We decided to stay at a homestay in Tangalle. This meant we had a room inside the house of a local resident of Tangalle. Saman was very friendly, and welcomed us into his house with an amazing avocado welcome smoothy. The house was close to the beach, where we were surprised at how big the waves were, and how cool the water was compared to the warm, calm water of Thailand. We enjoyed watching the big waves smashing into the beach while enjoying more amazing Sri Lankan local food.
We tried “Kuttu Roti”, which is shredded stir fried roti, with vegetables, egg and spices. It was very hot, and extremely spicy. The people at the restaurant gave Natacha free ice-cream to help cool her palate.
We also tried a Sri Lankan curry at another restaurant, which was awesome, and we tried the buffalo curd and treacle dessert, which was really nice.
We managed to see all the local attractions in the one full day that we had in Tangalle. Our host Saman drove us in his car to visit the “Blow hole” which was actually pretty cool and quite fascinating. The blow hole would spray water about 20m into the air and was pretty loud when it erupted, we had fun watching it ‘blow’ every minute or so.
After the blow hole we went to the Wewurukammala Temple, which has the largest Budda statue in Asia. We climbed to the top in the staircase behind the statue, and looked out at the view over the city.
Next was Mulgirigala rock temple, where we climbed 500 odd steps to the top of the ancient temple. On the way up there were caves that had beautiful old statues inside, and painted walls and ceilings.
After 2 nights in Tangalle we were on to our next destination, of Tissamaharama.
We arrived in Sri Lanka very late in the evening, on a flight from Thailand. By the time we got to our accommodation, it was already the early hours of the morning. Having never been to Sri Lanka before, we needed a day or two to decide our route. The place we arrived at was in the middle of nowhere, but had a big garden, was next to a river, and was close to the sea.
Our first impressions were that there is a lot of birds and wildlife in Sri Lanka, it was very green with lots of forest everywhere, and the people are really friendly and helpful.
After finding our feet, we decided to head South to the town of Galle. Our journey to Galle was a 2 hour drive by taxi, using PickMe, which is the local equivalent of Uber.
We booked accommodation at Unawatuna Backpackers Lodge, near Unawatuna beach in Galle. Like the previous place we stayed, this accommodation was surrounded by trees and nature. We saw water monitor lizards in the river next to the house, as well as turtles. There were also many different types of birds, as well as squirrels and some monkeys in the surrounding trees.
We had our first taste of a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast, which was egg or string hoppers with special chilli relish, coconut pancakes, washed down with tea, and ended off with some fruit.
The area catered more for tourists, and there was a lot of restaurants and shops with jewellery and curios. The beach is lined with restaurants and bars, and there are loads of deck chairs and umbrellas on the sand that you can rent.
We took a tuk tuck (3 wheeler) to the old fort, and explored the shops and historical landmarks of the old city within the walls of the fort. After the fort, we explored the rest of the attractions of Galle, such as Jungle beach, the Japanese Peace pagoda, The rock temple, and a herbal garden.
We only stayed 2 nights in Galle, and that was enough time to see all the attractions, before we headed further South to Tangalle.
We took a minibus from Koh Lanta to Ao Nang, which took about 3 hours and was interesting as the minibus went onto a ferry, which we have never done before. It was a short ferry ride to the mainland from Koh Lanta, and it was a strange feeling sitting in a vehicle, on a boat, instead of a seat on a boat.
We got another great accommodation deal as it was the low season, and booked in at Anyavee Aonang Bay Resort, which was in the perfect location between the two beaches (Ao Nang and Nopparat Thara). It had an awesome swimming pool, and every morning we had a buffet breakfast to set ourselves up for the day.
On one of the days when we walked down to Ao Nang beach, the weather turned shortly after we got there. We could see a monsoon approaching the beach, as we had seen them before on our last trip to Thailand. We found shelter at a restaurant and watched excitedly as it got closer and closer. When it finally hit the beach, it was chaotic, and we watched all the sun bathers running for shelter as their belongings were blown all over the beach. It poured really hard for about an hour before it was all over, and everyone came slowly down back to the beach. We also enjoyed many beautiful sunsets at Ao Nang beach, almost every night the sky was all shades of red and pink which was awesome.
