Gili Lawa is located in the north side of Komodo Island and considered as the gate to the natural habitat of the largest prehistoric lizard in the world, Komodo dragon (until now, I still don’t understand why it’s called “dragon”, since we all Indonesians see it as a giant lizard), at Komodo National Park. It takes 3 to 4 hours from Labuan Bajo, but only 30 minutes from the famous Pink Beach by boat.
There are 2 parts of Gili Lawa, which are Gili Lawa Darat (literally meaning Land Gili Lawa) and Gili Lawa Laut (Sea Gili Lawa), situated across one another. To hunt for sunset, we visited Land Gili Lawa, located between Sea Gili Lawa and Komodo Island. It was our second time to do the same activity as that on Padar Island the day before with Indonesia Photo Tour.
Like Padar Island, the only way to get the best viewpoints is by trekking. Land Gili Lawa is an uninhabited island, so make sure to bring own food and drinks, wear trekking shoes or mountain sandals, sunglasses, a hat, a flashlight (the one from your smartphone should be okay, too) to get down from the hill after dark and last but not least, a good quality camera (and all the tools necessary if you want) to capture the moments to the fullest! Bring a plastic or paper bag as well to collect your trashes (and bring it to the boat for littering). Remember that there are no local people there, including the cleaning service, so please be responsible to keep clean and preserve the nature.
Last April, the hilly terrain was dominated by savanna covered with grass and I was delighted to see that because it was like a hilly golf course that doesn’t happen all year long. Usually, the land turns green during rainy season and a transition to dry season. In dry season, it turns to be a barren land. Some say that it delivers a different kind of beauty, but I personally like it green.
The signature characteristic of Gili Lawa is that the 2 islands, situated across each other, have a sort of “tentacle” shape on one side, whose edges are not attached. It creates a gap that looks like a straits, where all ships and boats can pass by freely.
It took between 30 minutes to an hour to reach the top of the hill, depending on speed and stamina. For débutant trekkers, like me, the trails were pretty strenuous. Steep paths with gravels and slippery soil were a daily dose along the way. Having anticipated beforehand, our local guides were ready to give a hand when necessary. It was something I desperately needed on certain paths, but I tried my best to hang on and not to depend on them entirely. I had no shame using my own ass to slide on uneven and slippery surfaces, while grabbing steady rocks or twigs as handrails for balancing.
While trekking, make sure to keep looking down, place your feet sideways, either to the left or right instead of straight, to prevent getting easily slipped. If you have knee problems or tired, take a break. Listen to your body and don’t push the limit too much. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need to. Last but not least is to believe in yourself you’re gonna make it no matter what.
The good news is there are 2 options for viewing the sunset, the easy way or hard way. I remember the day before on Padar Island that going down to the shore was so much more challenging than going up. Therefore, I know my limit and decided to choose the easy way, meaning that I “only” needed to walk half of the whole trail and that was a relief. Although it was impossible to avoid the nature, which are steep and slippery paths no matter what.
I wasn’t alone with my choice. Actually, 6 of 8 members in our group were with me. Especially, our tour leader told us that the sunset looks prettier from the lower view point than the higher one. So, I didn’t see the point of having feet and knee sores for the sake of the reaching the peak.
How about the hard way? Easy. Just walk all the way to the top, as shown on the following pictures:
The lower level view point, aka the easy way, was actually stunning! Gili Lawa had never been better from this spot with savanna as a photo framing. By the way, the water should be blue, but I forgot switching the dynamic range setting back to normal.
On the right side of the island, that was where the sun went down. It was the right moment to place our tripod and adjust the camera setting. This spot was perfect because it is off the beaten path. Most people try hard to the peak, thinking that the highest point should have the best view. But it doesn’t always work that way.
Using Fuji XA-1, the first generation of XA type from Fuji X Series, I managed to capture the sunset with low light manual setting without any filter (cause I don’t have one).
After the sun was below the horizon, no one should leave the spot immediately, since the magical moment of spectacular lighting had yet to come. This was the moment I long for while chasing sunset and I hope it would not be disappointing. Sometimes nature doesn’t answer your prayers, so I prepared for the worst and if it happens, let it be.
Approximately 15 to 20 minutes later, the sky showed off its radiant and dramatic yellow-orange colour gradation. After changing the setting into advanced filter and choosing dynamic range feature, it resembled Mordor on Lord of the Rings, a place where Frodo should throw away the cursed ring.
Furthermore, the island we had seen since 3 pm from all angles suddenly transformed itself to bluish-pinkish appearance both in the sky and the water surface. I love how the cloud in the middle looked like a pile of popcorn. I truly admired and appreciated the non-polluted environment that delivered such a miracle. It was the most beautiful blue hour I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t ask for more.
It was originally beautiful on its own, although the picture shown below used a dynamic range feature and dramatized the overall look. Does it remind you of a children’s book cover?
After the magical moments was over and before it was getting too dark, we left our spot with a flashlight in our hand for clearer view of the paths on the way back to our ship. Darkness may turn into danger if we get slipped or lost without assistance (and don’t know how to find the right track).
As a farewell to Gili Lawa, we captured the sunrise from the boat the next morning on the way to Papagarang Island.
I was glad that we visited this island, since not all tour operators put Gili Lawa on their itinerary. Sampai jumpa lagi, or see you again!
Please note that I’m not affiliated with this company and not paid for this article. I’m nothing but a participant of this trip.