Sunday early morning five weeks ago Bosco arranged an Ojek for me to get to the harbour at 5 o’clock. I wanted to attend a boat tour in the Komodo National Park. When I arrived I was the first person and it seemed that the guy had no clue, who I am. In the end I agreed to pay 500k rupiah, which was according to Bosco a good price (well, fo whom?) I was still thinking it’s far too much, as I still had this 200k rupiah from the Manjaya Tours&Travel from Bima in my mind. Well anyway, as I didn’t want to stay one night longer and as I didn’t checked other travel agencies I agreed to that price. In the evening, 14 hours later, when I returned from the boat trip I met with Horis, he worked for the tourism industry in Labuan Bajo in the last months and he explained to me, that the boatman get 200k rupiah from the travel agencies per person. The travel agents itself will pick you up from your hotel, provide a lunch package and snorkeling gear (which comes in the end from the same origin). Hence, they might have costs of not more than 300k rupiah per person. And the difference to the price is their margin. There is even a cheaper way to get to Komodo Island by means of local supply boats. They leave also in the morning and take about 4 hours. The cost should be about 65k rupiah but at least one night on the island is obligatory.
I was told before that there were 6 other persons on the boat with me. In the end we were 18 persons from different travel agencies, as you can see at different lunch packages. After we left the harbour we were told to pay 400k rupiah entrance fee to the boatman. I was like what 🤨. The day before Bosco told me, that the entrance fee to the national park is 150k rupiah, and then you’ll have to pay some additional fees. But that can’t sum up to 400k rupiah I thought. That turned up to a discussion and made the boatman pointing at me that I have to pay my entrance fee at my own. I thought, OK not a problem, but I already expected that there will be more to come.
After about 2.5 hours sailing during dawn we arrived at Padar Island during early morning. After we get out of the boat, we came along the rangers to pay. But our boatman overtook us and told the ranger something – I wasn’t able to understand for sure. But I knew that they will scam me right now, but at this moment I didn’t know yet how. In the end I was obliged to pay:
- Entrance fee national park 225k (as it was Sunday, otherwise it’s only 150k)
- Hiking permit: 5k
- Sea life permit: 10k
- Snorkeling permit: 15k
- Anchor fee: 100k [Never ever pay this! That’s only one per boat, and in my opinion, the boatman has to cover the expenses and I’m even NOT obliged to pay a share of it]
Two others from my boat did the same, as they also didn’t belive the entrance fee of the boat. After we paid the boatman came with a smirk to let us know, that we have to pay additional 100k rupiah on Komodo Island. I said nothing to that and was just walking up the hill as all the other people were doing. If you’re expecting a lonely Padar island, I’ve to disappoint you. You’re surrounded by Instagrammer which doing crazy photos…yeah, really. It always just depends on the perspective. In the end I looked at the three curved beaches which seemed to be three old caldera. Well it’s OK, but definitely not my special place. Too much tourists around, I couldn’t resist to greet a bunch of young Chinese woman in an appropriate loudness, suddenly they calmed down…just to start a few seconds later again. After about one hour we all got back to the boat and sailed to Pink Beach on the western shore of Padar Island. That’s a lovely place with clear water, a lot of corals and fish. I definitely enjoyed the snorkeling there. On the way to Komodo Island, which is by the way my 13th Island of Indonesia – and the last I visited which belongs completely to Indonesia, I had my lunch and prepared myself for the discussion I will have later on. Meanwhile the two others paid the boatman additional 100k rupiah to get no trouble on Komodo Island, and this makes me clear why he made that offer, because he needed to secure his anchor fee cards. He didn’t pay for his two boats anchor fee on Padar island, instead we did for the whole boat, but as we sailed together with another boat, the boatman only needed two anchor fees. And that’s what he told the rangers on Padar Island, and that’s how they scammed us! And for the rangers in Padar Island they don’t mind to sell another anchor fee ticket. Now it became crystal clear, as the water is here, to me. Once we arrived at Komodo Island the group was split up and several rangers started the tour with them, while I needed to go to the ranger office. There my boatman spoke again something to the rangers, but I stopped him. Then I explained the rangers, that they scammed me at Padar island and that I don’t need to pay the anchor fee, but that’s the job of the boatman. The master ranger knew exactly what’s going on here, he gave the anchor fee ticket to my boatman and I got therefore the special tax ticket for komodo island which is also worth 100k rupiah! Additionally, I needed to pay my own ranger to get across the island, as it is not allowed to walk alone and my boatman insisted that I’m not allowed to join his groups. That was another 80k rupiah, which can typically divided into 5 people. In that moment I didn’t realise that I just could join another group, because after I paid the ranger fee ticket I could have joined with another group anyway. Additionally, I didn’t told the rangers they should check the anchor fee tickets of my boatman. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have any! In the end I got the following from the rangers on Komodo Island:
- Retribusi (special government tax) worth 100k but interchanged with the anchor fee
- Ranger ticket for walking on komodo island 80k (but valid up to 5 persons)
In the end I paid 435k rupiah, which was more than the 400k rupiah for the boatman, but at least I didn’t paid to that scammer. And only because I didn’t shared the ranger fee ticket, otherwise it would have been 371k rupiah. That’s why the boatman wants to collect 400k rupiah, as the change is its service fee, because no group tariffs exists.
My ranger with whom I did the walk was pretty friendly and showed me to some special places where we could spot some of the Komodo dragons. There are three different ways where you can choose from, first I told him to take the middle one, but in the end, we ended up going some unofficial ones. The others were not asked at all, the boatman told the rangers which way they should go. More than 1,600 living on the island and they can’t go to another island, because they might only swim for a few hundred metres in the ocean. In the dry season is mating time and most of the komodo dragons are in the forest, so I didn’t expect to see many. There saliva is extremely poisonous, as it contains up to 60 different bacteria and viruses. Hence, the rate of death is about 25-100% after one got biten. That makes them so special to the other kinds of monitor lizards, but apart from that, honestly, I wasn’t impressed at all from them. If you’ve already seen other monitor lizards in South East Asia, they look quite similar. And if you wanna see a real predator, go for a salt water crocodile! These are absolutely impressive animals and survived the last 4.5 Mio. years. The Komodo “dragon” is just another monitor lizard on an island which is now World heritage site, which in the end means, it’s expensive and a lot of tourists coming by.
On the way back we stopped for another snorkeling and even spotted a large Manta Ray. I was able to get I to the water fast enough and follow him for a while. But then I realised that nobody follows me, and the boat was already about 100 metres away. So I decided to skip that and snorkeling back. The water is maybe 10-15 metres deep and also another boat came for diving. On the way back to Labuan Bajo the 2nd boat got engine problems and we needed to go back. But luckily that got fixed and we didn’t need to tow them away.
In the evening, directly after arrival, I met with Horis. We had together dinner in a local restaurant, which was just a few metres from the main road. It was really nice, because he spoke a bit of German, so we changed just from German to English and vice versa. After that I returned to the house of Bosco. He told me that in Labuan Bajo 10 years ago there were only 2 guest houses. Nowadays, every good location in the village is either sold or leased for several decades. The original families, which were before just fisherman, got suddenly a lot of money – at least from their perspective. But the problem is, if you suddenly get very rich, not everyone can cope with that. Some of them managed their money well, but others but spent it to fast motorbikes and in the bars, and eventually are now poorer than before, because now they even don’t have a house anymore. Some local people have an advantage from the tourism industry, because it will bring jobs, but some of them are the loser from this fast development.