Although it was low season, many of the tours were still operational, and we did a day trip to Hong Island, and surrounding islands Pakbia and Lading island by speed boat. We did not expect much with the snorkeling, but it was better than we thought it would be which was great.
Hong island reminded us a lot of a ‘mini’ Maya Bay, as it was surrounded by high limestone cliffs and had blue waters and a lovely white sand beach.
On one of the days we hired a driver to take us to the Tiger cave temple. This was a buddhist temple in the mountains, surrounded by forest. The caves in the limestone cliffs has been turned into a temple, and there is a temple on the top of the cliff. To get to the top of the mountain, you have to climb the 1237 steep steps. The journey to the top is grueling, as it was extremely hot and humid. On the way up there also monkeys who have been fed too many times, so they try to rob you as you go up. It took us about 40min to get to the top of what seemed like the stairmaster from hell, but it was worth it for the view of Krabi, and the cool breeze.
You are still able to enjoy the temple if you are too lazy to climb the stairs, as there are some nice tiger and dragon statues at the bottom. There is also a smaller, less taxing staircase to the “Wonder Land”, which is a walk in the forest to a big tree and a cave.
On our last night in Ao Nang and also Thailand we made sure that we had our final pad thai, followed by mango-sticky rice for dessert, two of our favourite dishes from Thailand, which we will miss very much.
We went from Phi Phi to Lanta, it was a short journey, only one hour by ferry. It was low season for Thailand, so the ferry was pretty empty, and we were able to get a great price for accommodation at Peaceful Resort. The resort lived up to its name as it was basically just us there for most of the time.
The downside to it being the low season, was that many of the restaurants along the beachfront were closed. The Koh Lanta national marine park is also closed during this time, so we were unable to visit some of the amazing places we were hoping to see. Many of the tours and tour operators are not running during the low season, so Koh Lanta becomes a bit of a ghost town.
We were a 2 minute walk from Long beach, which was a really pretty long stretch of white sand beach. It was pretty deserted most of the time, more crabs than people which was fine by us. The beach was a really nice place to watch the sunset when it did not rain.
During the low season, there is only one boat tour available, and that was a trip to Koh Ngai for snorkeling. We decided to go and although the snorkeling was terrible, with almost no fish or corals, it was nice to have a day out and go somewhere different. The beach on Koh Ngai had nice clam waves, and was great for swimming, much better than long beach.
Unlike Phi Phi, where you can walk everywhere you need to go, Koh Lanta is much bigger, with longer distances between beaches, so You really need to get a scooter, or hire a taxi to take you where you need to go.
Although it was very relaxing, it would have been much more fun to visit Koh Lanta during the high season, when all the parks, tours, restaurants and attractions are all open and available for visitors.
After a week on the island we decided to travel to Ao Nang where there is a lot more going on.
Phi Phi Don island was devastated by the 2004 Tsunami. The waves apparently came from both sides and hit in the middle. It is easy to see how it could cause so much destruction, because there is only a thin strip of land between the two bays.
We took a ferry from Railay beach to the island, where we stayed at Phuphaya Sea View resort, which was high up on the hill overlooking the “party beach” of Loh Dalum. It was quite hectic pulling our bags up the incredibly steep hill to our accommodation in the midday heat, but we were rewarded with a cool swim in the pool with an amazing view of the bay. At night the beach comes to life with all the beachfront bars blasting extremely loud music, and each one providing their own fire show for their guests. This goes on well into the early hours of the morning. Unlucky for us, the sound traveled upwards, and we could hear the music really clearly until it stopped every morning.
On one of the nights we decided if you cant beat them, we join them, and we purchased one of the famous party ‘bucket’ drinks that everyone walks around with. There are lots of shops that sell these buckets, each one comes with a small bottle of alcohol, an energy drink, and a can of soda. We got the vodka, coke and redbull bucket, which lasted us the whole night.
On one of the days we hiked up the main viewpoint for the island, which was about a 45min hike from our accommodation. The view is amazing from up the top of the hill, and you can clearly see both bays.
There are no cars or bikes on this small island. Everyone walks except for the police who ride around on motorbikes.
