Destinations, Indonesia, Travel log

The Komodo Dragon, a must-see in Flores Islands

Flores island, a beautiful ``flower`` between ``flowers``

Welcome to Komodo Airport and Labuan Bajo!

Touchdown, and we arrived to Komodo Airport, an airport in the town of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores in the East Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia. We were told that the airport’s name comes from Labuan Bajo’s status as a departure point for tours to the nearby Komodo National Park, home of the Komodo island which hosts the famous Komodo dragon.

The name Flores island is derived from the Portuguese for “flowers” and is definitely a beautiful island. We did not manage to explore the island as much as we would have liked, but our stay in Labuan Bajo was very fruitful. The town is located on the western tip and is often used by tourists as a base to visit Komodo, Padar and Rinca islands, as we did. Labuan Bajo also attracts scuba divers, as whale sharks inhabit the waters around Labuan Bajo and as you can imagine, scuba diving was the first activity on our mind. 🙂

Komodo National Park

Formed out of three larger islands Komodo, Padar and Rinca, and 26 smaller ones

The Komodo National Park is located in East Nusa Tenggara Province of Indonesia. The national park includes three major islands: Komodo, Rinca and Padar; and numerous small islands, some paradisiac. The locals say that the smallest island is just one square meter.

The land surface of the islands is covered by savanna dominated by the asian palmyra palm (Borassus flabellifer). The marine habitat harbors over 260 species of coral, over 1000 species of reef fishes, two species of sea turtles, 6 species of shark and two species of manta ray (that we did see during our dives).

Padar and Rinca Islands

Rinca island is a small island near Komodo and Flores island, it is one of the three largest islands included in Komodo National Park. The island is known for being the home of the Komodo dragons, and it is very popular due to the fact that on Rinca island, the Komodo Dragons are being fed by the rangers, while on Komodo island they are not.

Most tourists will visit Rinca rather than Komodo, for two main reasons. Firstly, the island is closer to Flores island, which makes it for a more manageable day-trip. A tour normally start at 7 am and ends at 3 pm. Secondly, it is said that on Rinca it is easier to spot Komodo Dragons than Komodo Island as they will be most inclined to stay closer to the tracks and the ranger houses. But we had no issue spotting dragons on Komodo Island and preferred knowing that they are kept wild.

Padar island is a small island in the Komodo National Park but it is home of some unique landscape. The island has three beautiful turquoise bays, and curiously, each one of the three beaches has different sand:

  1. First bay has pearly white sand
  2. Second bay has charcoal black sand
  3. And guess what, the third one is a very rare baby pink.

Now that’s an unique setting. Nevertheless, on top of that, the island also has some unique mountainous features and the nature is preserved since the island does not have inhabitants.

The climb to the top is steep but short and totally worth it!

Komodo Island and Komodo Dragons

At 3:45 am, our clock alarm rings in our hotel in Labuan Bajo. It is time for us to get ready in order to catch our 4am taxi to the boat that will take us to the famous Komodo National Park. We are boarding for a long day since we choose to chose to go by slow boat instead of the speed boat as it much cheaper (we paid 450K per pax instead of 1,200K per pax for the speed boat!). We booked through Floresia Trip and we were happy with them.

The boat has a lower and upper deck, with mattresses which sleeps around six people. The temperature is good enough for us to enjoy the upper deck where we met other fellow international travelers who were interesting.

A few hours later, we are sailing through the Komodo National Park, with our first stop on the Padar Island which turned out to be a gem that cannot be missed. Our next stop after one hour ride through the maze of islands was the famous Komodo Island.

Komodo island has an area of 390 km², but the tourists are guided through a small port where rangers are assigned to the groups of visitors. At first it was not very clear why that is so strictly enforced, but later on we found out that there are over 2000 Komodo Dragons that live on the island. And they obviously do not want an imprudent tourist to get lost in the middle of deadly animals…

Our group was medium-sized, so we were assigned three park rangers that took us on one of the pre-defined trails. In the next five minutes we managed to see deers, squirrels and the famous Komodo Dragons. The rangers carry a special made stick that would be used to stop the Komodo Dragon in the case of attack. This is much needed since the forest is overloaded with Komodo Dragons.

Interesting fact #1: The Komodo Dragons are cannibal, which means that they auto-control their population number: too many of them means too much competition for normal preyed food and it becomes “easier” to feed on other dragons.

Interesting fact #2: A bite of a Komodo Dragon does not kill you, but it is said that the bacteria in his mouth will. If one is lucky, and a nearby hospital is available, the bite is survivable.

  • Fact check: fast forward to 21st century, and it seems that actually the Komodo Dragon does not have any more bacteria than other mammalian carnivores but an actual venom. Multiple recent studies show that this is true: [The Myth of the Komodo Dragon’s Dirty Mouth].

Sad story #3: A Swiss tourist sailed to the island in the 80s and did a stop without knowing of the Komodo Dragon existence… He was never found again.

We continue on the pre-defined hiking trail, to realize that the forest is overloaded with Komodo Dragons. We saw at least 5 more, including a baby Komodo Dragon. The reptile is usually steady, and does not move, as it uses this technique for hunting. Nevertheless, the Komodo Dragon could easily be confused with a fallen log by both humans and animals as its skin is a perfect camouflage in this environment.

The Komodo National Park was definitely a great experience. From the diving spots, the visiting of Padar Island and walking next to Komodo Dragons, it will not be soon forgotten. If you get the chance of heading to Indonesia, don’t forget to put Flores Islands on the list of places to visit, since this magical place might not stay unexplored for long.

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