Monday, November 11, 2013

The Land of Komodo Dragons

I've dreamed to go to Komodo island since elementary school, when the teacher told the students to memorize the animals and plants of Indonesia. Rather than waiting for office assignment or fellowship or downfall from a rich uncle, I decided to save up and just go on my own.

Komodo National Park, which is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is located in the west part of Flores Island and is part of eastern Indonesia. To get there, you need to fly to Bali, find a flight to Labuan Bajo, Flores and then travel by boat. It's an exhausting journey, but like I said before, it is worth the journey.

Airlines serving flights Denpasar-Labuan Bajo are Merpati, Lion Air, Sky Aviation, TransNusa (cmiiw). You can negotiate for the boat prices once you arrive in Labuan Bajo, but my friends and I (we were a group of five women) opted to buy a tour package from valadoo.

We departed to Labuan Bajo on Oct. 31 on Merpati. During the flight, I sat next to a pastor (or at least he claimed to be one, he was not wearing the outfit). We talked about the purpose of my trip and upon hearing that I was still single, he prayed that I would soon find the gentleman. "Actually Father, I am now traveling with four friends, who are also single. Can you pray for them too?" I said. He said he would and said,"When you come again to Flores island, and I'm sure you will, I pray that you come with your husband." Amin to that :).

View of Labuan Bajo

We arrived in Labuan Bajo at 11 a.m., and the first thing that stroke was the heat. Oh my Lord, Labuan Bajo was very hot compared to Jakarta. Pak Kanis from the travel agency picked us up at the airport, which saved us from the ruckuses that were taxi drivers and we soon boarded the wooden boat that we would occupy in the next 24 hours.

I don't like the idea of spending the day on the boat due to my motion sickness, but if I want to see Komodo dragons, then it is the only way. Fortunately, during the trip the sea was quite flat and I could enjoy the boat ride. Our first destination was...(drum rolls)...

Rinca Island

We threw the anchor at Loh Buaya, which means the Crocodile Bay in local language. Before we left the boat, Pak Kanis asked whether any of us was having our period. "Komodo can smell blood from far away and they will come after you. If you're having your period, it is best to stay in the boat," he said. We were safe that week, but imagine the frustration if we came all the way only to find that we were having our period. Girls, be safe when visiting the dragons.

After we completed the administration stuff to enter the park, we started to trek, accompanied by a ranger. But not far from our starting point, Komodo dragons already gathered near the kitchen area. Something's cooking and the big lizards came all the way to find out.

Don't let their clumsy movement fool you. Komodo can run 18km/hour. They also have great smell ability. They mingle perfectly with their surrounding, making the preys unaware of their presence and unprepared for their attack. Stay on your trek with the ranger. Also, take off the sunglasses from time to time. You may accidentally step on their tails and only God knows what will happen next.

Here's an example. Can you spot a komodo in that photo above? Yes, there's one over there because it is guarding its nest. One komodo can lay up to 30 eggs, but of the 30 eggs, only 30 percent hatch. And even if they hatch, not all survive. Some of them get eaten by their mothers or other predators such as boars and falcons.

Once a komodo eats a big prey, it will not eat anything else for a month. It drinks once a week. The females mate with the strongest komodo that win the competition. The ranger said,"We can learn from komodo about living in line with nature and not becoming greedy. Komodo only eats when it feels hungry."

But life as a komodo is not easy, it seems.

Here's an old male komodo that could not walk anymore. The ranger said that his name was Opa Baron. Opa is a Dutch word meaning grandpa. Why was the komodo named that? "Because he once ate a German named Baron Rudolf," the ranger said. Ouch.

Besides seeing the komodos, we also spotted stags, does and boars. They also blend with the forest, so stay alert and stay quiet for the wildlife can come at you, not the other way around as in the zoo.

There is a stag in that photo, you just have to look carefully.

I've never been to Africa, but trekking in Rinca island gives me a feeling that I'm in the black continent. It was very hot (perhaps around 42 degree Celsius when we came), the ground was dusty brown and the grass looked like a golden velvet.

The golden velvet carpet

The lovely color of falling leaves

The holes on the ground are the nests of crabs.

We spent the night by Kalong Island. It was a clear night and we got to see the stars.

Komodo Island

We woke up, had breakfast and watched the bats circling above the Kalong Island as they returned to their homes. Today we're going to Komodo Island. Here are some animals we met that day:

Winged lizard

This is how you should take photo with komodo: from a distance and with extreme caution.

This is how the photo turns out :).

More stags and does.

To my dismay (although my friends do not share the sentiment), we didn't meet the three types of poisonous snakes that inhabit Komodo and Rinca island. We did find the snake skins.

We hiked up Sulphurea hill, but alas we didn't find any yellow-crested cacatoo (Cacatua sulphurea). The view was majestic, though.

Pink Beach

After trekking in the heat, snorkeling in the crystal blue water of Pink Beach, Komodo Island makes a nice treat.

 It doesn't look pink from this side

You should look closer..

And look underwater too:)

Guess which feet are whose? :D

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