Being so close to Maya bay on Phi Phi Le island, we decided to visit it for the second time. Our first time was in 2016 when we took the ‘early bird tour’ to avoid the crowds, and traveled by speed boat from Phuket, and the boat dropped us on the main beach. This time we went in the late afternoon in windy weather on a long tail boat, and entered on the backside of the bay. We had to swim from the boat in the rough sea to a net hanging into the water while the waves were crashing against the rocks. It was chaotic with loads of people trying to climb up a net or grab the ropes and climb through the cave while trying not to get slammed against the rocks.
I was lucky on the way in but not on the way out, and landed up with a very bruised and scratched knee. By taking a later tour, we again missed most of the crowds, as all the tour boats had already left, and the beach was pretty empty.
On the way back from Maya Bay, we watched the sun set from the boat, and then went swimming with the bioluminescent plankton. It was a wonderful way to end a boat trip.
On one of the days we rented a kayak and paddled across the bay to Monkey beach, which had lots of monkeys that try to rob you as soon as you set foot onto the beach. It was not very relaxing, but it was funny watching people screaming as their food was stolen.
On two different days we decided to swim across the bay from the beach below our accommodation, to the reef near the monkey beach. The swim took about 2 hours to reach the the other side as we were snorkeling and looking at the fish along the way.
Our bungalow that we had was quite rustic and had spaces in the floorboards and walls where creepy crawlies can get in. At around 5am one morning, Natacha woke-up suddenly with something scratching her face. She felt it pull at my hair as her hand instinctively flung it off. Now sitting up and half asleep she muttered the words, “There’s something in the bed”. She grabbed her phone to provide some light in the pitch dark room and discovered a huge centipede approximately 20cm in length in the bed with us! We tried to get it out, but it managed to escape from us and go into hiding in the room somewhere. None of us were able to fall back asleep that morning again!
We took 2 days to get from Lombok Indonesia to Railay in Thailand. Most of the time was spent sitting in various airports waiting for flights, which took us from Lombok to Bali, then Kuala Lumpur, and finally Krabi in Thailand. Krabi airport too was amazingly slow at immigration, and it took us about 2 hours to get through and to collect our luggage, which was already off the luggage belt.
There are no roads to Railay, so we had to take a longtail boat to the East beach pier, which was close to where we were staying. Everywhere you look on Railay is beautiful. The beaches have soft white sand, and warm water, and they are surrounded by giant limestone cliffs in different shapes and sizes.
We stayed at Anyavee Resort on the East side of Railay. We booked a standard room, but were bumped up to a luxury bungalo, thanks to it being the off-season. The price difference was about R500 more per night for the bungalo, so we were happy with our upgrade at no extra cost to us. In contrast to our last accommodation in Lombok, Railay was peaceful and tranquil. We only had the sounds of nature, such as cicadas, oriental pied horn bills, dusky leaf and macaques monkeys, along with the sound of the ocean lapping the shore.
Anyavee accommodation has a huge grounds, with lots of trees and vegetation that attracts the wildlife. Every day we would watch the monkeys climbing up and down the trees and the horn bills eating fruit in the mornings. There is also a huge pool which we enjoyed swimming in every day after walking back from the West side of Railay.
Since there are no roads in Railay, there are no cars, and motorbikes either….you walk everywhere or catch a boat to your destination. This makes such a difference, as there is very relaxed and has a ‘chilled out, island style’ atmosphere.
We especially enjoyed swimming Pra Nang beach which was the most beautiful one in Railay. It has a massive cave which provides you with shade while you are swimming. At the back of the cave you can swim through some rocks to a secret little lagoon that is only there during high tide. The beach also has trees, which give you shade during the heat of the day, so it was great to spend time on the beach and in the water.
The main attraction of Pra Nang beach is the Princess cave. This cave is full of wooden penis carvings of all shapes sizes and colours! Every day there are groups of people who visit the cave as one of the stops on their island tour.
On one of the days we decided to hike through the jungle to Tonsai Bay. The hike took about 45 minutes and went up some pretty steep terrain through the dense jungle, which was extremely muddy due to the recent rains. Tonsai beach was pretty boring, with the main attraction being a large wooden swing. The main village area was a bit of a ghost town because it was off season, but the bars and restaurants looked pretty funky.
