The grand opening
Vacations & Travel was lucky enough to be invited to attend the grand opening of the Ayana Komodo Resort, Waecicu Beach on September 15, 2018. Ayana is well known to discerning Australians thanks to its beautiful resorts in Bali – Ayana Resort & Spa, Jimbaran, and Rimba Jimbaran Bali – and business travellers love the Ayana Midplaza in Jakarta.
A first in Flores
Ayana Komodo is the first five-star resort to open on the island of Flores, and is perfectly located for those wishing to explore the countless delights of the Komodo Islands. Guests flew in from around the world to celebrate the opening and check out this sparkling new resort.
Setting the benchmark
The owner of Ayana, Rudy Suliawan, told the crowd that this resort was inspired by his daughter’s love of diving and fondness for Flores. In his opening speech, Mr Suliawan also pledged to set the benchmark in nurturing the ecosystem in East Indonesia, introducing a series of initiatives to protect the resort’s surrounding land and sea while actively educating guests on the importance of sustainability and environmental consciousness.
Party by the pool
The highlight of the opening weekend was a grand party, by the pool and on the beach, with the guests – all clad in white – partying into the night with live music, excellent food and the odd beverage or two. A firework display was brilliant against the backdrop of the surrounding islands and set the tone for what will undoubtedly be a star resort in this emerging part of Indonesia.
Located not far from the airport at Labuan Bajo, the Ayana Komodo Resort clings to the side of a hillside with a gentle slope to the white sands of the beach. We pull up to the lobby which has spectacular views over the water and the islands of Kukusan (Monkey) and Kukusan Cecil (Little Monkey). Also on the top floor is Unique rooftop bar – the place to take in the sunset. It is now serving a tapas menu but will offer the Mexican cuisine that is so popular at its namesake restaurant at sister property, Rimba Jimbaran Bali, from November onwards.
The 13 suites and 192 premium guest rooms are all located on the lower levels. The interiors of my light-filled room are contemporary and I love that you can enjoy the view from the bathtub, the bed or the balcony. I also love that the clever design ensures you can’t see your neighbours and they can’t see you when you’re out on the balcony.
Al fresco options
Ayana Komodo is set to have six restaurants and bars. When we were there we dined at Rinca Restaurant, which has indoor dining or al fresco options adjacent to the pool and the beach. We also tested Kisik Seafood Grill which is at the beach level, and the freshly caught and cooked seafood and traditional dishes served on tables set in the sand were exquisite.
Catch of the day
The lobsters served at Kisik are magnificent, purchased daily from local fishermen who live at Mesa Island. They come to the pier in the morning and the chefs pick which ones they want, before the fishermen head off to the market in Labuan Bajo. Guests will be able to visit this fishing village which will be a close up look at how the fishermen and their families live.
Raising the bar
Naga Bar is perched at the end of the snaking pier, named Naga (dragon) as it has a curve in it like a dragon’s neck. Naga Bar is perfect for a lunch, sunset drinks, or settle into one of the day beds perched by the pier or overhanging the turquoise water. The aforementioned Unique rooftop bar is excellent, while Mesa Bar, in the lobby, is also a lovely space for coffee, a light lunch or a meeting should you be doing some work. The property’s fine dining restaurant, HonZEN, will open in October, with divine Japanese cuisine.
The resort has plenty of things for you do without leaving the vicinity. There are three swimming pools including one for kids, right by the kids club which will open soon. Go for a paddleboard or kayak off Waecicu (pronounced Whychichoo) beach right out front of the resort, or grab snorkelling gear and get up close to myriad sea life and coral off Kukusan island.
To go further afield, do a tour on the resort’s beautiful glass bottom boat, Lako Taka, which offers a range of tours around some of the nearby islands, and also into Komodo National Park to do a range of activities from snorkelling, to visiting pink sand beaches, hiking and more. For divers, or people who want to learn to dive, the Lako Cama is a beautiful speedboat set up for diving in some of the region’s dive sites – known as some of the best in the world.
One of the main attractions of visiting Komodo National Park is to see Komodo dragons. These ancient creatures have been around since the dinosaur days, and have not changed since. They do look very prehistoric and you do not want to get too close to them. We visit the island of Rinca (Rincha) on the resort’s glass-bottomed boat, and meet our park ranger, who leads us into the interior of the island. We find a tangle of dragons in the shade of a hut in the tiny village, and our ranger gives us some interesting information on these creatures.
All the rangers and guides carry a pronged stick, because the dragons can look like they are fast asleep but are actually in hunting mode, and if you get too close, they can strike very quickly. Further on, he points out a female dragon and her nest. We learn that she will lay about 30 eggs in a nest about one metre by one metre, along with a couple of dummy nests to fool any predators. While she is a great mum while guarding the nest, she is not so good once they hatch. Our ranger says that once born, their first challenge is to head for the trees to escape their mother, who likes to eat newly hatched Komodo dragons. The young dragons live in the trees for six months or so, surviving on geckos.
While we were there, we loved having a sneak peek at the resort’s stunning traditional phinisi sailing yacht. The 54-metre Ayana Lako di’a is simply spectacular, and will be very popular for weddings and other events. The yacht has nine bedrooms onboard, including a master suite with private deck, and can carry 150 guests on her teak decks.
The luxurious ship will take guests, either by full charter or bookable by bedroom, around the island for short explorations of approximately two or three nights per trip. Visit ayana.com