That Light Though

A new re­sort in Flores brings lux­ury to an un­touched part of the is­land, and swift ac­cess to a World Her­itage Site. Rather than in­trude, it blends and flows. UN­ESCO

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia - - DEBUT - —JENINNE LEE-ST. JOHN

GO AHEAD, JUST TRY to stop snap­ping pho­tos at dusk at the paint-still-dry­ing new Ayana Ko­modo Re­sort, Wae­cicu Beach (ayana.com; dou­bles from Rp5,097,500), where all rooms are ocean view. Ev­ery in­cre­men­tal dip of the sun brings a new wave of Ko­dachrome, each more dra­matic than the last, a fit­ting cur­tains down at the first lux­ury ho­tel in Labuan Bajo, which is nes­tled on a hill­side, wings stretched to present all the beauty of Flores.

Board­ing the back-load­ing prop plane at dawn in Bali, it started to sink in that I was headed some­where spe­cial. Only so many pas­sen­gers fit on this wee flight; only so many trav­el­ers come to Labuan Bajo, launch­point to Ko­modo Na­tional Park, home of those giant drag­ons. An hour up and down and a quick drive to the re­sort, and I was si­mul­ta­ne­ously off the grid and swim­ming in that Ayana em­brace. Which felt all the more spe­cial since the prop­erty pri­or­i­tized re­cruit­ing lo­cals to train to their top-notch stan­dards. Wit­ness: my own pa­parazzo, who, un­re­quested, fol­lowed me with my phone lens as I pad­dle­boarded around the bay.

There's a stel­lar snor­kel­ing spot off a pri­vate is­land a two-minute speed­boat ride around the cor­ner (look out for the deep ma­roon clown­fish), and a glass­bot­tom boat for those who don't want to take the plunge. The pièce de ré­sis­tance is the cus­tom, ninebed­room, live­aboard phin­isi that begs you to plan a grand ex­cur­sion on it and sail with 100 or so of your near­est and dear­est out into the sal­mon sun­set. I sup­pose a pri­vate div­ing trip will suf­fice, too. The show­ers in some of the cab­ins have floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows, and the mas­ter suite has a claw­foot tub— both of which of­fer di­vine views for end-of-day awe.

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