One of the attractions is Phra Nang Nai cave, otherwise known as Diamond Cave, due to glittering appearance of the rocks. The cave is quite small and it takes about 10min to walk through the whole cave. There are bats in the cave, and lots of stallagtites, but not much else. One evening on our way back from dinner, we spotted two fire-flies that came accross our path. This place was indeed magical!
As beautiful as Railay was, one is not exempt from food poisoning. A whole day was wasted because of this, and it is never fun pissing through ones ass and projectile vomiting, that reminded us of the movie ‘the exorcist’. Other than the ‘bad food’ that caused the food poisoning, we enjoyed the different restaurants which were cheap and great tasting authentic Thai food.
Railay is the Thailand that you see on all the post cards. White beaches, blue water, palm trees, and long tail boats. It is really beautiful and relaxed and one of our favourite Thailand destinations ever!
Getting to Lombok from Sorong (Our overnight stop after leaving Raja Ampat) was a whole days journey, which included a flight to Makassar, then to Denpasar, then to Lombok, ending off with a 1hr taxi ride to Sengigi, where we stayed for 5 nights.
We stayed at Hotel Bumi Aditya which was a short walk to the beachfront. The accommodation cost us less than R200 a day, and included breakfast, and a room with a private bathroom and hot water shower, wifi and not to mention the awesome swimming pool. The only negative thing was the beautiful mosque next door that woke us up at 4am every morning, and the confused roosters that crowed non-stop all day.
Senggigi beach had black beach sand as a result of volcanic rock from Mt Rinjani many thousands of years ago. This was cool to see as we are used to powdery white sand beaches and a beach with black sand was a novelty.
Walking down to the beach we passed some awesome murals painted by local artists. There were people taking photos so we did too!
On one of the days we went to see the Sendang Gile waterfall which was rather beautiful. It was a long drive, but it was scenic as we drove along the coast looking at the various beaches and the rice field terraces.
We hired a boat and went to the 3 Gili Islands of Trawagan, Meno and Air, for the day to snorkel. Unfortunately the weather was not the best, as it was windy and the waves were bigger than expected. Regardless of this, we still managed to see fish and the highlights were seeing a huge puffer fish and getting close to a turtle.
We then changed location and moved to Kuta Lombok, where we stayed for 6 nights. Kuta was really laid back and way less cars and people compared to Kuta Bali. Unfortunately while we were there there was a huge amount of construction going on at the beachfront and around town. We imagined that once complete the place could look completely different. Other than the construction the town had lots of great restaurants and small bars lining the streets, as well as stalls selling clothing similar to in Bali. The town is a lot more rural, and there was farm animals walking around everywhere and many many stray dogs walking the streets in packs.
Even the place that we stayed (Honey Bee Homestay) was a small holding, and had chickens, cows and goats wondering about. We discovered it was a great idea to always have a torch as there was often a sneaky cow pat in the middle of the dirt road on the way home after dinner each night!
The beaches around Kuta were different to Senggigi, either they were beautiful powdery white sand beaches, or they had huge round grains of sand, which was hard to walk on as you would sink ankle deep with every step.
All the beaches were quite pretty, and they all had wooden swings erected which was cool. We walked to one of the beaches (Tanjung Aan) through the farmlands and over the rocks at the beach which took us 2.5 hours to get there! It was after this that we decided to hire a scooter to get around and see the other beaches. Our scooter was very useful and fun to ride on the roads which were nowhere near as busy as those in Bali. Riding on the bike to the beaches was very picturesque through all the farm roads and so much fun!
Our favourite beach we visited was Mawun beach, which was about a 30min ride on the scooter over the mountain. The beach was beautiful and the was was too. The only downside to the beaches in Kuta is that you are harassed constantly by people trying to sell you either pineapples, coconuts, sarongs, or children trying to sell you bracelets. It is very annoying when they refuse to take no for an answer, and you are not interested in anything they are selling.
On the way back from Mawun beach we stopped at the Bat Cave, where we saw lots of bats roosting in the high caves. The floor of the cave was a thick spongy carpet of powdery bat shit, with millions of beetles feasting on the shit. When we left our sandals and feet were black with dirt and our sandals were full of the powdered bat shit.
