Blog Post: The Jetlagged on Kanawa Island, Komodo National Park
It’s always summer, somewhere on the planet.
That’s what we Northern Europeans think to ourselves to escape from winter blues. Our summer ends after only a few weeks – weeks, when we were really lucky. It just feels good to know that there is a place, somewhere on this planet, where there is always summer. A place where you can go to, anytime, a place that will always welcome you with a burning sun, blazing heat and humidity, with clear and warm water, hot sandy beaches and tropical gardens. Of course there are endless summer holiday destinations , but some are special gems. And one of them is so pristine it should be kept secret. But it is too beautiful to not talk about it and its owners will take good care that it will not lose its „specialness“.
In Indonesia, the land of 1.000 islands, this island is one of the smaller ones. You can walk around it within less than one hour. It has 3 hills that provide perfect sunset views and a mangrove forest, which is a kindergarten for marine life. This island has long beaches with fine white sand and trees providing shades. All around the island is a tropcial coral reef and a long jetty runs out to the drop-off, where the dive boats anchor. This is Kanawa Island, situated just on the border of the Komodo National Park, the end of the world where the last dragons live. Travellers first need to fly to Bali, e.g. via Singpore or Kuala Lumpur, and depending on arrival times, continue on the next day with a short domestic flight to Labuan Bajo on Flores, Indonesia. After another stopover in this bay, which forms the gate to Komodo National Park, travellers will be picked up by a boat and after a drive of an hour arrive on Kanawa Island. Soon, they realize that every kilometer flewn, every hour spent on the road was worth it.
A large white sign made of driftwood and forming the letters KANAWA welcomes new guests at the end of the long jetty. From this point on, there is no need for flip-flops or sandals anymore. Go barefoot or you’re overdressed! After the check-in in the island’s restaurant, luggage is moved either to one of the 14 bungalows with open air bathroom and a hammock on the veranda, to a balé (a small traditional beach front hut with a matress, mosquito net and bamboo curtains on all four sides) or spacious tent. You can even bring your own tent! Bungalows are the most comfortable accomodation category providing double beds, mosquito nets and shelves. The way they are built provides a natural air conditioning at night. There is no fresh water source on the island, so all water has to be brought in daily via boat from Labuan Bajo – it is therefore restricted to 50 l per person per day. All appartments though have a fresh water shower, sink and a western toilet with salt water flushing. Balés and tents share bathrooms/showers. Waste water from the shower is treated and used to irrigate the vegetables and fruits in the gardens behind the restaurant. There is only one restaurant on the island, and no other shops, so travellers have to bring all necessary items with them from Labuan Bajo. When you get hungry, let yourself be served at the restaurant! It offers traditional Indonesian food and Italian dishes, pasta and fabulous pizza – the chef is perfectly instructed by native Italian Fabrizio, who runs Kanawa Island Resort and the restaurant. The restaurant is the center of the island and a very social place, where travel buddies meet and new friendships are being born over one to many Bintang (beer).
The building right next to the restaurant is the other heart of the island, Kanawa Island Diving, run by a friendly British called Ed. Here, dive trips are planned and discussed, own dive gear can be stored and washed. All necessary equipment (in very good condition) can also be rented and dive courses are offered to enable guests to explore the fantastic underwater world of the Komodo National Park.
Diving in the Komodo National Park
Divers need to get up early and enter the boat which is already loaded with dive gear and tanks. Kanawa is situated just on the border of the national park and can reach all its top dive sites in the center and North within approx. one hour. Komodo is famous for its biodiversity and for its rough conditions. Two oceans, the Indian Ocean to the South and the Flores Sea to the North are washing their tides through this small area of islands and channels. Currents can be extreme sometimes and even form vortexes, like someone just pulled the plug.
There are a lot of different trips that can be taken from Kanawa and today it’s Wainilu for the first dive. Wainilu is a shallow and calm area with lots of critters like peacock mantis shrimp, mandarine fish and all sorts of nudibranches. Divers need to look closely not to miss anything tiny and freaky! The second dive is the one everybody is getting excited about – Makaser or Manta Point. This dive site is best compared to a wind channel or a very busy road. Strong currents make it hard for corals and sponges to get a grip and grow large here, so the ground is mainly small rubble. But some larger blocks of stone or corals were able to withstand the strong currents here and are home to hundreds of different kinds of fish. Some of them are on a very specialised diet – plucking parasites and dead skin particles from Manta Rays. Large rock and coral formations in this rubble desert are like a spa for these gentle giants who come in regularly to have their skin cleaned. With their large wings, they seem to fly through the water, in perfect streamlined shape, not having to worry about the currents that sometimes make it hard for divers to stay in place. Eye in eye with one of largest marine creatures is an unforgettable experience – especially when they come in really close to have their bellies tickled by the divers’ bubbles – Mantas like whirlpools, too! Komodo is famous for its all black Mantas, and there are rumours about rare sightings of all white Manta Rays here.
After two amazing dives and depending on the trip, a choice of either Nasi or Mie Goreng is either served on board or pre-ordered for the arrival at the restaurant. There are also trips to the famous dive sites of Northern Komodo, like Crystal Rock and the Cauldron, dive/land combination trips to Rinca to see the Komodo dragons (a must!), Pink Beach and other reknown spots. Snorkelers are always welcome.
Dive, Eat, Relax – Enjoy.
The afternoon hours are open for many activities like playing beach volleyball, lying in the sun working on the tan, taking a walk around the island, climbing up the hill (wait until it cools down a bit) or diving/snorkelling on the house reef. All of the island is surrounded by a coral reef, which starts after a couple of meters of sandy bottom. Be careful with your fins not to break anything before you reach deeper water. Ed and his crew will give you the best advise where to dive. Already in the shallow parts, all kinds of fish, frogfish, cuttlefish, octopus and tiny critter creatures can be detected and the deeper parts are home to eagle rays, turtles and larger schools of fish.
A nice alternative is snorkeling in the mangroves, checking out the nursery of marine life: baby black tip reef sharks, baby blue spottet stingrays, batfish families, lionfish, sea snakes and schools of juvenile fish live here. Mangrove forests radiate a very magic atmosphere.
Watching the sunset is a must – and is best enjoyed sitting in the warm sand with a Bintang in one’s hand. On the island, electriciy is only provided between 18:00 and 23:00 o’clock everyday, so don’t forget to charge your cameras now! There is no need for smartphones or computers as there is no internet connection on the whole island, how wonderful is that! Go fortify yourself with one or two of the delicous dinner dishes. Hang around with other guests and enjoy telling and listening to travel stories in the restaurant or on the beach while drinking a few cold beers.
When the electric lights go out and the occasional bonfire by the sea ceases, complete darkness falls over the island. And the moon and stars, brighter than anywhere in our light polluted world, shine their light on this special little island.
Slowly, we feel it’s time to go to bed and listen to the ocean waves while falling asleep – and the sun continues her round on the side of the planet and shines her light on another spot of endless summer.