Komodo National Park

Six months ago, Amy and I reserved two spots on a liveaboard diving boat with Wicked Diving in Komodo National Park. I’m struggling to come up with an adjective adequate enough to describe the trip.

This is the Jaya. She was purpose-built 12 years ago for diving and has been to a couple different spots in Southeast Asia. 14 divers, 4 guides, and 7 crew members comfortably cruised around Komodo on this ship.

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As far as diving goes, the spots we visited were a kaleidoscope of color and life. It was like soaring through all the photos and TV programs that drive people to get into diving. Here are some of the memorable critters. Unfortunately, I couldn’t photograph all of them.

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Having never seen manta rays before, I was totally struck by their grace. We went to a spot nick named Manta Point, parked ourselves on the bottom, and the mantas swam all around us. Fun fact: the markings on a manta’s belly are all unique and are used to identify them, similar to our finger prints.

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Is there any creature in the ocean more lovable than a sea turtle? We saw a ton of turtles chowing down on reef treats and playing in the currents.

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This little guy is a mantis shrimp, and believe it or not, is one of the most dangerous animals in the ocean. Their arms shoot out as fast as bullets and can break all kinds of things, like crab shells. And scuba masks, fingers, and aquarium glass. Check out this on The Oatmeal and get ready to fall in love them. Why the mantis shrimp is my new favorite animal.

 

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On a night dive, this squid charged at my buddy and I. It terrified me, but Kara kept snapping photos and then when we got to the surface, asked me why I was screaming underwater over such a small squid.

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We all love Nemo.

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And here’s just a pretty picture of coral.

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We also stopped on Rinca Island to check out the infamous Komodo Dragons. Unfortunately, they weren’t very active, and we didn’t see many, but they were magnificent animals that I, personally, would not want to quarrel with.

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All in all, the trip was a ten. There was a great vibe on the boat, we ate well, dove often. Who could ask for anything more?

 

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How to Relax in Bandar Lampung in Five Simple Steps

As work, traffic, power outages, and the umpteen steps and forms required to do anything in Indonesia continue to inconvenience me, I have a top-notch escape. I’m not going to give up the name of my go-to hide away, and in all honesty, I surprise myself every time I am able to find it again. There are many naysayers who like to say that the beaches in Bandar Lampung are dirty and crowded, but I am here to tell you that that paradise isn’t as far away from the traffic in Tanjung Karang as you think it is. I keep going back here because I know it’s a sure thing, but I’m sure that in doing some exploring, there are places just as good.

So here is how to truly relax in Bandar Lampung in five simple steps:

1. Fill a cooler with beer, water, and sandwiches. The Indomarets in town are more likely to have cold beer than the ones just outside of town, so keep that in mind.

2. Hire a boat

3. Go some where that looks like this

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4. Snorkel, sun bathe, and swim (in any order)

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5. Repeat as necessary

Krakatoa!

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I had never heard of Krakatoa before coming to Indonesia, but immediately upon arriving in Bandar Lampung, it’s been heavily on my mind. This monster of a volcano sits in the Sunda Straight right between Sumatra and Java and is technically part of the province of Lampung. In August of 1883, the thing erupted killing at least 36,400 people and completely destroying Bandar Lampung. It was the loudest sound in modern history and even as far away an England people noticed a change in the waves. It’s regarded as the deadliest volcano in history and Anak Krakatoa (Child of Krakatoa), while safe to visit, is constantly spewing out smoke and spitting rocks and lava.

Keen to visit? Ask around in Bandar Lampung and people will tell you that it costs over USD 1,000.00 to get a boat out there or you can go to Java. Neither option is particularly convenient. Last weekend, however, we got together fifteen people and a boat for USD 500.00 and booked it! We looked relaxing to a new level on the three hour boat ride — beers were out by 9am — and then spent the afternoon diving off the boat into the crystal clear waters around Anak Krakatoa. Another perfect day in paradise. And Tony Packo hot dogs were for lunch, making it a special kind of perfect for me — Thanks, Mom and Susan for getting that sauce out to me!

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yum!

yum!

From the plateau looking out over the Sunda Strait

From the plateau looking out over the Sunda Strait

spectacular sunset to close the day

spectacular sunset on the boat ride back to close the day

Mary, Susan, Indo Part 1: Krui

Susan arrived in Jakarta looking more discombobulated than I have ever seen her. Twenty something hours in the air and a doozy of a time difference will do that to ya. I was so happy to see her walk out of customs and report that she didn’t have any trouble on her journey and we relaxed at the airport for a bit in Jakarta and then went off to Bandar Lampung.

Monday was dedicated to me tying up loose ends at work and Susan hanging out at the spa. We took it easy Monday night because Tuesday morning, we were beach bound to my favorite ocean-side spot in the world: Tanjung Setia, near Krui in West Lampung on the  Indian Ocean. I’ve been there a couple of times before and each time, leaving gets more and more difficult.

Not too much to say about this bit of the trip, besides that it was Indo-perfection (or even better). I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

Three Sisters Beach. A great little secret.

Three Sisters Beach. A great secret slice of paradise.

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Good morning, Banana Island!

Good morning, Banana Island!

