The Komodo Boat Trip: Lombok to Flores

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Forty of more backpackers stood on the deck, our names being called out like we were being assigned teams at recess.

I immediately regretted our decision.

There were constantly whispers about Gili T of the Komodo boat trip from Lombok to Flores, and every so often I would come across a traveler who had done it or known someone who did it or just wanted to give it a try. I heard a million and one “It’s amazing!” remarks, but I heard very little about the actual boat itself.

Roberto and I needed to be in Flores for our scuba diving live aboard that started on 6 May, and he proposed we make our way to this eastern island by doing the Komodo boat trip. I was somewhat hesitant, mainly because we would have only a day or so between our arrival in Flores to when we would get back on another boat to cruise through what I thought would be the same islands; I was worried it would be the same exact trip and would be a waste of money, but in the end I decided to join him.

As we stood there at the dock in Bangsal on Lombok, I knew that the same exact “What the hell did I get myself into thought” had crossed Roberto’s mind when we laid eyes on the floating wooden shack that would be our home for the next four days. It looked like someone had taken it from the depths of the sea floor, and it looked rigid, small and just plain unbecoming. It also looked like if a storm was brewing, there would be little chance of survival. A similar boat was docked just in front of it.

Wait, I am so confused. This can not be it, I whispered to Roberto. Please this can not be it. 

I think my brain was still operating on New Zealand luxury.

[ The Trip ]

We booked our Komodo boat trip with Eddie from Flash Internet, and it cost a grand total of 1.6 million Rp, or around 150 USD, for four days with everything included.

This meant six large bottles of water per person, three meals daily, snorkel gear, access to Komodo and Rinca islands, and your bed. What is not included is the cost for your camera to Komdo Island or Rinca Island, which is around 5 USD, and the optional shower you can take at one of the islands. (I opted not to.)

The boat leaves twice weekly: every Wednesday and every Saturday from the port town of Bangsal on Lombok.

Our trip would see us travel throughout four days, three nights from Bangsal on Lombok to LabuanBajo on Flores, with one of the major highlights being the stop off at Komodo Island to see the Komodo Dragons.

Along the way, we would stop at a handful of islands, including Sumbawa, Laba, Komodo and Rina, and snorkel and swim our way around Indonesia.



[ The Boat ]

Oh, the boat. Where to even start?


There was a child-sized front deck area and then a relatively larger middle section that was shaded and had uninviting wooden benches running along either side of it.



The captain’s area sat right in the middle of it all, and beside it ran a narrow passage with a low ceiling that made me incredibly grateful that I am only 5’4.


Just above the captain was the “second floor”, which was covered over by tarps that made me think of ads that like you would see on a billboard. This is where we would sleep for the next three nights: an conglomerate of mattress puzzle-fitted together on the floor. I left Roberto in charge of getting us good beds that would give us easy access to the ladders that led down to the decks but gave us enough room to not feel like we were participating in a giant orgy.


Alternatively, located in the back passageway en route to the toilet were two “cabins” – basically a hole cut into the wall with a mattress stuffed inside. There were a couple of girls who had to sleep in there simply because they put too many people on our boat, and they said that their nights smelled of boat engine fuel and were teeming with ants and other bugs.

The kitchen, a simple and modest area with nothing but one burner, was located at the back of the boat and was as hot as the sun. Every so often I would head back there to take a good sunset view, and I would wonder how the hell the cooks would survive in there given the heat.



There was the one bathroom in the back of the boat – one bathroom for 23 backpackers, and no, there was no shower. I guess in a way this was not terribly problematic given how much we would be swimming through the boat trip, but either way this was going to be four fun-filled days of feeling fresh to death and looking our absolute best.

The safety measures of the boat? One lifeboat that could fit possibly four people tops, and a clutter of lifejackets stuffed every which way. I am not sure we would have survived a shipwreck.

Within the first few hours the complaints started. Because Indonesia sits on the equator, it is forever sweltering, and our boat was moving at a glacial speed. The other boat had far passed us and was a mere spec in the stretch of distance ahead. And holy god were we hungry, we were so hungry and when was lunch being served?!

