The Wonderful Indonesia Series: KOMODO – The Untouched Dragon’s Paradise

Hey there! Hope 2018 is treating you well. Before we start our 2018 adventures, let us look back on one of the last 2 trips I had in 2017. Just two months after my Ubud & Nusa Penida trip, I flew back to Indonesia to discover a new place called Komodo.

Padar Island – one of my favorite destinations of the overnight boat tour!

Going by the name, Komodo is where you can find the world-famous Komodo dragons. These lizards (yes, they are lizards!) are living freely in several islands like Komodo, Rinca, Padar & Flores. The nearest place where one arrives before going to the Komodo islands is Labuan Bajo. It is a small fishing town in the westernmost portion of Flores Island, East Nusa Tenggara province in Indonesia. This town is the center of Komodo tourism. The majority of the tour boats leave from & arrive in Labuan Bajo.

Why Fly To Komodo?

It all started with a one-way ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Manila. Yes, I was able to book this one-way ticket for around 781.25 pesos in last year’s GetGo Anniversary sale. Just in case you don’t know what GetGo is, it is Cebu Pacific Air‘s lifestyle & loyalty rewards program. They offered seats for 10 GetGo points + taxes last year in all destinations during their second anniversary last March 2017.

Maldives? Nope. This is in Kanawa Island 😍

I started looking up for places to visit where Kuala Lumpur will be the last stop before going home. It all went down to just two places – Luang Prabang, Laos & Komodo, Indonesia. It would be the best time to visit Luang Prabang (also to tick off Laos in my list) but I will lack time because I only have a few days. On the other hand, Komodo has long been in my list of places to visit in Indonesia. Aside from knowing about the Komodo dragons way back in school, I think it would also be great to see them up close in person.

View upon arrival at Padar Island 😍

Airfare to Luang Prabang started to rise. Also, I could not find an affordable ticket out of Manila (because the trip falls near the November 1 & 2 celebrations back home). I was supposed to go to Komodo during my August 2017 trip, but it was mating season for Komodo dragons so lesser chance of seeing them.

Stunning Pink Beach 😍 I made the right decision to go to Komodo.

I also tried watching vlogs online about Luang Prabang & Komodo. The videos of Lost LeBlanc & Thomas Alex Norman helped me decide that I should go to Komodo. Don’t worry, Laos is still on the list. I hope to visit Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, etc in the future.

To & From Labuan Bajo

Getting to Labuan Bajo isn’t easy. Upon checking online, the fastest way to reach Labuan Bajo is by having transits in Jakarta & Bali. I went for the faster & cheaper option which is via Bali. Low cost airlines, such as Wings Air (under Lion Air Group) & Nam Air (under Sriwijaya Air Group), only fly from Bali (& not from Jakarta) to Labuan Bajo.

Saw this in Ngurah Rai Domestic Airport – beautiful! 🎭

I took the early morning Cebu Pacific Air flight from Manila to Bali, had a 6-hour transit in Bali Airport & took the afternoon Nam Air flight to Labuan Bajo. Manila to Bali took me 3 hours & 50 minutes & Bali to Labuan Bajo took me 1 hour & minutes. Warning: The Nam Air flight to Labuan Bajo was one of my worst flights ever but I was able to arrive at the destination safe & sound. I don’t mind taking short flights like that as long as they’re cheap. (Lol)

While waiting for my flight to Labuan Bajo 🛫

As mentioned above, I flew back to Manila via Kuala Lumpur because I got it really really cheap. From Labuan Bajo Airport, I took the morning Wings Air flight backt to Bali. I had a 4-hour layover in Bali & flew to Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia. I had another 4 hours in Kuala Lumpur International Airport which went by really fast (thanks to the gateway@KLIA2 shopping mall for entertaining me in those 4 hours). I boarded the red-eye flight from Kuala Lumpur to Manila. I made it to Manila after 21 hours.

Flew with Wings Air from Labuan Bajo to Bali 🛩️

Flying to & from Labuan Bajo was long & tiring. You might wonder how much it cost me all in all, flights-wise. Believe it or not, my airfare only cost me ₱10,133.64. See breakdown of flights below.

Bali-Labuan Bajo-Bali return tickets will normally cost you ₱10,000. I booked the tickets early (3 months before), got promotional fares both ways & also got another discount from Traveloka. Sweet!

Labuan Bajo Airport

PS. Another way to go to Komodo is via a 5-day/4-night boat trip from Lombok / The Gilis. I met one in the hostel who took that & he told me the trip was fun but exhausting.

