It takes four hours by boat from Labuan Bajo, on Flores Island, to see your first Komodo dragon:
They are the largest lizards on earth. Mighty predators that will eat anything. We saw a few collector buffalo and deer skulls on our trek (the rangers’ sense of humor), but according to our guide, the last attack on a human was back in 1988, when a little boy died. All they need to do is give you a swipe with their bacteria-laden tongue and you’re a goner – slowly poisoned. Then they come around and lick you clean. But however deadly they may be, they are otherwise not particularly interesting creatures to observe. Basically, they lie there. Sometimes, they move an eyeball, or lumber an inch or two on their short stumpy legs:I guess they are hot, tired and lazy, which is better than them being active and feisty. I certainly don’t want to be nabbed by that: They live on Rinca and Komodo Islands, and the ride there and back includes snorkeling off a pink sand beach, sleeping on the boat under the stars, and eating some wonderful local food: fresh caught fish, the ubiquitous noodle dish, mee goreng, tons of bananas and the best watermelon ever. It does not involve running water or a toilet that flushes. But it is one beautiful boat ride: The sea shifts from turquoise to aquamarine to transparent cerulean. A sea that crystalline is a finite resource because we keep mucking it up. For now though, it is still pristine, broken up only by thousands of small brown islands dotted with sparse vegetation and, occasionally, a fishing village:
Then you arrive at Rinca Island, where you are given a choice of a short, medium or long walk to find Komodos. We chose the long haul (in 98 degree heat at 1:00 in the afternoon), and saw three dragons slurking around some holes a mama had dug to lay her eggs in, as well as indigenous megapode birds, and lots of water buffalo actually hanging around, and in, a watering hole:But no more dragons until we returned to the ranger station, where they seem to hover, thereby guaranteeing that a tourist who travels zillions of miles, will see a Komodo dragon:We reboarded the boat, and headed farther east as the sun sank, and docked near Komodo Island so we could start our second hike for the dragons at 7 the next morning. The trek was gorgeous,but we did not spy a dragon. Instead, we had our best best birdwatching session for non-birdwatchers: falcons, a golden oriole and a cockatoo: Back at the ranger station, there they were – perfect chameleons laying about, allowing us to take a photo or two: It was about 10:30, and time to start the return trip to Labuan Bajo, but there were a few more pit stops for snorkeling in that AMAZING body of water. And then it was over. We were back on dry land, missing the boat, but loving the shower. The next day we had an early morning excursion to a cave of dripping stalactites with such pointed spears you had to wear a helmet to protect yourself not just against the sharp edges, but also the fruit bats and spiders that inhabit the cave: A quick stop at the local market: And a mad dash shopping splurge for ikats at the airport,
and we were on our flight to the island of Bali.