Peaceful, rather slow and with a friendly-looking tongue-ticking gaze, the Komodo dragons were anything but the fierce, dangerous and vicious animals portrayed on National Geographic. Make no mistake, they can be aggressive but probably when the heat is turned on lower than in the sunny summer months.
Although there is no clear agreement as to when and where these lizard looking creatures come from, their current whereabouts are easy to determine. Visit Rinca or Komodo Islands in the Flores archipelago of Indonesia and you are likely to spot a few roaming around the ranger stations. Or better yet, stay at one of the liveaboards in Indonesia for the ultimate diving experience.
Flores is a hard to reach relatively uncomplicated archipelago not only known for the Komodo dragons but also for exquisite diving opportunities as it is part of Asia’s Coral Triangle. Flights into Labuan Bajo with Garuda have only just been resumed, finally connecting the archipelago to the rest of the world with an airline that is not banned in the West.
The area is still a gem to be discovered and there are three options to do so: cheap and cheerful, living aboard boats with mattresses on deck for the night; simple accommodation in and around Labuan Bajo or luxurious pampering. For the latter, the sky is the limit.
1. Plataran Komodo
A recent addition to the Southeast Asian hotel scene, Plataran Resorts are owned by a local Indonesian looking to promote the country’s most famous landmarks. Properties are in Borobudur, Bali, Jakarta and Komodo with new resorts scheduled to open in Sumba and Bromo.
The Komodo resort is 15min by boat from Labun Bajo’ Habour and it has an exotic feel with dark hand carved cabanas on the beach.
The design and details throughout the resort remind travelers they are in Indonesia; The open dining room is a wooden structure with intricate carvings on the ceiling reminiscent of Borobudur temples. The coffee table is made of a glass resting over a large wooden Komodo dragon.
The 8 cabanas have a porch, a small room and an attached bathroom. Some of them have two bedrooms and all are spaced out on the manicured gardens and beach. As opposed to some of the uninhabited powder sand islands on Flores with the fluffiest sand beaches in Indonesia, Plataran’s beach is made of a rougher beige sand.
The resort’s infinity pool is a welcome spot to relax after a long day of diving or chasing dragons and it merges into the sea from the sun loungers. We enjoyed some of the most beautiful sunsets on the bay.
As the resort has recently opened some hiccups are expected but often compensated by the staff’s friendliness. If you are coming to see the dragons the resort is not the best location. Instead, Plataran has a range of traditional Indonesian boats for charter which will take you around the area.
Wake up in a new location every morning and explore the archipelago without wasting 4-5h a day to reach your destination. Best of all, with Plataran you will not have to break the bank. Their boats start at $800++ per day for up to 4 people.
2. Alila Purnama
Boasting 3 decks and 46m long the boat is described as the most luxurious in Asia. Although originally designed for private bookings they also offer individual cabins on some of their dates. The itinerary includes trips to Komodo, Raja Ampat and Ambon, all three bringing the remotest parts of Indonesia closer.
Alila which is Sanskrit for “surprising” aims to be “Surprisingly different” through Resorts, villas and now, sailing expeditions.
The Komodo expedition was launched at the end of 2013 and will resume from November 2014 until the end of March. Lasting 6 days, guests will have the opportunity of diving, snorkeling, exploring lonely beaches, trekking on Rinca to see the dragons and dive into the exquisite waters of Flores on board a luxury floating hotel. In keeping with Alila’s spirit of sustainability, the furniture is made from locally sourced teak and ratan.
The highlight is the Master Suite. With wrap around windows, the 180 degree views of the infinite blue-green-brown of the Flores archipelago is breathtaking. The remaining suites are charmingly appointed and flanked by the curved walls of the vessel’s belly.
Luxury comes in the form of an on board spa offering massages on deck or on secluded beaches. A large deck with oversized sundecks for relaxation or star gazing and gourmet meals. The boat is equipped with its own PADI pe center with qualified pe masters. Fishing, snorkeling or yoga is also available.
The 16 man crew is amazing at silently anticipating needs; Come back from diving to a refreshing freshly prepared drink, consider laying down on a sunbed and the umbrella will be raised.
If you can afford it, Purnama goes beyond the extraordinary to show that the difference between the good and the extraordinary is often on the unnoticed details.
Cabin rates start at $12,500++ per couple for the 6 night package all inclusive.
Amanwana is a mix of tented wilderness camp bliss and luxury sail boat for charter. The recommended expedition includes 5 nights on board the Amanikan, Aman’s coastal cruiser, and two nights on land at one of their hideaway tents on Moyo island.
The Amanikan is a 32m triple decker with 3 cabins on the main deck. The master cabin also features 270 degree views and a large outdoor deck. As opposed to Alila’s Purnama, all of Amanikan’s cabins have sweeping views of the area.
Hosting up to 6 guests Amanikan is available only for private charter with rates starting at $28,000++ for the 7 night expedition.
Reaching Amanwana is an adventure by itself. Guests can choose to fly on one of the scheduled weekly flights to the resort’s island or charter their own helicopter from Bali providing seclusion to the next level. Floatplane anyone? Also a possibility.
And you thought Alila’s Purnama was luxury? Aman is opulent down right extravagant exuberance.
Do you prefer to be closer to nature? Try a liveaboard in Komodo where you can share your time with fellow divers and explore the oceans. Komodo has some of the best diving I have seen including lots of mantas.
If you’re staying in Bali before venturing out to Komodo, check out some of these hotels: Capella Ubud, Chapung Se Bali, Candidasa, Intercontinental Resort Bali, and the Ubud Hanging Gardens. And explore the great vegan and vegetarian cafes of Ubud.
Have you been to Komodo or Flores in one of our three ways?
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