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Venetia waterfall Indonesia Komodo National Park

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Uncover Komodo National Park with Yacht Expedition Designer, Venetia

Read about Yacht Expedition Designer Venetia’s recent Indonesian experience, as she set out to discover Komodo National Park by yacht.

I started my journey flying from Bali to Labuan Bajo, a short but spectacular way to witness the archipelago from above, and the gateway for yacht expeditions in the spectacular Komodo National Park. Once onboard RASCAL, the adventure truly began. We headed north and immediately began to explore Komodo’s underwater landscapes at Palau Anita. After a thorough run down of the area: its topography, hazards, and visibility, we headed below the water’s surface. Drifting with the current, we witnessed spectacular coral of all sizes and colours surrounded by hundreds of vibrant fish and turtles.

As darkness fell, we escaped to a tiny, deserted island by tender for a wild beach dinner under the stars. An exquisite meal was prepared over an open fire which we then enjoyed under a canopy of swaying bamboo decorations and gleaming lights. Equipped with a guitar and cajon, the crew treated us to a joyous performance of some of their best loved songs, including particularly meaningful songs about working far from family and friends. Dancing in the sand under the stars was a spectacular welcome to the RASCAL way of life.

Beach set up in Indonesia by RASCAL crew Venetia in Indonesia Yachting
Venetia in Indonesia Yachting Venetia in Indonesia Yachting crew onboard RASCAL food

ENCOUNTERING KOMODO’S DRAGONS

A trip to Komodo National Park would not be complete without a visit to the island of Komodo to search for the island’s most famous residents: the Komodo dragon. In the pale, early-morning light, a local island ranger briefed us on safety and the dragons’ behaviours before we set off in search of these extraordinary creatures. We encountered several, lazing on the white sand or hunting hungrily through the island’s undergrowth. As we walked, the local ranger shared his personal experiences with the dragons and explained some of their more eccentric behaviours such as eating their young. Our hike across the island also brought us close to cockatoos, megapodes, wild boar, deer, and more as well as huge mounds that serve as Komodo dragon nests.

Under the golden glow of the setting sun, we made our way to the spectacular summit of Padar. Here, we climbed the winding staircase to the island’s highest point where we were treated to a breath-taking view over the island’s rolling mountains and pink, white, and black sand beaches.  

SEARCHING FOR THE ELUSIVE MANTA RAY

Karang Makkasar is known locally to house cleaning stations that are frequented by the area’s resident manta rays. Hopping into the water, we drifted with the current as we spotted sharks and eagle rays in search of the elusive manta ray. Our patience paid off and we spotted a manta gliding through the water before us. Above the manta, an eagle ray dipped and rolled through the water moving closer and closer to the surface of the water. As the eagle ray dived for what looked like the final time, it quickly changed course and flew out of the water. Witnessing it soaring through the air mere metres in front of us was a truly extraordinary experience that will remain etched in my memory for years to come.

Lying roughly three metres below the surface, Batu Monco is the perfect spot for snorkelling. As we swam with huge turtles and sharks, it was particularly humbling and incredible to witness such thriving coral life and marine species – unaffected by pollution or climate change.

We uncovered vast stretches of pink sand with the comfort of a stunning beach set up designed by the RASCAL crew. With no other boats for seemingly miles around we were treated to absolute privacy as we paddle boarded and kayaked over colourful coral formations. On shore we were able to walk for miles on each side over dry vegetation and powder-soft pink sand, without seeing a single soul before returning to the beach to relax with a refreshing coconut in the shade.

DIVING THE ANGEL REEF AND JOURNEYING INTO THE JUNGLE

Waking up off the coast of Mojo Island, we headed out in a tender to dive the Angel Reef at Labuan Aji. Our dive guide, Zul, grew up on Mojo Island, and was intimately familiar with all the surrounding reefs having spent years exploring them as a diver and adept spearfisher.

We made our way ashore to the village of Labuan Aji with a large contingent of the crew who all have a special place in their hearts for their crewmate’s home village. Hopping on the back of a fleet of rickety motorcycles, we headed up a track into the jungle. Varying between flat tarmac, steep rocky drops, and narrow sandy sections – our journey into the jungle was an adventure in itself – I was very happy not to be in the driving seat as I might well still be in a ditch in the jungle now.

Once the pathway had run its course, we continued on foot in search of Mata Jitu waterfall. Here, crystal-clear waters crash from the rocks into a series of pristine turquoise pools. Surrounded by endless green and a wealth of colourful butterflies, we dove into the allegedly healing waters of the waterfall for a refreshing dip. In the absolute serenity of the jungle, we floated on the surface of the pools under the dappled sunlight filtering through the lush canopy above.

Venetia in Komodo National Park Indonesia Venetia in Komodo National Park Indonesia
Venetia in Komodo National Park Indonesia jungle Venetia in Komodo National Park Indonesia Moyo Island

DISCOVERING THE INDONESIAN WAY OF LIFE

Heading back to the village, Zul was waiting for us with his wife and 4-month-old son. After introductions were made, he took us on a short walk around the village where he grew up and where he started his own family. He explained some of the harsher points of island life. The village is home to a primary school, doctor’s surgery, and small food shops, but for secondary education and specialist medical treatment, locals need to travel the two hours to the nearby island of Sumbawa.

Zul’s love for his home was absolutely apparent as he pointed out his grandparents’ house, which was surrounded by lush fruit trees laden with guava and mango. He explained the island’s other idiosyncrasies, such as the Mojo’s language, which is completely unique to the region. This was a truly fascinating and authentic insight into the true breadth and variety of culture that is housed on the many islands of Indonesia.

DIVING AT SUNSET AND SWIMMING WITH WHALE SHARKS

Under the light of the setting sun, we went for our final dive of the day and were treated to a prodigious shoal of fusiliers that twisted and darted around us, sometimes blocking the sunlight as they swam above our heads. This spectacular shoal enticed a few other species, including black tip reef sharks that broke silently through the mass.

Every morning, before sunrise, fishermen head out in the bay of Teluk Saleh to catch shrimp. These fishermen often attract the attention of the resident filter feeders who can be spotted in the waters around the fishing vessels scooping up krill. Rising before the sun, we tendered to a nearby fishing vessel under the cover of darkness. As we approached, we witnessed the dark water’s surface swirl and break with huge, white spotted pelagics.

Hopping into the glittering black water, we soon realised the sheer number of whale sharks that were teeming beneath us. Equipped with snorkels and fins, we shared the water with approximately ten of these gentle giants. It was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience to be in such close proximity to such a number of whale sharks. I even came away with a few bruises thanks to the occasional slice of a dorsal fin or overenthusiastic thwack of a tail. Once the sun had completely risen, the whale sharks began to disperse as the fishermen prepared to raise their nets.

SIGHTING WHALES AND LEARNING THE ART OF JANUR FOLDING

At the mouth of the bay of Teluk Saleh, we headed off for a final dive in the water of Tanjung Manangis. This sheer wall, dropped to unexplored depths and as we strapped on our BCDs and prepared to explore, we were treated to the spectacular sight of two humpback whales breaching the surface of the water as they silently glided past.

Cruising back to Bali, the crew taught us the art of janur folding. This traditional Indonesian craft is essentially origami using young bamboo leaves and had been the main decoration at our welcome beach dinner. We learned to make neat pagodas and zig-zagging swords – needless to say, I do not think my creations will be hung at the next guests’ candlelit dinners. After a final performance by the RASCAL band, we wished the vessel and its attentive crew farewell before heading back to the Balinese mainland.

Stay tuned for more updates from our team’s adventures