Komodo Part I: Land

Trip Start May 23, 2011
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Trip End Aug 17, 2011


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Where I stayed
Hotel Surya

Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Thursday, July 7, 2011

The landscape of Flores is stunning. The island is built from volcanoes, some long covered in forest, some still smoking. These dramatic knife-points make it breathtaking but, as Shen phrases it, best traveled by helicopter. The road from Bajawa to Labuanbajo is basically a ten-hour series of extreme hairpin turns and roller-coaster ascents and descents, something that even the locals don't handle well. If anyone suspects that this kind of travel is like a normal vacation, I would invite them to spend ten hours with us careening around volcanoes in an overstuffed bus filled with cigarette smoke while children toss their cookies all around us. It has its benefits, but it’s not exactly relaxing!

But the destination was worth it. Labuanbajo is not amazing, but Komodo National Park really is. We could have stayed longer with plenty to do, but since it’s nearing high season, we had to buy our plane tickets ahead of time. So aside from a logistics day, we had three full days to explore the park.

Komodo is made up of many scattered islands, including the larger islands of Komodo and Rinca, as well as the marine ecosystem within its boundaries. We spent a half-day on land and two and a half under the sea.

The biggest land attraction is the Komodo Dragon, the biggest lizard in the world. We took a boat to Rinca to see them, and we had the good luck of seeing quite a few. Visitors are nearly guaranteed a sighting since several dragons hang around the island’s main camp. Park staff claim they’re not fed, but they must find some way to get goodies from the camp, or I don’t think they’d stick around. We watched them for awhile then went for a two-hour hike on the island. You’re required to go with a guide, since the dragons can be aggressive when protecting their nest. The guide carries a forked stick as a weapon, which seems inadequate, but they claim that the dragons really hate the stick. We managed to find two of them in the bush, which is great since it’s not the best season for spotting them. They are exactly what you imagine them to be – really, really big lizards. They walk with a bow-legged swagger and give you a cold appraisal with their scaly black eyes. Since we were there in the heat of the day, they weren’t moving around much. But a lone lizard can take down a buffalo, so I don’t think I’d turn my back to them! 

We saw several other wildlife species as well. There were a few bird species that we were supposed to get excited about, but my favorite was the wallowing water buffalo. He was armpit-deep in the mud, chewing cud and dozing off while we rested nearby.

Rinca is incredibly dry and hot right now, so after our successful hike, we found a spot to wallow, too. We snorkeled for a couple of hours before taking the sunset boat ride back to Labuanbajo.
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