Komodo Island and Flores

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May 31st, 2017, 10:10 AM
  #1
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Komodo Island and Flores

Since a few people have expressed interest in visiting Komodo/or Flores I thought I'd post my recent experiences (not really a trip report). This was part of a longer birding tour set up by Ecosafari Indonesia

http://ecosafariindonesia.com/

Quite honestly, I'm not sure I recommend this company as a travel agency but I can't be sure that the issue was with Eco Safari and not the Birder's Rest folks who helped organized the tour. However if you book just the Komodo/Flores portion with them, and book your own flights it should be okay.

To get to Komodo, you can fly from Bali DPS on Garuda Air (recommended). There are probably other airlines but Garuda is 5 star all the way.

We took the first morning's flight.

Hotel...Bajo Komodo Ecolodge, this is now owned by an Indonesian national and the maintenance has improved over comments from a few years ago. I guess I would recommend it, check pricing on on Hotels.com and Expedia. It isn't in town, but a mile or so outside with a location on an unswimmable beach (great sunset views) in an area that is surrounded by mangrove swamp and is guite buggy. The onsite restaurant was good. The rate includes the pickup from the airport.

There are no rental cars in Flores. It isn't even clear that there are taxis other than unofficial ones. But I was told there is a shuttle bus into the town area. Didn't see it though. You would probably want to book at least the first night's stay ahead of time so that you have an airport pickup.

When you arrive at the airport there is a desk for tours to Komodo...this is a large group tour which can include up to 24 people on the boat...for about $100US pp and leaves every day but early..like 6am in the morning, so you can't fly in and take that particular tour the same day.

Ecolodges contracted out the land travel to a local agent, Fitri Rodja. She I believe was the one that arranged the wooden boat that we cruised to Komodo Island on, as well as set up our guiding services on Komodo Island with the park guide. On our arrival day we stopped at a dive shop in town to gather snorkeling gear for Pink Beach (recommended). There are a lot of dive shops and travel agencies in town.

We left the hotel at 4:15 am and departed the dock at 4:45 am. It took about 3 hrs to reach the island..The first hour of the cruise was in darkness and we watched 6am sunrise while cruising among the islands between LBJ and Komodo. Breakfast was onboard. The reason for the early departure was because the anticipated current on the return. I think we left Pink Beach around 1 or 1:30 pm (will have to check my photo times).

At the Komodo Island you check in at the park HQ (which is a short walk from the dock, passing thru a vendor's market). You are assigned a park guide, who gives a short briefing. Then you get to chose your trail..short, medium or long (we did medium which goes up a hill and back down).

The dragons were mostly at an artificial watering hole near the start of the tour. They have cleared vegetation away from the hole so that you can see and photograph the dragons. The season we went (mid May) was before the start of breeding season. We may have seen an early attempt. There was a little snorting, food stomping but no wrestling. As it's a drier time of year it seems that you get a lot of sightings, for the time we were there we saw maybe a dozen adults. The younger ones might be sighted in the underbrush slinking away. There are comments on tripadvisor that complain about the artificiaal setup. We also saw a number of Timor deer and a wild boar. Good birding (probably the best place for Yellow crested Cockatoo which is Critically Endangered). There were groups from a cruise ship coming through as we were there but the Park service staggers the tours and we weren't on a schedule so had some "alone time" between groups.

You can haggle for souvenirs at the end of the tour (I think I paid 100,000 IDR for a small medium quality dragon which I named after one of the tour participants). He bought a larger good quality one for a bit over 400000 IDR. Strangely, the magnets are at 50000 IDR and prices seemed firm on those.

On the return we had an hour at Pink Beach snorkeling. The water wasn't crystal clear but despite some coral bleaching the fish were good.

On return to the dock about 5 ish we had to climb across several other boats and balance on the prow, taking a big step to reach land.. If you don't have sure footing it will unnerve you.

