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Komodo Trip (Part Three) Posted by on Nov 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

For many travelers to Indonesia, seeing the Komodo dragons is high atop the list of things to do. The best way to do this is on a multi-day boat trip around the area. There’s much more to see than the legendary lizards, from the stunning Pink Beach to the incredible sight of flying foxes emerging at sundown. In the third and final part of our journey, we finally head out to see the dragons.

Komodo Island

Komodo Island Village

Komodo Island Village

After staying the night in Komodo Village, we pulled around to the other side of the island. In the past, tours would visit Komodo on one day and Rinca on the other. Since the government decided to charge an entrance fee per day, most travel agencies have decided to do both in one day to save their customers some money. Take that, bureaucracy!

Trails and protective sticks.

Trails and protective sticks.

Upon arrival at the park, visitors must purchase a ticket and be assigned a guide. Don’t worry, you don’t need to pay extra for a guide. This is all for your own safety, as guides will carry a protective stick in case a Komodo dragon charges at the group. A single bite can be lethal, so you definitely want to have someone there who knows what they’re doing!

Up close and personal.

Up close and personal.

Komodo dragons are the largest living species of lizard. They can grow up to 3 meters in length and weigh up to 70 kilograms. They’re carnivores, locating their prey through their keen sense of smell; a Komodo can detect a dead or dying animal from up to 9 km away. They’re also quite fast, reaching speeds of up to 20 km/h in a sprint. Needless to say, you don’t want to find yourself in a race against a Komodo dragon.

Our first dragon!

Our first dragons!

It didn’t take long for our group to spot a pair of dragons. One was simply laying around while the other was slurping up some water. We maintained a safe distance and put on our zoom lenses to snap some photos. The next thing we knew, one of the dragons started making quick movements in our direction. Our guide managed to deter the feisty lizard with the help of his stick and a few rocks. Thankfully, this was the closest encounter we’d have all day.

A few more shots from Komodo Island.

A few more shots from Komodo Island.

With a long day ahead of us, we stuck to one of the easier treks around the island. On our 2-hour walk along the trail, we managed to spot a handful of Komodo dragons – some of them out in the open and others tucked away in the trees. After our close run-in with the first group, we were happy to stay far away.

Here lizard, lizard, lizard.

Here lizard, lizard, lizard.

The dragons usually stay off the main path in the interior of the island, but every now and then they wander a bit too close to the pier. With large groups of tourists coming in and out all day, you can see why this would be a problem. To lure the giant lizards away, a park worker pulls a severed deer leg on a string – a nice snack for a hungry Komodo dragon.

Can you tell which one is our boat?

Can you tell which one is our boat?

On our way out, we couldn’t help but laugh at the hilarious contrast in front of us, as our rickety old boat sat there with a giant luxury cruise ship behind it. I can only imagine how much more those people paid for their Komodo trip than we did.

Rinca Island

Visiting Rinca

Visiting Rinca

Next up, we headed to nearby Rinca for more Komodo spotting. This island receives far less visitors than the other – no giant cruise ships pulling up here! We admired the lovely scenery on the way in and then followed the main path through a silly gate guarded by two dragon statues.

Lazy afternoons...

Lazy afternoons…

Arriving at the hottest time of the day didn’t seem like it would be fun, but this provided us with the best opportunity to see a bunch of the dragons. To hide from the sun, they gather under the staff kitchen in the shade. Of course, they’re also hoping for some scraps to come flying out the window.

You don't want to end up here.

You don’t want to end up here.

A powerful reminder of the dangerous power of the Komodo dragons can be seen on the monuments made up of animal skulls. Our guide told us that each and every single one was killed by a dragon.

Learning about the dragons.

Learning about the dragons.

On our walk around Rinca, our guide taught us a bit about the Komodo dragons and their way of life.¬†They dig holes for shelter, which allow them to conserve body heat and to better ambush their prey. Interestingly enough, they’re actually cannibalistic at times – the grown dragons sometimes eat the young. That’s why young Komodo dragons can often be found hiding in the trees.

Wildlife spotting.

Wildlife spotting.

It’s not just Komodo dragons that you’ll spot while walking around these islands. On our walk, we also saw a wide variety of birds, a few deer, and even a family of monkeys. They’re all on the menu out here!

Close ups!

Close ups!

Throughout our visit to the two islands, we counted 18 Komodo dragons. According to our guide a good day was usually around 5-6, so we must have had some good luck.

Beautiful Rinca

Beautiful Rinca

In addition to dragon-spotting, you can simply enjoy the beautiful scenery. Looking out at the peaceful landscape, it’s hard to imagine that there are thousands of giant venomous lizards lurking in the shadows.

Back to LBJ.

Back to LBJ.

Just like that, our 2-day Komodo adventure came to an end. Back on the boat, we had a few hours until we returned to the harbor in Labuan Bajo. Along the way, we stopped at a remote and completely uninhabited island to snap a few photos and take one last swim. Back in town, it was time to pack our bags and bid farewell to the beautiful island of Flores. If you’re planning a trip to Indonesia, just remember that there’s a lot more to this fascinating archipelago nation than the beaches of Bali. A trip to Flores is full of culture, adventure, and of course, Komodo dragons.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.