The group met for dinner on the first evening, after arriving in Bali and checking into the airport hotel. We shared a delicious traditional Balinese meal, served family-style while getting to know each other a little. As expected, people were tired from the long journey and jetlag so we went to bed early.
The following morning we reconvened in the lobby and met a local English speaking guide who accompanied us (and our luggage) to a waiting bus. As we drove through Bali, towards Uluwatu, he told us about the local people and customs and about the historical and religious significance of the beautiful places we were to visit that morning.
First stop was Uluwatu Temple- a traditional style- old Hindu temple, built on the edge of a high cliff, with spectacular views of the ocean down below. We also got to watch some local kids who were there practicing playing their musical instruments and dancing. So sweet. We went in search of some Macaque monkeys as we did not immediately see them around.
We then returned to the bus and went to the GWK park, a government cultural and tourist park on the way back to the airport. It is most well known for the 263m statue of Lord Vishnu on the back of his Garuda (eagle). It is a magnificent sight.
Upon return to the airport, we received packed lunch from the guide before leaving to check in for our onward flight to Kupang. Here we transferred to the hotel to check-in, and meet in the restaurant for a well deserved cold beer and a few giggles before dinner, and bed.
This meant by the next morning we were all feeling well-rested and fresh and knew each other a little better so the real fun could begin. A short transfer and flight later, we were on our way to Alami Alor resort. Located on the eastern island of Alor, the drive took about an hour and gave us a chance to take in the scenery.
Upon arrival at the resort, we were met by some of the friendliest staff, who quickly figured out who was who and which bags belonged to each of us, before taking the bags to our rooms for us. The rooms are individual bungalows, well-paced from each other for privacy, built on the rocky shore of the island, with large private verandas, partially outdoor garden bathrooms, huge beds and spectacular views over the bay and surrounding volcanoes.
After settling in we met in the communal lounge and dining area, a large open-sided structure with a stunning view of the calm blue water. Here we settled into the comfy couches and had a welcome briefing before lunch- a delicious spread of local food fit for royalty.
After lunch, we got to the really good stuff- snorkeling! We were eager to hit the water, and none of us was disappointed. We visited two sites that afternoon, one form the boat and the other from the resort’s jetty, the house reef. We were all instantly taken by the stunning (25m+) viability, the lush reef teeming with small fish and critters, and the schooling fish hanging around off the side of the reef. We returned for showers and evening cocktails as very happy people.
The following days were spent more or less as follows- breakfast (pre-ordered the evening before from a menu) and freshly ground and percolated coffee, followed by aa trip on the boats out to two sites. We would spend about 1h15 – 1h45 at each site exploring the wealth of marine life that varied so greatly depending on the location. From sandy bottoms with coral bommies to sloping reefs, to boulders dropping off into the deep, to volcanic geysers bubbling through the substrate, we were constantly entertained and enthralled. We were treated to tea and water, and homemade baked goods and fruit on the boat between snorkel sessions! After a leisurely lunch back at the resort, we would go to one more site for the afternoon before returning to home base to relax in the lounge while looking at our photos and trying to identify all the previously-unseen creatures in the fish ID books the resort has on the coffee tables.
The week was not without much excitement. Highlights were- Blue Whales in the bay!! Schooling dolphins and tuna hunting small fish leaping out of the water putting on a fantastic display! A mola-mola (sunfish) coming to say hello to us on the reef! Loads of tropical fish, nudibranchs, octopus, small critters, and Mandarin Fish mating!! Every day we thought “wow, this could not get better”, and the following day we would be proven wrong. Simply amazing.
After a spectacular week we traveled together to Labuan Bajo, western Flores, were we transferred by boat to the stunning island resort- Komodo Resort. The boat ride over treated us to the best view of the red-skied sunset.
After arriving and checking into our beachfront luxury bungalows, we met for dinner and a drink before bed. The following morning, we were back at it! Here we spent our days on a large wooden boat, leaving the resort around 9 am and staying out until about 4 pm. We would visit two sites in the mornings before lunch on the boat (a yummy buffet of local dishes and fresh fruit) and then another site after lunch. The first day we were lucky enough to snorkel with 5 manta rays, and we knew right then that we week was going to be special. And boy was it ever. From watching a cuttlefish lay her eggs into the hard coral, to drift snorkeling, more manta rays, countless turtles, octopus, eagle ray, eels and more, we were simply delighted at every turn.
The house reef at Komodo Resort is utterly exceptional, and we snorkeled it several times, with many people agreeing it is one of the best reefs in and around the Komodo National Park.
Evenings at the resort were spent watching stunning sunsets from the beach bar, while chatting, looking through photos, exchanging funny stories and generally recapping the day’s events and new sightings.
By the end of the tour, we felt like we had all known each other for ages (far longer than the two weeks it had been) and were sorry to have to say goodbye when we got back to the airport in Bali.