The Silent City of Mdina, Malta

After exploring much of Valletta, we decided to take a trip over to Mdina, a historic fortified City in Malta. Mdina was founded in the 8th century by the Phoenicians, and served as the capital of Malta until 1530. There are only 300 inhabitants inside the city walls, it’s seen Roman, Byzantine and Arab rulers come and go and still stands today.

I had read that the bus system on Malta was really good, so we decided to travel that way.It would take us two buses to get there and after possibly the worst buffet breakfast I’ve ever seen, we were off! We were staying in Sliema just over the water from Valletta and luckily could take a bus from right outside our hotel!

The first bus took us to Tad-Daqqaq, only when we tried to catch the next bus, it was full and drove right past us! Not to be deterred we tried another bus stop and had the same problem and again and again. Luckily we spotted this amazing looking church at the end of the street we were waiting on and decided to go check it out. Lucky we did as it started to pour down with rain!

We just made it and found out the church was the Mosta Rotunda, a beautiful 17th century church set in a lovely square with cute shops and restaurants around it. Upon entering we found out an amazing story of a WW2 bomb that came through the roof of the church but didn’t explode! You can see a replica of the bomb in a small museum at the back of the building.

The inside was really pretty too, and there’s a small air raid shelter you can check out just in front of the main entranceway. After looking around the rain had stopped and the sun started to come out, after waiting for another two buses that were both full we decided to walk to Mdina as it was only an hour away.

The countryside was beautiful to walk through and the roads weren’t very busy so it felt pretty safe, and then Mdina came into view and it was breath taking. Sat up on a plateau, the walls are made of a lovely honey colour brick. It was a bit of a slog up the steep hill to Mdina, but it’s even more spectacular up close.

We entered through Mdina gate and were immediately on architecture and travel heaven. There are cute churches, alleyways and squares to discover, along with amazing old doorways and steps.

The views from the terrace by Fontanella tea rooms are gorgeous. We were going to stop and have a drink there but it was pretty busy. So we carried on wandering and found this amazing place called Coogis.

We were sat in the courtyard, looking around thinking how pretty it was when the waiter came over and asked if we’d rather sit on the rooftop. Of course we jumped at the chance, it was super pretty up there and we enjoyed a nice Cisk, the tasty local lager while we marvelled at the countryside spread out before us. We had some salad and pizza which was really good.

Nice and satisfied we headed outside of the walls and into Rabat, the surrounding town. I had read about some cute churches and the possibility of ancient Roman catacombs and in the parish church of St Pauls we found both! The actual church is a beautiful building and the little old lady working there who showed us to the catacombs was so lovely.

We got to go down there by ourselves and even though it was spooky it was so cool, I think there are larger ones nearby but we were happy with our cute little one. So it was time to leave, it had been so much fun and luckily this time the bus would take us all the way to Valletta. In Valletta we stopped off at one of the many bars that you can find on the stairways and had a drink. Then it was time to say goodbye!

We got the taxi-boat across to Sliema and grabbed a couple of huge slices of pizza, following it up with our daily dose of gelato. We finished the day sat on our little balcony at the bayview hotel, drinking Cisk and reflecting on Malta being the perfect holiday destination.

Labuan Bajo, Gateway to Komodo.

Come for the Komodo Dragons, but stay for the chilled atmosphere, liveaboard boats and stunning scenery. Just be prepared for the plastic waste everywhere, unfortunately this isn’t just a Labuan Bajo issue so try to limit your plastic consumption at all times.

THINGS TO DO IN LABUAN BAJO.

Labuan Bajo is a far cry from Bali, with just one main street by the water, it’s mainly filled with dive shops and a few restaurants/hotels. Make sure to take a walk along the promenade and check out the amazing Komodo statue and the cute pink jetty.

STAY ON A BOATEL

Our first two nights were spent on Le Pirate Boatel! Le Pirate Located out beyond the harbour, it’s so cute. With just ten rooms and a deck it’s small and it doesn’t feel busy. The room consists of a double bed, a shelf and a cupboard and toilets are communal. Make sure to book through their own website for free breakfast.

We arrived via the shuttle boat service which runs throughout the day for those missing dry land. We got there in the evening, but awoke to the most beautiful sunrise. Make the effort to get up, it’s worth it for the views and the turtles that swim past.

