We got up a bit after 5 a.m. We had to be at the airport at 6:45. The woman who checked us in had assured us that there would be someone there that early, so when we walked out to the front gate and it was locked, as well as the front office, things didn’t look good. I was so nervous about missing our flight; it was the most expensive part of our trip and the flights only went out twice weekly. I tried ringing the front office doorbell to no avail, then got nervous and asked Sal to please call the emergency number to make sure they’d ordered a taksi as we’d already pre-paid. He got in touch with one of the ladies, who was surprised that there wasn’t anyone at the guest house. Us, too! Anyway, she said she’d call for the car. A few minutes later a car arrived, but it was the one they had ordered the day before. He was on time – I was just nervous 🙂 He was a very polite driver and we got there in record speed, with plenty of time to spend having breakfast in the lounge at the airport. I have to say Wakatobi does a good job of taking care of people at the airport – from tagging their luggage, helping them through security, checking in, etc., they are on top of their game.
We waited in a lounge that served breakfast and offered views of the planes. Soon our flight was ready, so they came and got us all and walked us to the gate. Our seats were way in the back, which I joked about, as I had wanted to cancel this portion of the trip when there were all these news articles about Mt. Agung getting ready to erupt. I was joking that I was being punished for trying to cancel. We had paid everything in advance, but both insurance and Wakatobi would not let us cancel with reimbursement unless the volcano erupted. If we hadn’t prepaid thousands we would have cancelled and just flown somewhere else as the flights are so cheap in this part of the world. The only good news was if the volcano did erupt while being on Bali, since it was the beginning of the mega trip, we could easily enough switch flights when the planes started running again without worrying about missing work. Having said that, it’s unsettling not really knowing what you’re getting yourself into. Nobody can truly predict when/if a volcano will erupt, the size or direction the ash cloud could go, etc. As a project manager I like to have everything planned for, but as I said in a previous post, there’s no real planning for volcanoes. Anyway, obviously we decided to stick with the original plan. I wasn’t happy that Wakatobi was so unaccommodating, though. It seems in these rare instances they should make an exception to their rules.
We chose Wakatobi because it was easy to get to from Bali (one flight, a short car ride and a short boat ride). Originally we were going to go to Raja Ampat with friends, but after seeing what it involved to get there (overnights, multiple flights, 5 hour boat rides) we decided to skip it. Once we got to the island we were greeted by one of the staff, who was going to show us to our bungalow. When he said the bungalow number, I was shocked. It was much further away than what I had requested months before. The second shock was that although you pay extra for having ocean access, you can’t snorkel in that part of the ocean according to their rules. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. I had this dream of walking from the front porch right into the ocean and immediately being able to snorkel, and that dream was crushed soon after getting on the island. If I had known the room would be where it was, I would have gotten the less expensive garden bungalow. We decided to check with the room concierge and see if we could switch. He told me they were all full up and that they even had repeat guests who wanted to come, but couldn’t because of the occupancy. Of course the first thing I thought of was one of those repeat guests certainly could have taken over my reservation when I wanted to cancel. It wouldn’t have been that big of a deal for them to refund me and keep their regulars happy; two birds with one stone and all that. For some reason that wasn’t a possibility, though. So after feeling upset for an hour I finally told myself there was nothing that was going to change and I just needed to accept it. And I did. It was just one of those things where you have you heart set on something you read about, and don’t realize until you get there that there was a bit of a switcheroo from what they promised on the site. Our room couldn’t even see the sunset because it was so far down and around the island. I promise, I did get over it, though.
The bungalows were nice, with a big front porch to hang out on, a hammock, and some chairs with an umbrella. The outdoor shower was pleasant – but just be careful when you shower as you could actually get a sunburn!
At 2:00 p.m. we checked in with the dive shop. We immediately discovered they had our information wrong, and for some reason had Sal down as a snorkeler. When they finally fixed (most) of it, we discovered they moved Sal to a different boat. This sort of stunk, because that meant that we would be separated. One of the snorkelers on my boat noticed they had made a mistake and had him listed as a private snorkeler when it was supposed to be his wife that was a private diver. They immediately fixed it and asked if it was ok that they weren’t on the same boat. They never even asked us, but the snorkeler and his wife were there for their *11th* stay, and one thing I definitely noticed was Wakatobi is very good to their repeat customers. It was another annoying part to the day, though, as I felt like they again said one thing before the trip and did another on the actual island. You do two 70 minute dive/snorkels a morning, and one in the afternoon/evening. This adds up to 3.5 hours. If you add into that travel time and time loading up the boat, you are talking another two hours probably. I know some of you have said you’d like some time away from your travel partners if you were on such an extended trip, but I knew I’d miss Sal. It’s just more fun when we can experience things together. For me, it was strange being alone on the boat at first, but I got over it. I’ll talk about that more next post.
Anyway, soon after Sal went and did his first dive, which was on the house reef. He really enjoyed it. I decided to wait to snorkel until the next day. All of the meals are buffet, however there is a good selection and you can always request things made special as long as they have the ingredients (hamburgers, pasta, eggs, etc.). That night we had some gin and tonics at the pier bar and Wakatobi was looking better.