Labuan Bajo is a little port town on Flores, Indonesia that acts as a gateway to the Komodo Islands. Obviously dragons like mediterranean cuisine as I have never seen such an accumulation of Italian restaurants in Asia. However, after being used to such luxuries as pavements and covered sewers, it was strange, yet oddly reassuring, to come back to a place where we could afford something (pizza) more substantial than a watery broth.
I naively promoted Phoebe, straight from the fray as chief photographer and chief restaurant picker, to temporary-seasonal assistant accommodation picker for one time only. I quickly realised how much of a mistake this was when I found out we were over an hour walk to the city centre – I’m not kidding when I say our neighbours awee four goats and a rainforest. As such, we were heavily reliant on the hotel shuttle – an enigmatic service which operates on the whim of a long haired man called JoJo; the efficiency of this service seems to derive from the square root of an early morning multiplied by how many Bintang beers we had bought him the night before.
We came to Komodo to do two things: refresh our aqua lungs by scuba-diving again and see an oversized reptile in its natural environment. We decided to do the former first. It seems every other premise is a dive shop with a gaggle of laid-back, dreadlocked types lounging at the entrance so we did not find it too arduous to find one. The diving around Komodo has more currents than a trail mix but the marine life made up for this (and some). Particular highlights were reef manta rays – take a sting ray, click the expand button and voila, there is a manta ray – a large group of different reef sharks, lots of turtles doing nothing and a particularly disgruntled frogfish (the marine equivalent of a pile of goo). On a sidenote, all the Manta Rays are named – the one that got closest to us was called Winnie the Pooh (kudos to the namer). We were even graced by the presence of a pod of dolphins, presumably they saw how well I was diving and thought I was one of their own. Disappointed, they swam off.
Second on the list! Whilst in Komodo, we felt we should actually see the dragons of the same name. In order to see these mythical reptiles, we had to book a tour with one of the reputable looking shitholes (interspersed between the hippie types) that adorn the streets of Labuan Bajo. After much deliberation, we decided to go with Komodo Explorer, and not Komodo Fun, Komodo Enterprise or Komodo Adventure. Needless to say, it didn’t matter which suffix we had plumped for, we all inevitably ended up in the same boat, literally and metaphorically. Thus, our story continues with nine new intrepid explorers: a young German couple straight from the set of High School Musical, an old German couple straight from the set canteen of High School Lunch, three Asian woman propping up the Eastern Instagram market and another British couple, looking similarly bewildered and moody to us. Our first destination was Padar Island – an island with three different coloured beaches. Our lecherous old boat driver, stained shirt coming off briefly to treat us all, had developed a rather disturbing crush on the three asian women. With more pep than an excitable puppy, he dragged each of them up the hill ready for the 18,000,000 photos to be placed on instagram later that hour. I believe there was a grunt to the remaining, less desired, boat mates about being back in an hour, but it was probably just gas. Upon our punctual return, our Asian trio + one troll had yet to return (they actually turned up half hour later all tuckered out with their edgy instagram piccys). Next, we had the piece de resistance of the day, the fat lump of lards that are Komodo Dragons. Oh how we wished we would be lucky enough to see one. Don’t worry. They are everywhere. Sleeping. In fairness, when one of the rangers went to lower the goat on a rope they had tied up in honour of the Forest Commission officer of Indonesia (and me), the fat geckos did run pretty fast then looking all scary and whatnot. Luckily the rangers had … “a gun?!”, “killer spray?!”,”a lightsaber” – hush again, dear listener for he had something better – a stick.
We then went snorkelling and saw manta rays again (yawn) and a beach that is pink due to the deaths of the worlds corals. Instagram girls loved it; it matched their shoes.
ps. Troll went home disappointed; it appears the three girls were engaged to themselves. Fat German couple stared hungrily at my lunch; thin german couple were about as bland as rice pudding for the day and the other British couple were ok.
Alec, Phoebe and Winnie.