What seemed like a wild idea at the time turned into the adventure that ultimately made us fall in love with “wonderful Indonesia!” The pot of gold at the end of the road was getting to see the famously deadly Komodo dragons in person, one of those things are natural wonders of the world that people dream about seeing once in their lifetime, like visiting Galapagos (one day!) and hiking mount Everest. The only difference was instead of flying or taking a liveaboard cruise like most people, we decided hire a white steed of a scooter and haul ourselves all the way from the island of Bali to Flores and back in ten days flat – a journey of nearly 1,500km! Along the way, we encountered torrential rains, flat tires, and blazing heat, but, the nearly new highways, deliciously inexpensive local food, gorgeous landscapes views, and heart-warmingly kind locals made the journey incredible and one that we would recommend to any adventurer.
TOTAL TRIP OVERVIEW:
+48 hours direct one-way, Bali to Flores.
+Including two nights of accommodation.
*All the prices below are inclusive of two passengers and one scooter/motorbike.
BALI to LOMBOK
The Ride: (38km/1.1hr from Ubud) After escaping the crazy traffic of either Denpasar or Ubud, enjoy wide open roads in the east of the island to Padangbai Harbour. This is the only harbor that will ferry you over to Lombok with a motorbike (do not make the same mistake we did and ride all the way to Benoa harbour, which takes passengers only).
Ferry: •Bali (Padangbai Harbour) -to- Lombok (Pelabuhan Harbour) = 4 hours (3:15PM-7:15PM), 121,000 IDR
LOMBOK to SUMBAWA
The Ride: (101km) •Pelabuhan Harbour -to- Lebuhan Lombok port = 2hr30min (9:20AM-12:00PM) including 10 minute break, 55km/hr average. Mostly villages and houses. Most noteworthy were the many majestic mosques (masjids) with regal towers and colourful domes. You may be able to spot monitor lizards along the riverbanks if you’re lucky.
Ferry: Lombok (Labuhan Lombok) -to- Sumbawa (Poto Tano): 2 hours (12:15PM-2:15PM), 51,400 IDR
Where to Stay:
+Mataram (west): Strategically located less than 20km from Labuhan Lombok and about the same from the port to head to the infamous Gili islands, this small town is Lombok’s main city. Small and hosting a bustling night food stall market, it offers a number of budget to mid-range hotels to rest your head at. We stayed at Hart Hotel and though it wasn’t perfect, it tried hard to be and the staff were excellent.
+Sambelia (east): Not even a town, more of a general area, this was the spot of our absolute best and unexpected surprise stay of the entire ride. New seaside villas nestled inside an exotic garden and perched beside a black sand beach is Pondok Pondok Siola. Not only is the location sublime and almost devoid of any other people, the staff are very friendly and they offer one of the best snorkeling trips we’ve ever been on – EVER. The daytrip takes you to reefs surrounding three different local islands, one of them being a tiny sandbar that features white sand in the center and pink sand(!) at its outer rim. Do not miss out on staying here if you can manage it!
SUMBAWA to FLORES
The Ride (540km harbour to harbour):
+Poto Tano port to Bima city (310km) = 8hr30min (2:30PM-11:00PM) including 2hr30min of stops for meals/bathroom/rest/refuel. Average 70km/hr during daylight & 55km/hr at nightfall.
Gorgeous landscapes. From dry lands to coastal bluest of blues water views to palm tree forests to wide expanses of fields with mountain range backdrops to hillside villages. The west half of the island hosts countless free roaming farm animals – you can’t go more than five minutes without seeing at least a couple of cows, goats, horses, buffalo – or all of them at once! A lot of flat lands, great for open road cruising. After passing Sumbawa Besar, the east half of the island has more mountainous roads with many rural villages and windy roads. Less animals but be careful of cattle & dogs on the road at night.
+Bima to Sape harbour (40km) = 1hr15min (6:15AM-7:30AM), no stops. Average 55km/hr.
Curvy mountain road with excellent elevated landscape views and rice fields. Passed through villages with many schoolchildren & ‘no honking’ signs. The first 5-10km from Bima are unpaved dirt roads, proceed with caution.
Where to Stay:
+Sumbawa Besar (central): A tiny town found right smack dab in the middle of Sumbawa island, it’s really only good to stop at to rest your bike and rest your butts at. The best lodging options are boutique hotels at reasonable prices. If you really want to luxuriate, try the Transit Inn, a mid-range colonial style hotel with lush polished wood lounges and verandas reminiscent of French Indochina.
+Bima (east): The closest major city to Sape harbour is also a port town itself, but only for freight shipments, so it’s still rough around the edges. The only hotel suitable to stay in at the time of this writing was Marina Hotel. Unlike the handful of other hotels we scouted, this was the only one that was new, modern-styled, clean and suitable for Western guests – though the price reflected that.
Ferry: Sumbawa (Sape) -to- Flores (Labuan Bajo): 6 to 6.5 hours (9:45AM TO 3:30PM and 10:00AM to 4:30PM). 230,000 IDR. Only two ferry times per day: 9:30AM and 4PM, though don’t be surprised by delayed departures.
Labuan Bajo is the port town you’ll land in and it’s been developed to accommodate the travelers who’ve sailed or flown in seeking a glimpse of the fabled Komodo dragons in Komodo National Park (KNP) next door. Although KNP lies in between Sumbawa and Flores, your Komodo excursion must depart from Labuan Bajo, since there are no tour offerings out of Sumbawa at this time.
The town itself is small and still developing to service its many foreign visitors. Lodging was a confusing mix of affordable but subpar quality, then jumping straight into excessively expensive. We stayed at Outside of KNP excursions, the best thing this town has to offer is a bustling night food market, and sunsets unrivaled anywhere else we’ve been in Indonesia. Its position on the west coast of Flores while facing the islets of the national park guarantee fiery orange or pink skies at dusk.
Many dive shops combine their a day of diving with a visit to the KNP, a dream excursion if there ever was one since landing a job as a dive instructor in Komodo is one of the most coveted for dive masters all over the world. When it comes to choosing a dive shop, there are a number of well-reviewed shops on Trip Advisor and we highly suggest choosing your top three online and checking out their shops in person. We did this and landed with Manta Rhei, thanks to their superbly friendly and professional staff in the office who explained everything in detail and made Jen feel really comfortable about diving for her first time. The day went spectacularly, and you can read our full review on Trip Advisor.
When it comes to braving a face-to-snout encounter with the Komodo dragons, there are only two places in the entire world they live in that you can visit them at: Komodo Island and Rinca (pronounced “Rin-cha”) island. Although Komodo is afterall the namesake island for these magnificent beasts, the dragons there are reportedly quite sluggish. Pair the more active dragons at Rinca with the fact that the island is half the distance from Labuan Bajo than Komodo, and you’ve got a clear winner. In fact we just had to walk a minute from landing at Rinca before spotting two full grown male Komodos chasing a park ranger! You’ll always be accompanied by a park ranger and can choose a short, medium or long hike. Within the one hour short trek we did, we saw nine larger-than-life venomous Komodo dragons and topped it off with a pretty epic view of the bay from the top of a hill.