Scam at Komodo National Park

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 ๐Ÿคจ. 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.

Sailing along several small island during dawn
Padar Island…
…is pretty busy in the morning, with all the fast speed boats, slow wodden boats and liveaboards…
…bringing crowds of people on the island. Don’t expect to be alone and don’t trust any photo of you don’t see other people.
Pink beach is a really nice spot for snorkeling. The corals are still alive, but also the anchors from the boats will cause damage on them…
…and there’s definitely more than one boat mooring here.
In such kind of mound of earth the komodo dragons put the eggs.
This endemic palm trees are blooming only once and are not just good for jungle juice, but also the small komodo dragons find an escape in them
This komodo dragon is about 30 years old. Of they’re getting old, they no longer have the energy to hunt, so they rely on their buddies for food, and eventually they’re shrinking in size.
It’s only a matter of perspective…but in reality this one is not really large.
The No. 1 lyer, cheater, fool in Labuan Bajo…the boatman with the grey shirt. Next time you look better for a victim not an enemy.
The village on Komodo Island, where the local supply boats are heading to, is about 2 km away from the ranger station with no path between them.
My entrance ticket to the National Park
My hiking permit
My permit to watch sealife
My snorkeling permit
My retribusi, the special tax for komodo Island itself, which I got in exchange of the anchor fee
The ticket for the ranger walk on Komodo Island, which in the end was a private walk
That’s the scam: the anchor fee I was forced to pay on Padar Island. Never pay that personally, expect your coming with your own boat.

Sape – Labuan Bajo

Saturday morning five weeks ago, which was with 12:22 hours the longest night of the year – from now on days getting longer again…at least a bit ๐Ÿ˜…, I went to the ticket office of the ferry, which was just 1 minute away from my hotel. The ferry runs typically only twice a day. That’s far less than all the other ferry services I took before in Indonesia, which typically operate 24 hours per day. And due to bad weather the ferry was even disrupted the day before. Hence, at least it was announced, that the ferry would depart one hour earlier than usual. In the ticket queue I met Marcelon, we just spoke a bit but eventually we met again on the ferry. Getting some breakfast and catching my backpack I went to the ferry, just to realise that it’s still loading. Well anyway at least I will be in Labuan Bajo today. The sailing took about 7 hours, but the weather and the waves were pretty good. There was no big waves or whatever. Shortly after we left Sape one could already see the outline of Komodo Island. And after we passed Banta Island and the northern tip of Komodo Island, there were a lot of smaller islands just on our way to Flores. Marcelon and also later my host Bosco told me that about 10 years ago the ferry went from Sape to Komodo and then to Labuan Bajo, so one could get off at Komodo island, but this is unfortunately no longer is the case. Now one has to take one of the several tourist boats which offer daily excursions from Labuan Bajo to the Komodo National park. Getting to Flores means also entering the East Nusa Tenggara province, which is mainly Christian, whereas in Flores the people are Catholic. In the evening I met my host Bosco and his family at his house. During dinner and some tea we had a really nice conversation, as his English is pretty decent.

My ferry waiting to get loaded
View back to Sape and the harbour area
In the background is the easternmost tip of Sumbawa Island
The outline of Komodo Island was already seen after we left the harbour in Sape
A liveaboard boat is mooring at the northern bay of Banta Island
About at half way we passed the northern tip of Komodo Island…
…from where one could already spot the outline of Flores
In the late afternoon we finally arrived in Labuan Bajo
My host Bosco and me during traditional dinner: rice, fish, some vegetables and for sure pretty spicy, as always in Indonesia ๐Ÿ˜‚
My ferry ticket

Bima – Sape

Friday five weeks ago Rifqi picked me up at my hotel in the morning and we went together to the Telkomsel shop. I just wanted to extend my pre paid Sim for another month under the same conditions. But as you know it’s Telkomsel and for whatever reason it is just not possible. I argued with the woman behind the desk for at least 45 minutes in total, but she only replied that I paid the last time in Yogyakarta and now I’m in Bima, so I can’t get the same conditions. What the fuck??? Why not??? I’ve a plan which is valid in whole Indonesia, from Sumatra to West Papua. Why can’t I extend it for another month under the same conditions? Why should I pay now more? I was not “just a bit” disappointed about that. In the end I reduced my included traffic and paid even less than before. The interesting thing was, she got first my number wrong in her system. Making an even better offer for me (about 6k IDR less), but as she told me I don’t have Internet included now, I was really angry, as it seemed she doesn’t know what she’s doing with he computer system. But luckily she didn’t charge my money to another SIM card. It seems their prices are just randomly.

