Bali & Beyond: Travels Through Indonesia Part 3 – Dragons and Islands
After a few relaxing days on Seraya Island (see the previous blog about our travels in Flores for photos that will, quite frankly, make you sick with envy!), it was time to haul ourselves back to the mainland and sort out a means of getting to Komodo National Park to see the dragons on the nearby islands of Komodo and Rinca. There are two ways of making this trip: you can either go in and out of Labuan Bajo or you can book passage on a boat that takes in the islands and then continues further west to Lombok. We decided on the latter and handed over 1,500,000 Indonesian rupiahs each (about £100) for a four-day cruise that included visits to both Komodo and Rinca as well as some snorkelling and island visits along the way.
At this juncture, I need to point out that when I use the term ‘cruise’, we are not talking P&O with all the trimmings but then again it wasn’t too bad either, especially when you consider what we paid for it. The boat was about 40 feet in length, looked to be reasonably sea-worthy and was manned by a competent and friendly crew of four. We slept on the upper deck and were provided with a mattress, pillow and blanket, plus we were given three meals a day, all of which (given the limitations of the kitchen) were pretty good and certainly edible.
Komodo Island, part of Komodo National Park
All in all, the actual ‘cruise’ got top marks but we were lucky with our group size. We were just four but the maximum on any one boat could be up to twenty. As a result, we had plenty of space but anything above a group of ten people would, I am sure, have led to a very different, less pleasant ‘onboard’ experience.
The crew were great, looked after us well and caught some tasty fish for dinner along the way. My only concern was that the captain seemed to be using an airline magazine with a map of the islands in it as the sole means of navigation. I tried not to think about it too much, especially on the second day when we sailed throughout the night!
Gunung Api Sangeang Island near Sumbawa
Moyo Island, Sumbawa
Moyo Island, Sumbawa
Walking amongst the dragons was an ‘interesting’ experience. They are big buggers, riddled with toxins, can shift pretty quickly when they feel like it, and are incredibly ugly to boot. My knowledge of the dragons comes courtesy of Mr Attenborough and the National Geographic documentaries and, of course, in such documentaries you always see them at their most fierce as this makes for the best presentation so, naturally I was a bit nervous about tracking them down. This nervousness wasn’t helped by the fact that all the ranger carries for protection is a forked stick – personally I would have said a shot-gun was more appropriate!
But in reality, the dragons are actually pretty lazy and only really active early morning and at dusk and so you can get pretty close to them outside of these times. On Rinca island, a number of dragons hang out near the camp kitchen and you can get very close indeed (still too close for my liking) whereas on Komodo you need to head off into the forest and track them down. For some reason (I am sure there is one, I just don’t know it) the dragons are much bigger on Komodo than on Rinca but they are easier to spot on Rinca hence you should visit both islands.
Komodo Island (left) and Rinca Island (right)
One final (delicate) point about the dragons before I wrap up this blog. Be warned, they have an incredible sense of smell, especially for blood, and, how can I put this (?), women who are experiencing that certain time of the month should not go anywhere near them. There are some pretty hairy stories going around and the people at the boat company don’t bother to tell you in advance so my top tip for all you ladies intending to visit Komodo – plan ahead!
Our boat docked in Lombok where we spent a few days before returning to Bali.
Next stop … Sulawesi
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