Beauty isn’t hard to find. We live in a world where skies are constantly changing colours only to retire each night to reveal a galaxy so vastly beyond our recognition. You only need to open your eyes and mind to realize just how lucky we are. For the ones who understand true beauty are the ones who become it.
Nature works its magic
What do you do when you witness the rays of the sun seep through the sky from under the ocean, turning the otherwise non-existent clouds in the black sky from purple to pink, then white?
For me, I just stood there, flabbergasted. Earlier that morning (do you consider 4.30am morning, or the middle of the night?), I was awoken by our guide to get ready for a hike up Padar Island. The cabin room had been too stuffy with the confined space and lack of ventilation, so I opted for sleeping on the deck instead, together with the rest of us who were sprawled around the spacious deck. The natural wind breeze, coupled with the gentle rocking of the boat made for some light sleeping.
As we trudged up Padar Island’s elevated grounds with a torchlight in hand, I couldn’t help but look up in the sky every once in a while. How often in life do we get to be surrounded by nothing but the ocean and green hills, and have a whole canvas of stars cover your vision of the sky?
I hiked up some way up and found a prime spot to witness the sunrise. Andry, our official photographer of the trip, came shortly after. I was pleased to have someone to share my awe of the great outdoors with.
Faint pink clouds start becoming visible, as the first signs of the glowing sun starts to peek out from the horizon. At the end of our time lapse, the sky is replaced by a fearsome orange ball, casting its power on the whole of Earth. And then you wonder why the same sky from home never looked quite like this.
Notice how the clouds shifts and change colours!
We spent a few more moments watching the trail of orange melt in the water, with the silhouette of mountains as a backdrop. Witnessing the Earth come alive is one of the moments we’ve taken for granted in the midst of hustling about our daily lives. Being able to embrace this moment with the few that have hiked this far made this an even more treasured moment.
As with the rising of the sun, the air temperature shifts.The rays that hit my skin is one of warmth, and they slowly awaken my cells, as if telling me it’s the beginning of another day.
The secret life no one knows about
The water here is the same as what I’ve witnessed in the Maldives, Greece and the Philippines – aquamarine and crystal clear. It’s the perfect recipe for snorkelling, which we immersed in in between lunches and our afternoon naps. From the boat, you can easily make out the corals and the weed through the shallow, pale, turquoise waters.
We’d gone snorkelling on a number of stops in our 3-day live-aboard tour – Manta Point, Batu Bolong and at the Pink Beach.
Manta Point is an area in the middle of nowhere. The boat parked out in the middle of the ocean, and we went manta ray-hunting. These manta rays are shy creatures. It took us many attempts to locate them. Once we did, we went into the waters to try and catch a closer glimpse. Lucky me caught them in their element for just that split second, before they dived deeper under.
Snorkelling at Batu Bolong awarded us with the sight of brightly-coloured corals, and little fishes that seek refuge in them. Watching them in their natural habitat as an onlooker is a true honour. If merely watching forests get cleared out in place of high-rise residential buildings in my hometown of Singapore tug at my heartstrings, I cannot stand the thought of how these harmless, peaceful marine creatures may be threatened by mankind in the near future.
Pink Beach was a point I had been so stoked to visit prior to the trip. While alighting from the boat to reach the shore of the Pink Beach, i was overcome with amazement at how the beach really is pink! Upon closer inspection, I found tiny red coral fragments being washed ashore each time the tide comes in, and that’s where the soft pink colour on the shoreline comes from. The pink actually comes from microscopic animals called Foraminifera that lives in the water producing the red pigment on these coral reefs.
The sun casts its perfect glow on me, turning my yellowish skin an olive-brown colour.
I put on my flippers, wear my snorkelling goggles and waddle into the cool, aquamarine waters to join the rest who are already engrossed with the underwater life. The deeper I went, the more variety of fishes I saw. Each time I go underwater, I am always filled with child-like wonder at how diverse the marine life can be, and how much we’ve been missing out by staying overland for the most part of our lives. Each area of the open water I swim to revealed different families of fishes. I particularly liked the bright-coloured ones, and my feeble attempt to chase them always fails.
Hello, Komodo dragons!
What is visiting Flores without witnessing some of the deadliest creatures on Earth?
We made stops to Rinca island and Komodo National Park to pay a visit to the largest lizards in the world, the Komodo dragon. These carnivorous creatures can grow up to 3 metres and weigh up to 166kg, though most of them weigh on average 70kg – that is 1.4 times my weight!
Komodo dragons eat almost anything they can find, including deer, snakes, water buffalo, pigs, boars, smaller Komodo dragons, and even humans! A recent news reported that a Singaporean tourist was bitten by a Komodo dragon in one of these parks, just shortly after my visit there. If that doesn’t deter you, you can see sightings of the bloodied affair from the bite in this article! For that reason, we were guided by the park’s guardians, because even humans are no match for these deadly creatures.
What struck me first was how fat, lazy and (seemingly) harmless they looked. I had expected more action after hearing how deadly they are. They even blocked our path on a bridge! Apart from seeing them dragging their feet along the ground, hissing and flicking their forked tongue in and out, we weren’t as lucky as to catch them killing their prey. The most we saw was a carcass made of bones down the middle of a path that we were walking. A few metres down, we saw a Komodo dragon with a bloated tummy, and concluded he was the culprit.
Before the sun set, our boat took us to a Komodo village. It is here where humans and Komodo dragons live together on a piece of shared land.
Don’t they leave in fear of being eaten by Komodo dragons? I couldn’t help but ask.
Walking through the Komodo village taught me how humans can live harmoniously in the wild. They can spend a lifetime from chasing goats and cats around the village to fishing for a living, carving and creating trinkets to sell as souvenirs. Come night, they relish in the simple joys of watching television or people-watching from the balconies of their thatched houses. We are to them as they are to us specimens from another world, and they watch with intrigue how people of different shapes, sizes and colours can coexist, while we wonder with amazement how they can live with the carnivorous Komodo dragons without fear.
Despite our language barrier – we communicate with human’s universal language – through the warmth of a smile.
Exploring the village, there are roads which were completely unlit. Once, we got a huge scare walking through a path in pitch blackness. A goat had bleated angrily in the quiet darkness, as if we might have trespassed his property. I grabbed Andry’s arm for an instinctive source of protection and hurriedly crossed the platform to the nearest light source. Phew!
A healing trip
On the last night, we watched the stars twinkle in the night from the boat’s deck, feeling extremely thankful for having the opportunity to experience such a rare tour that brings me to the corner of Indonesia to experience the best of nature’s wonder.
Coming to Labuan Bajo to visit Flores is by no means a luxurious trip, but for someone whose love for nature surpasses materialism. It’s a trip where you watch the sun make its way across the sky with each passing hour, and the waning and waxing of the moon through what man identifies as time.
It’s a trip for those who embrace being one with the land and the sea.
If anything, it’s a healing trip for me. A trip to reconnect with myself, my roots, and my love for writing. Time stands still, because time doesn’t matter. There are no deadlines to pursue, no obligations to fulfil, no rush to head anywhere. Once again, my love for travels and explorations had been reignited.
On the way back to the mainland, while overcome with mixed feelings about returning home, we noticed a family of seagulls circle the ocean and swoop down to the surface of the sea for their prey.
I thought to myself, this could not be a better farewell sight.
Special thanks to Wonderful Indonesia for making this trip possible! All opinions remain my own.
Which is your favourite item on the list?