The Komodo Island boat tour is practically a must-do for anyone going to Indonesia. If you’re young and fit, then almost any boat is probably okay. The usual tour covers Komodo Island, Padar Island, Pink Beach and a search to go snorkeling with manta rays. There are variations that go to see Komodo Dragons on both Komodo and Rinca, or where you sleep in the boat overnight and do more snorkeling, but these are the basics.
The most basic of these boats, however, are not designed for out-of-shape people, or partially blind travelers. I believe there were more comfortable boats, but we were not aware that the one we would be on would be so challenging. In fact, we were rather ill-informed about the whole day thanks to the hotel staff that set it up. We learned our lesson. Ask a lot of questions and don’t let them dodge answers. Shop around.
First, we boarded the boat from the top, and then had to climb down a ladder that had huge gaps between the rungs. A definite challenge for the blind guy. This was also early in our travels and our level of fitness was still quite low. After Indonesia, we had both lost weight and were in much better shape – due to adventures like this.
After several hours, we got to Padar Island, where from the top you can see three bays at one time. However, the end of the pier is utterly destroyed. Imagine having to guide a blind guy through a badly managed de-construction zone. Big chunky, rocky terrain and difficult footing. By the time as we got as far up as we did, there was no time except to get back down. One member of the crew helped us reluctantly. The other guy helped pending a tip – but he was much nicer so we didn’t mind.
Then there was Pink Beach, which wasn’t very pink – but it was quite nice. Except we only had 30 minutes there, and while we’d brought out swimsuits, no one told us to wear them under our clothes. So, no time to suit up and get in for a swim. (Guiding a blind guy around a boat to change clothes in the tiny bathroom takes more time than you’d think.)
On Komodo they didn’t want to wait for Tim. Knowing he’d be slower, they tried to talk him out of going to the watering hole. We insisted. This was the whole reason for the trip. We are so glad we didn’t give in. We got to see 8 Komodo Dragons – and we got to see them fight! This was easily the highlight of the day and made the whole trip worthwhile. Check out our Komodo Dragon Fight! video to see the whole thing.
Then they went looking for manta rays. The sea was too rough and I’m not an experienced enough snorkeler/swimmer to go into water like that. I did get to see a few fins break the surface. I don’t think Tim could see much of anything. The other people on the boat all jumped in and went swimming with them.
The boat ride back to Flores was long and excruciating. We should have been back by 5pm, but it was 9pm by the time we pulled in. When the crew realized they were going to have to feed us for dinner, they tossed together a big plate of ramen noodles and set it out. But that big plate doesn’t go far when you’ve got ten very hungry people. To top it off, the boat had no lights of any kind except for the guy standing on the bow, holding a flashlight looking for the markers that would lead us home.
Honestly, the boat tour was pretty awful. If we hadn’t seen the awesome fight between the Komodo Dragons, we would have been pretty unhappy at the way it went down. I’m sure there are better ones, but this was our experience. Learn from our mistakes and do your research.
Still, the places were very pretty, and interesting. If you’re in Indonesia – do the tour. Just be better prepared than we were.