Island Hopping Across Indonesia – Bali to Flores.
With no real agenda I island hopped from Bali to Gili Air to Lombok to Komodo Islands, Rinca and Flores. Sounds simple huh. Well it is if you’re not big on health and safety and enjoy spending more time on or in the sea than land. With those boxes ticked I set off to explore this huge stretch of Indonesian islands.
Bali, Bali, Bali – everyone loves it, right? I tried so hard to love it too but just wasn’t feeling it. I tried, I promise and I feel like I’ve failed a little and maybe I didn’t go to the right places at the right times and it wasn’t awful it just wasn’t wonderful. I started my Balinese travels in Sanur (local nickname ‘snore’ – yup should have known) and luckily I had fabulous travel companions which made my first day or so a good laugh. It’s a beautiful part of the island, a lovely stretch of beach – just very sleepy. So many ageing couples with nothing left to say to each other staring glumly into space. That’s literally my worse nightmare – being forced to spend an eternity with a partner you have NOTHING to talk about, so I ran. My highlight (apart from drinking Sambucca with the girls) was getting my ears cleaned with Hopi ear candles. My trust issues have come on a long way since travelling – I now apparently lie in dark rooms and let strangers light candles and stick them in my ears.
Next stop Ubud, slightly North of Sanur and not on the coast. The spiritual capital of the island I guess. Surely, I was going to love it. Humid and crowded narrow streets packed full of a certain type of tourist. Okay, all Australian couples trying to find themselves. Yep all of them, every single one – I did a survey. I love yoga but literally every other shop felt like it was a yoga shop and the spiritual side had been lost and it was all about having the best yoga gear. I did a class at The Yoga Barn – it’s a fabulous space, with great acoustics when you’re ohmming. Yes it attracts the crowds, but the class didn’t flow. It was more like a ‘these are a few yoga poses you can try’, when it should have been level 2 Ashtanga. There are a few cool ‘Raw Food’ Cafes in Ubud though, my favourite is called ‘Kafe’ – definitely worth checking out. My last attempt to like Ubud I headed down to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary – I have to say it was quite beautiful but the monkeys are of the mean food snatching variety, so I legged it around with my camera, generally hiding behind small children clutching bananas. There’s more to do in Ubud and I should have headed into the mountains, gone on a herb walk or taken a cooking lesson but the quantity of holidaying couples and massive lack of travellers made me jump ship perhaps faster than I should have done.
Kuta – am I qualified to talk about Kuta? – probably not. I tried to get close enough to Kuta, to be able to walk down to the beach and get a few surf lessons, but far enough away so I didn’t feel like I was on an 18-30’s holiday in Benidorm. I failed and ended up a little too far away – walking would mean hopping across dual carriage ways, nowhere to hire bikes from and yep I could have got taxis but I’ve come to realise that Bali just isn’t happening for me. I quit.
Now, we’re talking! I landed in Gili Air and sighed a huge sigh of relief. I think my shoulders dropped a few inches and my smile came back. I hopped off the boat and sat on the beach with my bag for a few minutes taking in the tropical paradise I’d just landed in. I headed straight to 7 Seas International to check out their accommodation and diving (basically because I did a bit of research in Bali and liked their Facebook page – yup, that’s how shallow I am). Within about 5 minutes of being on the island I had a bed for 3 nights and 5 dives booked. I think I spent more time in the water around the Gilis then I did on land. Sadly the reefs around the islands are mostly dead. There are various reports on how this happened but it’s pretty sad and to be able to dive on the island you have to pay an eco tax – I’m hoping this means they are doing something about it. But, I did get to hang out underwater with turtles, white tip reef sharks, Lion Fish, Trumpet fish and a shed-load of sea creatures – more than a little bit amazing!
Lombok to Flores (via Komodo and Rinca)
I had every intention of hanging out on Lombok for a few days but got there without a plan – big mistake. I landed and obviously gave off that tired, lost vibe which meant within minutes I was on the back of a motorbike and being commandeered to join a 4 day and 3 night boat trip that was leaving the island in just a few hours. It was an interesting few hours spent at Cafe Lombok, near Senggigi waiting for the boat trip to begin – I think all of Lombok’s finest turned up to ask where my husband was.
I could go to town on talking about the health and safety of the boat, the sleeping conditions, the hygiene and not showering or looking in a mirror for 4 days, but I won’t, because overall, I loved this trip. We snorkelled and swam, sailed through the day and night and ate food cooked by our crew whilst listening to our guide Sunny play Bob Marley on his guitar whilst belting out the classics. It gave me a real taste of what living aboard a small boat has to offer and it’s definitely an experience I want to repeat. I swam amongst Manta Rays and had a moment of slight terror as I realised I was separated from the group and saw two unidentifiable sharks circling beneath me. Komodo Island and Rinca came up with the goods and we spotted plenty of dragons, sadly no crocodiles. We stopped briefly on a beach with pink sand and one night we lit a fire in a small bay and drank Bintang. Mostly we sailed, swam and chatted our way through this epic trip.
On day 4 we approached Flores, our final destination and the rain came down. The sea was rough and we all took shelter on the top deck and rolled our way back and fourth for the final few hours. I trawled Labuan Bajo in Flores looking for somewhere to stay and got a room overlooking the whole harbour. The views were stunning but the accommodation basic. My need for a shower and some civilisation got too much so the next day I flew from possibly the smallest airport in the world, back to Bali on the hunt for my next adventure.