Raja Ampat, Papua

Raja Ampat is an archipelago comprising of over 1,500 small islands and is found to the north west of Papua. It sits at the heart of the coral triangle and has the most diverse marine life on Earth. Before we began travelling we dreamt of visiting Raja Ampat, however due to the cost of getting there and around the islands we had virtually discounted it.

In Flores, however, we had a change of heart.. we were so close to Raja, it’s beautiful beaches and world class marine life, it would be foolish not to visit. Our journey from Flores to Raja took us 2 days, 4 flights, a ferry and a speedboat.

We spent 16 days in Raja Ampat staying mainly on Kri Island. Long white sandy beaches lined with coconut trees surround the island, incredible corals and marine life are just a few meters out to sea. For us, this was paradise. There are no shops or restaurants on the island (all meals are provided by the homestay) and the nearest village, on Mansuar Island, can be reached by a sand bank which is exposed at low tide.

We stayed in a lovely beachfront bungalow at Mambertron homestay and our host, Yudas, took us on a number of snorkelling trips around the island. The snorkelling was amazing, every day we would swim amongst black tip reef sharks, barracudas, huge bumphead parrot fish, turtles, puffer fish and many more. The quantity, variety and sheer size of the fish here is really impressive.

One night we snorkelled in front of our homestay and were surrounded by bioluminescent plankton which light up when touched. As you wave your hand in front of your face more and more plankton start to glow. It is pretty magical.

After 4 fantastic days on Kri we moved to Yendebabo homestay on Gam. One night after a fishless evening meal, James went night spearfishing with the locals. They caught an impressive 4 lobsters and 7 fish. The evening bbq was very much needed and fish doesn’t get much fresher than this! Delicious. Gam is a much larger island with many secluded beaches, however this made it very difficult to find other tourists to share trips with. It wasn’t long before we called Yudas and headed back home to Mambetron on Kri.

Throughout our stay at Mambetron we met some great people who made our trip even more enjoyable. We snorkelled, visited the nearby village and hiked to viewpoint together and the nights were always filled with laughter.

We also went on a couple of day trips to Painemo viewpoint and The Passage. The Passage is a small river like passage between Gam and Waigeo. The corals were like an underwater garden, full of colour, and the strong current made floating down the passage rather fun.

Raja Ampat is a wonderful place and is without doubt the highlight of our trip so far. I hope, one day, we will return.

Next stop: Bangkok, Thailand


Bajawa and Moni, Flores

We spent a couple of days in Bajawa and Moni. In Bajawa we stayed in our favourite guest house so far; Manulalu. It was a 20 minute scooter ride out of town, close to the traditional villages and hot springs and also had a fabulous view of Mount Inerie.

We visited 2 traditional villages, Bena and Luba. Having just visited the beautiful Wae Rebo which had a buzz of activity, we found these villages less interesting. It was midday and rather hot so we didn’t stay for long, however it was nice to see the traditional architecture.

We then headed to the Malanage hot springs which were lovely. There is a confluence of a hot spring and a cold spring which makes the water temperature just right! We came back again the following morning and James had a stone balancing contest with a local.

After a short taxi ride we arrived in Moni, a small village at the foot of Mount Kelimutu. Mount Kelimutu has 3 differently coloured lakes which change colour on a regular basis due to chemical reactions in the lake. It was a pretty cloudy day, but the colours of the lakes were still really impressive, especially when the sun hit the water!

Next stop: Raja Ampat, Papua

Wae Rebo, Flores

Wae Rebo is a traditional Manggaraian village which sits 1,100m above sea level. It is a 3 hour trek from the nearest village/street and is without doubt the most remote place I’ve ever visited.

The journey to Wae Rebo was an adventure in itself. Most visitors hire a driver for 2 or 3 days, however we decided to go for the much cheaper option of public transport. We started with a 4 hour minibus ride, jumping out at Pela (a junction with 2 small shops). After a few hours of waiting, a truck, crammed with people, finally arrived. People were hanging out of the back and sat on the roof. Luckily, they made room for us inside the truck. We were sat 5 to a row on a wooden slat and we bounced our way, for a rather uncomfortable 4 hours, to Denge.

The next morning we woke early to start the 3 hour accent to Wae Rebo. On the way up we were greeted by a number of villagers as they carried bags of coffee down the mountain to sell at the local markets. Upon arrival at the village there is a formal welcoming ceremony which is conducted by the village elders. After this, we were free to explore and watch the villagers as they went about their daily activities.

Wae Rebo consist of 7 houses, which are each home to 6-8 families. The kitchen and open fire are in the center of the house and there are small partitioned rooms around the edge, one for each family. The houses are constructed of bamboo, wood, and a palm fiber roof and are very impressive standing at 15m high by 15m wide.

The villagers’ main income comes from their coffee plantation. They harvest the beans, crush and dry them before carrying them down the mountain to sell. They also grow most of their own food including bananas, pineapples, markisas (orange passion fruit), sweet potatoes and many other vegetables. Rice on the other hand has to be carried up from the bottom of the mountain.

We spent the night in one of the traditional houses, shared only with 3 other tourists and their driver. In peak season there can be up to 60 guests at a time so we were very lucky to have the place virtually to ourselves.

It takes a lot of time to reach Wae Rebo, however I definitely think it was worth the effort. It was really good to see that they have managed to preserve their traditions and way of life. Both the village and its surroundings are absolutely stunning.. what a place to live!