[The Food]

I had to give this its own separate category, because I am sure every one of the 23 or so friends I made on that boat will completely agree with me: BRING SNACKS.

Before getting on the boat, you can order additional drinks to bring with you, whether it is beer or diet coke or extra water. You can also order some snacks, but Roberto and I opted against it. Detox, I told him, from eating crappy on the Gilis.

Again, a decision I regretted.

The food is served three times per day, but the only time everyone was guaranteed to eat the same fair amount was at breakfast. Breakfast was always banana pancakes, though one morning it was nothing but a toasted jam sandwich. And you get only one serving per person.

Lunch and dinner rendered us ruthless scavengers, and as the mat was laid down in the middle of the boat, we hungry backpackers started showing teeth like hyenas. We learned the first day there was not enough food to go around, so people would jump at the chance to be first in line. Roberto always waited to be one of the last ones and would have nothing but a plate of white rice, so like a good friend I always shared my food with him.


Though there was not enough food, I will admit that the food was always really good. It was Indonesian food, and we were never entirely too sure of what we were eating. We also did not want to think about the fact that on the third night on the boat, we had chicken as part of our dinner. We were not sure where the chicken could have been stored in the mean time given there was no fridge on the boat, but we all ate it anyway.

There are two island stops with little shops that sell a modest amount of snacks – mostly Beng Beng chocolate bars. At Komodo Island, though, I was able to load up on my favorite Indonesian biscuits called Malkist Crackers – basically sugar and honey coated crackers – that I wound up finishing that night. I was hungry!

[The Islands]

Sailing through the islands when there was a breeze brushing through the air was sublime. If there is anything that makes this trip one of the most rewarding experiences to have survived, it is the scenery you  pass along the way. We saw flying fish dart across the water for nearly a lifetime, and I was shocked at how far they travel. It was like they could cover the length of Manhattan in just one jump.

Many times I felt like someone had taken the mountains and rolling hills of New Zealand – or the hills you might find in Ireland or Scotland even – and placed them on the most aquamarine waters dotted with thicker shades of blue the way you see in magazines.

Some of the islands reminded me of lizards and dragons, the way they crouched from the sky and slithered their way down to the waters. It was as if they sat their poised and in control but ready to leap out at you at any given second.




That night we went to sleep and all woke up the next morning with a fright – many of us were absolutely positively certain that the boat was going to topple over, and many of us felt like we were sleeping on a helicopter because the engine was churning and chopping all night long.

Thankfully, I do not get seasick, but I will say that there were times when I woke up, thought of all the things I had with me on the boat and how I could save them when I was forced to jump overboard. And no, it was not my dramatic New  York flair that made me prepare an escape plan. Everyone was thinking the the same thing, and we had two more nights of terror ahead of us.

For me, one of the highlights of the trip was our stop at Satonda Island on the second day. Satonda Island is a white sand beach with a wooden deck stretching out into the waters, and just as it drops off, it twists a little bit – looking almost like something out of the movie A Series of Unfortunate Events. I loved Satonda Island for the saltwater grass the was growing in the shallower parts of the water near the shore as I had never seen anything like it before. We did some relatively good snorkelling at Satonda, though it would not prove to be the best on the trip.




At the back of the island was a salt water lake with a temperature of nearly 30 degrees or more. It felt like diving into a bathtub, and we could not figure out whether we enjoyed it or we were just trying to make sense of it. But it was one of the prettiest bathtubs you ever would find, as it was ringed by cliffs that were climbing with vegetation and just disappeared into its murky depths.



But it was our third day on the boat when we reached Manta Point that had us all squirming with excitement like little kids. As we approached Manta Point, our guide told us that there was no guarantee we would see the Mantas, but if we did see them, we needed to jump in immediately. We all stood ready with our snorkel gear and masks on like soldiers heading into battle, and suddenly all I could see were these black circling fins breaking the surface. Were they sharks? What were they?