Ciao Hostel Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo is only a small town with limited accommodation choices. I searched around the internet & found the best (not the cheapest – but not that expensive as well) choice – Ciao Hostel.

View from the Ciao Hostel’s reception area

The hostel is located on top of a hill overlooking the Labuan Bajo town & port. It may not be that accessible to the town because of its uphill & downhill way, but the hostel provides hourly shuttle services to & from the town. It also provides airport pick-up & drop-off (make sure to reserve your slot at least a day before).

Hostel’s reception, common & movie area

The hostel has an on-site restaurant (with so-so but expensive food) & travel desk. The tour agency offers tours & diving tours more expensive that those offered in the town. The hostel also has a common rooftop place where almost all guests go to during sunset for the amazing view. The hostel also shows a movie every night. Make sure to check the notice board every day & vote for the movie you want to watch during the night.

Hostel restaurant’s nasi goreng

I stayed in a 6-bedroom dormitory room. The room has 3 bunk beds & air-conditioning. Each guest has a locker where he/she can keep his/her bags & valuables. Communal toilet & shower areas are located outside of each room. Rooms & facilities are clean & well-maintained. Free Wi-Fi is only available in the lobby & lounge.

Sunset from the rooftop area – one of the reasons why you need to stay in Ciao!

I had a nice stay in Ciao Hostel. It may not be the cheapest hostel in Labuan Bajo but you surely get what you pay for.

Overnight Boat Tour

Apart from exploring the town & chilling in the hostel, the only activity I did in Labuan Bajo was to take the overnight boat tour to the islands. There were other places to go like the waterfalls & caves but I believe I already had too much of those in my past trips so I only did the boat tour.

I met 2 German ladies in the hostel – Kathrin & Nadine. We decided to go together & look for an affordable overnight boat tour. The tour desk at the hostel offered the overnight boat tour for an expensive price so we decided to look for a cheaper option in town. We walked around different agencies & saw one offering it for IDR 750,000. The rate included all meals, water, snacks, mattress & snorkeling gear except Komodo Island entrance fee. The tour group consisted of people from Spain, Australia, Netherlands, Poland, Germany & of course, the Philippines (Asia represent! Lol).

Let’s go to the islands!!!

The slow boat left the harbor at 9:00 am. It took us about an hour to reach the first destination – Kanawa Island. We went there for snorkeling & some beach time. I’ll let the photos show how beautiful this place is.

Kanawa Island 😍

We all went back to the boat to have lunch & head to Manta Point to see manta rays. We went around the sea for around 1 hour before we finally saw a manta ray. Immediately after our boatman shouted there’s one, everyone literally jumped out of the boat to see it. Too bad I didn’t get any photos of the manta ray. It was huuuuge. Our boatmen told us were were quite lucky the manta ray showed up – it’s been days since they showed up to the visitors.

To the next island! 🛥️

After Manta Point, we cruised another 2 hours to reach the “Instagram-famous” Padar Island. We hiked up 30 minutes to the viewpoint to see the spectacular landscape. The view from the top was stunning; it was out-of-this-world. How I wish we went there during sunrise; but nonetheless, we still had a great time there. They gave us a few minutes to soak in the very cold water before proceeding to an area near Komodo Island (the place where we stayed for the night).

Padar Island – the 30-minute hike up was super worth it! 😍

We watched the sunset from the boat’s roof deck while our boatmen prepared our dinner. After a while, we finally had dinner. The sumptuous dinner was followed by a drinking / story session in the roof deck under the clear sky, bright half moon & twinkling stars. Mattresses with pillows & blankets were shortly rolled out & it was the end of day 1.

Watched the sunset from the boat 🌅

Everyone had a nice sleep in cold night; the temperature was at 19 degrees Celsius (if I can remember it right). It felt surreal sleeping under the moon & the stars. I can’t describe how relaxing & magical the feeling was while waiting for my eyes to fall asleep. I want to experience that again!

Good morning Komodo! 🌅 The crew gave us fried banana for breakfast.

Now back to the boat tour. Day 2 started with a lovely sunrise from the roof deck. We woke up really early, had coffee / tea & fried banana for breakfast. We all freshened up before heading to Komodo Island. The visit to the Komodo Dragons is the highlight of every trip to Labuan Bajo. We first headed to the rangers’ office to register our names & pay the Komodo Island National Park fee. The weekday fee costed us around IDR 153,000 each; the fee is valid for visits to other islands with Komodo dragons like Rinca Island. Note: Fees during weekends & Indonesian public holidays are more expensive – it’ll cost one around IDR 250,000.

