Komodo Dragons

Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Saturday, April 9, 2011

To get to Flores we needed to take a 24 bus and boat ride from Mataram, Lombok, passing through the entire islands of Lombok and Sambawa, taking two ferries to cross between the islands to end our trip at Lanbanbajo in Flores.

Our journey started at 9am from Kuta where we had arranged the entire trip to Flores, it was to start with a transfer to Mataram in an air-conditioned Toyota, which had been identified to us by the owner of the tour company. However this is Indonesia, and as we sat waiting at the tour company's office in the morning there was no sign of the owner or his air-conditioned car, instead what finally arrived a little after 9am was an old and rather beaten up 9 seater van, whose only idea of air-conditioning was the two small side windows; surprise! the classic hey check out this photo or look over there thats my car trick. A little confused we demanded to speak to the proprietor of the company, so the driver, who could not speak any English and was looking a little beweilder at our refusal to get into the car, called the owner. After a short negotiation, we got bumped up to first class on this old chunk of metal; yes we got to ride in the front seats - with their own windows! We decided to withhold any money until the bus tickets we in our hands. After arriving in Mataram we were told there was no bus at 12pm as originally advised, instead the bus departs at 3pm, so no rush! One of the drivers at the terminal was actually very nice and told us where we could buy a nice cheap lunch and then offered to take us around the local market to pass some of the time. He explained what a lot of the produce was, speaking to the owners and letting us smell and touch some of the items. Unfortunatley most was spices and items used for cooking so we only purchased a few oranges for the journey. 

Again the bus was not quite in line with the information provided at point of purchase, i.e. a tourist VIP bus with air - con and toilet, instead what we boarded was a bus full to the brim with people, and the majority locals, who even had to sit on some of their varied assortment of belongings in the centre of the aisle, with partial air-con (a fan) and a toilet which was filled again with some of the belongings of the passengers. In addition, some of the chairs were broken, but we were quite lucky with ours, as they were okay as were the seats in front, unlike the couple on the seats across the aisle from us whose chairs were stuck at a slanting angle. Anyway we set off along the uneven, windy roads to catch the ferry to Sambawa. On route we passed a parade in the street where the children were singing and dancing and bands played.

When we arrived at the ferry terminal we got off the bus to walk onto the ferry while the vehicles boarded the bus and parked in such ordered fashion like a jigsaw puzzle, it was near perfection with only inches of space separating the vehicles. The ferry ride was only an hour and a half and then we were back on the bus and heading across Sambawa. It was dark now, so the majority of the journey across the island was in darkness, so we slept. Suddenly we were woken to get off the bus, except we were not at the port? Apparently this was as far as our couch went and from here we needed to catch a public bus to Sape, the port town. When we arrived in Sape, however, we were told we had just missed the one ferry of the day to Lanbanbajo, so we would need to stay the night. In all the confusion and shouting someone appeared to be taking our tickets, so after more arguing we retrieved them. A kindly policeman stepped in and said this apparently happens a lot, so we could get a refund for our ferry ticket from the bus driver when he returns in the afternoon (he had managed to drive off in all the commotion) and until then he could point us in the direction of a nice, cheap hostel.  

Sape really did not have a lot going for it, in fact it had very little in it, except a cheap internet place (probably reflecting the speed of it) and a couple of cheap places to eat. The group of Canadians that had been on our bus decided this was not a place they wanted to stop, so managed to charter a boat (along with another family) to take them across to Flores. Thinking this might be a good idea we checked out the boat as they were boarding but it barely looked like it would make it out of the port and heeding the advice of the book (many boats not being seaworthy) we decided it would be better to stick it out in Sape. 

The next day we got the morning boat to Lanbanbajo with no problems and enjoyed the slow 8 hour crossing to Flores passing several tree covered islands on route. Aff had not been feeling too well, so we spent our first full day relaxing, getting to know our surroundings and new Belgium friends (who had been on the same bus journey from Mataram). The following day we booked ourselves onto a tour to Rinca, one of only two nearby islands which have komodo dragons. Komodo dragons can weigh up to 60kg and bizarrely can eat nearly their own weight (40kg) in one setting. Komodo dragons kill buffalo, deer, monkeys and they have killed people. They have a poison in their saliva, which prevents blood from clotting, so their unfortunate prey will eventually bleed to death hence why we needed  a ranger to take us around the island (although we were not convinced that a pronged stick was exactly a match for a komodo dragon). Komodo dragons can be pretty hard to spot in the wild, but lucky there is a camp on Rinca where they like to hang out in an attempt to steal lunch from the kitchen, so we managed to see several before even setting out on our hike (where we saw none!). We were told that because the adult ones weigh so much they are actually quite slow, so it is the young, small ones that you should actually be more weary of, as they can run up to 18km an hour and climb trees, so there is nowhere even to hide! 

We returned from our trip after some snorkeling of the islands and went to get some food in the nice Lounge bar. Aff met a guy called Yan there who had moved to Indonesia from France and built his own boat, which he was now chartering out to people to tour the islands. As Yan got on well with all of us he decided to invite us to party on his boat, which was awesome. It was by no means the fancy yacht you see in posh marinas but had nice solid wooden features and a well designed entertaining space at the back. It he had built with help from only a few people and because of this it was very impressive. The crew of three, Yan, Michele and Roslin were fantastic people making us feel very welcome and creating a great atmosphere on the boat. They also made us feel a little envious of the freedom they had sailing around Indonesia. It was inspirational really, as they had all pursued thier goals and never gave up their dream of living on a boat and travelling the seas.
The following day we had planned to go diving with the Belgiums, but Carla had got Aff's cold from a few days previously, so was not able to dive. This was really devastating to Carla, as this is suppose to be one of the top dive sites in the world and where it is possible to see sharks and giant manta rays. Aff was going to go with the Belgiums, but after arriving back in the night to find Carla sniffiling and coughing on the bed and looking quite sorry for herself he decided to stay and look after her the following day. When Carla woke to find Aff still here (it was an early start for diving) she felt guilty, which was worsened when the Belgiums returned with massive smiles, claiming to have had excellent dives and seen sharks! Oh well hopefully we will return some day. 

As our time in Indonesia was running out we had booked a flight back to Bali the following day, so we could cross over to Java, our final island visit in Indonesia.  
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The Lone Commentator on

Perhaps you misheard ‘air conditioning’: warm, moist air wafting through the windows, that’s ‘hair conditioning.’ Still you got to see some ‘pre-historic’ dragons but nil points for whimping out of the shark show: methinks a little illness time-management is called for :-)

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