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Trip Report Komodo Island and Flores

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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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