When I returned to my hotel I packed my backpack and discovered that my yellow carabiner and the bottle opener shaped as kangaroo are both missing. I knew for sure it was still there in Pancasila two days ago and the probability that both items are falling off at the same time is just nearly zero. Hence, I assumed somebody took it off while my backpack was on the roof of the bus to Bima. I’ve no idea, if it was one of the coolies from the bus itself (even if they were pretty friendly to me, doesn’t mean that they were not interested in a souvenir) or some other random passengers. The bottle opener was from my aunt and I wanted to carry it with me, even I hardly used it, and the carabiner I need for rock climbing, as this was a real certified one, not just a gimmick. Well I knew this technique from India, but I wasn’t prepared that also some guys in Indonesia are doing that. Now it’s far too late to find anyone.

At noon I checked out and was walking back to Dara bus terminal. Luckily one hour later a bus is driving to Sape. That’s fine as I can have some lunch before and I don’t need to take an Ojek to Kumbe, which is several kilometres outside of downtown. The bus ride itself wasn’t that long, but we needed to cross one mountain ridge to get further to the East. In Sape the bus dropped me off nearly at the ferry terminal and not in the town, which was pretty fine for me.

The harbour of Bima was just opposite to my hotel
There was not much traffic east of Bima…
…and luckily I got a seat infront with a lot of space for my legs
After leaving Bima the road started immediately winding up the mountains
The street to the ferry is obviously a dead end and hence pretty calm
Boat builders worked on different sizes of wooden boats

Pancasila – Bima

Thursday morning five weeks ago I waited for the bus to pick me up directly at the guesthouse. I skipped to visit Santonda Island which is really just nearby, but as solo traveller the transport to get there is just too expensive. There are two buses which start in Pancasila each morning at 7 o’clock, one drives to Dompu and the other directly to Bima. First I was in the bus to Dompu but then I realised that I could take the other one. At least From Kadindi there are even direct buses to Mataram even if there’s only Calabai announced. The bus ride was as usual, after a while the bus was fully packed, even sitting some people on the rooftop. And I was at early afternoon in Bima, which was faster than I expected. At the bus station Rifqi, a friend of Pasha, welcomed me and brought me to the hotel. Later we went to the bakery Nurul is managing as she invited me for a visit before. We stayed there almost until sunset and had a nice conversation together. We arranged to meet the next morning, but as one of Nurul’s employees got sick, that eventually didn’t happen. After we left the bakery Rifqi helped me to checked for a direct connection to Komodo Island at the Man Jaya Tours – Travel agency. But unfortunately also the boss, which seemed to be quite knowledgeable also said that the only reasonable option for me is to get to Labuan Bajo first and take another boat to Komodo afterwards, with the price of second boat of 200k rupiah. Which sounded for me quite high at this time.

The bus gets to pick me up
One could even spot Moyo Island and some ships mooring at Calabai harbour
One of the two assistants of the bus infront of Tambora Volcano
The bus is as always pretty packed. But lucky me I got the middle seat in the last row, which is nice for my legs, as I was the second passenger in the bus.
Sumba is pretty dry compared to other islands
In Panda shortly before arriving in Bima
Nurul, me and Rifqi (right to left) in the bakery of Nurul