We made our way home from Mawun beach and stopped off at Ashtari Yoga Lounge & Kitchen, which had an amazing view of Kuta from on top of the mountain.
On one of the days we did a snorkel tour to the 3 smaller and less known Gili islands of Nannggu, Sudak and Kedis. We saw some amazing coral and lots of fish and thought that it was much better than the other Gili tour we took from Senggigi. Gili Kedis was the smallest island we had ever visited, you can literally walk around the whole island in 2 minutes!
As much as we enjoyed Lombok, we craved the peace and quiet of Raja Ampat as most nights in Lombok we were disturbed in the early hours by noisy neighbours and their bikes, roosters, and mosques.
Lombok was our last stop in Indonesia, next stop Thailand…..
Our journey to Raja Ampat started with a flight from Denpasar to Sorong, with an overnight stopover in Makassar. We spent the night in the airport waiting for the connecting flight to Sorong at 3am. We also traveled forward in time again, as Papua is 7 ahead of Cape Town, as opposed to Bali, which is 6 hours ahead.
When we arrived in Sorong, we got a taxi to the harbour, where we caught the ferry to Waisai. At Waisai we met our host Musa, who transported us on his longboat to his homestay. The longboat journey took about 2 hours through rough seas and heavy rain, so when we arrived at Dugong Homestay, we were completely drenched.
We were the only guests at Dugong Homestay on Batanta island, so we literally had the entire beach and walk-able part of the island to ourselves for 8 days. Our accommodation was a wooden beach hut on stilts situated on the beach, so at high tide, the water would be under the hut. In true island style, we had a hammock on the balcony, and the room consisted of a mattress on the floor, with a large mosquito net.
We would sit on the balcony and watch the baby black tip reef sharks and other fish swim directly below us in the crystal clear blue water. On our first evening there, we had not even been in the water yet, and we had already spotted an octopus, a sea snake, black tip reef sharks, a blue spotted stingray, and walking sharks. All this from just sitting on our balcony and walking along the beach looking into the water. The sea was filled with so much wild life that we were very excited to go snorkeling the next day.
There is nothing on the island except for the homestay, with the beach huts, so there is nothing but dense jungle behind. No shops, no restaurants, no stores, literally nothing but jungle. This meant that there was no noise pollution from other people, only the sounds of nature all day and night. As soon as night began to fall, the sound of frogs started to get louder and louder. We thought from the level of noise there would have to be hundreds of them behind us in the jungle. We went to investigate and were excited to see loads of red eyed, green tree frogs in the trees all over the place. We had only ever seen frogs like this in books, so it was awesome to see them in real life.
Apart from the frogs, there was loads of huge ‘locust like’ insects that would make a loud sharp hissing sound, and there was also loads of crickets. Combined, the sounds coming from the jungle each night, as well as the sound of the waves lapping under the house was really loud, but relaxing.
Some other interesting wild life we saw was the abundance of large spiders and ants everywhere, but they tended to keep to themselves, so we didn’t have any problems. We also had some resident fruit bats flying around every night, so we had the brainiac idea of offering them some fruit in a ‘banana trap’, so that we could get a closer look at them. We would break a banana into pieces every night, and place the pieces onto the balcony. Sooner or later we would hear the flapping of a bat, as it would circle the hut, until it eventually would land, steal some banana, and fly away again. We used this ‘trap’ to take some pictures of one of the bats up close while he was stealing some banana.
When you don’t have a tv or internet connection, you create your own nature programs to watch! The only downside to being so close to nature, is that we were eaten alive by mosquitoes.
The main reason for our visit to the island, was for the amazing snorkeling at the house reef, and the surrounding islands. We were not disappointed at all. Some of the other islands we visited for snorkeling while at Dugong Homestay was Way island, Urun island, and Dayan island. Every day we had some rain, but there was also opportunity to snorkel, and every day we saw amazing fish and coral.
One of the days Musa took us for a boat trip to the Mangrove forest, where we stopped and hiked to a waterfall. The mangrove forest was beautiful and creepy at the same time, we enjoyed it a lot.
Snorkeling every day was amazing….the water was crystal clear and bright blue, and we could see an unbelievable amount of beautiful corals and fish every time. We would have a great moment with each snorkel, from shark sightings, to sting rays, nudibranchs, moray eels, turtles and other amazing fish.
