Posts Tagged With: tour

In Search of the Great Komodo Dragon: Part II

Missed out on Part I of the trip? Check in out here.

Arriving on Rinca Island is like arriving on a deserted island. The boat pulls up and the boatmen secure it to the single small dock jutting out into the water. A park ranger or two stands at the end of the dock with a large stick [for scaring snakes and other animals, we find out later]. One of the park rangers welcomes us to the island and walks along with us to the entrance way. We had arrived. Komodo National Park. Awesome. Just Awesome.

DSC_0843 DSC_0847 DSC_0848

When you arrive, you are shown a map and asked how long of a loop/walk you want to do– we of course, selected the longest walk. Literally about 2 minutes into leaving the sign, we saw a baby Komodo dragon. SO AWESOME. We also saw a group of Komodos hanging out in the shade under the “kitchen building”. Apparently they hang out there because it smells good and is cooler. Sometimes, they will wander into the kitchen itself to check things out. See how massive they are? Some of them get up to 300 pounds!!!

IMG_8243 IMG_8246 IMG_8250 IMG_8252 IMG_8254 IMG_8257 IMG_8259

On our hike through the hot woods and open to sunlight route, we saw monkeys, jungle turkeys, bees [literally a SWARM], and komodo dragons [including some protecting nests– two females] as well as giant ox. We learned that the komodo dragons have poison in their saliva. One adult komodo dragon will attack an ox and bite it once and then leave. The ox will slowly die– it will be unable to move and over the course of perhaps a week, it will lose its life. Once it dies, a pack of komodo dragons will come out and consume the ox. We did see an ox that had been bitten a few days prior. It was really sad because the ox couldn’t move at all– it was stuck in a mud pit. Circle of life, I suppose. The hike was phenomenal and seeing so many komodo dragons in their natural habitat was a true dream come true. We snagged a patch from the little store on our way out so that we could add it to our collection. This was a trip that I will never EVER forget.

IMG_8260 IMG_8261 IMG_8271 IMG_8283 IMG_8285 IMG_8301 IMG_8307 IMG_8309

After our time on Rinca, we took a small snorkel off the island– most of the coral was dead from dynamite fishing and a number of other factors… but there were still a lot of fish and it felt great to get in the water. We then re-boarded for dinner and beer as we made our way over to another mangrove island to “see some bats” as our guide told us. We said, sure of course, we like bats. We parked our boat a bit off the island and saw a gorgeous sunset. There were a few other boats around us and we laughed to ourselves about the bats we were about to see– wondering why folks seemed to make a big deal out of some bats. A little while later, right as the sun went down, we saw a few bats take off from the mangrove island. Within about 5 minutes, there were literally THOUSANDS of bats taking flight from the island. The guys on our boat explained that they do this every day– going to search for food. The endless stream of bats must have lasted more than a half hour. We took as many photos as we can even though lightening and the fast beating of wings didn’t help. After a truly phenomenal show, we retired to our beds to get some sleep.

IMG_8322 IMG_8350 IMG_8363 IMG_8364 IMG_8391 IMG_8400 IMG_8403 IMG_8406 IMG_8408 IMG_8412 IMG_8419 IMG_8433 DSC_0026_2

In the morning, we ate breakfast before hopping back into the water for some more snorkeling. After what seemed 30 seconds [really over an hour], we hopped back on boat and packed up our goodies– heading back to the airport for our flight back to Bali. We arrived at the airport and the security line consisted of 3 woman asking us to put our bags on a belt, while they stared at their phones. We walked through the door frame, picked up our bags on the other side, and waited for our plane. We were delayed but eventually boarded and made our way back to Denpasar and Ubud. This trip was absolutely indescribable. It was crazy. It was awesome. It was a whirlwind. We spent a decent chunk of money on the trip, but the fact that we were by ourselves and we crammed in so many awesome things made it worth it 10 times over. If we had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

 

Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Search of the Great Komodo Dragon: Part I

I’ve always loved lizards. In fact, I currently have a bearded dragon, named Roxy, and two leopard geckos: Mac & Cheese. I have always been fascinated by Komodo Dragons- giant, massive lizards that are bigger than dogs. If there are two animals that I want to have the pleasure of seeing in the wild it is the Manatee and of course, the Komodo Dragon. Hands down, one of the coolest animals ever. That’s why, when Andrew mentioned that he was going to be heading to Indonesia for work and that perhaps we could spend some time traveling in Bali, I immediately started to my plans into action. You see, Komodo Dragons are only known to live in the wild [and thrive] on some of these small/tiny islands of Indonesia. They are protected by law. I HAD TO SEE THEM! So, after lots of planning and hoping that we weren’t getting ourselves into a messy situation where someone would run off with our money, we packed our bags and headed out of Ubud for Denpasar. We had scheduled a flight from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo, Flores… an island a few to the east of Bali. Setting up the flight Flores was rather random to say the least. I had read on a few sites about two airlines that fly there once or more times per day depending on the season. After an email to an airline “TransNusa”, we received a response letting us know that there were two seats available and a price total for the seats. I knew I wanted to go and see these dragons, so I held my breath and told Andrew, I was paying. We received an email stating that our seats were confirmed.

