I couldn’t go all the way to Indonesia and leave without seeing a Komodo dragon. And so, the final leg of this trip was out to the islands of Komodo, home to this reptilian creature that eerily resembles a prehistoric dinosaur. In my imagination, these critters roam the surface of the Komodo islands like wildlife roam the parks here in Kenya, but, here’s a lil WanderNugget for my Wanderlusters: Komodo dragons do not roam around on every island in this archipelago and are actually only found on the islands of Komodo and Rinca (pronounced rincha ) in the Flores Sea. The lack of fresh drinking water on both these islands means that they are uninhabitable by humans and so the dragons reign supreme! So, how exactly did I get to hang out with these ummmm, pretty evil looking creatures?
My adventures in Komodo started out on the island of Labuan Bajo, also in the Flores sea and as far as I know, the only island where you can stay on in this part of the Indonesian archipelago. Landing on the airstrip, we join a winding road to the pier flanked with the most amazing scenery, it almost feels like something out of a movie. Green islands rising out from deep blue waters to meet a clear sky, with boats and fancy looking yachts bobbing in the harbor- this is what I would imagine Capri to look like and I had to convince myself I wasn’t in some part of Italy; the scenery was that stunning!
If this is how the other half lives, then count me in, I am sold! I felt like what I could imagine a celebrity would feel like as our speedboat cut through the water with ease, the wind blowing in my my hair and my face being splashed with the mist from the sea spraying from the sides of the speeding boat as we made our way to the Plataran Komodo, our home whilst in Labuan Bajo from whence we would explore these islands and go dragon spotting. My spirits were at an all-time high because for the first time since we arrived in Indonesia there was no sign of rain and in true celebrity fashion (or what I would imagine a celebrity would do), the first thing I did after we had checked in was sunbathe in some truly gorgeous sunshine, bubbles in tow!
Our Komodo Dragon adventure started, much to my chagrin at the crack of dawn as the islands of Komodo and Rinca are a 3 hour boat ride away from Labuan Bajo, on a very very slow boat. There are faster (and therefore more expensive ways) of getting to these islands but sadly everything we looked at wasn’t available and so we had to settle for the slow boat, and in hindsight, it was a good decision because the scenery on this side of Indonesia is just unlike any other part which only adds more charm to the allure and diversity of this country. Sailing along at an easy pace meant that we could feast our eyes on the gorgeous scenery and I enjoyed myself immensely marveling at the vistas and sailing away on very calm waters all shades of blue which at one point looked like a sheet of glass.
Arriving on Komodo, we hopped out of the boat all geared up for our Komodo dragon safari. Now, in Kenya when you say safari, it means that you will be ferried around in a land cruiser being driven by an experienced guide and so our natural instinct was to ask where the car was, and not seeing one, enquired exactly how we were going to do this safari? A short man with a pointed stick came up to us and told us this was a trekking safari and that we would be hunting dragons on foot. Protected only by said short man and long pointy stick. Gulp. Clearly, little Ms. Type Awesome had failed with her research and not convinced, and definitely not wearing appropriate footwear we set out on what is classified as an “easy trek” to find some dragons.
A couple of minutes into our trek we managed to spot 2 dragons in the wilderness, lying around with their long forked tongues flitting in and out of their snouty mouths. Our guide said that these were pretty docile and lazy as they had eaten a couple of days ago and breathing a sigh of relief, we continued to trek for another hour or so before we gave up and headed to the Pink Beach before continuing our cruise towards Rinca to see if we would have more luck, having been told that the numbers there were higher than those on the namesake island.
The Pink Beach is truly mesmerizing. The sands of this beach are indeed really pink and this has something to do with the broken shell mixing in with the sand resulting in this gorgeous baby pink colour that makes the beach look like something out of Unicornland. It is truly fascinating. We were meant to jump off our boat straight into the sea, however the current was too strong and so we took a smaller boat to the beach and waded in from there to a safe point for snorkeling. We could have spent hours just gliding around and watching the marine life. Beautiful, healthy coral jutting out from the seabed, pinks, blues, purples with waving sea anemones, with large super colourful fish weaving in and out: bright parrot fish, yellow and black angel fish and finding nemo type clown fish. Not even in the Maldives did we see such an array of marine life! In hindsight, I wish we had forfeited going to Rinca and spent a couple more hours just snorkeling because it really was that amazing.
Indeed, the dragons of Rinca are easier to spot than those on Komodo. We were welcomed by not one but seven, yes seven dragons on arrival, lazing under the visitors centre! Gave me the shivers! Our trek on Rinca proved quite fruitful as well as we saw another five dragons while trekking, all lazing in the boiling hot sun. This island has some serious hills which weren’t the easiest to climb in the super hot sun wearing a pair of havainas, and I would recommend you carry proper trekking shoes if you ever decide to hunt Komodo dragons out here! The stunning vistas around you and having a successful hunt for these prehistoric looking creatures more than make up for all the puffing and the panting that this island has to offer!
For our final night, we headed away from the quiet of Plataran Komodo and into the town of Labuan Bajo to catch the sunset and check out the scenery. Now, this town is so quaint and lively, it reminded me of being back in Bali. Great bars and restaurants line a single street, and you can take your pick on where you want to while away some time. Our poison was some incredibly strong cocktails at the Sky Lounge, which had sweeping views of the harbor and made for the perfect sundowner spot, and then dinner at one of the restaurants on the street before heading back to the hotel for a good nights rest before our next stop in Asia: Hong Kong!
As always dear Wanderlusters, I am so grateful that you chose to spend some time with me – I certainly hope that this series has inspired you to check out some of the lesser known places in Indonesia! I’d love to hear from you, leave me a comment below! Happy Wanderlusting Folks! xoxo
-On getting there
Labuan Bajo is the only island out here that has an airport and hotels on it and getting here was a bit of a mission because of limited flights and connectivity. We had to transit in Bali before getting a Lion Air flight into Labuan Bajo.
Lion Air doesn’t accept overseas credit cards so the lovely folks at WowBorneo (who arranged our trip out in Kalimantan) helped us book and pay for these tickets.
-On Dragon Hunting!
-There are speedboats that get to the islands of Komodo and Rinca faster than the slow boat we took and you can book these from your hotel or in Labuan Bajo if you plan early enough. Though the sea is quite calm, I would recommend the slow boat if you get seasick.
-Komodo dragons are far from docile and can smell blood a mile away. If you are on your period it is advised that you proceed with caution or don’t attempt these creatures as their bite is incredibly poisonous and with no medical assistance immediately on hand, it isn’t worth the risk! (Though the short man with the pointy stick will tell you otherwise!)
-Do carry a sensible pair of shoes, a hat and water for the trek. The heat is unforgiving and once you are trekking it takes about an hour and a bit to get back to the visitors centre. My choice of footwear was incredibly silly and in hindsight I should have thrown a pair of trainers in my bag!