Tambora Volcano

Four weeks ago after managing to get a guide and all the equipment needed, we actually started at about 9:30 o’clock to hike. As I hadn’t any map or track up to the volcano and I only knew that there are 5 camp sites on the way up, I actually decided to spent additional 200k rupiah and take a guide with me. Hence, as he was carrying all the equipment, incl. tent, mattress, sleeping bag, and stove, my backpack was pretty light. Renting all the equipment in the base camp was an additional 200k rupiah, and entrance fee for the national park for two days for foreigners ended up also 300k rupiah. I declined an Ojek for the first 5 kilometres, as they wanted to have 75k after negotiation. That’s just too much, and would have been the most expensive Ojek in Indonesia for a very short distance. But luck (or not๐Ÿค”?) the first few kilometres we were hitching a truck, which was picking up coffee I guess. The road was really bad, and we were severely shaked on the load area. Especially we the truck was stucked on a short uphill passage. Then the first 90 minutes, up until the first shelter, we were mainly walking through coffee plantations and also somehow crossed a small village. In that village some dogs were barking against us. After the village the path has even a handrail for some time and is made out of concrete, before it suddenly ended and lead up into the jungle. After Pos 1 all the way up to Pos 5 is going through the jungle. During the dry season the way is clearly detectable. It is not steep or exposed at all. It’s just a long walk. At Pos 1, 2 and 3 there is water available. At Pos 5 there is only very dirty water, which is really not advisable to drink, as there is a lot of garbage in the water holes. In some locations the bushes are quite high, and try to stitch onto your clothes. But most of the way are OK. We sat our tent on Pos 5. My guide Singgi carried 5 large water bottles from Pos 3 and cooked some rice and the noodles and we had lunch during dawn. After sunset I got into my sleeping bag, as there is nothing to do on the mountain in the dark and it’s getting cold pretty fast after sunset. Singgi hadn’t carried a sleeping bag with him, so he just made a small fire near the tent, put his feet into his large backpack and layed on the ground of the tent. I have to admit that my mattress was not really more comfortable, it just gave me a bit more insulation to the floor. At about 2:30 o’clock we woke finally up (actually I woke up and checked my watch, as his alarm didn’t seem to work), and had a small snack before we started our summit attempt. Singgi told me that we would need about 3 hours to go to the peak, and sunrise was expected to be shortly after 6 o’clock. So I thought, we were pretty late. But in the end we were again pretty fast and already at 5:20 or so on the top. Hence, far before sunrise. After arriving I put on all my jackets, as there’s always windchill. We tasted some German chocolate until we wait for the sunrise. On the top we were basically alone. When we walked down 10 other hikers came opposite to us, just a few hundred metres altitude below us. The caldera is with 6 kilometres really impressive. The shadow of the cone is as far away as Sumbawa Besar. In the distance one could still see Rinjani volcano on Lombok and also Moyo Island just infront of Sumbawa. The tree limit is always a few hundred metres below the peak, regardless of the absolute altitude of the volcano. I guess that’s not an absolute climate issue as for example in the alps, but mainly related to the limit of water near the top, especially during dry season.

After a breakfast at our camp we hiked down the same way as we came up. In the afternoon at about 14:30 o’clock we were back in Pancasila. In total it took us about 29 hours for the round-trip. Especially if you want to be at sunrise on the peak, it’s pretty hard to do the whole hike during one day or even 24 hours, if you don’t want to hike the whole night, as the other group has done it. They started at 18 o’clock the day before and returned at 19 o’clock the next day.

More than 204 years again, the peak of the Tambora was more than 1,500 metres taller. Making it with about 4,300 metres altitude to the highest volcano, which is now known as Indonesia, but at this time was a Dutch colony. The eruption of 1815 was the strongest volcanic eruption in the last two millennia. The explosion could even be heard in Jakarta, several thousand kilometres away, and first was guessed as a canon shot. The ashes were distributed all over the worldwide atmosphere and had a major impact on the years to come. Even the defeat of Napoleon in Waterloo, just a few months later, is linked to that VEI-7 explosion. You can’t imagine that amount of ashes and the power of the explosion, if you stand on top of the mountain.

Starting our climbing in Pancasila
Bumpy road on the truck
The destination is already in sight
The signs along the way are pretty rare
The trees getting fewer when we’re approaching Pos 5
My guide Singgi at our campsite at Pos 5
Awaiting sunrise on the peak of Tambora, where we’re still alone.
Enjoying some German chocolate together
Finally on top of the mountain
The altitude measurement of Indonesian mountains is always a bit questionable ๐Ÿ˜‰
The shadow of the cone almost reaches Sumbawa Besar, infront of Sumbawa is directly Moyo island located and in the distance you can still spot Rinjani volcano on Lombok
The sun is unfortunately opposite to us, when we want to have a look into the deep caldera
The caldera is absolutely impressive
Reaching Pos 5 in the morning
Beside trees you can spot also nice blossoms
GPX track