We left Senggigi in Lombok late Thursday morning and drove to the eastern port of Labuhan Lombok. I’d booked the cruise when I arrived in Lombok last week and there were 18 of us, mostly backpackers, on the bus. Guidebooks make it sound impossible to do this journey west to east but there are actually loads of companies offering the cruise. When I saw our boat I was relieved though – compared to other boats ours was huge with plenty of space to spread out on top and bottom decks (Kencana Adventure Tours).
It was great to see the countryside in the middle of Lombok, loads of rice fields and mountains on either side. The rain clouds were really gathering and as we set off for our first 3 hours of sailing, you could see a big storm brewing over Lombok behind us – a good time to leave!
We crossed the Alas Strait between Lombok and Sumbawa (the next big island to the east) and anchored near a little village of Mapin for the night.
The boat started sailing again at 2am and we continued, hugging the coastline of Sumbawa before reaching Moyo Island mid morning. Moyo is quite a big island, about the same size as Singapore, and has beautiful forest with a big waterfall. We stopped offshore and took the speedboat to the beach, then hiked through the jungle for a sweaty 15 minutes. The waterfall didn’t have much of a pool to swim in but you could sit on the rock and lie back for a very refreshing shower.
From there we sailed on to Satonda Island, just northeast of Moyo. As we were arriving a huge manta ray launched out of the water – what a welcome! – and we stopped there for some amazing snorkelling after lunch. We also had a look at the large salt water lake in the middle of the island then from there we set sail for our longest stretch – through the night for 17 hours to Komodo National Park.
The sight of Sumbawa from the boat was just spectacular – the terrain is rolling green hills with deserted white sand beaches and volcanic mountains throw in. As the sun went down, a school of dolphins were jumping behind the boat, I missed it with the camera of course, but it was magical.
As we woke to the sunrise again, we were about 100 miles further down the coast, and shortly after breakfast we arrived at Gili Lawa. Although there are only Komodo dragons on the islands of Komodo and Rinca, the national park is spread over several islands, including Gili Lawa. We hiked uphill for 25 minutes in about 35C degree heat – I nearly fainted – but when I did eventually make it to the top, the panoramic views of the park were unbelievable.
We continued on, heading clockwise around Komodo Island, to a small beach called Pantai Merah, or Pink Beach. From the our boat all you could see was white sand but as we got closer you can see the white sand is speckled with finely ground pink coral and as the waves go out, there is a tinge of pink to the surf.
It was the most crowded of our stops because a big cruise liner had just arrived around the corner, but it was still pretty quiet. We stayed there for an hour before heading round to Loh Liang, the entrance to Komodo Island national park.
We headed off on a 2km loop to hunt for dragons, guarded by four rangers with big wooden pronged sticks to protect us. We had only walked for about 10 minutes when we reached the watering hole and there were nine dragons prowling around – unprecedented apparently, even the ranger took photos! Normally people are lucky to see two or three.
Komodo dragons are absolutely huge, they are actually just enlarged versions of the monitor lizard, and they eat everything. A favourite dish is the water buffalo, and despite its size, the dragon just has to bite down on a hind leg and wait for its strong saliva to take effect (it can take up to two weeks for the poor animal to die) before devouring the whole thing. The dragons don’t even chew; they just swallows everything, bones and all, except the horned skull bone, which they can’t get in their mouths. Yikes!
They move really fast as well, so we had to keep well back. The rangers said they have never found the remains of a Komodo dragon because the other dragons just go ahead and eat the dead ones. The mother will even eat her own eggs if she can’t find any other food. What a charming animal!
It was lovely to walk through the park, mostly in the shade (even better), and we had good views from the hill back to the boat.
We sailed to a sheltered cove around five miles from the port and anchored for the night. We looked out for flying foxes (bats) and although we didn’t see any, it was another spectacular sunset.
On the final day we set sail again for Rinca Island, southeast of Komodo, to Loh Buaya, the start of a beautiful 5km hike around the island. Rinca is a lot more rugged and less developed than Komodo and although we spotted fewer dragons, just walking and looking at the views of the rolling countryside was fabulous.
Our final stop was an idyllic island called Kalong, a tiny paradise with a big hill, a few trees for shade and soft white sand. It was a perfect ending.
We sailed on to our final port on to the next big island, Flores, and the town of Labuanbajo, where I am now. I chose to stay in town for the last night – you could stay on the boat if you wanted – but I was dying to have a shower and a proper bed. The trip was fantastic but the boat was really basic with only a simple toilet, so it was great to be back on land.
Indonesia is more beautiful than I ever imagined and it’s fast becoming my favourite country so far. If you come to Indonesia, you must do this trip!