We spent several days on Flores in the highlands around Ruteng birding. The company couldn't get us into the Susteran Monastery...again no explanation offered. We stayed at Hotel Sindha in Ruteng, no atmosphere but functional with a good restaurant..food made to order (30 minute prep time so we learned to order in advance). It takes a LONG time to travel around Flores even on paved roads eg (4hours LBJ to Ruteng). Rice Harvest was underway which was interesting to watch. One of our stops was at Lake Ramanese, another toward the Pagal area, where we didn't see a lot of birds but attracted a group of kids and a motorcyclist who wanted a selfie with the gringos..or whatever we are called in Indonesia. The hotel has an advertising poster that tours can be arranged from there to view the spider rice fields. I was a little disappointed we didn't make time to see those..considering all the other time wasted in transfers. Bah humbug.

The weather up in the highlands was pleasant and a welcome respite after Borneo and the LBJ coastline.

Transfer back to the airport from the hotel takes little time, just as well since the breakfast was late.

I was happy to be on my own in Bali, and the birding guide we used offered to drop me at my Ubud hotel..glad I tipped him!

BTW I stayed at Sri Ratih cottages in Ubud. About $70 a night for a suite room with included breakfast, and in room wifi that works. Walkable from town if you wish. No rice field view but not very far away. Good and reasonably priced restaurant and room service. Recommended. Also enjoyed Bali Bird Walks with Su.
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May 31st, 2017, 10:30 AM
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BTW I do have Fitris phone number +6285253562926.
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May 31st, 2017, 12:10 PM
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Thanks for your report. We've only had a few reports from Flores and Komodo over the years, so I'm pleased to see this one.
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May 31st, 2017, 03:36 PM
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Thanks for the report. Did you have enough time on Komodo? Could you have stayed overnight and if so would it have been worth it?
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May 31st, 2017, 05:41 PM
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Most likely you could have an overnight on a boat, might be worthwhile if you wanted to visit Rinca or do more snorkeling. Just to see the dragons, no I wouldn't I believe there is a village on Komodo but have no idea about land accoms..probably very simple.
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May 31st, 2017, 08:38 PM
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Thank you so much for posting, mlgb. I was planning to go to Komodo next year while in Indonesia, but after reading about your experience, I may reconsider. The experience sounds less than ideal--I thought that one could see the dragons in the wild. However, your boat ride over sounds like fun, as does your sighting of other species.

I have also heard that Garuda is the best airline in Indonesia. They are part of the One World Alliance (with American Airlines), so they have to meet certain standards.

What other places did you visit in Indonesia? This birding trip sounds fascinating. What did you think of Bali?
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Jun 1st, 2017, 10:03 AM
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California Lady, I stayed in Ubud Bali for 3 nights after the tour was over and liked it. I was at Sri Ratih, which is on a road above the Blanco Museum and a great price for relative luxury, went to the Legong and Barong performance at the Ubud Palace, window shopped at many of the batik and other specialty textile stores (such as Threads of Life and Ikat Batik), went to the Monkey Forest, and did the Bali Bird Walk which went through some of the rice paddies . You could spend a week around Ubud and not get bored, or just relax..the massages are cheap! I enjoyed looking at all the Balinese Hindu temples, and the weather was not as humid or hot as elsewhere during my tour, so it felt tolerable. May would be a good month to visit..it's between the monsoons and before the main tourism season. There were a lot of tourists and traffic even then.

We also went to the Sekonyer River from through Tanjung Puting NP, by flying from Jakarta into Pangkalan Bun (the better option from CGK is Kalstar, not Trigana). The usual way of touring is a wooden klotok boat, with scheduled stops at orang feeding stations such as Camp Leakey or Camp Pasalat. We stayed at Rimba Lodge which I think is not well maintained, and don't recommend, other than the rooms are A/C..You could have a good tour with two or three nights. We did see the desired wild orangutans along the river (May is a good month for fruiting and hence you see more along the river and fewer at the feeding stations)Also we saw the entertaining proboscis monkeys, langurs, gibbons, and macaques as well as hornbills. When the boats are moving it's comfortable since there is a breeze, but it can be very humid and hot when you are stationary.

