INDONESIA: Flores Island – Next Door to Komodo Island

Posted by on Mar 2, 2019 in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

With only 2,000 inhabitants Komodo Island is also most notably home to the largest lizard in the world, the Komodo dragon. The people of the island are descendants of former convicts who were exiled here. In addition, the island is a popular destination for scuba diving which is the primary motivation for my visit.

After spending five days on the island, I will embark on a liveaboard for five days of diving around the island which will also include a visit with the Komodo dragons.

I finally made it here after a canceled flight. My hotel was understanding and didn’t charge me for the night I missed. The people of Indonesia have been warm and inviting even in Jakarta.

LABUAN BAJO AIRPORT –  PICTURES OF KOMODO DRAGONS ADORN THE ARRIVAL BUILDING

KOMODO LODGE – This nicely appointed air-conditioned room is only $39 per night. It’s large, has a safe, and a nice sized desk for blogging. Believe me, you are going to want AC if you’re staying in Labuan Bajo. Out on the dive boats in the breeze, it’s not an issue but back on land it can be quite sweltering indeed, and you’re going to want to take refuge in your cool room after a balmy night on the town.

AS IN MOST PARTS OF SE ASIA FLOWERS GROW LIKE MAD HERE

DIVERS PARADISE KOMODO – Upon arrival, I hit the ground running and went in search of dive operations. I was drawn to the aesthetics of this place and took a gamble which thankfully paid off. They were very nice and ran a tight ship which I embarked upon at 7:30 the next morning.

TIS – MANAGER

LE PIRATE BAR

YON – This is my dive guide, Yon who was excellent at finding turtles, mantas, and a cornucopia of other marine life that I might have otherwise missed. The crew handled everything including setting up our gear and changing our tanks between dives. The all-day dive trip which included equipment, lunch, and three dives was a mere $106.00.

THE SKIPPER GUIDES US OUT OF THE HARBOR PAST SMALL ISLANDS

It’s a two hour trip to our first dive site, so there’s a place up top with mattresses and pillows to catch up on sleep.

THE TRAVEL ZEALOT IS READY FOR SOME EPIC DIVING

 

 

                              DIVE DAY #1

Green Hard Coral

I left my camera behind on the first dive. The abundance of corals and the pristine nature of the reef system was astounding. It was nice to enjoy and wash the bad taste left in my mouth from last year’s diving debacle. I will be returning to that incredible ecosystem again with camera in hand to show you that there is a place on earth that still harbors vast quantities of healthy coral with marine life galore.

 

ANGELFISH

 

A COUPLE OF SIX BANDED ANGELFISH LEAVE A CLEANING STATION MANNED BY THE FISH ON THE LOWER LEFT

 

NEMO ON THE LEFT – SPECKLED HIND ON THE RIGHT

FAB RED SPONGE

WHITE SPOTTED PUFFERFISH

TURTLE TUCKED UNDER A LEDGE – A HUGE SWEET LIPS SHARES THE SPACE

GREEN MORAY EEL

LIONFISH

EMPEROR ANGELFISH

GIANT CLAM

EMPEROR ANGELFISH – I can’t get enough of these stylish fish.

Two large fish stop for a gill cleaning. You can see a small fish doing the job. It’s a truly symbiotic relationship.

All of a sudden the current really started raging, and I hung onto the divemaster’s fin until he secured a line onto a piece of dead coral so we wouldn’t be swept away. It was a super day of diving starting out with vast coral gardens where we encountered seven or eight turtles.

Then we moved on to Manta Point where we saw at least eight mantas and the cutest baby eagle ray you ever did see. It was the first juvenile that the divemaster or I had ever seen. Yon brought us in contact with double the number of mantas and turtles than the other divers had seen.

We went to dinner at the fish market and had lobster and a five-pound grouper to celebrate our success as well as the unique encounter with the baby eagle ray. Yon had never tasted lobster so it turned out to be a special day of firsts. Although a little intimidated by the crustacean and the dangers of cholesterol, he succumbed to my encouragement. He ended up liking it after all. I mean who doesn’t like lobster. It’s just the price that people hate.

Our one-pound lobster was only seven dollars! Our grouper and lobster dinner came to a grand total of $17.00. There was so much grouper that we had to share the last few bites with a hungry cat who was happy to help us out. It would have been shameful to waste any of that mouth-watering fish. I fully plan on returning for more tomorrow night. It will be my third night in a row, and it fits right in with my high protein diet.

I am proud to announce that I have dropped twenty pounds over a two month period and I have managed to keep it off. I’m no longer a F.O.B. (Fat Old Bastard). I could do with losing another ten, but I’m happy with where I’m at. The good news is that I know a proven method for how to take it off if need be.

