to Senggigi, and to Lombok at all, was that Alan wanted to do a dive site at the south side of Lombok, where you can sometimes see hammerheads – and it seems that there are no operators down there, but some shops do it from here. Alan booked a day trip to Blongas Bay, as the place is called, to do this magnet point dive site. I still had a funny ear from Komodo, and so sat it out. Alan went on the trip, and did magnet point in the morning, and then some other site afterwards. Unfortunately, the dive master missed the site at the magnet, and they never did get to see the hammers. Sounded like two OK dives though. After this little interlude in Lombok, we headed off to Bali. We were able to catch a boat from the beach right in front of our hotel, and so a trip that could have been quite a hassle, became quite enjoyable - were sat on the deck catching some sun, and even saw a huge pod of dolphins at one point, surfing the bow wave of the boat.
Stay tuned for updates on our adventures in Bali - coming soon! (I may also add some videos later, from Komodo and Lombok, when I find some faster net, so stay tuned for that as well.)