The day had finally come for me to cross to my final Indonesian destination: the Catholic island of Flores. The name, which means “flowers,” and the unexpected religion, come from the Portuguese colonizers. It seemed so different from the other islands of Indonesia I’d visited, I knew I’d have to go!

But I still had to get there. In this age of Google we want to plan, book, and verify everything online before we go. Traveling in Indonesia is a bit of a leap of faith, because Google does not help. There’s no information on ferries. There are no hotels to book. And the poorly-researched Indonesia Lonely Planet is useless.

But this isn’t really a problem. I traveled South East twelve years ago, before we Googled everything on our smartphones. I relied on locals for information, and things always turned out fine, even when there were hiccups.

My first view of Komodo National Park.
My first view of Komodo National Park.

Just Roll With It

The hiccup in this case was contradictory information. The ferry leaves from Sapa, a two hour ride from Bima. A contact in Labuan Bajo said it left at 9, but the guys in my hotel in Bima said it left at 7. I played it safe, getting up 3:30 am and driving in the dark.

I arrived at the ticket office before it opened, and there was no schedule posted, so it was a bit confusing. A guy who spoke perfect English offered to open the gate and escort me onto the ferry. But the locals were just waiting patiently. I waited with them, and eventually the ticket office opened, and I bought my ticket.

It turned out the ferry left at 10! I was annoyed that I could have slept more, but I still got where I was going.

The ferry ride was long, boring, and hot. But we passed the lush, green islands of Komodo National Park, and I knew visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site would be worth it. Along with Kelimutu, and Wae Rebo village, Komodo was one of my main goals of this trip.

In Labuan Bajo harbour.
In Labuan Bajo harbour.

On The Frontier

The port town of Labuan Bajo had a frontier feel to it, reminiscent of Coron Town in the Philippines. The main part of town was only two one-way streets. The part on the water was lined with cheap hotels, dive shops, and shacks that served as booking offices.

After my drive across Sumbawa, it was a bit shocking to see so many bule walking around!

Labuan Bajo is not overdeveloped like parts of Bali, but it has become a popular place to visit recently because of the diving and access to the islands of Komodo. Tourism is still in its early stages, and facilities are basic. But I wonder how long that will last?

I secured a place to stay, then had to organize my trip to Komodo National Park. There are two islands: Rincca, which is close, and Komodo, which is five hours away. I wanted to spend the night so I could visit both islands.

This was not my tour boat.
This was not my tour boat.

Organizing a boat trip reminded me of Coron because it was just as confusing. Different operators offer tours to different places at different prices. There’s no information available online, so it’s impossible to know how much to pay.

Adding to the confusion was the fact that I had arrived on a Catholic island the day before Good Friday. The operators all wanted to go to church, so were pressuring me to make a decision.

I picked an operator that had a tour I could join and didn’t seem to be ripping me off because I liked the guide. Since tomorrow was Good Friday, the park would be closed. They would change the tour to snorkeling tomorrow, then the next day we would visit Komodo in the morning, and Rinca in the afternoon.

Tomorrow I would accomplish one of the three big goals of the trip!

A ship in the harbor.
A ship in the harbor.
I'm Terry, former cubicle-dweller, and now traveler, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur. I quit my job in 2014 to travel to US national parks, then to South East Asia. I write about independent, flexible, long-term, budget travel. Sign up to my newsletter to get the latest news on what I'm up to. I hope you join me on my trek around the world.

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