FISH MARKET – Carts like these line the water’s edge, and you pick a fish, haggle the price, and end up with a hell of a meal. The big grouper we chose is already on the grill.

OUR GROUPER DURING GRILLING – DAMN TASTY I CAN TELL YOU

NEXT DAY – In search of something different for lunch.

THE PIRATE – I found this cheerful looking place and took a chance on the chicken quesadillas.

CHICKEN QUESADILLAS – They were as good as any I’ve had back in San Diego so I got a second order.

MY NEMESIS –  There is a mosque near to my hotel and I have to contend with being woken up by their goddamned call to prayer at 5 AM. Seriously, I don’t go to their houses with a sack full of cats and beat on it in the middle of the night so why do they have to disturb me with their insufferable caterwauling five times a day. Can’t they just get a special call to prayer alarm clock and leave me out of it? There are even cheap wristwatches on which you can set multiple alarms. It’s like having a bad neighbor who plays their shitty music too loud all day and all hours of the night.

At least the Mormons wait until sunup to come knocking at your door, then you have a choice as to whether you want to hear the good news or not.

There aren’t too many interesting buildings in this rather shabby little town, but this is an exception with that fishtail element protruding from the roof. There’s a restaurant on the second floor which usually has very few customers which is probably due to the fact that the fish market is fifty meters away.

SHABBY CHIC

ONE OF MY ARTSY SHOTS

CHRISTIANITY – Another religion I’m not particularly fond of, but at least they aren’t going out of their way to wake me up in the middle of the night. At any rate, even without these backward and counterproductive philosophies, I’m sure that people would find a way to ruin the planet without the help of religion. Our selfishness, greed, and stupidity continue to propel humanity towards a sixth major extinction event. The difference is that this one will be man-made. What an admirable accomplishment.

BUT HEY, LET’S GO DIVING!

Here’s that reef where I left my camera behind before, but I brought it along this time so here are some images to enjoy. The commentary will be coming shortly.

 

 

                                       DIVE DAY #2

BLUE-SPOTTED STINGRAY – Check out the two semi-invisible flounders on either side of him looking for a little protection.

One of the flounders exposes himself when he climbs up on one the stingray’s fins.

JELLYFISH

ARRIVING AT THE REEFS

AND THE COPIOUS CORAL BEGINS…

A COUPLE OF BUTTERFLYFISH SWIM PAST A SEA OF HARD CORALS

 

 

HEALTHY ABUNDANT HARD CORALS

MIXTURE OF HARD CORAL INTERMINGLED WITH LIGHT COLORED SOFT CORAL

 

THERE ARE TURTLES ALL OVER THIS REEF SYSTEM

 

I SAW TEN TURTLES ON THIS PARTICULAR DIVE

 

 

 

 

Okay, so I’m getting a little carried away with the coral shots, but you have to understand that I saw so much dead and dying coral last year. I needed to record this to remind to lift my spirits and remind myself that there are still good places to dive out there in the world. I already plan to return to Bali and Komodo next year.

 

 

THE SCUBA ZEALOT – I was having serious problems with my GoPro on this dive due to unfamiliarity with all the nuances of its operation. I had somehow put it in a mode where it was taking time-lapse photos, and I ended up with about 650 unintended shots to discard. This image was a result of that and was taken as I was checking the readout on the front of the camera. Somehow, I managed to put things right so I didn’t miss any good shots. The next day, I gave my instruction manual a good read to prevent another panic, and I made the same mistake again the next day, but this time was able to remedy the problem toute suite.

 

 

 

 

A bigeye fish stops by for his selfie.

HEALTHY STAG HORN CORAL – HAVING SEEN SO MUCH DEAD SPECIMENS ELSEWHERE, THIS WAS A JOY

CLOWNFISH & CHILD

 

DIAGONAL BANDED SWEETLIPS

 

I WAS SO FOCUSED ON THE THE TURTLE ATOP THE CORAL THAT I MISSED HIS BIG FRIEND ON THE RIGHT

 

TURTLES JUST SEEM TO LITTER THIS REEF SYSTEM

 

A TRULY HANDSOME FELLOW

 

BATFISH

 

STAGHORN CORAL

 

 

CLOWNFISH IN ANEMONE

RED BRAIN CORAL

 

 

 

A FASCINATING COMBINATION OF HARD AND SOFT CORAL

LIONFISH

 

 

 

 

 

IT JUST GOES ON

AND ON

AND ON

AND ON

A PHOTOGRAPHER GETS THE LAST SHOT OF THE DAY

AFTER SURFACING FROM OUR LAST DIVE WE ARE TREATED TO ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL SIGHT

Afterward, we hit the upper deck for a nap on the way back to port while dreaming of turtles and mantas as we go. I really love the design of the Indonesian dive boats. After being woken up by my local mosque at five, this compartment comes in very handy on the 2-hour ride to and from the reef.

