Here be dragons

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Monday, May 19, 2008

When I was planning this trip, Komodo Island and its dragons represented the ends of the earth to me.  I wasn't even sure we would be able to make it out here, it was so far away figuratively and literally from the US. 

But, as the sun rose in a brilliant array of colors, the strange langscape of Komodo Island came into view.  It is green and hilly, but with only scattered trees.  It almost looks as if farmland has been draped like a tablecloth over rugged hills.  We were here at last.

We anchored in the bay, had breakfast, and then motored to the shore.  We met our ranger and he told us a little about the island.  For protection he carried a stick with a small fork in the end.  I didn't think it would help much.  He also told us that the dragons looked slow but they could move at 18 km/h in a short burst of speed.  He advised us to run away if that happens.  He also reminded us (again) that dragon sightings were not guarranteed on the islands.  In fact, it was much easier to see dragons, and other wildlife as well, on neighboring Rinca. 

Luckily enough, the fates decided to be kind today and remove the suspense.  We came across a dragon about 200 meters along the beach.  He was a large male, about 3 meters, and he was sitting very close to the surf and pondering the bay.  We couldn't have asked for a better photo shoot.  Some others found another stalking off into the bushes.  Everyone snapped away.  Eventually he must have finished his musings because he slowly turned and ambled up the beach, flicking his giant, forked tongue along the ground.  An incredible looking beast.

Dragon spotted, everyone could relax and enjoy the hike.  We also learned a bit more about the Komodo Dragons.  The males have battles during the mating season (what I would give to see that).  The females dig a few false nests and then lay clutches of about 30 eggs.  Only 3 survive.  Komodos are cannibals, and even the mother will eat an emerging baby.  Quite naturally, once they hatch they take to the trees, where they live out most of their child years.  Komodos lie and wait for prey to walk by, then lunge and bite it.  The saliva of a dragon is deadly with bacteria, and the animal usually succumbs to infection in a couple days.  The dragons follow it until it perishes, then they have a feast.  Young Komodos are born without this poisonous bite, but they pick it up by tonguing the ground.  The guide also told us that Komodos have never been known to get sick, and snake venom doesn't work either.  Scientists are studying their blood and immune system to see if they can figure out the trick.  I think we would be pretty hardy too if we went around licking everything that was dirty. 

We saw a few birds, lots of trees, and a megopod nest.  Although a megpod sounds cool, it's just a chicken.  They build huge mounds and the Komodos use them to lay their eggs.

Coming back to the beginning we saw two more Komodos hanging out around the ranger huts.  One just sat and stared at us as we sat and stared back.  We later saw another one charging off into the bushes.  Our trip to Komodo could be considered a success.

Coming back to the boat, we moved up the beach to do some more snorkelling, this time in the Komodo marine park.  The snorkelling was good but we didn't see anything particularly special.  Afterwards, we headed for our final destination: Labuanbajo, on the isolated island of Flores.

Those who had signed up for the return trip had the option of looking around town, but this was the end of the ride for us and we got out to find some accomodation.  The options weren't great.  We also purchased a bus ticket to head into the island the next day.

To finish off our Perama adventure, we were invited back to the boat for a party with old and new participants.  We had dinner, drank a little, and otherwise made merry.  The crew also performed a little puja puja for the new arrivals.  Around 11 we walked back.  The travel agent who had sold us the ticket had been waiting all night to see us walk by (I was pretty impressed by this).  He told us that a group of people coming off one of the passenger boats had rented the bus (the PUBLIC bus) and therefore there wouldn't be a bus tomorrow.  Great.  We were stuck in this town another day.  But it did save us waiting at 5:30 in the dark.

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