The rest of the day was spent lounging on our private outdoor area, in the hammock and diving into the beautiful warm waters. The sunset that night was possibly even better than the sunrise!

Snorkeling is free on the boat and if you head towards the jetty and beach there’s a lot of marine life to see. Unfortunately the beach is absolutely covered in rubbish and there’s quite a bit in the water which was a big let down. It was fun watching monkeys playing on the beach in the morning though.

RENT A SCOOTER

We rented a Scooter for the day and rode up to sunset hill for amazing views of the bay. It’s much prettier on the opposite side to the docks. We found a secret beach that all the locals were at, drive around the East side of the peninsula to find it.

The water was so warm and clear, and you can walk out for ages as it’s so shallow. Park up, strip to your swimmers and jump in! It was fun to be around all the locals, they’re so friendly and find it extremely fun to talk to us.

We got back on the bike and it wouldn’t start, a small kid tried helping us to kick start it before another local just lifted the stand up and it worked. It was pretty embarrassing stuff.

There were a few nice beaches along this road, but be prepared for plastic everywhere, it’s such a shame because it would truly be paradise otherwise. We drove around and found a cool bar up at the top of a hill called One Tree Hill! It was super colourful and had cool street art covering it.

The views from the top were amazing! A huge storm rolled in as we were there having a beer and it was incredible. I bet the sunset is amazing from here too.

As we drove along we stopped off at little shops along the way to cool down and get a can of something to drink. It was great to use the local places rather than spend all our money in a circle K.

VISIT SOME CAVES

As we were driving around we saw some caves on Google maps and it was such a fun experience.

Batu Cermin is only a ten minute drive or so from the town, and costs 50,000pp to enter plus a small parking fee. We weren’t sure what it would be like as we walked past clumps of bamboo and spotted monkeys playing around.

As we got closer we were amazed by the formations of the rocks, and we found out that the whole island used to be underwater and these rocks even had coral embedded in them.

As you walk between the rocks birds and butterflies are flying around you and the light coming through makes everything look even more beautiful.

You can take a guide if you’re nervous about going into the actual caves but otherwise helmets are provided at the entrance. It’s pretty cool being underground and you do have to crouch and crawl a bit, but it’s totally worth it for the passageway with a small window high above that lets in the sun to light up the cave.

There are more caves around Labuan Bajo and you can even swim in some of them like Rangko cave.

PLACES TO EAT

We ate at a few places, our first night was at Le Pirate hotel on the top floor. It’s decked out nicely, with a hostel vibe to it, the food was good but nothing spectacular and reasonably priced.

Happy Banana is the highest rated restaurant in the area, but it has no soul and you could be eating anywhere in the world, it’s also on the higher end for prices and no sunset views.

Bajo Taco is a Mexican place that we went to for the rooftop bar, and stayed for the happy hour deals and tasty food. Get there before sunset for amazing views and a soundtrack of the Islam call to prayer. The food here is really good and well priced, the free chipotle mayo was gorgeous.

Warung Mama was our favourite place, just walk up the stairs and over to the glass cabinet, pick out your choice of Indonesian food with rice and enjoy. It was really good for us vegetarians and the cheapest meal at 66k for 2 and 80k for 2 plus drinks.

We stopped at Blue Marlin for lunch one day and at the time thought it was pretty good, but after visiting Warung Mama and Bajo taco we realised it’s pretty basic. Also watch out for the extra taxes that aren’t included in the price. The sunset was good from here though.

Don’t be afraid to try the little Warungs dotted about, Craig got a really good Nasi Goreng in a place just across from our hotel. If you’re worried about the meat etc, just ask for it veggie! We had no problem with this everywhere we went like one place on the main street that we tried after Mama had run out of veggie food.

Eco-tree hotel gets a bonus mention, we only had beers here but the sunset views were amazing! Plus it’s a cool building, head to the top floor to walk the plank.

LIVEABOARDS AND DAY TRIPS

Read all about our Komodo National Park boat tour HERE. Booked through Seek Sophie

After doing the tour we would definitely recommend taking a liveaboard boat trip for a few nights around the islands, our tour was amazing but we wished we’d had more time at each place and could’ve discovered more of the amazing islands.