For those of you who would like to experience the overwhelming beauty of a healthy coral reef teeming with marine life, I recommend hurrying up and getting a dive certification. After last year’s exposure to worldwide degradation, it is clear that many of our reef systems are on the verge of collapse.

There are plenty of tropical paradises to choose from, but very few present a happy picture once you get underwater. If you have children within diving age take them along for the ride because they might not have another opportunity. I can’t state this more emphatically. Time is running out, people. The Great Barrier Reef is half dead due to two major bleaching events in three years. The foremost expert on the area gives it ten years before that whole ecosystem is wiped out.

The late, great Arthur C. Clarke who penned “2001: A Space Odyssey” was a serious dive enthusiast. He spent the last 30 years of his life on the south coast of Sri Lanka and opened the first dive shop/school in his home town of Hikkaduwa. He is known to have said that diving was the closest he was going to get to space travel. This is something I have been saying for years. In the deep blue you are weightless in an alien world and relying upon a breathing apparatus for your survival. Finally, you are surrounded with astonishing creatures many of whom would be right at home in a Sci-Fi movie.

Finally, there is an element that he didn’t mention which is the spiritual component. When you dive, you regulate your breathing to save your air and this essentially simulates many meditation practices. The main difference is that it is not tedious and there is plenty to focus your mind upon save the banal darkness of traditional meditation. Add in the fact that you are physically connected to your environment and all its inhabitants by a liquid matrix which makes you a participant as well as an observer. This completes the package and often renders its practice quite transformational.

I’m a bit of a heretic wherein about 150 of my dives have been by myself which is a taboo. I am a certified divemaster and I always carried a Spare-Air in case of equipment failure. Of course, Navy Seals are trained in solo diving and frankly, a shitty buddy can drown you as quickly as assist you. My solo dives have often comprised the most magical minutes I have spent upon this Earth regardless of the stigma surrounding its practice.

There is clearly no recreational sport that has so much to offer. You have two lives to live. Don’t miss the one under the sea. Two-thirds of the world’s surface is covered by water. If you missed what’s happening in the oceans, you’ve missed out on much of what the world has to offer. What are you waiting for?

 

                                            DIVE DAY #3

CHOCOLATE CHIP SEA STAR

 

 

 

BUTTERFLYFISH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLUE SPOTTED RIBBON TAILED RAY

 

 

 

GIANT MANTA RAY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A GIANT MANTA STOPS BY FOR A CLEANING

 

 

 

 

TITAN TRIGGERFISH

 

 

MORE GIANT MANTA RAYS

 

 

BROADCLUB CUTTLEFISH

 

 

 

YELLOW TUBE SPONGE

BATFISH

 

GREEN TUBE SPONGE AND ORANGE BRAIN CORAL

 

 

GREEN MORAY EEL

LEATHER CORAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                             DIVE DAY #4

BATA BULONG DIVE SITE – The visibility is much better than on my first visit here when I left my camera behind.

NAPOLEON WRASSE – AKA Maori Wrasse – This is a small male.

GREEN MORAY EEL – A moray eel pokes his head out of the rocks.

ORANGE WOW

 

PAIR OF BUTTERFLYFISH

 

BLUEFIN TREVALLY

 

EMPEROR ANGELFISH

 

 MAP PUFFERFISH

SIX BANDED ANGELFISH

NAPOLEON WRASSE

BUTTERFLYFISH

TABLE CORAL

SMALL GROUPER

 

CLOWNFISH

GIANT MANTA RAY

 

GIANT MANTA RAY

 

 

CLOWNFISH & ANEMONE

MOORISH IDOL

 

 

 

SOFT CORAL

 

CLOWN TRIGGERFISH

SOFT CORAL

 

HERE COME THE ORANGE SOFT CORALS

HERE COME THE ORANGE SOFT CORALS

HERE COME THE ORANGE SOFT CORALS

IT’S ALL RIGHT

SWEET LIPS IN A SPONGE

SPONGE

 

 

ORANGE SOFT CORAL

 

BATFISH

PURPLE SOFT CORAL

ORANGE SOFT CORAL

ORANGE LINED TRIGGERFISH – HIDING IN SPONGE

ORANGE LINED TRIGGERFISH

WARTY SEA STAR

BLUE SPOTTED PUFFERFISH

ORANGE SOFT CORAL – ONE LAST MAGNIFICENT SPECIMAN

10 Comments

  1. Aaron
    March 8, 2019

    Thanks for you tips in the Gelato cafe!

