We flew out of Yogykarta in the very early morning, leaving behind the island of Java for a stopover in Bali, and then an arrival in Flores, an island in East Nusa Tenggara. Though we waited in Bali for two hours, the flight on either end was just over an hour, in an Airbus A320 type of six-seater plane that brought us to a still up and coming part of Indonesia. Flores is known for its coffee, some hiking, and mainly the gateway to the Komodo National Park, islands situated just west of Flores and not easily accessible through other destinations. When we landed in Labuan Bajo, it felt like we had just flown back through time to an Indonesia that was much less developed.
The worn SUV that picked us up had a young man with a toothy smile and an older man who didn’t speak any English. We left the polished newly-built airport and rocked our way down the mostly dirt (some paved) roads to our lodge, which was thankfully quiet and clean. Our first afternoon there, we simply walked down the long dusty road (sans sidewalk) that comprises the main part of the town of Labuan Bajo, which took about half an hour in total, not because it was all THAT long, but because it was hard to navigate, and you had to . It was noisy, filled with little vans that came by every 3-5 minutes blasting rock music and decked out in neon, and people ducked in and out of them, the local unofficial bus service. There were some restaurants ranging from very high-end Italian food serving locations with pristine terraces over looking the bay to tiny local hole-in-the-wall without any sort of English signage out front. And a billion travel businesses – everyone advertised some sort of day trip or 2D/1N or 3D/2N tour to the Komodo National Park. You could find liveaboard experiences with A/Ced cabins, with open upper decks where you slept with other people on a giant mattress and a sheet wrapped around you. You could find tiny fishing boats that were repurposed for tourism purposes or large speedboats that could cover the same distance in half the time. We ventured into a few joints to get quotes back and forth, and ended up settling on one place. However, when we went out to go get our money from the ATM, it did not cooperate, and we ended up going back to our house to figure out if there were any problems. While Steve wrestled with his bank support on the Skype, I took a nap, and after visiting about all the ATMs in the town of Labuan Bajo, we finally put in 400.000 IDR (about $30 USD) per person for our day trip to Komodo National Park. Continue reading Gateway to Komodo National Park.