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Hangin out on the Banana Island shipwreck

Hangin out on the Banana Island shipwreck

First time ocean fishing! The ceviche we made from it wasn't bad at all

First time ocean fishing! The ceviche we made from it wasn’t bad at all

Riding home after a great day on Banana Island!

Riding home after a great day on Banana Island!

Sunset from outside our cabin

Sunset from outside our cabin

We were gunna leave pretty early on Thursday morning... and then we hung some hammocks and changed our mind.

We were gunna leave pretty early on Thursday morning… and then we hung some hammocks and changed our mind.

Surfing: I need more practice.

Last weekend, the bule crew (minus Leigh) took a trip to Krui. We were off to a shakey start as we had planned to leave Lampung at 4am Saturday morning to arrive in Krui at 9:am… Amy got up, but the rest of us were dead to the world until 6:45am. Red wine is to blame for my oversleeping, but I can’t speak for Yen and Laurent as to how they didn’t their   3am alarm. Anyway, we made it into Krui at 1pm ready for the beach!

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What a slice of paradise we found! The beach was pristine, the waves were fun, the few other tourists we met were awesome, and the fish was oh so fresh!

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So onto surfing. The waves are the main attraction to Krui and at Mandiri Beach, where we were staying, the waves were rough and the current was strong, but the sand was so soft and we could not argue with the convenience of walking out of our cabin and onto the beach, so while the learning conditions were subideal, this was our chosen beach for surfing.

I have always fantasized about being a surfer, and Amy said that when we first met, my hair was so blonde and I was so tan that she was convinced that I was a surfer… so I got the right look, which is step one.

We met some very cool Americans over a few beers at a surf camp and one of them accepted the challenge of teaching me how to surf. This was not my first lesson, but one lesson every three years since I was 18 hasn’t exactly made me a pro. Amy stayed on the beach taking pictures for a bit, and these are what she shot…

Dave in the background biting his finger nails while the ocean is treating me like clothes in the washing machine.

Dave in the background biting his finger nails while the ocean is treating me like clothes in the washing machine.

Those are my legs poking out the wave.

Those are my legs poking out the wave.

I stood up and rode in enough times to declare it a successful day surfing, but I don’t have any pictures to prove it. Plans to return to Krui are already in the works, which means that 2013 will be the year I break my pattern of standing on a surf board only once every three years. That also means that 2013 will probably the year that I realize my potential as a surfer and go pro.

I think I have my work cut out for me.

I definitely have my work cut out for me.

Home, Sweet Home

Amy and I moved into a new house last week and quality of life has increased exponentially. The only bits of our old house that I shared with you were my bathroom and my bedroom after my bed frame completely collapsed. Let me assure that the rest of the house wasn’t much better. Our electricity was spotty and our water generator broke frequently, which meant that some weeks would behave as if we were in a drought and had to ration our water. When the water generator did work, however, it was extremely loud and I was starting to get used to constant noise. Another problem that the old house had was a lack of natural light. This made Amy and I feel tired and cranky all the time and Monty was always trying to escape. I wasn’t keen on him going outside because we lived right on the road and I was worried about him getting hit by a car, motorbike, or being harassed by people and other cats. I also didn’t want him getting into any garbage.

But enough about the old house, we are in a happy place now. We are only a ten minute walk from work, which has enormous benefits and last night we test drove the coffee shop that’s two blocks away and it exceeded all of our expectations. We have luxuries such as beds, consistent water without a generator, and a cool breeze that keeps our yard and the inside of our house perfectly cooled without a fan and snuggling up in a blanket is essential to be comfortable at night.

Bathrooms

Amy and I each have our own bathroom in our bedrooms. Yes, that is a full-fledged toilet that even flushes. We also have sinks and shower heads with excellent pressure. We don’t have a water generator anymore to worry about and a have a constant supply of water, which is great because we can do things like shower while we do laundry. Something I never thought I would take for granted. Amy has a bath tub in her bathroom, which I am welcome to use any time, but haven’t taken her up on it yet. I’m still relishing in being able to stand up in the shower and have enough pressure to actually clean myself.

toilet, I am never going to take you for granted again.

 Light

There are big windows in the living room and in both of our bedrooms. During the day, we never have to worry about turning the lights on because the sun pours into the house.

Outside

As comfortable as the inside of our house is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the outside. We are off the street and have a huge yard and garden. Our balcony is furnished with wicker chairs and overlooks a hill filled with coconut, papaya, and durian trees and there’s a constant flock of swallows swooping around. We can see the bustling of Bandar Lampung from a distance and past the houses and buildings are the bright blue waters of the Lampung Bay. We spend 95% of our time at home sitting on the balcony and basking in how peaceful it is. Monty is a full on indoor/outdoor cat now and he never leaves the yard and doesn’t like to be outside when we’re not outside, which is a great peace of mind. He’s really just the best cat in the world.  

 

 

Yes, life is good in Bandar Lampung in our cozy new home. Every time we walk down our driveway, we feel like the house warmly says “Welcome home! Kick up your feet and relax.” as opposed to our old house, which said “Oh, you’re back. Don’t worry, I made sure to stay swelteringly hot for you and the mosquitos are alive and well.”

Check out that breeze!