The Komodo dragons are real!! 😮

The group decided to take the medium trail around the island. It was an hour walk around the island with very few uphill & downhill trails. We spotted a number of Komodo dragons, deers, wild boars & water buffaloes along the way. We even saw 2 Komodo dragons fighting (it was scary & fun watching them fight)! We were the first one to arrive at the island & walk around so we were quite lucky we had the trail for ourselves. Seeing the Komodo dragons in person felt amazing but scary at the same time. They’re freaking real!

Komodo Island’s beach 😍

After spending around 1.5 hours in Komodo Island, we all went back to the boat to have lunch. We then sailed to Pink Beach to swim, snorkel & sunbathe. The water was super clean. The sand also turns pink every time it gets wet. The best view of the Pink Beach can be seen from the top of the hill on its left. The place was as relaxing as Kanawa Island.

Amazing view of the Pink Beach from the viewpoint 😍

After spending good times in Pink Beach, we headed to Rinca Island for some Komodo dragon hunting for the second time that day. The group again decided to take the medium trail. The trail was easier compared to Komodo Islands’ & was mostly flat. The only challenge we encountered was the scorching heat – we walked around the island during lunch time. We saw quite a few Komodo dragons & deer along the way. It was a nice but exhausting walk.

Walked around Rinca Island during noontime. It was so hot!

We talked to our boatmen & asked them if they we can have a quick stop somewhere along the way for a quick swim. They agreed (yay) without additional charge. We stopped in a random snorkeling spot near the main Labuan Bajo island. A friend of mine started jumping off the boat from the deck – everyone (even the scared ones) eventually followed. Fun times!

The random snorkeling point where we dropped by before going back to town.

Minutes before docking at Labuan Bajo port

After having fun snorkeling & jumping off the boat, we all went back to the boat & sailed back to Labuan Bajo harbor. We arrived the port minutes before 5 in the afternoon. The group decided to meet up for dinner that same night. We had dinner in one of the fancy restaurants in town.

Dinner with 1/2 of the overnight boat crew 🤝

Lazy Last Day

I initially planned to take the 3-day boat tour to the islands but I didn’t find any tour company operating it. I opted for the overnight boat tour. That also meant I had a spare day in Labuan Bajo. I thought of taking another island tour but the laziness in me won. I decided to stay & rest the whole day in the hostel. The tour group decided to meet up again for dinner (yay!) & drinks on everyone’s last night in town. It was a good day to get lazy after two tiring & fun days in the islands.

Best way to watch my last sunset in Labuan Bajo – with Prost Beer! 🍺

Trip Verdict

A trip to Komodo will never be complete w/o a photo with a Komodo dragon 

The trip to & from Labuan Bajo might be long & exhausting but the Komodo experience I had is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. The overnight tour was so much fun – met new friends, explored untouched islands, slept under the stars & had a close encounter with the Komodo dragons. The dragons are real!!! The relatively ‘expensive’ airline tickets & the tiring airport (& country) transfers were super worth it.

Padar & Kanawa Islands were my favorites. The islands were stunning. These places also had out-of-this-world views. I’m so happy I got the chance to visit these untouched islands.

Komodo is a place where Filipinos don’t normally go; but I tell you, please visit if you can. Now is the right time to go before the Labuan Bajo gets famous & fully developed.

Clear waters of Kanawa Island 😍

Have you been to Labuan Bajo / Komodo? How was your experience? If not, have you added this place in your bucket list? Is there something you want to know about Labuan Bajo / Komodo? Feel free to ask you questions & share your thoughts by posting a comment below. You can also send an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. Drop me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Thank you for reading.

PS. Photos were taken using my HTC Re & HTC U11.

2017 In Review: Discovering The Known & The Unknown

In less than 2 days, 2017 will come to a close. Another great & memorable year will soon come to an end. Before we welcome 2018, let us look back how this year went. I do not consider this a major travel year because I think every year is a major travel year for me.

My solo travel adventures, which started in 2016, continued this year. I went to most places all by myself & then met amazing people whom I shared good memories with. I also had the chance to reunite & travel with good old friends.

Selfie with Broken Beach in the background 📷

In 2016, I went to places which are known to most of you (perhaps except Koh Lipe). These places gave me unforgettable experiences & different insights. 2017 was a bit different. I’ve been to known places like Coron, Taipei & Ubud, but I’ve also visited unknown places (to many Filipinos) like Port Barton, Nusa Penida & Komodo. 2017 was a year of discovering the known & the unknown.

