Vacations from vacations: Raja Ampat and Labuan Bajo

In the spring of 2016, my girl Holly and I traveled to Bali to work remotely for a couple of months (cliche, right?). In our time there, we decided to take a few short trips to other parts of Indonesia to check out different wildlife both on land and under water. We had been obsessed with the idea of going to Raja Ampat in Papua so we booked a weeks' stay on Kri Island at the Sorida Bay Resort (and away our money flew!) and a few weeks before going there, we also decided to book a trip to Labuan Bajo for diving and to see the Komodo dragons in real life--a more budget friendly escape. Most of the pictures will be from Papua as we spent more time there (7 days as opposed to 3) and I will tell you a bit about getting to both destinations :)

Labuan Bajo

We flew to the port town of Labuan Bajo leaving from Denpasar, Bali via Wings Air, which took about 1.5 hours. Once you arrive at the airport it is easy to get a taxi to your destination. We stayed at a pretty BnB called Blue Parrot which is a little outside of town but is close enough to walk to. After we checked in, we booked a trip with Blue Marlin to visit the komodo dragons in Komodo National Park and to go on a single tank dive at Manta point to swim with the angelic, oceanic mantas. 

Views from Rinca Island in Komodo National Park

Views from Rinca Island in Komodo National Park

Feeding time

Feeding time

Keeping us safe from the komodo dragons! He lived here is whole life and gave us a great tour of Rinca Island.

Keeping us safe from the komodo dragons! He lived here is whole life and gave us a great tour of Rinca Island.

Our guides were not impressed with the views

Our guides were not impressed with the views

He definitely wanted to eat me. Pro tip- do not move quickly when around the dragons!

He definitely wanted to eat me. Pro tip- do not move quickly when around the dragons!

Holly and her pineapple glasses

Holly and her pineapple glasses

Diving with oceanic mantas at Manta point

Diving with oceanic mantas at Manta point

Diving at Manta Point

Diving at Manta Point

Our wonderful guide from Blue Marlin

Our wonderful guide from Blue Marlin

Back at the port in Labuan Bajo

Back at the port in Labuan Bajo

Ridiculous sunset for our last night (it actually looked like this! I took this photo with my phone which is why it's a little weird).

Ridiculous sunset for our last night (it actually looked like this! I took this photo with my phone which is why it's a little weird).

Raja Ampat

And now, we will move on to Raja Ampat. Raja Ampat is on the western side of Papua and is not technically a part of Papua New Guinea, but rather it is governed by Indonesia to many Papuan's dismay (more on this topic, here). Raja Ampat is known for it's incredible diversity above and below the water. The house reef of our resort, Sorido Bay, holds the record for having the largest number of different species of fish anyone has ever counted on a single dive --that number being 374! Phew, that's a mouthful! We decided to come here because the team is very interested in conservation, has great instructors, reviews, and is just so damn pretty! One thing to note is that you really need to commit to the cost if you want to go to a reputable diving resort in this part of the world. It is not for the budget traveler but I hear there are more homestays popping up that will offer more affordable lodging. 

To get to Raja Ampat, we took a red eye from Denpasar Bali to Makassar, and then flew from Makassar to Sorong. From Sorong, we then took a speedboat to get to Papua Diving (Sorida Bay resort) on Kri island, West Papua. Papua Diving organized our pick up for the speed boat which made things super easy. It was a lot of travel time but totally worth it to get to this beautiful, remote part of the world!

My favorite reading spot.

My favorite reading spot.

Our patch of beach outside of our room--heavenly!

Our patch of beach outside of our room--heavenly!

Kayaking around Kri Island...took about 2 hours and only got knocked off once;)

Kayaking around Kri Island...took about 2 hours and only got knocked off once;)

Paddle boarding to the sandbar

Paddle boarding to the sandbar

Checking out the sand bar at sunset with some of the crew.

Checking out the sand bar at sunset with some of the crew.

Feeding the babies

Feeding the babies

Meet the resident Cuscus, Norman! He hangs out each night waiting to be given bananas.

Meet the resident Cuscus, Norman! He hangs out each night waiting to be given bananas.

Eating his beloved banana. 

Eating his beloved banana. 

Though Papua has some of the best diving around, I didn't get too many good snaps of the underwater world. Here are a couple that look decent...the others came out too muddy/green and my editing skills aren't up to the task;)

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This next set of photos is from our trip to the mushroom islands which is where some of the iconic shots from Raja Ampat are taken. The islets are made of limestone and are speckled all over the sea which is such an incredible sight to witness first hand.

Mushroom islands

Mushroom islands

Dodging islets left and right!

Dodging islets left and right!

This was some of the most beautiful water I've ever seen.

This was some of the most beautiful water I've ever seen.

Gatorade hues.

Gatorade hues.

We parked at one of the islands so we could climb up a rickety ladder to get a better view.

We parked at one of the islands so we could climb up a rickety ladder to get a better view.

Looking down from where we came, wishing I wore shoes on this short but rocky hike.

Looking down from where we came, wishing I wore shoes on this short but rocky hike.

Views from the top

Views from the top

Pictures of these islets are what first sparked my curiosity of Raja Ampat!

Pictures of these islets are what first sparked my curiosity of Raja Ampat!

For our last activity of the week, we went to a neighboring island in efforts to see the red bird of paradise which is endemic to Papua. I have been low-key obsessed with birds of paradise ever since seeing Planet Earth and listening to David Attenborough narrate a mating dance scene. When we got to the island we were greeted by tons of children and friendly locals along with our guide to take us into the jungle.

After taking a short hike into the jungle, we were told to sit and remain quiet so the birds would come out. After about 30 minutes of waiting, I was beginning to feel like we wouldn't see the birds, though I was able to spot a cuscus in a distant tree (Norman's brother, perhaps?). A few minutes later, however, two birds emerged and we got to witness a male shimmy around for his desired mate. Oh the joy!

On the way to the neighboring island we peeped some different views of Kri island.

On the way to the neighboring island we peeped some different views of Kri island.

This is the bridge that leads you into the jungle (behind me in this photo) to see the birds.

This is the bridge that leads you into the jungle (behind me in this photo) to see the birds.

The coolest kids.

The coolest kids.

Puppies everywhere!

Puppies everywhere!

Looking busted while looking for the red bird of paradise. We did get to see the mating dance in full effect but I was just using a small point and shoot camera at the time so I couldn't capture the scene. Below is a photo taken of the bird by the talented Tim Laman for NatGeo.

Looking busted while looking for the red bird of paradise. We did get to see the mating dance in full effect but I was just using a small point and shoot camera at the time so I couldn't capture the scene. Below is a photo taken of the bird by the talented Tim Laman for NatGeo.

**Not my photo! But this is what the bird of paradise looks like in case you are wondering:)

**Not my photo! But this is what the bird of paradise looks like in case you are wondering:)

Leaving the islands utterly impressed with everything we saw during the week and so happy to end things on a good note with the bird of paradise.

Leaving the islands utterly impressed with everything we saw during the week and so happy to end things on a good note with the bird of paradise.

That's all folks! Hope this has inspired you to go on an adventure--wherever it may take you. Comment below if you have any questions or feedback:)

Katie MedowayComment