Next stop: Bajawa, Flores

Komodo National Park

The Komodo National Park consists of 3 main islands (Komodo, Rinca and Padar) and numerous smaller islands. It is home to the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo Dragon, and the surrounding waters have some of the most diverse marine life on the planet. Sharks, dolphins, manta rays, turtles and at least 14 species of whales grace these waters.

We booked a 2 day 1 night boat trip from Labuan Bajo, Flores to explore the Komodo National Park. After talking to a number of agents and a bit of haggling we paid just under £35 pp, now we just had to cross our fingers and hope that our boat would be sea worthy!

Day 1 – Dolphins, Mantas and more

We set off from Labuan Bajo’s harbour at around 8am. Our boat was small but perfectly adequate for the 6 of us on board. We we joined by two Italian girls, the captain and the chef. Within the first 10 minutes of the journey we spotted a pod of dolphins jumping in and out of the waves in the distance. I knew then, that we were in for a treat!

The first day was all about exploring the marine life; we snorkeled at Kanawa Island, Manta Point and Pink Beach. The manta rays were huge, easily double the size of the ones we had seen in Nusa Lembongan. They are such impressive creatures and it amazes me to think that there is an even larger species; giant manta rays.

Pink Beach wasn’t very Pink, but it had some really vibrant coral and we saw a variety of fish, a blue spotted sting ray and a turtle. After a long but fantastic day we anchored up near Komodo Island and watched the sunset.

Day 2 – The Day of The Dragons

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep on the deck we awoke to a beautiful sunrise, accompanied by another pod of dolphins playing in the distance. Our first stop was Komodo Island, here we did an hour’s trek and spotted 5 komodo dragons, along with some deer and wild pigs (aka dragons’ dinner). The dragons have to spend their first 3 years of their life up in the trees, otherwise they are at risk of being eaten by adult dragons, including their mother/father.

After our trek on Komodo, we headed to Rinca Island. There is less food for the dragons on Rinca Island, so they have become lazy and all congregate around the kitchen. It was much nicer to see them on Komodo in their natural environment. We did a short walk up to the viewpoint which looked out over Rinca and the beautifully blue waters.  It was now incredibly hot (around 35oC) and we were ready to head back to the boat.

After one last snorkel at a small island we headed back to Labuan Bajo. It was a fantastic trip and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Next stop: Wae Rebo, Flores

Kuta, Lombok

Kuta was the perfect place for us to relax after the Mount Rinjani trek. We stayed here for just under 2 weeks and spent most of our time exploring the beautiful beaches sprawled along Lombok’s south coast. Our favorite beach was Mawun beach, it had gorgeous white sand and was always pretty quiet.

Kuta is the cheapest place we’ve stayed so far, we were comfortably living on less than £10 each a day. Another good reason to stay here for a while!

Accommodation: Roy Homestay £3.40 pp
Transport: Scooter (free from Roy Homestay)
Restaurant Meals: £1 – £3 pp

There is a lot of good surf around Lombok and after our first lesson in Nusa Lembongan we decided to give it another go.. this time without an instructor. The waves seemed to break quicker here and after a lot of nose diving into the waves, we eventually managed to stand up and ride a few waves!

Next stop: Labuan Bajo, Flores

Mount Rinjani, Lombok

Mount Rinjani is Indonesia’s second highest volcano standing at 3726m. It is an active volcano and also has a smaller volcano, Baru Jani, that has formed within the lake. We did a 3 day 2 night trek which included the crater rim, the summit and the lake.

We woke up at around 6am on the first morning and were driven, with our guide Ketchup and our 2 porters, to Sembulan; the starting point for our trek. We were both feeling slightly apprehensive at the thought of the 7 hours trekking to camp, and this was supposed to be the “easy day”. The trek started off with a gentle climb towards the volcano, after lunch it got much steeper and our legs were starting to tire. We were very glad to reach the crater rim around 5pm. We had a delicious meal whilst watching the sunset from above the clouds.

The next morning we woke up at 2am to start the 3 hour (1,100m climb) to the summit. Lit only by our head torches and the night’s sky we started the ascent. This is the hardest part of the trek; not only is it steep but the ground is covered with sand and loose rocks which makes it very difficult to get a good footing. We made it to the summit in good time for sunrise, the views were incredible. There was still another 8 hours trekking to do today; down to the lake and hot springs then back up the other side of the crater to camp. The hot springs were amazing and definitely helped to relax our aching muscles. We finally made it to camp at around 6pm, just in time for sunset.

The last day was all downhill (4.5 hours) to Senaru, the end of the trek. Thankfully the route was a lot easier than the previous days and we managed to hobble our way down to the finish line. The porters do an amazing job; they carry up to 35kg each, wear flip flops and still manage to run up and down the mountain, set up camp and make us delicious meals.

Now time for some relaxing/recovering on Lombok’s beaches.

Next stop: Kuta, Lombok

The Gili Islands

The Gili Islands are 3 small islands off Lombok’s north-west coast. We only planned on visiting one island, but they were so nice we ended up staying on all 3. There is no motorised transport on the islands so the only way to get around is by foot, by bike or by horse and cart.

Gili Trawangan (Gili T) has the best nightlife and draws the most visitors. There was some great live music and we saw lots of turtles whilst snorkeling off the main beach.

Gili Air has a nice laid back vibe and was probably our favourite of the 3 islands. James did some scuba diving here whilst I tried a Yoga class.

Gili Meno is the quietest island and had the best beaches.

Next stop: Mount Rinjani, Lombok