Before I knew it, we were jumping into the water. It was not shark fins we were seeing but instead the wing tips of Manta Rays piercing the surface.

I swam in giddy excitement holding the hand of one of my friends, Francesca, as we chased the rays through the water. I had never seen one before, but the first time you do it is almost like the entire world goes silent. These stunning rays glide through the waters like a plane, flapping their fins and dominating so much of the space around you. And God they are just so damn elegant. Because we were snorkelling, for the most part we only saw views of the Mantas from the top, not really the white underside that looks like a smiling face. I caught a glimpse of one at one point, but all I could think was that in a few days I would hopefully be getting up close and personal with them on my live aboard.

(Unfortunately, no photographic evidence exists of this moment.)

And to top off all the excitement of the past few days, we made a stop to snorkel and unwind at the beautiful Pink Beach. I do not know what is better about this island – the deep pink coral that lines the shores and snuggles itself amidst the white sand, giving this beach a pink tint and the reason it so rightly earned its name, or the underwater world swimming about it.

The snorkelling at Pink Beach was surreal and plentiful, with heaps of fish and shockingly bright coral. Let’s put it this way: The snorkelling was good enough to keep us talking about it for the remainder of our days on the boat on practically the same level and joy we re-lived our manta ray encounter with. Pink Beach was pretty damn good, but unfortunately we could not get the photos to show how pink it really was.





The one thing that was never accomplished through the four-day trip: I never dived off the boat. My friends tried to get me time and time again to do it, but I would chicken out at the last second. Here I am, this world-traveler who has done it all and then some, but diving off a boat is not in the cards for me. Maybe one day.





[The Komodo Dragons]

This is the big drawcard for anyone who signs up for the tour, and I will write a separate post about what to expect when visiting Komodo Island and Rinca Island.

Indonesia’s Komodo National Park is located within the Lesser Sunda Islands, and it encompasses Komodo Island, Rinca Island and two others.

The Komodo Dragons can be found in no other place in the world other than their native Indonesia, and they are the heaviest lizards on earth. Komodos can reach up to 3 meters long (10 feet) and can weight more than 100 kilograms, and their saliva is ridden with bacteria, making any bite from a Komodo potentially deadly.


According to the park rangers, who walked around with a barely believable forked wooden branch as they led us trekking around the island, Komodo dragons feed off the deer, monkeys and buffalo that also live on the island.


dragons 2

And of course the monkeys, probably one of the cutest and best parts of the trip to Rinca Island. Monkeys are so human-like it is creepy.

[Other Islands/Activities]

Gili Sulat - snorkelling, swimming. Black sand beach but big and extensive compared to others.

Moyo Island - Trekking / Waterfall. This is where we all fell in love with our boat guide – for he was sitting in the waterfall, letting his whole body hang out, wear a proper set of suit pants and smoking a cigarette. He earned the title of legend from that moment on.

Laba Island – swimming

Gili Lasa – docked sleeping (thank God)

Kelor - snorkeling/swimming. Beautifully small white sand beach that makes you feel like it is the only beach on the planet.


If you keep one thing in mind before going on the trip, let it be this: You will be ready to get off the boat at the end of the trip.

I had the most amazing four days with some of the most beautiful sunsets that the world has ever known, one of which looked somewhat like a Japanese painting with streaks of light expanding out through the night sky, which was always drenched with stars. We could see the Milky Way, Orion’s Belt and at least three planets (ones we could identify) each night as we gazed up at the universe winking at us from above.




The friends I made on the boat were the cherry on top of the entire trip, and we all bonded collectively in a way that made us feel lucky to have decided to go on that particular trip at that particular time.



Though I was thrilled to get off the boat, I was sad that my adventure with these 22 other backpackers was coming to and end. They were an incredible group of people and travelers I was so fortunate to have met, and they are the reason we all keep traveling. The people you meet along the way keep you going, whether its through newly acquired and long lasting friendships, memories and moments that you will forever smile about or simply changing your plans in more ways than one, adding new bucket list goals and countries that you need to research because you have never even heard of.

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