Komodo, Land of the Dragons. 8:31.7S 119:35.2E
Between Flores and the next large island of Sabawa is the Komodo National Park, a number of islands the largest of which are Komodo and Rinca. We decided, with Yorgos and Katrina from Filizi, to take the option of a speedboat tour of the six major sites in the Park knowing that we generally learn more when there is a guide to pass on information and that we could always come back later and explore some more anchorages on our own boats. We were however feeling a bit constrained by time as the rally had events laid on in Bima, 70 miles further on, in five days time. We were joined by Claude and Therese from Swiss Lady to make up the six that the speedboat could hold.
We were picked up from our boats and taken to the first stop on Rinca Island to see the Dragons. These massive lizards live only on a few of the islands and are protected but allowed to live naturally so there is no guarantee that you will see one. We consider ourselves lucky to have seen four, mainly females and juveniles which are smaller than the male, which can grow up to 3m long. They live by hunting other animals and can also be cannibalistic, their bite contains bacteria which infects and kills their prey so they can kill water buffalo and deer along with smaller prey like monkeys. The young when hatched climb into the trees to avoid being eaten.
This dragon was resting on a bridge which we should have crossed, needless to say we took an alternative route. It was a female, possibly pregnant, and therefore smaller than the adult males.
After Rinca we should have gone to Padar island to climb up to a view point but this is where the organisation of the day started to fall apart. We had to rendezvous with another boat on Komodo to collect a packed lunch as we didn’t have enough on board, this made us late and Padar Island rangers would be on their lunch break so the Island would be closed. It didn’t help matters that we didn’t have the promised English speaking guide, all information was passed on via Google Translate.
Next stop was in the Makassar group of islands to snorkel over fabulous coral and fish and to swim with Manta Rays. The driver found us one ray which was resting on the sea bed but it was the wrong time of day for them to be active.
More wonderful snorkelling in clear water
We had our lunch at a Pink Beach, landing precariously through surf. The boat was moored to a buoy and reversed to the beach where, if you got the timing right you jumped off onto sand or if not you went into chest deep water and swam. The pink of the beach comes from micro organisms which live on the coral and get washed up on the beach, most striking when compared to the turquoise sea colour. Getting back on board was slightly easier as you could see more easily when to make a dash and jump on board.
Pink Beach for lunch
Then Padar Island for the view which was impressive.
The view from the top of Padar Island
Our group with ‘guide’ on Padar Island
By now the boat was having difficulty with fuel shortage. It had to be refuelled from cans and could not be driven at full speed. We had to miss out on one other stop and phone discussions took place with the agent we booked through, we had obviously got the second class boat and crew, not the deal we expected. The boat was driven slowly to a Bajo village where more fuel was bought and put in the tank. It was now time to return to Labuan Bajo and our own boats. An interesting day out, if not quite what we had booked.
We spent the next day resting and then headed off to a mooring inside the reef at Makassar Island where we met up with Ocean Lady and we joined them for a drift snorkel along the reef, more wonderful coral and fish, and an unsuccessful search for Mantas. We could have spent the night here but chose to move on to Banta Island, part way to Bima. There we had a quiet two nights anchored in shallow water with excellent holding unfortunately the information we had been given from other participants in the rally was not quite right and so there wasn’t good snorkelling or Manta Rays.