One thing I really wanted to do while traveling in SEA was to find a nice beach bungalow where I could unload my backpack and relax for the rest of my life, or at least a few days. I had visions of gently swaying hammocks, empty stretches of soft-sand beach, and swimming with exotic sea creatures that we’ve only seen on Animal Planet. When I found out that such a place existed near our next stop I immediately made plans to park my ass on one of their hammocks.
Kanawa Bungalows is the only accommodation available on Kanawa Island and the reviews sounded fine by us. Basic accommodations for about $40 USD per night. Trying to make reservations over email wasn’t very easy so we headed to their office when we arrived in Labuan Bajo. We reserved for three days even though we had to be moved each morning due to other bookings. It would be annoying, but we’d make it work since we really wanted to be on the beach rather than at the harbor and having to take a boat out each day to snorkel.
The next day we got on the transfer boat with about ten other tourists and less than an hour later we were walking down the long, picture-perfect jetty towards Kanawa Island. We checked in at the front desk and a porter brought our bags over to Bungalow 15. We scanned the room, checked the mattress, admired the view from our porch, then got changed and headed back down the jetty to jump in the crystal clear water.
Within minutes of sticking our heads underwater we saw lion fish, clown fish, cuttle fish, and a gazillion other sea creatures. It was awesome. We thought snorkeling off the beach in Koh Tao, Thailand was fantastic, but Kanawa made the snorkeling there look like a child’s hobby aquarium. After exploring a bit longer we headed back to the restaurant to get lunch. Unfortunately, they only serve lunch until 2pm and it was now 3pm. That sucked since we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and the only food we had were brownies that we smuggled in from Labuan Bajo. So, we had brownies for lunch. Let me recap this day so far: A scenic boat ride to a private island with a beautiful beach and spectacular snorkeling within a few hundred feet of our bungalow and then brownies for lunch. Yep, life is good.
The kitchen didn’t open for dinner until 6pm so we read, lounged, and watched a stunning sunset. Everything was going according to plan on Kanawa. At 5:30pm we headed over to the restaurant to peruse the menu and place our dinner order since we were starving. I ordered pizza which might sound crazy, but the owner of the resort is Italian and so are a bunch of people in the town of Labuan Bajo. It’s like Little Italy up in here! Anyway, the pizza was surprisingly decent for a secluded island in the middle of Indonesia.
We weren’t really in the socializing mood so we headed back to our bungalow after dinner. There’s only electricity by way of generator until 11pm so we needed to charge our camera batteries and get ready for bed while we still had light. As I went to get my pajamas from my bag, I saw something scurry under Kanako’s bag and I knew it was a big-ass, Southeast Asian cockroach. Now, I hate the cucaracha as much as the next person, but Kanako and I have an agreement. I handle the crunchy insects and she takes care of the furry rodents. It works for us. So, after jumping around and screaming in our typical fashion when encountering these critters, I tried to chase it out the front door. It had other plans and ran under the bed instead. I certainly wasn’t going to stick my head under there with nothing but a dim bulb to illuminate the darkness. Who knows what kind of giant cockroach monsters live under those beds. I decided to brush my teeth and wait for it to come back out. Apparently I’m smarter than the average cockroach and after a few minutes it slowly crawled out from under the bed and I smashed it with my flip-flop. I cleaned it up so boo wouldn’t have to see its carcass. As I went to put my toothbrush back in the toiletries kit on the bamboo shelf in the corner I spotted two more cockroaches! WHY ME?!?!?!?! Why are there THREE of them in my bungalow!! I ran out and grabbed my roach-killing flip-flop and smacked those two into roach pancakes. So gross. Ugh.
We checked around the room and were happy to find that my vicious annihilation of the first three must’ve scared the others off and no more roaches were found. We climbed into bed and crawled under the safety of our mosquito net. The lights went off at 10:15pm, about 45 minutes earlier than scheduled, but we were tired anyway so we eventually dozed off.
I woke up abruptly when Kanako turned on her super-bright Petzl headlamp. Ever since we’ve been in SEA, I have a surprising ability to become fully conscious when an unexpected light comes on in the middle of the night. I guess it’s because I know it can’t be good when an unexpected light goes on in a place where there’s no electricity. I looked over to where Kanako was pointing her light and I saw the bed bug crawling on her arm. She brushed it off her arm onto the bed and I crushed it. We quickly scanned the bed and found anther one crawling up the mosquito net. I crushed that one too. It was 12:45am and we were now wide awake. We inspected the bed and didn’t find any other bugs, but we couldn’t go back to sleep. This was our first SEA encounter with bed bugs and we couldn’t believe that our island paradise was about to be ruined by these blood-sucking pests. We sat up discussing what to do because we didn’t want to be a tasty dinner for the bugs. Finally we decided on the hammock since the daybed on the patio probably had bed bugs too. The hammock was big enough for both of us, but if you’re familiar with how a hammock works then you know that when two people try to sleep in one we end up looking like a Tootsie Roll with the two ends squishing our heads and feet together. It wasn’t a very comfortable way to sleep.
The next day we informed the Italian manager of our findings and he came over to the bungalow with us to check it out. We were able to find one of the critters to show him and he quickly got his people to haul all of the furniture out of the room to be placed under the sun. Based on my extensive knowledge of bed bugs, I don’t think you can kill them with sunlight, but I guess there aren’t any professional exterminators in paradise. The staff moved us to another bungalow and we inspected it for bed bugs. We didn’t find anything, but we were still nervous. I don’t like things sucking my blood while I’m sleeping.
After enjoying another beautiful day with spectacular snorkeling we went back to our bungalow and were happy to find that no cockroaches had moved in. We hung out on the patio daybed where I found what I’m sure was another bed bug, but I didn’t tell Kanako because I didn’t want to worry her. The lights went out before 10pm so we hung out in bed turning on our headlights every 15 minutes to check for bugs. Even though we didn’t find any bugs, we still didn’t feel comfortable enough to fall asleep. Back to the hammock and another sleepless night. We were supposed to spend another night on the island, but we were exhausted from two nights of poor sleep and couldn’t suffer another night in the hammock.
We decided to make the most of our last day and head back to Labuan Bajo in the afternoon. Unfortunately the resort only has one boat leaving per day and it already left at 8am, but we’re pretty resourceful people so we built a raft from dead coconuts. Just kidding. We found a nice group of Italians who came over for a day trip and we asked them if we could go back with them on their chartered boat. They very kindly allowed us to join them and refused to let us pay when we arrived at the harbor. And that was the end of our brief time in paradise. I was sad to let it go so quickly, but now I have revised my description of paradise to be more specific about what should or shouldn’t be there. Bed bugs and are a definite no. I’m sure we’ll find our dream island somewhere else in Indonesia.
I’ll post awesome pictures of marine life in Kanawa in the next entry, but if you can’t wait that long here’s the link to our Flickr album.