Very near here be dragons

Trip Start Apr 16, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
kanawa resort

Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

 Having been unable to get reliable information, let alone a booking, for a flight from Bali to Flores, and having arrived in Bali woefully too late to sort anything out the night before, we lugged all our stuff to Bali airport the following morning in the hope that we'd be able to get on something. Good news: there were two flights that morning to Labuan Bajo, our destination of choice. Bad news: they were both full. We were told that we would be on the waiting list and to come back later to see if anything had changed. Somewhat despondent we grabbed some breakfast and sat looking pathetic amongst a pile of our bags in front of the ticket offices. This had the desired effect and at 9:00 am we were beckoned over by the girl at the Trigana Airlines window and told that we could have two seats on the 9:20 flight! Result! We handed over a million odd rupiah and hurried through to the waiting lounge to catch the inevitable delay. Before too long we were onboard our propellar-driven Fokker-50 over the Bali sea heading for Flores.

Labuan Bajo bills itself as 'The Gateway to Komodo' and its tiny airstrip is even called 'Komodo airport'. The 'town' itself consists of a busy harbour with a dusty, half dug-up, debris-strewn main road running parallel to the coast. A smattering of ramshackle dive-shops, tour shacks and restaurants (admittedly with great views across the sea) complete the picture. We stayed in the large-roomed, clean Wasita hotel on the main street.

 Our first task was to procure onward transport to the far side of Flores where we hoped to see Mt Kelimutu. We asked at the airport when flights left for eastern Flores and were told, categorically, that there were none. Getting used to the way things work in Indonesia we went to the airline office in LBJ and promptly got seats on a plane that was going to Ende in 3 days time. Persistence is the watch-word here.

 Our tasks completed we had dinner watching the sunset from the Mata Hari restaurant. The whole town suffered a power-cut mid way through which made Ritchie's already arduos task of de-boning his fish utterly impossible.

Yet another early start and we were down at the harbour with all our gear at 7am for a day trip to Rinca island. The entire harbour's workforce downed tools and came over to watch the foreigners getting on a boat, they really must be starved of entertainment around here. Not sure if the crowd was waiting for one of us to fall in, or simply curious to see white people clambering around, but we got off disaster-free and chugged two hours across to Rinca island, part of the Komodo National Park. 
The Swiss couple on our boat had been to Komodo island itself the day before but they were unsatisfied with the tourist development of the island, and the paucity of dragons - they had managed two sightings all day. All question of our success disappeared at the end of the Rinca jetty where, spawled in the shade beneath the 'Welcome to Rinca' arch lay a fully-grown, 2 metre+, dinosaur lookalike Komodo dragon.
We crept slowly around it to the visitor centre and picked up our guide. Armed with a forked stick he explained to us that "sometimes stick scares them, sometimes not. If not, we run away, but dragons run very fast, so run like zig-zag, very difficult for them". With health and safety briefing thus completed we turned the corner to find about 12 dragons lying in the shade beneath a stilted bungalow where the rangers sleep. One of them had blood dripping from its mouth from a fight with another dragon that morning.
  Our excellent guide took us on a very informative two-hour trek around the sun-parched island and in total we saw around 20 dragons, hundreds of monkeys, water buffalo, jungle turkeys, wild boar and (our guide was very proud of this) the horns of the buffalo that was killed by the dragons whilst the BBC were filming 'Life in cold blood'.

Kanawa island
On leaving Rinca we had asked the skipper of our boat to drop us at tiny Kanawa island, in the straits between Rinca and Flores where we would spend the next couple of nights. The setup here is very basic: electricity only between 6pm and 11pm, no running water, basic, wooden, stilted huts on the beach with an outdoor toilet and bucket of fresh water for washing, but it was magical. There were just two other couples on the island with us, a handful of staff, two goats, some chickens and a particularly friendly deer that we named Doe who would wander down in the afternoons and sit with us on the beach.

There is not much else to do here but relax. We snorkelled a few times a day off the beach and straight onto astounding corals. Anemone fish (Nemos), parrotfish, Moorish idols, squid, and thousands that we don't recognise all milling around a metre or two below the surface in crystal clear waters. We almost jumped straight on top of a couple of (poisonous) Lionfish from the jetty.

The rest of the time we read, paddled, ate or generally mooched taking in the gorgeus scenery and enjoying the solitude.

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