  2. Nick C
    March 8, 2019

    I was enjoying that until you went FMJ.

    Ease it out of your heart mate, as many on these islands probably have already. Scary place yeah? Genocide on the SE islands? Fuck mate, I’m Australian – Next door to it. Relax.

    Lovely pics btw.

  3. The Travel Zealot
    March 8, 2019

    G’DAY NICK,
    I go off on a rant once in a while, but I’m not nearly as emotionally invested in it as the verbiage would indicate. Kind of breaks the mood in the wrong place. Thanks for the heads up. I’ve been watching too many DVD videos! What part of Australia are you from? I had a great time there last year in Cairns, Sydney, and Melbourne. Loved them all. More pictures to come on this post by the way. I’m here in Komodo for four more days.

  4. The Travel Zealot
    March 8, 2019

    Hi Aaron,
    Thanks for stopping by and saying hello. It was nice talking with you two and swapping travel stories in the AC. Have a wonderful finish to your adventures. Happy Trails, John.

  5. Nick C
    March 9, 2019

    Cheers TZ, I rant a bit myself after a few – actually came back to apologise (I know where you’re coming from). But yeah, this site is actually very good and it seemed somewhat out of place. Tis’ your baby though (:

    Over about 30 years I’ve lived and worked in several remote areas of Au, often hundreds of km’s from most anything else. There’s amazing stuff out in the bush that hardly anyone ever sees – particularly with my last stint in the East Kimberly region (Nth WA). When I was a teen I actually lived at the base of Uluru (Ayers Rock) for a while. I could go on, but as you know one needs to go there to really experience it. I am currently back in my early childhood country town in South Australia, a nice little coastal jobbie near Adelaide. If this mortgage ever get’s sorted I might venture further out into the world again – Once upon a time I chased an older lady to Germany when in my young 20’s (about 15 years ago), but that’s all I’ve done internationally. It was pretty awesome besides the ‘extra curricular’ wotnot, and I would like to get that travel spark going again (:

  6. The Travel Zealot
    March 11, 2019

    No Worries Nick,
    I actually find a little feedback helpful since I don’t get any of it. It’s part and parcel of solo travel and having a travel blog that can sometimes drift into a stream of consciousness. Currently, the blog is more of a travelogue and personal journal. Being on my own, there’s nobody to let me know when there’s spinach on my teeth. I’m not sure exactly what you were talking about, but it gave me pause that I can tend to shoot myself in the foot by killing a good mood that I have established by verbalizing the bug up my ass.

    These are things I have to start thinking about since I’m going to take this site to the next level in 2020, and frankly there is no room for some of the things I have previously featured in the site. So thanks for the heads up so I can start to become more self-aware and cognizant of potential errors. Then again, I may choose to go off the rails depending on where this thing takes me. I’m also seriously considering doing a YouTube channel as well.

    During my next trip to Australia, I’ll be seeking out the wilderness like Ayers Rock and the like. I’ll be looking for your advice on some of my travel arrangements. I definitely plan on another trip to Melbourne. Do you ever make your way to Melbourne? Is there anything interesting in the neighborhood of Adelaide?

  7. Jason
    March 11, 2019

    FMJ=full metal jacket. Had to look it up because I had a feeling it was going to be funny. kubrick also did Space odyssey which John mentioned in part of the rant. John is right to appreciate the feedback. Its hard to know what is resonating with your viewership with dolts like me chiming in with a “great pics” “really enjoyed it” after you put in 10 hours of photography and commentary. But of course I really do appreciate the ride along across the world. And please do not stop ranting about bad food, smelly hostels, scam artist, your own pain and suffering and really really annoying people because it is fucking hilarious. Humor is the linchpin in any great rant!

  8. The Travel Zealot
    March 12, 2019

    Jason,
    I trimmed off the political and toned down the religion, but I kept all of the environmental concerns intact because it’s important and pertinent to the subject matter. I really do want to stress the need for people to get out and see this beautiful stuff before it’s gone. That bit is more of a public service announcement than a rant, and something that people who love nature shouldn’t miss.

  9. Danilla
    March 24, 2019

    Wow, the pictures you’re getting underwater are phenomenal. Is it considered one of the best places for Scuba diving? I don’t think I’ve seen anything so colorful and diverse.

  10. The Travel Zealot
    March 24, 2019

    Danny,
    It’s not the very best but pretty damn good. I will be returning there as well as Bali. Their diving prices are phenomenal.

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