Walking with Dragons on Komodo

Flores & Komodo-17After a great trip all the way from North to South Sulawesi, it was time for a location change. I had booked a ferry ride over to Flores which would take one whole day. I was a little late when I showed up at the booking office and was only able to get the expensive first class ticket. A little reluctant I payed up without knowing that this investment was actually a very good one. I arrived at the port and instantly realized why – there were thousands of people waiting to get onto the boat. It was chaos and anarchy with everyone hectically pushing to save a good spot on the ferry. I instead could relax and wait it out because I had my cabin booked. Thank god. Once we took off, the whole extent of the situation became evident. There were people lying and sitting everywhere. There was not even space left for walking along the aisles. The expensive ticket was worth every penny and I even got to know some locals also traveling in first class who were super nice. All in all a pleasant journey to the island of Flores. But I quickly forgot about those events because I had exciting plans. Diving in Komodo National Park and seeing the famous Komodo Dragons.

Entering Rinca and some lazy dragons
If you come to Flores you have two options to see the Komodo Dragons. One is to get a boat to the island of Komodo itself. As I found out, this trip is quiet long and hence pretty expensive. Besides, the chances of spotting the dragons are supposed to be actually rather slim. The second option is the island of Rinca which is closer to Flores, a bit smaller than Komodo and features a bigger population of dragons. Taken all of these facts, I decided to go to Rinca and was excited to leave the next day. We were a group of  eight people and the two hour boat ride through the beautiful Komodo Archipelago was great. At the ranger station we met our two guides who were equipped with long, forked sticks to fight off possible attacks by the dragons. Wow, looked like things can really become hectic here. Hopefully not fir us. The first dragons we encountered were just lazily hanging around the camps kitchen. They were just lying on the ground, not moving much and apparently waiting to get scraps from the kitchen. It was exciting to see the dragons but for me it wasn’t the real thing yet. I wanted to see them in the wild but I knew that this setting right there is the only encounter some visitors have. So I was hoping for the best and some more natural encounters.

On the move.

On the move.

Lying in the sun waiting for scraps.

Lying in the sun waiting for scraps.

Finally the real thing – dragons in the wild
Shortly after we started our two hour hike across the rugged landscapes of Rinca, we already got lucky. Two dragons were lingering around a small clearing in the woods. One of them had spotted some monkeys and tried to pick up their scent. Then he started moving straight towards us and the guides became noticeably nervous. Luckily the massive dragon turned after a bit and passed us in safe distance, wading through a mud hole and onward into the forest.  The next encounter was even more exciting. We hiked along the path leading to the Rinca hillside when a dragon approached us walking on that same path. And he didn’t have any intention to make way. So we stepped aside and again the guides became a little nervous holding onto their wooden sticks. It was exhilarating but I didn’t want to see these sticks being used. In the end the dragons can be very dangerous able to kill you with their contaminated saliva. Fortunately the dragon was relaxed and just walked by watching us with one eye. I think he was headed for the camp’s kitchen as well.

Watch out for dragons!

Watch out for dragons!

Getting a little bit too close.

Getting a little bit too close.

We continued our hike and came across all sorts of other native animals. Wild buffaloes, monkeys and wild boare. We made it to the grassy hills and enjoyed the beauty of the island. Everything was pretty dry, everything colored in light brown and yellow tones. Here and there huge palm trees were towering over the scattered hills and rock formations. All of a sudden our guide stopped and whispered at us. He had spotted yet another dragon. This one was well hidden and camouflaged in the high grass and close to a huge rock. The big specimen was relaxing in the shade not moving at all but keeping a close eye on us. It was so cool to see these prehistoric creatures in the wild and not only lingering around the kitchen. It was definitely the highlight of the hike. The remainder we spent slowly walking back across the hills enjoying the views down to the bay.

Relaxing in the grass.

Relaxing in the grass.

View over Rinca from the hills.

View over Rinca from the hills.

Our guides with their basic defense against dragons.

Our guides with their basic defense against dragons.

Beautiful Komodo
The trip was already a success but before heading back to the port, we were supposed to have another stop at an island close by for some beach time and snorkeling. The latter was rather mediocre so I wandered around to see what else was there. I discovered a little path up to the peak of the islands only hill. It was extremely hot but the view from the top was rewarding. I could see all the way to Flores and on the other side had a great view of the whole archipelago. That was the icing of the cake and I returned happily to Flores.

Down at the beach.

Down at the beach.

View down to the beach landing.

View down to the beach landing.

 

View from the top of the hill.

View from the top of the hill.

This blissful day just demanded a worthy end so I walked up to Paradise Bar and Restaurant, a good 15 minute walk from the town center of Labuan Bajo where I was staying. I was told the place would be great to watch the sunset and kick back with a cold beer in hand. I am always in for a proper sundowner and the place definitely lived up to the expectations. Sitting on their huge terrace overlooking the whole bay and the harbor, I finished the day accompanied by smooth lounge music and a cold Bintang beer. What a great start of my Komodo adventure and there was more to come with diving some of the world’s best dive sites.

The view from Paradise Bar - truly paradise.

The view from Paradise Bar – truly paradise.

Dusk over Labuan Bajo Bay.

Dusk over Labuan Bajo Bay.

Last thoughts…
I stayed in the town of Labuan Bajo, the min city of Flores and the gateway to Komodo National Park. Most tourist stop here and for a lot of them it is the only stop they make on Flores. Hence the town is very touristy and more expensive than one would expect. Not a great place actually but you have to base yourself there if you want to dive and see the dragons.
The trip itself was quiet expensive and in my opinion not the best value. But if you make it to Flores you basically have no choice but to go see those dragons. And the experience to see these creatures from another time was a definite highlight which quickly makes you forget the investment for it. It was well worth it. I am not sure however if I would say the same if I only would have seen those lazy specimens lingering around the camp’s kitchen.

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Categories: Indonesia, Trekking | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Walking with Dragons on Komodo

  1. Glenda

    I love that photo at the top of the hill overlooking the beach landing and also the twilight by the bay. You had nice encounters with the dragons there. 😉 I’m surprised that there were tamed ones, just like cats and dogs around the yard. hehe…

    • Heh heh, yeah, that one dragon lying down with its arms and legs splayed out reminds me of my cousins’ dog when he decides to really settle in and get comfortable — we call it his splat pose 🙂

  2. Dragons!! Cool.

  3. peter montgomery

    love the photo of people getting off or on the ship .

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Yeah Peter, it was insane and so crowded. Actually a few days later on the next ferry someone dies on the ship. Probably because of exhaustion or something. Crazy.

  4. You rode a ferry from Makassar to Flores? That’s a very long trip, luckily you had your own first class cabin.
    I really like the pic of “trully paradise”…Did you go to Pink Beach as well?

    • Hi Rind, yes I did. I originally wanted to buy second class but that was completely sold out. Since I knew how crazy it can get on board, I did it and bought first class. Lots of money but really worth it. The ride was so long and the boat full to the max. There were people everywhere. They couldn’t even stretch out anymore. And after I exited, I heard that someone even died….probably an elderly person because of the heat and all that. So yeah, even though it cost me a little fortune, it was a good investment …. Oh yeah, I did see pink beach. It’s nice but is wasn’t all that punk afterall hehe.

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