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The Komodo Dragon Cruise, Backpacker Style

The Komodo dragon cruise comes in different types. There are luxurious ships sailing from Bali, with all the comfort one can ask for at sea. But we take the cruise backpacker style: an old boat, lots of backpackers on it, sleeping on deck with a thin mattress, simple meals, etcetera. But it's a great adventure and lots of fun.

Komodo dragon in the grass

On Gili Air we are approached by touts offering different tours. One of those tours gets our attention: a Komodo Dragon Cruise. It's a boat tour of 4 days from Lombok, passing Sumbawa and visiting Komodo, Rinca and finally Flores. During the trip we can snorkel, swim, relax, and watch the famous Komodo dragons, the huge prehistoric reptiles that still live on Komodo island.

Lombok

At 8.30 AM we take the boat from Gili Air to the "main land" of Lombok. On the boat we meet Kris and Paulien, who booked the dragon boat cruise too. On Lombok we wait for the rest of the passengers, coming from the other Gili islands, and we walk to the bus that will take us to Mataram. The bus isn't very big for the 18 passengers that need to be transported. But with the crew hanging outside we are on our way.

The road to Mataram is a winding and climbing one. At every corner we are watched by some monkeys, but some of us can only focus on the car sickness, caused by the heat, the many movements of the crowded bus, and no ability to look outside. After an hour we arrive in Mataram, where we can get use the ATM and do some shopping before we move on to Labuan Lombok, a harbor town on the east coast of Lombok.

The Boat

When we arrive in the harbor we hurry to the boat to get a place on the upper deck. We expect it to get crowded on the lower deck, so upstairs seems to be the best position. But we have to leave our backpacks below deck, and the exhaust of the engine is upstairs. Still, we decide to stay upstairs, together with Kris and Paulien, and the Swedish couple Mats and Ulrica.

The north coast of Sumbawa at Alas harborWhen the boat leaves the harbor for our komodo dragon cruise we get more company upstairs: a French middleaged woman with a young Indonesian boyfriend. Their exaggerated romantic behavior irritates us, but we try to ignore them to enjoy the beautiful view on the islands of Lombok and Sumbawa.

Near 6 PM the engine is stopped and the peace returns on the upper deck. We are located near the town of Alas at the north coast of Sumbawa. Here we will stay for the night. We are treated to a wonderful sunset, before we are called for dinner on the lower deck. We are served rice, noodles, and vegetables. With Indonesian kecap (sweet soy sauce) and sambal (Indonesian red pepper sauce) that tastes just fine.

After dinner we wonder where the promised mattresses are. The crew dives below deck to find them, but what we fear is true: there are only 15 mattresses for 18 passengers. Luckily, a few of the passengers have hammocks, so everybody can sleep well. The rest of the evening we enjoy ourselves with yahtzee and talking before we go to sleep.

Accident

At 3 AM we are waked by the starting engine. It is still dark but the crew decides to leave. It is very difficult to continue sleeping, particularly because we are waked twice again by yelling people. Both times the yelling comes from other boats, apparently lying on our route. Once we even hit another boat, which is no wonder since the boats aren't lit. Luckily, there is little damage and we can continue.

Snorkel stops

Around 7 AM we cannot sleep any longer. We get up and a little later there is breakfast, bread with butter and jelly, and tea. When that's finished we arrive at Pulau Moyo, the first snorkelling stop on the komodo dragon cruise. Unfortunately, there is not enough snorkelling gear on board. We have to wait until Ulrica and Mats have seen enough so we can lend their gear. But when we are just in the water, we have to get out again to continue the trip.

The second stop of the day is at Pulau Satonda. This island has a volcanic lake which some of us are visiting. We take this opportunity to take the snorkelling gear and take our time to snorkel. We enjoy the coral, and even spot a sea snake.

At the last stop of the day, we eat and talk with the other passengers. But suddenly, the engine starts again. Apparently, they want to continue all night. That night, it is difficult to get to sleep, until we wake from the engine being turned off. From that moment on, it is much easier to sleep.

Climbing

View from a hill on Gili LabaWe wake up early again for breakfast, this time banana pancakes. We are stopped in a bay of the island Laba, and we can get on land to climb a hill. Our reward is a beautiful view over the bay and the island. For the descend we choose a different path, through the high grass and steep slopes. More dangerous than we expected, but we manage to reach the boat without a scratch.

Our next stop is Red Beach, near Komodo island, where we can snorkel again. Luckily, most of the passengers have snorkelled enough, so we have enough time explore life under water. For the first time, we spot squid, and a sea turtle. It is great to see those giant animals glide through the water.

The entrance to Komodo national park is on the other side of the island. On our way there, we first loose some shorts, and then the chickens we bought in Lombok. Everything is picked from the water again, and the chickens are caressed before they are put back in their cages. They will serve as dinner later onÂ…

Dragons

In the national park, we make a walk guided by a park ranger. We start at the park head quarters, where we immediately see the first dragon. This huge animal (3 meters) lies lazy on the path. But he doesn't like our company, and leaves slowly. It is a mighty sight how these animals moves. There is a wild pig walking by, but it is too far for the dragon for an attack.

Komodo dragon seen from aboveWhen everybody has shot their pictures, we move on. But at the next cabins there are three of them!! Again we admire them, even from above since they are lying under the veranda. We only notice the adder above us later. During the rest of the walk on the island, we see a deer and a few wild pigs, but no more dragons. This time of day, they are probably resting in the shade. The best place to spot them apparently is in the vicinity of people, where they feed on their garbage.

We are still satisfied when we climb back on board. Because of the low tide, however, the boat is stuck in the sand. All men get off to push, in which we finally succeed. We move along a colony of flying foxes, before we anchor near Komodo village.

The chickens we saved from drowning taste fine. But since the stock of beer on board is almost finished, one of the passengers joins the captain in a canoe to the village. We don't give him much chance in a muslim village, but indeed he returns with enough beer for everyone. It inspires the English passengers for a simulation of the horse races. A reporter starts turning cards on which the horses of every color run. We make bets and wear silly hats, just as they do in England. We have a great time, also because of the singing and dancing of the deaf and dumb crew member.

Robbed

Before we go to sleep we find out that we are robbed. From our wallet 200,000 rupiah is missing. We report it to the captain of the komodo dragon cruise, who calls his crew. Everybody is looking sad, and the captain talks about being a Muslim and taking his responsibility. He promises to pay us back, and so he does the next day. We are grateful, but wonder who was the thief on board. We don't think it was someone from another ship, since he would have taken everything.

After a quiet night and breakfast we arrive at Rinca island. Here are Komodo dragons too, and we also make a walk here. But again, the only dragons we see are in the vicinity of the people at the park headquarters.

Arriving at Flores

We make another snorkelling stop before we move to Flores. On our way there, however, the engine stops because it has run out of petrol. We stop another boat (one with tourists making the same trip) and get some petrol with the canoe. And then we arrive at Labuan Bajo on Flores. Although we have paid for another night on the boat, everybody decides to search for a hotel in the village, and so do we. In the evening, we do have a farewell diner with all the other passengers, while we enjoy a nice view over the bay.

The komodo dragon cruise backpacker style is a nice low budget adventure travel trip. The organization could have been a lot better, but on the other hand, that's the charm in adventure travel. We have no idea what similar trips the luxurious way are like, but wonder if it would be as much fun.



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