Going from Thailand’s sunny peak season to Indonesia’s predicted thunderstorms sounds like a terrible idea, I know. In some ways it was, but in many respects I’m glad we did it. Exploring Indonesia during the rainy season came with plenty of challenges, but because of the low points – like having no clean, dry clothes, or being unable to leave our clammy little rooms because of flooding, we were so grateful when the sunshine decided to make an appearance. One morning we even woke up at 5:45am, climbed a big hill and watched the sunrise, just to see the sun in all its glory. In Thailand I’d already started to take it for granted.
I guess we thought that after 3 weeks of sticky heat and sunburn in the land of smiles we wouldn’t mind the odd thunderstorm in the heart of the tropics. Well, we were wrong in some ways. We missed the promise of sunshine almost immediately. We’d taken blue skies away from the equation, doubled the stickiness and added flooding and thunder. Not exactly the change of pace we had in mind. We had no idea it was going to rain quite that much, which is a shame when you’re visiting Ubud’s beautiful Tegenungan waterfall (pictured above) or hitting the reggae bars in Gili T. In some ways however, rainy season is a great time to explore Indonesia. And if it had been sunny all the time, the temptation to do nothing but sun myself on the beach would have been all too great. Plus, we were still able to fulfil our dream of seeing Komodo dragons and trekking across Rinca island, so nothing was lost. Here are a few things we learned about visiting Bali, The Gili islands, Labuan Bajo and the Komodo region during the low season.
1. There is still sunshine, I promise
You will literally clap and cheer when it comes. It will generally either rain in the morning and brighten up, or the rain will come mid afternoon after a morning of sun. Plus it’s still hot, so your wardrobe is exactly the same, with the small factor of wearing a very stylish waterproof poncho on top.
2. Low season means fewer tourists…
…and fewer tourists means cheap accommodation, less crowded attractions, better chances of seeing the wildlife and the opportunity to get to know the locals.
3. You can party all year round in Gili T
There just tends to be one or two bars that everyone goes to depending on the night. The narrow streets aren’t full of drunk people, either.
4. Scuba diving trips are quieter…
…so you get a much more personal service. You can pretty much dive in any weather in Gili T because the dive sites are so close to the island. January/February time is also a great time for spotting the most marine life diving and snorkelling in Komodo. We were lucky enough to dive with 6m-wide manta rays (unbelievable), sharks, turtles and hundreds and hundreds of fish.
5. You can still get a boat from Labuan Bajo to see the Komodo dragons!
When we booked our flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo, we thought our chances of getting a boat were slim, but as long as the seas aren’t too rough (and it’s down to you to judge) then there will be a captain willing to take you. The boat journey from Labuan Bajo to Rinca takes 2 hours (4 to Komodo) and is very sheltered by the many (staggeringly beautiful) neighbouring islands. I wouldn’t recommend taking the boat from Lombok, which is pretty much open sea and likely to be very rough and actually quite risky. Boats have been known to sink on this route in the past!
1. Rough seas
Admittedly, some boat journeys were petty hairy. If you’re prone to seasickness or don’t fancy the idea of being on a little wooden boat in the rain, then maybe steer clear. Choose your boat wisely, especially if you’re diving in Komdo. Some dive sites will be off limits due to strong currents, but generally a bit of current means more fish and more fish means a higher chance of seeing sharks and mantas.
2. You might be without electricity…
…and worst of all, WiFi. Most bars and restaurants will have generators just in case but it can be very annoying if your accommodation doesn’t. I’m so glad we took a good torch, and a power bar to charge our phones, but it feels pretty good just to embrace it.
3. Say goodbye to your tan
It’s a sad fact of life that that hard-earned tan is likely to disappear when your sunbathing hours are limited.
4. You will dream of having dry feet
It’s far too hot for wellies, so your poor little feet will endure vast muddy puddles in nothing but trusty havaianas.
5. It is quite hard work (kind of)
Add all the above together with lugging your huge backpack around in the rain, being stranded in the middle of nowhere on your moped whilst it floods, worrying incessantly about the safety of your phone/camera/laptop and being forced to eat at the nearest rather than the best places, and you get the gist. It was pretty fun though.
I don’t regret exploring Indonesia in the rain, as much as I’ve always had a great time at water-logged British festivals. It was fun, a bit silly and I have so many memories of our hilarious hardships. No two days were the same. However, for future reference, I’m pretty sure we’ll appreciate the sun in peak season next time we visit.