I had also researched a number of tours and trips that groups offered once in Flores to go see the Komodo Dragons. Many of them offered week-long excursions or more. I was looking for a simple 2 day, 1 night deal. This limited my options, but I was able to find a tour group that I had read a bunch about claiming that it was a reputable group and that the guy in charge was fantastic. I emailed him and let him know we had flights and asked for his availability. He confirmed and that was that. We took off from Denpasar in a tiny plain, excited for the next adventure. We arrived in Labuan Bajo, Flores in the late morning. The landing strip [yes just one] was rocky and muddy. We disembarked and walked into a one-room airport waiting room. Our luggage was handed over and we went outside to wait. The airport was indeed a single small building with a dirt parking lot immediately next to it. No security here— cars and trucks drive up, drop off, park, hang out, etc. We waited for an hour or so, turning down many people who were offering tours, and then called the number for the contact group. Andrew spoke with the man who told us that the driver was on the way. We waited again for about an hour or so until an SUV pulled up and out hops a guy, no boy, who is about 14 [maybe?]. He introduces himself and lets us know that he will be our guide for the trip. We’re wondering where our guide is [the man who we’ve been talking to all along], but we don’t ask questions.

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 10.58.52 AM

The driver as it turns out is Jeffrey Buana’s brother [Jeffrey is the tour group’s main contact and owner– Putri Komodo Tours]. Anyway, we drive in the car for a bit before our guide lets us know that we’ll first go by a limestone cave for a tour and that the cost is $2 a person or something equally low. We nod and ride along thinking that wasn’t part of the outline, what are we doing and what are we getting ourselves into? At the caves, we met a boy who was perhaps 12. He gave us hard hats and flash lights and took us on a short hike and into a giant limestone cave. I have to admit, the cave was pretty awesome. We saw all sorts of fossils and a cave spider [nasty], and other cool sights…. including some crawling. We learned that the boy who was our guide was going to tourism school and that they learned English and how to give tours, as well as other business skills. Pretty cool.

IMG_8178 IMG_8180 IMG_8188 IMG_8193

After the cave tour, our guide took us by a grocery story to buy beer and then to a snorkel shop to pick up snorkel gear. Finally, we arrived down by the docks and saw our home away from home for the night- a tiny boat that looked pretty awesome. We hopped on board and they showed us to our cabin- one of two on the ship that had a set of bunk beds. They showed us the restroom and then encouraged us to sit and relax. I think were 5 of us in total on the boat- Andrew and I, our guide, and then our captain and cook. They served us fresh fruit and snacks and gave us juice and water. We took off into the water– headed for Rinca Island… home of Komodo Dragon National Park. The trip to the island was awesome. The water was GORGEOUS. We were even allowed to climb up the mast and sit on the top “deck” of the boat. It was perfect and lacking security and so so perfect :0).

IMG_8197 IMG_8202 IMG_8212 IMG_8238 DSC_0798 DSC_0838 DSC_0941

and on to part II…

 

Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sunrise Trek Up Mount Batur

Well, we had originally planned on hiking up Mount Agung [where the gods live], however there was a private burial occurring and as such, hikers were not allowed up there the day we planned, so instead, Swasti suggested we do a sunrise hike up Mount Batur- it was a bit easier they said and we could leave at 3AM instead of Midnight [the time you had to leave to get up Mount Agung to see the sunrise]. In retrospect- Oh my god. I am so GLAD we did NOT hike Mount Agung…. especially if Mount Batur was “easier”. Mount Batur was like straight up a volcano. It was crazy– but a lot of fun and I’m glad we did it! A Swasti guard on duty overnight packed us breakfast sandwiches in the morning and sent us on our way. We were picked up at Swasti around 3AM or so. We picked up two other folks on the way. We drove for about an hour and then arrived in a parking lot that was pretty packed with other people waiting to hike. As it turns out, the hike up Mount Batur is basically a never-ending chain of groups working their way up the volcano by flashlight. Your guide carries water and breakfast/snacks with him. We made our way up the volcano– admittedly, slower than I probably would have liked, but I was out of breath most of the way up so really I’m just glad we made it up. We did- made it in time to sit for a few before the sunrise began and was it ever worth it. There was also a woman up there in a little shed who was selling coffee and food– apparently she hikes up every morning with everything- water, coffee, and all other supplies… just to try and sell to the people who come for the sunrise. As we sat taking pictures of the beauty before us, naturally a few curious monkeys came along out of nowhere. They ended up with one of our eggs and some toast. Pesky little things. As far as recommended tour guides for the trek- really any will do… you can typically just line them up through your hotel/eco-lodge, etc. We set ours up the day before. Easy peasy.

