In Search of Dragons

Trip Start Dec 31, 2010
Trip End May 14, 2011

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Friday, May 6, 2011

The flight from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo all went smoothly and I arrived on the island of Flores at about 8 in the morning.  There was a wait in the room which counts as the Labuan Bajo arrivals area whilst the luggage was unloaded from the plane, but with rucksack on back I headed out into the sunshine to be met by Jeffrey, my Komodo National Park tour organiser, and his young driver.  The other person on my tour turned out to be a guy called Enrico who bizarrely lives a few miles away from me in Woking.
We took a short car ride past beautiful views of the Flores sea and the harbour before arriving in the small town of Labuan Bajo to pick up a few supplies, namely some snorkelling gear and a few Bintangs.
We then continued on to the jetty and met our captain, Marcus, and his crew who will be sailing us round the national park and it's seas.  Jeffrey won't be joining us on the tour, he has business in Bali to take care of.
We set sail and sailed for a while, past the beautiful green hilly islands around Flores before stopping off the shore of the island of Bididari and jumping into the blue, transparent seas for a bit of snorkelling.  Marcus warned us that we wouldn't see very much but their were loads of brightly coloured fish and amazing coral to see.  After a while in the water we got back on the boat and had lunch before setting sail again for the island of Rinca, one of three islands where the dragons live in their natural environment.
We entered the national park area and paid all the various entry fees, including a camera fee and met our guide for the trek around the island.  We were met almost instantly by the sight of about 10 dragons that were all hanging around near the rangers stations living quarters, or to be precise, their kitchen. Our guide, armed with a 7ft stick for our protection, claimed that the dragons are never fed by the rangers but I wondered why they still stayed there if they knew they weren't getting fed. As we began our trail we saw a tree snake on a tree near the ranger station as well which was a bonus.
The trek around Rincas was pretty short, only about 45 minutes, and with no sightings of a dragon.  We saw a buffalo and some dragon nests but that was about it until we got back to the ranger station again.  After a few more photo's we went back to the boat but I was still unsure whether seeing the dragons at the ranger station really counted as seeing them in 'real life' for the first time, having seen one each in the zoos in Sydney and London.
We sailed away from Rinca and the early start caught up with me and I had a little doze as we floated across the sea in the direction of Komodo Island in readiness for tomorrow. We stopped again for another snorkel and saw more fish and coral as well as some starfish, including a number bright blue in colour while the crew cooked again. It still amazes me how good the food is cooked in the jungle or in this case on a boat, when only using the most basic equipment. We sailed on a little further after the meal and then moored for the night.  I thought I had escaped the hawking when I left Bali but apparently not, and as we sat there we were soon joined by an influx of boats with men trying to sell hand carved dragons!
As the night fell and after we had dinner we were joined by various other tour boats and watched as thousands of flying foxes took off for their nightly migration from the island of Kalong where they sleep to another island in the search for food.  The migration went on for about half an hour and was a fantastic sight.
We tied up to another boat and had a chat with a Canadian couple who lived in Indonesia and were doing a similar tour to us, whilst enjoying a couple of beers. All the crews of the various boats all moored either together or in the same area seem to know each other pretty well. I guess they all do the same trips every few days heading to the same islands and the same mooring spots etc. Whilst we chatted with the people on the other boat our crew members hopped over to their boat and played a few games of cards.
Then the wind started getting up and the rain came, and it was literally time to batten down the hatches and head into the cabin area and go to bed and hope for the best with the storm. I really had to hope for the best because I was on the top bunk in the cabin and one of the little windows next to my bed had no glass in it and the rain can get in. Thankfully the tarpaulin did the trick, and we were also moored side-on to the boat next door so I didn't end up having a very damp night!
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