Being the only guests, we felt like we were on our own private island. Musa was the only other full time inhabitant, and he would leave us to our own devices until we wanted to go to another island, or somewhere where we needed transport. Every day we were served breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner meals, which were all ‘island style’ vegetarian. So lots of rice and noodles dishes!
During low tide we would go strolling along our beach looking for signs of life….we would watch the mud skippers skimming across the water, the strange molluscs cruising through the sea grass, and also do some bird watching. There was large cockatoo birds that would come and make a noise while they ate the nuts from the tree above our hut, and also a few other king fisher and other types of interesting birds that would come to eat the baby fish at low tide.
We also enjoyed ‘treasure hunting’ every day, where we would walk along the beach trying to find beautiful unbroken shells. The beach is so pristine that all the ‘good’ shells are still available to find, so we got many cowry and other awesome shells on our treasure hunting missions.
The beach was always interesting….there was always something to look at, even if it was just the many hermit crabs and other little critters running around. The bigger crabs tended to come out at night, so we would do a night time beach walk every night to see who was out and about.
View the video!
Watch the video below of some of our snorkeling at Dugong Homestay and the surrounding islands.
We started our two day journey back to Indonesia from Cape Town really early in the morning. It was dark and cold when we left, and we were eager to start the long journey which went via Johannesburg and Hong Kong before ending in Denpassar. We were looking forward to escaping the cold Cape Town winter, and sunning ourselves in the warm Balinese sun.
When we arrived in Bali the next day, it was 28 degrees celcius and sunny, far different from Cape Town’s 8 degrees and rainy, when we left.
We checked in at our accommodation (Merthayasar bungalows), which had a great pool to swim in, and was very comfortable. We were surprised at how nice it was, for only R200 per night, including breakfast and free wifi. Our room had its own en-suite bathroom, and a balcony overlooking the pool where we ate breakfast every morning.
Being only 100m from the Monkey Forest sanctuary we would sit on the balcony every day, and watch the monkeys come from the forest over the roofs of the buildings, to steal food and the offerings left to the Balinese gods.
This time round, the weather was a lot cooler than our previous visit to the island. Although it hot, it felt a lot cooler in the evenings than the previous time we were in Bali. We actually had to use a blanket at night this time!
Ubud is tourist central for Bali, so it feels like every shop is a tourist shop or curio store, and every second place is a massage parlour or restaurant. The streets are generally quite manic, filled with tourists heading in every direction, scooter motorbikes by the thousands,and stray dogs and the odd monkey wondering around. Bali has a unique distinctive aroma. The air is filled with the smell of incense and the aroma of Frangipane blossoms.
Apparently the book / movie ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ put Ubud on the map. We can relate to the title, because we Loved the food in Ubud. There are so many different vegetarian restaurants to choose from, and most of them are amazing. Because of that, we found ourselves eating way to much, and so we were praying that we did not put on weight! In the evenings a lot of the restaurants had live music. Local guys playing covers of all the hits, and they were pretty good!
Another thing Ubud is famous for, is the beautiful rice field terraces. We walked to the Kajeng rice fields which were close to where we were staying, as we had not seen them before. The last time we were in Ubud we went to the famous Tellenengan rice terraces, but that is a lot further away. The Kajeng rice terraces are not as spectacular as the Tellengan fields, but it was a nice outing and walk through the forest.
We decided to go to the famous Kecak fire and trance dance at the Pura Puseh temple one night. The dancers that act a Hindu folk story are joined by over 100 local balinese men villagers who sing in chorus. It was well worth going to see, and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
The main reason we came to Ubud this trip, was to rest for a few days after the long flight, and to get money needed for the main attraction and reason for our visit to Indonesia again, which is to visit Raja Ampat. The ATMs in Indonesia dont allow you to draw much money at a time, and our trip to Raja Ampat would be expensive. There are no banks or ATMs or credit card machines in Raja Ampat, so we would need to arrive with cash. The nice part about coming to Ubud, was the bitcoin center that they have, where you can exchange bitcoin for Rupia very easily.
