(Day 205 to 209)
14.06.2010 - 18.06.2010 35 °C
Trekking through the savannah-like undergrowth of Komodo Island and knowing that all the while the worlds largest lizard could be lying in wait just a few meters away, was quite exciting. The Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis) measures up to 3 meters long, is ugly, scarred, has leathery skin and a mouth that drips with 60 different bacteria-filled saliva.
It was our aim to find one, and to achieve this we needed to get to the Island of Flores from Gili. There are 3 options. Take a very dodgy Indonesian flight, a bus, boat, bus boat combination for 24 hours or take a 4 day boat trip stopping at beautifully secluded islands with white beaches, amazing snorkelling and some really beautiful landscape. The choice was hard to make…
We began the tour by crossing Lombok to the East coast to jump on a “backpacker’s boat”, a basic boat with no chairs or tables (or beds for that matter). On the way we stopped several times to fill the bus will all supplies we needed for our 4 days trip, water, fruit, veg, a sack with 4 live chickens, and so on, the usual.
The 17 of us boarded the boat and found our sleeping quarters, a mattress no thicker than a gossip magazine on the top deck with a pillow as comfortable as sleeping on coral. We were lucky to have a very nice group of people to travel with which made the roughness of the ride more bearable. Quite a few friendly Brits (Leon, Vicky, Jo, Emma and a few more), a lovely dutch couple (Marco & Sigal), a couple of German girls, then some Danish, Canadian, American and so on.
We set sail from island to island, occasionally hopping out for some snorkelling or to laze on yet another perfect beach. It is true, as someone pointed out out to us on that trip, how much effort backpackers make to find the ideal, undiscovered beach in Thailand, when there are literally hundreds in Indonesia, many of them on completely uninhabited islands – although other than doing a trip like the one we were on, getting there might be a bit tough.
On the 3rd day we finally reached Komodo Island, the larger and most popular of the two islands that are the only places in the world where the dragons are found. During our 1hour walk we only stumbled across one dragon, but we had anticipated this and were told we would see many more on Rinca Island.
On our last night at sea before trekking through Rinca island to see even more dragons, we all stood on deck watching yet another glorious Indonesian sunset, and as to bid us farewell, two huge turtles swam by followed by spinner dolphins performing near the boat. Just as the sun started to set, the sky began to fill with a huge flock of birds rising up from the mangrove trees on a small offshore island and heading back to the mainland. Except, they weren’t birds at all, but hundreds of huge flying foxes: bats to be exact, you could see the pink sky shine through their almost translucent wings, what a sight.
Our last day had dawned and we made our way to Rinca Island, everyone in the silence of sunrise as the boat cut through the water. We checked our water supplies, reloaded our battery packs for our cameras, sun protection on, shoes and socks ready. WE were ready!!
The 2 hour walk through Komodo territory lead us to see some wildlife including water buffalos and more dragons. We had been told how just recently, a water buffalo had been attacked by a dragon at a watering hole. Dragons ambush their prey and bite their legs, infecting the wound with its bacteria. The dragon will follow its prey for as long as 3 weeks before the animal collapses from the infected wound.
It was once believed that the dragons bacteria filled saliva was the main cause of death for its prey, but I have recently learned (not from the rangers on Komodo or Rinca) that Komodo dragons do in fact have a form of venom in their mouth too. They use serrated teeth to grip and rip prey, creating a deep wound. Then they add their own special blend of venom, according to a study
Once back on board we were all pleased with ourselves, happy that after 4 days we had seen what we had hoped for and there was 1 last thing to do before arriving back at the port in Flores: Snorkel and laze on a small island with clear water and colourful fish all around.