We also had a few nights in Puncak to go to Gunung Gede Pangrango NP and Cibodas, where the birding was good although the traffic was horrible.... I think more tourists fly into Yogyakarta than CGK but the tour routing put us in Jakarta a few times.

I flew to Indonesia on Singapore Airlines, and highly recommend, even in cattle class. I did another report on that.

Note..there are other place to see orangutans but because my tour was set up via Eco Lodges, we were at Rimba Lodge (There is an large male orang who hangs out near Rimba, he showed up at the dock as we returned on our final afternoon...made all the mosquitos and mediocre food worthwhile).
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Jun 1st, 2017, 08:56 PM
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Thank you again, mlgb. I just looked at the Sri Ratih, and it's inexpensive, and highly rated. I'm glad you enjoyed Bali. I am fearful of going, since so many people go for the beaches, but you and many posters hear have raved about the other attributes there, including the dance and the beauty.
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 01:00 AM
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Poster marmot can perhaps help if you want to give some specs and perhaps include time at a more peaceful beach in addition to Ubud or another interior location. I would start a new post giving your time frame.

I didn't do much planning since all I really wanted was a few days of rest after my tour and to include some cultural sights since we were so nature focused. You will see lots of recs for private drivers if you want to do some day tours from Ubud by taxi, not very expensive.

There are also several art museums and galleries in Ubud if that interests you, and some nice jewelry shops, you can go to towns that specialize in different crafts, Really lots to do other than Aussie beach hangouts!
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 01:17 AM
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Great report mlgb. Always good to hear about places less visited. Following up on your previous comments re mozzies and Flores have been reading up on the Dengue outbreaks there - doesn't sound great!
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 01:54 AM
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Our MD had said Dengue and malaria were worse in Flores than Borneo, which surprised me. I was religious with DEET, and seconded his request that we discontinue the dusk excursion after half an hour, with the mosquitos attacking thru clothing.

I'd be interested to know if there are any locations given for the outbreak. The construction of new settlements in the lowland savannah outside of LBJ, seemed like a bad idea.
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 01:40 PM
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BTW do you have any links on that crellston. I tried some of the international websites such as WHO an CDC and can't find anything recent. Bali, Thailand and Vietnam have dengue also!
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Jun 8th, 2017, 09:55 PM
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Have you been diving there? As I know it's truly amazing dive out there.
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Jun 9th, 2017, 07:11 AM
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We only had time to do the Pink Beach snorkel. Very good..like Hanauma Bay 30 years ago... For those who dive it's probably wonderful.get there while there is still some coral left.
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Jun 9th, 2017, 04:17 PM
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I stumbled across a thread, I think initially on TA, re dengue on Flores and that led me to an expat forum where it was discussed in more detail. I haven't been able to find them again but do recall that many people there had contract dengue and were comparing symptoms etc!

A friends daughter got dengue in Thailand a couple of years ago and was really ill with it for along time.

Dengue seems to be all over Asia these days and I am surprised I haven't had it, given the time I have spent in the tropic. Having tried just about every type of repellent going, none seem to work for me and I still get bitten. I read somewhere that 75% of people don't show any symptoms and once you have had it you have immunity from that particular strain - perhaps that has happened to me?
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Jun 10th, 2017, 04:25 PM
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Dengue is everywhere these days it seems, not just Asia. The health boards focus on malaria since it's easier to prevent with proper netting and cure in many cases. But apparently there is work on a dengue vaccine as well as now that there's also Zika more attention on what to do about the Aedes mosquitos.

I think most dengue cases are mild but that the second infection is likely to hit harder.

I wonder if the expat experience reflects more extended exposure and not necessarily what the risk for a short term tourist is.

I also read that mosquitos like people who drink beer...Whuwoah!
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