Getting woken up in the wee hours of the morning is not the greatest. However, wasn’t it absolutely worth it?! Dr. Lawrence Blair had told us that the volcano on Pulau Komba, which was on our way from East Timor to the island of Flores, would most likely be active and it sure was. Captain Lyubo, always happy to accommodate unplanned expedition stops, slowed down the ship just after midnight and we got to experience an absolutely unforgettable nature spectacle. A bright moon lit the clouds above the mountain. We could hear rumbling noises from deep within the volcano. The earth was spitting fire. Chunks of lava were tumbling down the side of the mountain and disappeared in a black sea. One eruption followed the next and it was difficult to pull ourselves away. Though, at some point it was time to get moving again and also to get some rest before arriving at our first destination in Indonesia that same morning.

In colorful busses we drove through the bustling streets of Flores’ capital city, Larantuka. The first stop for the day was the Catholic elementary school. A horde of smiling children awaited our arrival. After a short speech from the head mistress and a welcome song we got to spend some time with the little ones. What a joy to see their excitement and listen to their laughter. Lots of smiles, handshakes and high fives were exchanged and then it was time to wave good-bye.

Our next destination was a small village close by, and we made our way to the village by foot. Again, we were welcomed by a bunch of kids and a group of dancers. The dancers and some of the other villagers introduced us to some of their local customs, like chewing betel nut, pounding rice, and weaving.

Back onboard the ship at midday, we got treated to a delicious lunch as usual. In the afternoon, naturalist Cristiano Damiano gave a talk about shark biology and conservation, and later on National Geographic’s photographer Michael Melford delighted us with stunning images from his travels around the world. After a wonderful ‘Ring of Fire’ buffet the crew entertained all of us with some fantastic performances and even got the people in the last rows out of their seats and dancing to the rhythms. What a way to end a perfect day!