A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Komodo Islands. I went with Lily, another Fulbrighter stationed on the island of Lombok. We flew from Bali to Labuan Bajo, Flores. Once we arrived in Flores, we boarded a boat - our home for the next two days. The boat was small, but big enough for the two of us and the three crew members.
The airport in Labuan Bajo, Flores.
The habor at Labuan Bajo.
Our sleeping quarters on the boat.
Our first stop on the boat was Pulau Rinca. It took us a couple of hours to get there, but the views from the boat of the surrounding islands were captivating. We were in a sea of islands, at least 50, big and small. We saw large islands covered with lush green vegetation and others dotted sparsely with palm trees, which looked like candles on a birthday cake.
The entrance to Komodo National Park on Pulau Rinca.
Within five minutes of landing on Pulau Rinca, we saw our first Komodo dragons. There were about three of them - all near the kitchen. The smell of food was an obvious attractant. We stood about 10 feet away from them and studied their features and movements. I wanted to fully absorb the Komodo dragon experience. Indonesia is the only place in the world home to the Komodo dragon. We were able to get very close to one Komodo dragon because one of his hind legs was broken.
After our initial Komodo sighting, we continued walking along the trail. We stopped in front of a Komodo dragon nest. A bird builds the nest and the Komodo dragons take over it. A female dragon can lay between 15 and 30 eggs in her nest. But soon after her hatchlings are born, she might eat them because she doesn't recognize them. So, the young monitor lizards have to get food and learn how to defend themselves against predators and their own parents! What a cruel and twisted fate. The Komodo dragons also eat humans. Our guide told us the story of a European visitor who had "disappeared" many years ago. The site where he was supposedly killed remained untouched - a broken camera still lies on the ground. Thus, the Komodo dragons are carnivores and cannibals. At around 3 meters long, they can reach running speeds of 12 miles per hour once they determine their prey.
A Komodo dragon near the kitchen. All the buildings on the island are on stilts.
As we continued our walk, we reached the panorama. We were in an open field with clear sky above. It was magnificent and the view was breathtaking. Lily and I both said, "Wow" when we reached the top of it. The guide said our reaction was different from the reaction of most Western visitors who usually say, "Oh shit, awesome." We had a unique view of the sea of islands. It was truly incredible. We were a bit fatigued due to all of the walking and the hike up. So, we sat down for a little while and enjoyed the view.
Walking up to the panorama.
A beautiful view of the sea full of islands.
Having some fun on the panorama.
For the remainder of the day, we enjoyed another scenic ride to where the boat dropped anchor for the night. The night sky was clear and we identified some constellations above us like Orion. We had to lean over the side of the boat to see them.
Leaving Pulau Rinca.
Sunset from the boat.
The next day, I got to watch the sun rise over the mountains and water. Our first stop was Komodo Island, but we were delayed by about two hours because the anchor was stuck. Captain Tomas and his two-man crew initially tried to release more rope into the water and move and pull the anchor around to no avail. Then, one of the crew members put on a snorkeling mask and dove into the the water. He swam alongside and under the boat trying to wiggle the anchor free from the rocks below. When all he had done did not work, the captain got undressed and jumped in. He would resurface breathing heavily and telling the crew which way to move and pull the rope. We wondered if this would cut into our schedule for the day, but it was early enough that we didn't have to worry too much about it. Finally, the anchor was released and we all celebrated with high fives.
Sunrise on Day 2.
Because we came later than expected, we missed seeing many of the Komodo dragons deep within the island where they lie in the shade early in the morning. However, we could count on the kitchen to see some Komodo dragons. And sure enough, when we went to where the kitchen was located, we saw more Komodo dragons. One of them started to make a sound which sounded like steam coming from a train. It was very loud. So, we were extra cautious around it mindful of the fact that they can run fast.
Entrance to Komodo National Park on Komodo Island.
A bird's eye view of a pretty bird's nest.
A beautiful flower along the trail.
Clearly, I had a wonderful time visiting the national park and seeing the Komodo dragons.
After leaving Komodo National Park, we went snorkeling at two beaches. The snorkeling was the best snorkeling I've done in my life. I saw many types of vibrantly colored fish of different lengths and widths. The coral - brain, mushroom, pillar, and staghorn - were gorgeous as well. I touched some pillar coral just to know what it felt like and felt a slimy substance on my finger tips. But soon it went away. Everything was clear and vivid as I swam towards the shore. At the beach, Pantai Merah (Red Beach), the sand was pink. It was quite a unique sight. The color is due to the minerals which come from the pink coral reefs nearby and off the shore. When Lily and I turned around, we saw vibrantly colored green and hilly mountains, as well as an azure sky with few clouds above.
We went snorkeling in this. And essentially, this was our view from the beach.
More delicious food.
On our way back to Labuan Bajo harbor.
We stayed in the chill coastal town of Labuan Bajo and had pizza at Mediterraneo,
a restaurant above our hotel with a lovely view of the sea.
Sunset at Mediterraneo.
My adventure out in the Komodo Islands was, hands down, my best trip in Indonesia. Lily and I quickly pulled this trip together after the WORDS competition. So, pat on our back for making this happen! A trip to the Komodo Islands is definitely a must-do on a trip to Indonesia.