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 10.46.29 AM

DSC_0697 IMG_8068 IMG_8092 IMG_8096 IMG_8133 IMG_8152 IMG_8158

On the way back to Swasti from the sunrise trek, we stopped by a tea and coffee plantation for tastings and we bought some coffee for the road. Yum! The best part was we still had the afternoon in Ubud to relax. The next morning we were heading out yet again– but this time to a different island for an overnight- 1 night, 2 day excursion- mostly built around seeing Komodo Dragons in the wild [they’re my favorite besides Manatees]! Anyway we walked into town again and relaxed– found a place to grab some lunch and it was so awesome. We were sitting outside in gorgeous weather and right next door is a rice field. How cool is that? I told you they put rice fields everywhere they can! I had a traditional Balinese dish with yellow rice, chicken, and veggies, while Andrew opted for the pizza. We also dined on pretty heavenly drinks, including passionfruit mojitos and lemongrass jubilees. For a country that’s not big on drinking, they sure do have some amazing drinks!

IMG_2274 IMG_2275 IMG_2276 IMG_2278 IMG_2281 IMG_2283 IMG_2285

Before we depart from this post, we wanted to share some pictures of Swasti Eco Lodge, our home base in Ubud. Delightfully wonderful place hidden away just outside of town. It was perfect.

IMG_2247 IMG_2249 IMG_2250 IMG_2252 IMG_2257 IMG_2261

Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Destination: Perth, Australia

This morning came far too quickly for my liking :). Add on top of that my phone ringing at 2:00AM because folks back in the states didn’t add up the time change and you get  a long night. Either way, my bed was still super comfy and I was sad to be saying so long to it. I woke up in time to watch the sunrise over the pretty countryside. I blindly worked to wash my face, put in my contacts, and brush my teeth so that I could make my way to breakfast. I apparently did this so blindly that I ended up brushing my teeth with Athlete’s Foot Cream… [I had packed it just in case]. YUCK. I couldn’t understand why my toothpaste was so nasty… well because I was brushing my teeth with a cream made for your toes…for fungus. Awesome. After some heavy duty cleaning, coughing, and spitting, I walked my way down to the lounge car, which was already bustling with people ready for their last meal aboard the Indian Pacific.

I met up with the botanist couple from the evening before and we sat down to breakfast. My last two course breakfast on the train! So sad! This morning I dined on coffee, apple juice, water, scrambled eggs, a button mushroom, and a grilled tomato. Whereas yesterday I had the fresh fruit [melons and currants], this morning I opted for the other “breakfast starter”: Wild Peach Parfait. YUM. Wild peaches, vanilla yogurt, granola, and passion fruit. Just delicious and perfect. Our conversation this morning strayed to wildflowers and Eucalypts. Apparently there are over 80 species of Eucalypts! Who knew? Wildflowers are huge these days because Australia has had such a wet winter. I learned that quite a few folks on the train were traveling to the west coast just for that purpose- wildflower tours. I wish I had more time, I would have gone! As it is, there is a good exhibit at Kings Park that I hope to see while I’m i the area.

I headed back to my room and packed everything up. I was really sad to say goodbye to the Indian Pacific. What a fantastic trip. About 30 minutes before we pulled into Perth Station, we stopped and a quarantine inspector boarded to check out any fruits, vegetables, and/or nuts that people were transporting. They did this earlier on the train ride as well, when we crossed state borders. Pretty interesting that they watch it so closely. While I’m no the subject of agricultural products– I also had a chat with a couple about water rights and crops in Australia vs. the US as well as stormwater. They noted that it is pretty standard practice in many places to have giant “rain barrels” [they are larger than our standard rain barrels]. They were very interested in hearing about the NPS pollution world that I work in and we chatted for a long while about the pros and cons of having federal control only vs state control only vs a combination of the two. Like I said, great conversations on the train!

When we at last arrived in Perth, we disembarked and folks were hugging the staff. It still amazes me how close the group seemed to have become over the space of three nights on a train. Such wonderful personalities and friendly demeanors. I made my way down the platform to the tour bus that would squire a group of us around Perth before dropping us off at our hotels. The tour was great. We were driven all over the city and had a break along the way to gaze out at the Indian Ocean and to buy some delicious local ice cream. I myself chose a cone of oreo cookie dream. And oh what a dream it was! The tour also made a stop at Kings Park [a huge park in downtown Perth that is the largest inner city park in the world]. Unfortunately, rain kept us from doing much exploring in the park. We also drove by millionaire’s row, a group of homes along the Swan River that were just absolutely gorgeous [as you’d imagine with a name like that]. After a delightful afternoon of seeing the sights, the tour driver dropped each of us off at our hotels. I was ready for a snooze!

IMG_1894 IMG_1895 IMG_1897 IMG_1903 IMG_1914 IMG_1902 IMG_1896

Categories: Australia | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.