My failed Labuan Bajo trip

I arrived in Labuan Bajo on January 21st, after a night in Jarkata Airport at the Digital Hotel (the pod-type room was perfectly suited for a long layover, I was actually quite happy with it). I had booked a hostel that had an airport pick up, so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting into town. In retrospect, my concern was unnecessary, seeing as how the airport is literally walking distance from most (if not all) hotels in the area, and if you have a large bag there are more than a few taxi and ojek drivers willing to take you – negotiate properly, a scooter will cost you around 15,000 rupies and a taxi about 50,000.

My plan was to spend a night there, then head out to Ende to see Mount Kelimutu volcano. I headed into town after checking into Green Hill Bed Station (new, nice hostel with very nice staff), making my way to Divine Diving Center, whom I had booked a liveaboard with on the 24th. Got all the paperwork out of the way, got sized up for gear and met Luke, the very cool british manager at Divine Diving. We had a nice chat and then I went for dinner at a nearby warung. I met a series of very nice, friendly people at the hostel, and discovered I would be travelling to Ende with one of these people.

The next day I made it to the airport with the free shuttle, only to find my flight had been delayed for an hour. This delay kept getting extended further and further, until we were given cookies to munch on, seeing as how it had been two hours since we were supposed to depart. I kept asking for information, but no one was really giving me anything other than: the flight has been delayed coming in from bali. As it turns out, Ende airport closes at 6 pm, so by 5 pm, even if the plane was at the airport (which it was not), we would not have made it to Ende on time. Finally, the staff let us know that the flight had been postponed for the next day, in the very early morning. However, I had timed this part of the trip with a very small margin for mishaps. Thus, I was left with a decision: I could either take that flight and go to Ende, and a) rush to see the volcano for a couple of hours and rush back in order to make it to my flight to Labuan Bajo on the 24th, or b) skip Ende and mount Kelimutu and focus on my liveaboard, which I was truly excited about. So after getting a refund (And fighting a little about it because airlines never pay the real amount of the tickets), I walked back to town, in the hopes that I would feel better. It helped, because everyone I ran into on my way back into town said hello with either a wave or a smile. I checked back into the hostel, paid for a night and went to speak to the dive center, to let them know I would be around.

Seeing as how I had an empty day, I walked around town asking about prices and options for day tours and settled on taking a boat to see ___ caves and a couple of snorkeling spots. I was told to be ready at the meeting point at 8:30 am. That night, I tried the fish at the night market, which was very tasty and fresh, I highly recommend eating there! (see map of Labuan bajo). The next morning, I was ready at the set time, where I met a lovely german couple who had lived in various places around the world, and at least got to speak a little Spanish and get to hear their story. About half an hour later, I found out  that no boats were allowed to leave the harbor, a determination made by the harbor master, and so we got refunds for this day trip. I quickly rushed to Divine Diving center to get the bad news that yes, that was correct and that the weather appeared to be turning, and it was possible that the determination be extended. Later in the afternoon I was told that Jakarta had sent word to Labuan Bajo that no boats were to leave the harbor until the 26th. This really hit home for me, because I was really looking forward to diving in the Komodo area, but also because it was the second time my plans had completely busted. Deflated, I went back to my hostel and started looking at different options online (going back to Ende, moving on to Bali again, staying in LB for a few days to just relax). Later that evening, I got word that the decree had been extended until the 28th. This is when I decided to hang out in LB and just relax for a few days, maybe write a little, possibly get some work done. On the 24th, early morning, everyone who was supposed to get on the liveaboard met at the dive center to be officially told that the boat would not go out, that weather was making a turn for the worse and to really consider the option of getting out of LB because there was a good chance diving would be pretty bad for at least a week or so.

And that, my friends, concludes how my very unlucky first trip to Labuan Bajo went. Met amazing people, had really good conversations, but got nowhere near Komodo dragons, sharks or mantas.

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