On what should have been day 1 of my boat trip, I woke up early again so when down to see if there was a sunrise again – no really sunshine as it was too cloudy, but it was beautiful with the clouds reflected in the low tide. What was particularly cool was that the sun was rising one side as the full moon set on other. It was a great start to the day.
I spent the morning relaxing by the pool (different pool view this morning but still in the shade – no sunburn for me 😂), before checking out and taking a taxi the short distance to the hotel next door to check in for the boat that is not happening. To kill some time, Harriet and I ended up back at the bar with my new favourite cocktail – the ‘C Cup’ by the pool.
At 2.30 the group of approximately 100 people boarded a bus, not for the boat, but to transfer us to a new hotel in Sanur, a different area of Bali, around 45 minutes away and by happy coincident, Harriet and I were sharing a room. We had plenty of time to kill, so we went off for a quick walk along the waterfront. This area is not as fancy as Nusa Dua but it was still nice with a number of independent bars and restaurants along the waterfront and not just those attached to a fancy hotel.
After a shower and changing in to my ‘first night dress’ we had a quick cocktail before meeting the group for the welcome meeting where we were introduced to some of the expedition staff who will be joining us on the trip. The company is a family company and in based out of Christchurch and almost the entire family including children are on this trip! But I am most excited about 3 of the staff – Neil Nightingale and Karen Bass, both used to hold senior positions within the BBC Natural History department and who count Sir David Attenborough as a close friend and are responsible for some of his most popular programmes, and Rod Morris, a Kiwi naturalist who is a well-known wildlife photographer and filmmaker – I want to be them when I grow up 😂!
I was lucky enough to sit next to Rod at dinner and enjoyed reminiscing about our previous trips to Komodo – mine was 15 years ago and his was around 25 years ago when he was making a documentary there.
It was disappointing to be waking up the next morning in another hotel room on Bali rather than on a ship, but my early morning walk had a lovely surprise of a volcano in the distance through the haze – we couldn’t see it at all the day before.
Today’s alternative activity was my idea of hell … 100 + people getting on buses to go on a day trip 🤦🏻♀️. The trip was taking us back to Ubud where Harriet and I had gone the day before and the first stop was the temple we had already been to, so we decided just to wander around the streets and buy more snake fruit (which I had become obsessed with the day before).
Next stop was a local village which may have been called St Asti Suweta Yowana or perhaps Dusun Lantangidung according to the sign. We were told that hardly any tourists come to this particular village and although we may have been the only people here at this time, it was clearly set up for tourists!! As with the old Balinese family compound we saw the previous day, these were more modern but set up in the same way and each compound had different artisans doing different crafts – weaving, silver making, rice cakes etc. More often than not I was distracted by the insects, plants, rice fields etc 🥴
For me, the highlight of the day was the beautiful lunch spot, at the Royal Pita Maha hotel, overlooking the spectacular Ayung river gorge. Surrounded by jungle and waterfalls, watching white water rafts coming down the river. The food was ok, but the setting was stunning. Each villa here had a view and its own pool – perhaps a nice spot for another trip lol.
From here we stopped in Ubud town and joined the throngs of tourists walking around the main street. I decided to avoid the tourist market and headed straight to the main sites in the area. Firstly, the Saraswati temple dedicated to honour the Hindu Goddess Saraswati – the goddess of learning, literature and art. It had a beautiful lotus pond and was a peaceful oasis despite being right on the Ubud main drag.
Just down the road, also on the main road was the Ubud Palace (Puri Saren Agung). Built in the 18th century by some of the finest artists in the country it used to be the official resident of the Ubud royal family. Today it is a very busy tourist attraction, but it is still definitely worth exploring.
Both sites were lovely but oh so hot, so I hit the most glorious of tourist spots, Starbucks (yes, they are everywhere) for iced coffee before we headed back to the hotel for a swim, pack bags, dinner and find out what we are doing tomorrow …
Day 3 of my Expedition cruise dawned with us still in Bali but finally about to leave. Not by boat but by plane …. With a 4.45am wake up, and breakfast before taking a bus to the airport. It was a surprisingly nice domestic terminal, and it was all very easy, cool and clean.
Apparently, the company had arranged a charter flight, but it fell through at the last minute as there were already two scheduled flights going to Flores during the day that were not full, so we had to use those. I was luckily on the first Batik Air flight (as were most people) and we almost took over the plane. I was also lucky enough to get a window seat, so I got the views I missed arriving the dark. I was so glad to be leaving Bali and was finally feeling like the trip was starting. I definitely did not pay all this money to sit in a fancy hotel in Bali – I could actually have done that for much cheaper if I had wanted that kind of holiday.
The flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo in Flores, took us over a number of islands and a spectacular volcano and its crater lake which accordingly to maps.me was Ranjani (Offline maps.me working wonders to identify landmarks). We also flew over Komodo island – which appeared much larger than I remembered from the air. It was also very arid and almost treeless, such a contrast from lush Ubud/Bali. Also in contrast to Bali is the culture – people here on Flores are predominately Catholic and Muslim which also lends to different architecture (not that we saw much of it).
Komodo International Airport in Labuan Bajo was much bigger than first time I was here over 15 years ago, as was the town itself. We had a couple of stops on the way to the hotel, firstly a 20 minute stop at the local fruit and vegetable market. Not surprisingly it was smelly and hot, but the inside part was much cooler and posher. Despite the whistlestop visit (and the 100 other people with me), it is always interesting to see the local markets and what is for sale. This was followed by lunch at a restaurant with beautiful harbour views.
Sadly, there were no activities scheduled for the afternoon and those we suggested (having done brief google searches) were knocked back. So instead of exploring some of the island of Flores, I spent the afternoon chilling by the ocean front pool and then joined Rod, my new favourite naturalist on a short nature walk around the hotel gardens. Not a terrible way to spend the afternoon, but I would have preferred to have been out exploring the island.
On a brighter note, the day ended with a lovely dinner on the beach, with the backdrop of an amazing sky as the sunset – and volcanos in the distance – photos just don’t do it justice. After a briefing about the upcoming days, I had high hopes for things to come.