Let us rediscover the the known & unknown places I visited for 2017.

Port Barton

Port Barton’s village beach

My first solo trip for 2017 happened in March where I spent a weekend in Port Barton. It is a small undeveloped village in the northeast coast of Palawan. It is a more basic version of El Nido.

Enjoyed the tour to untouched islands & pristine beaches 😍

Everything in the village is limited – from accommodation choices, restaurants, electricity to mobile network access. These limitations didn’t hinder me from enjoying a weekend away from the busy city life. I went on an island tour which took me to untouched islands & pristine beaches. I had my first close encounter with a turtle in German Island. I also made good memories with people I met on the tour & in the hostel.

Close encounter with a turtle in German Island 🐢

Blog: PORT BARTON: Palawan’s Secret Paradise

Coron

I had my second Palawan weekend trip for 2017 in Coron. I decided to go there during the Labor Day weekend (to save work leave credits) & booked my round-trip tickets using my GetGo (Cebu Pacific Air‘s loyalty program) points.

Met these amazing people in Coron

I walked around the town & hiked Mount Tapyas on my first day. I took the Ultimate Island Tour on my second day & the Island Escapade Tour on my third day. I flew back to Manila on the fourth day.

Coron’s crystal clear waters 😍

I prefer the escapade tour over the ultimate tour. I think Kayangan Lake, Siete Picados & Twin Lagoon were really beautiful; however, these places were super crowded. I enjoyed the relaxed & laid-back escapade tour to the jaw-dropping Malcapuya, Banana & Bulog Dos Islands.

Malcapuya Island – the highlight of this Coron trip 😍

Blog: CORON – Paradise Beyond Words

Taipei

Taipei was my first international trip for 2017. It was also my first time to use my renewed passport. I’ve been to this city in 2015 with my high school friends. This time, I went on another weekend trip with my work colleagues.

Taipei ’17 buddies – Rona & Shiela 😎

We went to the usual places like Taipei 101, Ximending, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Liberty Square, Shilin Night Market & 228 Peace Park. We also went up north to the countryside to visit Shifen & Jiufen.

Colorful vibe of Jiufen 😍

We loosened up a bit by joining TourMeAway‘s Pub Crawl Activity. It was a long fun drinking night with people from all over the world. Our pub crawl photo even made it to the activity’s Klook page. I also got my new HTC U11 during this trip – definitely worth the investment.

Got a new phone in Taipei -the HTC U11

BlogTAIPEI Revisited: 3-Day Weekend in the Heart of Asia (Less than ₱15,000 all in!!!)

Siquijor

I went on a last-minute weekend Siquijor trip with friends last July. I flew to Dumaguete with a friend & boarded the next ferry to Siquijor. We then met another friend in Siquijor & started exploring the island.

 

Reunion with Geof & JE in Siquijor

We had lunch at Larena Triad Restaurant overlooking the island, went exploring at the Guiwahon Mangrove Park, (they) had fish spa in the century old balete tree, walked around the Lazi Convent & Church, jumped off (a number of times) the famous Cambugahay Falls & enjoyed some lazy (except me who tried the cliff diving) afternoon at Salagdoong Beach.

Cambugahay Falls – the highlight of my Siquijor trip 💦

We had a short Dumaguete side trip; we stayed there for a night before our flight back to Manila. Our friend, who is based there, took us on a late night city tour (?? haha) just to see how it looks like.

BlogLast-Minute SIQUIJOR Weekend (For Less Than ₱7,000 Including Airfare)

Ubud

Explored Ubud with Mary Ann & Lyza

I spent half of my annual birthday month trip in Ubud in Bali, Indonesia. I’ve been to Ubud in 2014 but I didn’t have enough time to explore the place. I went back for 3 full days to explore different temples, hike up & down the rice terraces, eat the famous crispy duck, walk around the town, tried the luwak coffee in a coffee plantation & go to the waterfall.

World famous Tegallalang Rice Terraces 😍

I also attended a cooking class with Paon Bali. I learned to prepare local dishes & ended up eating them as well after. This Paon Bali Cooking Class was the highlight of my Ubud visit.

Local food we ate after the cooking class 😋

BlogThe Wonderful Indonesia Series: UBUD – From Temples To Rice Paddies

Nusa Penida

Instagram-famous Broken Beach 😍

The other half of my week-long birthday trip was spent in a relatively unknown off Bali called Nusa Penida. For 2 straight days, I hopped on a motorcycle & explored this untouched island.