This was less hassle, much cheaper, and also faster for us to get enough money for our trip to Raja Ampat, than it would have been to go to the ATM every day to draw out our cash limit.
After sorting out our finances, we spent the rest of the few days in Ubud, enjoying the local restaurants and markets, and generally being a typical tourist….and dont dont forget chilling at the pool! We were relaxing as hard as we could in preparation for the grueling two day journey to get to our accommodation in Raja Ampat.
We arrived in the small town of Labuan Bajo, which is on the island of Flores, in Indonesia. We stayed at a really cool place called Le Pirate. We had a tiny room, but it was really comfortable, nicely decorated, and had a hamock outside on porch. There was a rooftop bar, with a plung pool to watch the amazing sunsets over the harbour every night, and an onsite restaurant, serving great food. The location was very close to the harbour, so it was great when you needed to board a boat for a snorkeling trip.
The only downside to staying where we were located, was that we were positioned what felt like directly in between two mosques, and every morning at 4am, they began their chanting.
The town of Labuan Bajo is boring, and there is very little to do, it is primarily a starting point for trips to the Komodo islands. We walked to one of the nearby beaches, and it was so filthy dirty, that we did not dare enter the water, even though it was extremely hot weather.
We were excited to begin our adventures in the area, and booked a tour to the Komodo National park. Our tour began at 5am, as we boarded a slowboat and journeyed 4hours to the island of Padar. We hiked from the beach to the top viewpoint of the island, where we could see both sides of the peninsula and took some great pictures. After the hike, we again boarded the boat, and made our way to the Komodo National park.
When we arrived at the park, we hired a guide who took us on a guided walk through the park, to see the Komodo dragons in their natural habitat. The dragons are not in cages, and roam the island freely, so a guide is needed as they are able to help if there is an incident. The dragons were really large and one bite from their bacteria ridden mouth, can cause you to die a slow death.
After leaving the dragons in the national park, we made our way by boat to the famous “Pink Beach” for some snorkeling. The beach has pink sand due to red coral pieces that have been crushed and mixed with the sand by the waves. The area is really dense in corals, and fish, as it is all inside the protected marine park, and the snorkeling was amazing. We spotted some huge colour changing cuttlefish, as well as a large moray eel, and too many beautiful corals to mention.
After the snorkeling at Pink Beach, our next stop was “Manta Point”, where we got to go snorkeling with giant mata rays. We trolled the area in the boat until rays were spotted, then we all jumped into the water and swam with them as far as we could go. It was awesome seeing these majestic animals flying in bird like motion through the water.
After swimming with the manta rays we started our long journey back, and we were caught in a late afternoon monsoon storm. The wind and rain came suddenly, and the temperature dropped drastically. The waves were large, and we were unable to see very far, even the boat driver was struggling to verify our location. We rode through the storm which lasted about an hour, before we managed to break through and get back to calmer waters and weather.
Two days later we went on another snorkeling trip, this time to three closer islands, known as Kanawa, Sabola and Seraga. This was to be another amazing day of snorkeling, with calm clear water all day, and amazing reefs, corals, fish, turtles and creatures everywhere. We were so excited to spot and swim with a rare Black-banded sea krait, a highly venomous but extremely beautiful sea snake. We we very excited to see lionfish properly for the first time in the wild. We spotted one, and then suddenly found we were surrounded by many, we watched them hunting among the corals
Just like the previous trip, like clockwork, a storm came in the afternoon, and we were caught in the rough seas. This time as our boat was leaving the snorkel site, another boat that was near ours, anchored to the pier, managed to sink, luckily there was nobody on-board at the time. We again ride through the storm, back to the town for the day.
On the 8th of November (Francois birthday) we decided to go snorkeling along with the scuba guys as they were going to dive spots in the national park, known for large fish and reefs. The one place on the trip that was mind blowing was the island of Batu Bolong. We had never seen so many beautiful brightly coloured fish in such a small area. The island also had schools of large fish swimming by all the time, and we saw a giant moray eel swimming along the rocks.
After three amazing snorkel trips, Flores was definitely our new favourite snorkeling destination. It was time to leave Indonesia and make our way to our next destination of Cape Town.
We made a video of some of our snorkeling in Flores, here it is below, enjoy 🙂