30 May Komodo National Park
It’s no secret that Indonesia is a rare beauty; an emerald jewel of exotic islands that sparkle with a history that is both extraordinary and tragic.
I was recently in Flores enjoying the depth and breadth of this verdant landscape. We arrived in Labuan Bajo: it felt like the centre of the ancient spice trade with its the picture perfect port, sailing ships and old teak boats moored in the harbour, adding to the romance of the high seas. Hobbit-like creatures are said to have once dwelled in the misty green mountains that line this picturesque bay and the fabled home of the Komodo dragons is nearby on Rinca and Komodo Islands.
The small market near the pier is like a boutique aquarium with rows of brilliant fish in all shapes and sizes on sale, just a breath away from the ocean. And where you have fresh fish in Indonesia, you have open-air seaside eateries with an ambiance that’s hard to beat. Balmy nights, an expanse of ocean, market-charm, Bintang beer, char-grilled seafood and the scent of coconut husks.
But we are on a Sea Trek cruise of the Komodo National Park and after a superb lunch at Le Mediterraneo café, we set sail. For six days we drifted on turquoise seas, stopping at one pristine beach after another. We snorkelled, dived and canooed, in between reading, feasting and chatting with new friends. But the highlight of the trip was sighting a pod of Orca whales as we were approaching Lombok in the shadow of Mount Rinjani. Money can’t buy that kind of experience and it completed an invigorating and breathtaking ocean voyage of one of Indonesia’s most magical destinations.