Komodo. For us, it was all about this island. One of those things that we both had seen documentaries about as kids with a “one day I will go there” notion in our heads.
The two days and one night on the boat encompassed more than just Komodo but we were mostly excited about the dragons.
We had what is called an “early breakfast” at 7.30am which was actually late for us. The guide was said to pick us up at 8am but he was a bit early too. A hasty breakfast with coconut-filled buns later, we were trailing behind Aco to the boat. Flo and I expected other people to join us for the cruise but it turned out that we had chartered Aco and his son Side with their modified fisher boat all for ourselves. Having the deck just for us meant a lot of space on the ride out to Rinca our first stop for the day.
Rinca, as well as Komodo island, belongs to the Komodo National Park. There are fewer dragons living on Rinca but over two thousand nonetheless. It took us two hours to get out there during which Flo and I had the provided tea, coffee and water. Once landed, a ranger took us to the ticket office where you have to pay a fee for almost everything (the park itself, visiting an island, snorkelling, trekking, camera etc. and at last, the ranger’s services) before we were taken in a guided tour. At the start, you can choose if you wanna do the short, medium or long trek and we were unanimously agreeing on the short trek. Needed the time for the long trek on Komodo, you see?
So the ranger took us on the short trek which really was short. We came across a female dragon, laying in the shade but guarding a nest nevertheless. We gave it a wide berth especially after this conversation: “Need to be careful. Not long ago, ranger got bitten.” – “Oh no! Is he okay?” – “Ranger? No, died.” O.O
So our guide was respectful to the rather large creatures, drew lines in the sand how close we could get (still too close for my taste) and took pictures for us while braving to go closer to the dragon himself for close-ups. The female dragon remained the only one that we saw on the short trek. A monkey crossed our path but was gone too quickly to take a photo.
Then we turned a corner back to the ranger’s facilities and…there were about 8 male dragons all laying underneath the hut in the shade. It must have been close to lunch time for the rangers as they were cooking inside and the smell attracted the dragons who can smell food from 5km away.
More photos were taken and we hopped back onto the boat. Lunch was served and it turned out to be delicious even if they mixed my tofu with Flo’s fish. I just picked my tofu out and enjoyed the tasty, tasy chili sauce to it.
Afterwards, we drove on to Komodo. The water got choppier and there was quite the current which the boat had to battle. It wasn’t too bad on board but our progress felt slow. Until we made it onto the reef where the water was calm immediately. The reef made for turquoise water so we jumped in for the first bit of snorkelling on this trip. The water was not as warm as anticipated but the snorkelling was good with many colourful fish all around. Having trekking on Komodo in the back of our heads, Flo and I stayed maybe 20 minutes before getting back on the boat. It was on the shorter side but the current (no waves though) meant that one tires quickly.
Landing on the pier on Komodo island, we had to walk quite a bit (without a ranger) before we came to the ticket office. The pier is new and while there is already a new ticket office close by, it is not in use yet and we had to walk to the old office. On the way there, our first Komodo dragon on Komodo island ran away from us (I think). It put me on a slight edge that we were to encounter a dragon without a guide.
This time we only had to pay the ranger as we got all our other tickets on Rinca. The guide again gave us an option of how long we wanted to hike for and we were keen for the longest trek available. However, he only gave us a choice between short and medium as it was too hot for the long trek. I was a tiny bit disappointed as we settled for the medium trek.
Komodo island is very dry and hot, a real savannah. We saw plenty of deer and wild boars while walking with deer being the dragons’ favourite meal. We didn’t see a dragon until we hit a water hole where two males were laying in the shade. Our ranger took pictures of them with us and then tried to make them walk as they were just flopping around on their bellies. These ones were not impressed though and didn’t get up for which I was quite glad. Just looking at the claws, I didn’t need to get too close. Dragons don’t have to be quick to catch their prey, at least not too quick. All they are going for is one bite. Their saliva has a substance that hinders blood from clogging so the prey will bleed out after one bite and the dragon can track it for the next couple of days without a problem. Their sense of smell is amazing.
We finished our tour of the inland and came back to the beach. Another two males were laying underneath a former hut in the shade, being lazy as all dragons had been so far. We continued on the path until it was blocked by another dragon which was laying right across it. We gave it some space and moved around to another hut with two males laying in the shade.
When we wanted to move past them, one of them got up though. He obviously didn’t like us that close and started to move towards us; one giant claw at a time. They are not as slow as one would think. I nearly had a heart attack as he came straight towards us which is why the ranger ushered us up six steps on a raised platform full of tables and benches. The dragon didn’t follow us there (they don’t like steps?) but moved around the platform, giving Flo ample time to take amazing photos. For second we thought he would try to go for one of the deer laying nearby but he didn’t. Instead, he moved past another male right infront of his snout. It might have been a provocation to get so close to another male; anyhow that other one started to hiss in a very low, danger-promising way. Our aggressive male took the hint and moved on.
I was good after that. Maybe even a bit shaken. It was an amazing display of these ancient beings. Well worth coming to Komodo for.
It wasn’t that late when we left Komodo for our last destination at the Flying Fox island. So we had another little stop beforehand where Aco and Side were fishing and actually caught three fish. They were holding the line in their hands and Flo said it’s really hard to catch a fish that way.
We arrived at Flying Fox island right at dusk when all of the flying foxes (giving the island its name) moved up into the air making a whole lot of noise. It was quite the beautiful spectacle. If I had a tele, I could have taken so many batman shots right there. Other boats were anchored in the same bay, all of the tourists watching. Because this spot is so popular, it gave rise to a new business model: Lots of tiny boats came out from a village on a nearby island, trying to sell souvenirs of wooden dragons and necklaces with mother of pearl turtles and manta rays. We weren’t interested (where would we pack it?) but they were very persistent. Most of them were kids between 10 and 15 and the two that took to us did the whole number: Trying to sell; in case of failure pleading poverty and hunger and if that also failed outright begging. They had a boat and fuel to use it and they didn’t look too hungry so we stayed cold-hearted to their pleas and they buggered off.
Then, the sun went down behind a ridge of hills and left the sky in awesome colours. As soon as it was dark we had dinner and retired to our cabin and into bed.