Atuh Beach – a cove between 2 cliffs 😍

I went to ‘Instagram-famous’ places like Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach & Kelingking Secret Point. I also went to the hidden Crystal Bay for swimming & relaxation. On my 2nd & last day, I spent the whole day in Atuh Beach, another ‘Instagram-famous’ cove that is between 2 high cliffs.

Another Instagram-famous – Kelingking Secret Point 😍

I stayed in Kuta for a night before my early flight back to Manila. I’ve been to this place in 2015 but I still walked around the crowded beach & waited for the beautiful Kuta sunset.

Kuta sunset – what a beautiful view to end this week long birthday trip 🌅

BlogThe Wonderful Indonesia Series: NUSA PENIDA – Hidden Paradise Off Bali

Komodo

Kanawa Island 😍

Two months after spending a week in Indonesia, I decided to fly back & sneak out a short weekend trip to Labuan Bajo. This small village / town is the gateway for the more famous Komodo National Park (Komodo Island).

Worth the 30-minute hike up the mountain 😍

I took the shared overnight boat trip to the islands. The islands were hours away from each other by slow boat. On the first day, we went snorkeling on Kanawa Island, swam with the manta rays in Manta Point & hiked up Padar Island for some amazing views. We parked somewhere near Komodo Island & stayed there for the night. The boatmen prepared all our meals while on the boat. We slept under the stars & clear skies.

Ha, once in a lifetime photo with a Komodo dragon 🦎

The following day, we walked around in Komodo Island to spot Komodo dragons, went snorkeling & swimming in Pink Beach & spotted some wildlife on Rinca Island (more Komodo dragons lol). Our boatmen allowed us to snorkel & jump off the boat in a random snorkeling point right before going back to Labuan Bajo.

Met up for dinner with the people I was with in the overnight boat trip

Blog: To Follow

Tokyo & Kawaguchiko

Dinner in Tokyo with Laura & Leon (former HTC people) & Kristin

The week-long trip to Japan was my last trip for 2017. It was not my first time (I’ve been there in 2015 & in 2016) so I decided to explore the not-so-famous areas like Kawaguchiko. I flew to Tokyo in the morning, then I met Laura & Leon (people I met in HTC Elevate years ago) in late afternoon until evening.

Picture-perfect Mount Fuji 🗻😍

The following day, I took the bus to Kawaguchiko where I stayed for 2 full days. I met good friends in the hostel which I went around the place with. We went up to Mt. Fuji 4th Station, walked around Kawaguchiko town & we even went cycling around Lake Kawaguchiko. I saw Mt Fuji at its finest (a lot of times!!) during my short stay in this quiet town.

Cycled around Lake Kawaguchiko with these guys 🚴

Blog: To Follow

Takayama & Shirakawa-go

Takayama Old Town 🏠

After spending 2 days in Kawaguchiko, I took a 5-hour bus ride to Takayama. Takayama is a city that is located in the rural, mountainous Hida region in Gifu Prefecture. Just like any other Japanese rural centers, the city retains traditional character. This is shown in the preserved old town. I walked around the old town & the city for one whole day. I was able to visit various temples & museums along the way. I also tried the famous Hida beef in one of the restaurants near JR Takayama Station.

Hida beef for lunch 😋

I went on a half day side trip to Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage site located at the foot of Mt. Haku-san. Located about an hour away from Takayama, this old village is characterized by gassho-style farmhouses. I spent 3 hours walking around the village, hopping from one house to the other.

Shirakawa-go from the view point 😍

The visits to Takayama Old Town & Shirakawa-go were the highlights of my stay in Gifu Prefecture.

Gassho-style farmhouse in Shirakawa-go 😍

Blog: To Follow


The list above doesn’t account the number of times I went to my hometown in Albay for family functions & random weekends. I plan to continue going home (every few months) to my parents in 2018. There’s definitely no place like home.

Picturesque Mayon Volcano 🌋 There’s no place like home 😍

The trips above pretty much sum up my 2017. It was a year of discovering known places like Coron, Taipei & Ubud, to not-so-known places like Siquijor & Kawaguchiko & to relatively unknown places like Port Barton, Nusa Penida, Komodo & Takayama. It was another year full of memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. I already have a few trips planned for 2018 & I look forward to exploring more of what this beautiful world has to offer.

PS. Photos were taken using my HTC Re & HTC U11