Using Labuanbajo as our base in Flores, we booked an overnight boat trip to go see the Komodo dragons on Komodo and Rinca islands. Rinca is relatively close (about 2 hour boat ride), but Komodo is at least 4 hours away which is why people do the overnight boat trip. The overnight trip was expensive though so I think if we were to do it again, we’d just break it up into two day trips and sleep comfortably on land. Unfortunately I got a really bad case of food poisoning (the worst of the trip) and the first day of the boat trip wasn’t too enjoyable throwing up over the side of the boat. Ugh. We booked through Perama, which is a relatively big tour operator in Indonesia and unfortunately our boat was nicknamed by Mike the “cockroach express.” Good times. =)
But, we got to see Komodo dragons! They are the largest species of lizard and also known as monitor lizards. They’re only found on these islands in Indonesia and only a few thousand are left. Many think that Komodo dragons could have been the inspiration for the appearances of mythical dragons and the Chinese dragon. We went to Rinca island on the first day and immediately came across 7 dragons lying near the ranger cottages—of course, near the kitchen. They have a really good sense of smell and can smell from up to 5 km away.
We saw a number of humongous water buffalo on our 2 hour trek—they were much larger than the domestic ones we’ve seen. The Komodo dragons will sneak up behind them and bite them on the leg. The poison from their bite slowly gets to the buffalo and the dragon will follow the injured buffalo until they die. Dragons can eat up to 40 kg at a time but they only feed once a month or so.
While we were watching a water buffalo, suddenly we heard a rustle and a Komodo dragon came on the trail and was heading towards us. Probably to check out the water buffalo. That thing was not afraid of us at all. Our guide (who was a teenage intern!) has a pronged stick just for these incidences. He jabs the stick at the Komodo dragon’s neck to shove it away. It barely deterred the dragon but enough for us to get out of the way. It was super tense and we were all on edge. They warned us not to run, since the dragons take sudden movement as aggressive behavior. Yikes!
After the dragon passed us, it looked at the water buffalo for a second. The water buffalo looked back at him as if saying “I see you” and they stared at each other. Then the dragon moved on. Whew! We thought we might witness an attack.
That night we anchored near Komodo Island and saw an incredible sunset on the boat. The boat wasn’t too comfortable to sleep on—the air is humid and salty so you just feel sticky the whole time. I couldn’t really eat dinner because of my stomach problems and threw up any rice that I had managed to get down. Not good.
The next morning, we did a 2 hour trek on Komodo. We didn’t see as many dragons, but we had a great guide who pointed out unique plants and birds to us. At the top of the hill, we saw flocks of yellow and white wild cockatoos flying around. It’s strange to see them wild when your whole life you’ve seen them as pets!
Our ranger pointed out some Komodo dragon droppings—they are white because of the bones they eat. We saw one that probably ate a wild deer because there was a lot of fur too!
We saw some wild boar and deer on the trek too. The boars are funny—they run really quickly and are pretty shy. Just like the warthogs we saw on safari in Africa.
There was one huge Komodo dragon lying near the end of our path near a ranger cottage. Here’s a close up of the hind paw—it’s much bigger than human hands of course! Check out those claws.
To end the boat trip, we went snorkeling at Kanawa Island. Some great snorkeling but we figured we were in for much better sights on our upcoming diving liveaboard trip!
We saw a crazy camouflaged fish called the crocodilefish, which is part of the scorpionfish family. It has both eyes on the top of its head.