We spent the rest of our time here relaxing by the pool at our hotel, Bintang Flores and enjoying the amazing Indonesian sunsets. I don’t think we had a bad one in the whole week.

Komodo, Land of Dragons.

Today was the day we had been looking forward to, we were off to see the Dragons! We had been on Flores Island for a few days and booked the trip while we were there through Seeksophie for ยฃ45pp. Seek Sophie

This was a full day boat trip to 4 locations and we were so excited for each one. We were picked up at 5:30am and taken to our boat for the day. There were 12 other people on the boat and we bonded with a girl from Perth and a guy from India.

It was pretty quick and easy getting on the boat and sorting money etc out. You have to pay between 300,00-460,000IDR in national park fees depending on how many people are on the tours. We were given all this information in our emails from seeksophie, and ended up paying 350,000.

So off we sped! We went to the top of the boat and watched the sunrise, it’s beautiful out on the water with all the little islands and villages on the way.

Our first stop was Padar Island, famous for it’s views of 3 beaches, one pink, one black and one white. It was 3 hours away but it went so quickly, you could say it sailed by!

Arriving at a little jetty it’s a pretty steep hike up to the top when you consider the heat even at 9am, but there are lots of places to stop and admire the amazing views. The landscape is truly incredible.

The downside was the black beach, there was a lot of rubbish on it which was a sad sight.

There were cute deer on the main beach eating old coconuts and playing in the water, we had some time to spare waiting on others to climb down so checked out the crystal clear water and the jetty.

We had an hour here and once everyone was back on the boat it was on to our next stop. As we sailed around the island we enjoyed the views and the interesting rock formations, some of them looked like animals or shapes.

Pink beach is about an hour away, named because a certain red coral mixes with the white sand making it a gorgeous pink colour. There were only 2 other boats and it didn’t feel crowded at all which was amazing.

The beach exceeded all expectations, it was so pink! The water was crystal clear and the snorkeling was amazing, we saw so many fish including a clownfish. The surrounding area is also photo worthy, we both wish we’d had more time here as 45 minutes was not long enough.

The excitement of the next destination prevented us from being too sad though. We were headed to Komodo island! Finally after months of looking forward to it we were here!

This time we met up with a few other boats and there was quite a large group of us. We were given a few rules and then taken into the island on a 2.5km walk by the park rangers armed with sticks.

We spotted some wild pigs and deer, then as we approached a watering hole we spotted two Komodo dragons lazing in the sun! There was even a baby Komodo walking around which is quite rare as the adults eat them.

The park rangers helped us take this amazing photo and we stood watching the Komodo for a while, they’re pretty big but they seemed chill as they mainly sleep in the heat of the day.

We were then herded along the track to see if we could spot more, but we found ourselves at a cafe/bar. There were two huge Komodo sleeping under some steps and it was fun having a super cold Bintang after trekking in the heat.

Then we were all hurried along to the boat, as we were walking along the jetty we spotted a small reef shark swimming along which was cool!

Our next stop was Manta Point where we’d hopefully see some Manta Rays! Indonesia is where the Indian and Pacific Oceans meet and the current between them means there is a huge variety of marine life.

We passed some amazing looking islands and sand bars on the way, definitely worth a trip if you have time.

We were warned that the currents out here are pretty strong, and the depth is about 10 metres. We jumped in and the current was really strong, I’m not an amazing swimmer but we stayed close to the boat and it wasn’t too bad.

There were no Manta though! We saw a few fish including one with a long nose and I’m pretty sure I saw a bamboo shark laying on the bottom. However our snorkeling got cut short as the girl from Perth was struggling with the current.

We all had to jump back in the boat and sail over to rescue her, and after this there was no more snorkeling. It was sad that we didn’t see Manta but we were happy everyone was ok, there’s always another time!

Everyone was tired after the heat of the day as we made our way back to the mainland. So we watched another magical sunset behind us and arrived back in the town at 18:30. 13 hours after we left! We stopped off at Warung Mama for dinner to talk about the spectacular day we’d had.

The food here is great, you pick what dishes you want from a glass counter with some rice, the vegetarian options were great and the spicy sauce is a must!

After that it was time to walk back to our hotel, obviously with a pit stop at the supermarket for ice cream. I couldn’t recommend this day enough, it felt like such an adventure in a wild part of the world.