I went to Indonesia with the idea of a road trip to Bali only. Yet, this is how the magic starts within a journey: when you let enough space for surprise and spontaneous adventures! I ended discovering much more of Indonesia with a trip to Flores islands and scuba diving in Komodo National Park.
People often stare at my organization when I’m travelling: Travel Notebook, shared agendas & documents, enriched maps, organized notes collection. But, actually, the secret to organising fantastic getaway is to find the perfect balance between organization and spontaneity, a way to always adapt to the situation and make some changes in your plans without stress. Here are some things to do, ideally before your trip little by little from home or allow yourself some time and relaxed place to make research during your trip:
- Research the destination you picked: Guide books, Travel forums and blog, Hospitality networks… and save what you like in your notebooks or Notes application (Evernote for me)
- Study the geography of the place: islands, seas, borders, mountain… all are constraints you have to take into account but also an opportunity for adventure… I can actually spend hours on Google maps
- Evaluate the different options for travelling: bus, car, ferry, speed boat, plane… and how long do they and how much do they cost… You can use Wikitravel or Rome2Rio to do so.
- Travel with a laptop or smartphone: Best tool ever to make last minutes bookings online, it’s so easy to find free Wifi everywhere now even in very remote places (experience from Guatemala, Cambodia & Indonesia)
- Give a reasonable amount of time for each place: 3 days is a minimum if you want to really experience the place, meet people and take the opportunity to follow them on any new adventure
Finally, the best information you will get is once on the field, don’t try to over plan a marathon itinerary otherwise, you can miss fantastic opportunities all along the way.
Then you have all the elements in mind, place them on your agenda for the period of time you have for your trip, make them slide when necessary and then making choices will be easier and you won’t hesitate to take opportunities for new adventures…(Easier with agenda application such as Google agenda)
The most important thing: don’t feel stressed by the touristy pressure and its “must see” list… It’s ok not to see everything! Just imagine the fantastic memories you will bring back with you just because you took the time to experience a place! So if necessary skip some places on your list…
My journey to Labuan Bajo, Flores
This is exactly what happened during my trip to Indonesia…My guidebook recommended after Bali and Lombok to go to East Java? I went to Flores instead!
Before my trip, I spotted places I found interesting: 10 cities & villages in Bali,5 in Lombok and 3 in Java. Considering I had 4 weeks, I made blocks of 3 to 5 days for areas. I finally went to 4 areas in Bali, 1 Island in Lombok and visited Komodo from Flores Island without a single regret.
All along the way it was so nice to hear stories from other travellers and favourite spots of Indonesian people, that I naturally made slide my plans on my online agenda, extending my stay when necessary like in Ubud or Gili Trawangan, sometimes I even took one day just to re-plan the following days in a very relaxing environment.
Of all the stories and the tips I heard, one was coming back all the time, from the first emails exchanged before departure to the last shared drinks in Gili islands… “You have to go diving in Komodo!”… At the beginning of my trip, I wasn’t so keen on because of time and budget issues, but, after 3 weeks as I was already very happy with my trip to Bali and Lombok, time left allowed it, my bank account allowed it, flight ticket was still available for a reasonable price… ok, let’s go!!! After one day of comparing options in Sanur over lunch on the beach, I just booked an internal return flight Denpasar- Labuan Bajo with Lion air for the next morning!
Landing in Labuan Bajo is already an adventure as the plane is small and the airport in the hills… The atmosphere of this port feels like something like the end of the world but also the door of amazing adventures. Labuan Bajo is on the east coast of Flores Island. It’s one of the least touristy islands of Indonesia but it is also the ideal port of departure to discover Komodo National Park. This is usually where most of the scuba diving liveaboard for Indonesian best scuba spots starts but it’s also possible to go for scuba diving day trips while still enjoying and discovering Flores people and culture.
This is the option I took, 3 days for 6 dives in one of the most beautiful places where I’ve been scuba diving. You need to be ready at 8 am to take the boat for a journey of 2 hours before reaching Komodo dive spots (enough time for a good nap).
Water is a bit colder than in Bali and Lombok (25/26°C instead of30°C, I know it’s still really warm for those of us who dive in Europe) so a full suit 5 mm is recommended after that’s up to you of course… Don’t expect to go very deep, the interesting part is between 5m and 20m, a 12-litre tank of air will be perfectly fine as we are just doing 2 dives per day. Yet, expect strong current so some experience and good fins will be definitely an advantage to feel comfortable, and honestly, I discovered the limits of my fins on these dives.
The advantage is also to be able to visit the land part of the National park to meet the famous Komodo dragons and all wildlife such as buffalos and macaques in wonderful landscapes of hills and jungle (the advantage of the rainy season is that everything was green).
The underwater wonders of Komodo National Park
The reefs of Komodo are well-protected thanks to the status of National Park and Marine World Heritage site. It was the first time for me to see such a large range of colourful coral species. I think all my descriptions won’t be enough, just have a look at the pictures. Diversity applies also the fauna: bumphead parrotfish, angelfish, turtles, mimetic octopus, cuttlefish, peacock manta shrimp, lobster, clown fish, black tip sharks,… and most of all Manta rays! The first time I saw one manta ray was in Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt, but here, being surrounded by a dozen of manta rays for an hour is just priceless and a memory of a lifetime. No list of the best diving in Asia-Pacific would be complete without Komodo!
“This is why I stay here” said the divemaster and I can understand that having this kind of action underwater on a daily basis is addictive. In a nutshell, with this experience, I can never be surer than being flexible in your plans while still being organized and listening to inspiration around you can just lead you to magical experiences… so like people told me before I went there… “Go to Komodo!!!”
If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to WAD Newsletter to receive the latest posts and all the behind the scenes stories once a month (100% guaranteed spam-free)
PIN IT FOR LATER