Komodo National Park

Every time we think ‘This was the best day ever’ another even better day pops up! We made it to Flores, still somewhat sick, but good enough to make the two day trip to Komodo National Park.

I visited Komodo Island 23 years ago, when you were dropped off by a ferry at the ranger’s area with only a few huts. As far as I remember we were not allowed to roam freely on the island; we had to stay within the gates. It was kind of like we were the animals in the zoo and the dragons were looking at us. I was in awe with them even then, and therefore I figured hubby really had to see them as well.

When we got to Labuan Bajo, I didn’t recognize a thing. Things have changed in 23 years! Now you can visit three islands with komodos, snorkel everywhere in between and even swim with the Manta Rays. THE thing to do is book a boat trip for two or three days and go from place to place. Via a friend (thanks Karien) I got a great recommendation for a tour operator and when we got to Flores we booked a two day tour for a few days later.

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Day one of the tour started not good. We got picked up by a car that was already pretty full. As we don’t travel light, our bags didn’t fit (or we didn’t fit, depending on how you look at it) and the driver threw our bags on the roof. I assumed he had a rack up there, but when hubby said there wasn’t one, I got a little nervous. The driver drove carefully and until he got on the phone and forgot all about it. Just when we thought we’d be safe, he took the last corner too fast and my bag came flying off the roof. Super dangerous and thankfully no one got hurled of their scooter or anything. But my bag broke… You can imagine my reaction when you know the bags are not easy to replace and I really love my bag. Result is that I’m now traveling with a wonky bag, hoping it will hold till Canada.*

Anyway, we were not in the best of spirits. But we didn’t want to spoil it for the other three travelers so we tried to be good about it. This surprised them enormously because they guaranteed us they’d go through the roof swearing at everything and everyone if that had been their bag. Funnily enough, that made me feel a lot better. Anyway, our fellow travelers were from the Netherlands and from Calgary, Canada. What are the odds! We also met Max our travel guide and he was sweet as anything.

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‘Our’ boat

Day one of our trip was a bit slow, we had two snorkel trips, the first one at Kanawa Island pier. We were allowed to go on the island but if we wanted to sit on the chairs they would charge us. Hmmm not tempting therefore. We just hung out on the boat and got to know each other a little better. Lunch was surprisingly good and our mood lightened significantly. After lunch we moved to Sebayur Kecil Island where the snorkelling apparently was a lot better. The water was a lot colder though, and my leg cramped up just when I got to the good bit. The currents in this part of the world are fairly strong, and swimming against it was more than I could muster after being in bed for the better part of the 10 days before. I made my way back and just reminisced about Raja Ampat instead.

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After that we made it to Pirate Beach Camp and we got assigned a nice hut on the beach. The only thing in it were two mattresses, a sheet and a towel. But more you don’t need really, so after a shower (how nice is it to rinse off the salt) we all met for beers at the bar. The island is cute with a lot of Instagram moments. We didn’t take many pictures, we just enjoyed the views. And the sangria wine.

The next day started well with two big Lion fish floating just off the pier where we boarded the launch to take us to our boat. First we did some great snorkelling at Batu Bolong, which is like a wall in the middle of the sea. It has beautiful coral and we saw tons of cute fish and Moray eels.

But we were way too excited about the rest of the program: we were going to meet the Manta rays. Hubby and I are not real animal connoisseurs and we therefore had no real idea of what to expect. When we jumped in the water at Manta Point, the first thing we saw was a ray and we were already impressed by its size. Then, in the corner of my right eye, a big black square was zooming in. Like a space ship almost and it just kept coming. I could hear Starwars music in my head. It hovered slowly our way and the first ray seemed very insignificant in comparison. Yes indeed, this was manta ray number 1. The rays are about 4-5 meters wide, apparently those are the smaller ones… But they are magnificent; so gracious and incredibly fast when they want to be. But always in control.

They are not dangerous, although they like to look it. The other Dutchie and I were almost ‘attacked’ by one, but at the last moment it veered off course and dove under me. Bloody scary, but WOW, how cool! It seems they love scaring humans and I’m sure they had a great laugh at our expense.

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We saw four more mantas at Mawan Island and we were so in awe that we didn’t realize we had landed on the pink beach until it was pointed out to us. The beach is colored pink due to the blood coral that has washed up on the shore. OK, yes, sure…, but we really just wanted to get back in the water for maybe another look at the mantas. That didn’t happen though, we went back to the boat and moved to another place for lunch. And after lunch it was Komodo time!

We boated to Rinca Island and our guide and protector of the Komodos turned out to speak reasonable English, albeit with a weird English accent. The way he pronounced Komodo was so funny, we just laughed our way while hiking over Rinca Island. He was very good about it and even gave us many impressions of all the accents he knew. The dragons also seemed a lot less dangerous, even though one bite will probably kill you or at least leave you without the limb that got bitten. It turns out they have a bit of venom and a whole lot of bacteria in their saliva. They don’t actively hunt, but they lie around in camouflage (which is why it is indeed hard to find them in the wild). When their prey walks along (water buffalo – deer – boar – monkey) the dragon will bite it and then leisurely follow it around. The bitten animal won’t die instantly, but it will take a few hours or days (depending on the size of the animal) to keel over. And then they get eaten by the dragon. Komodos eat once or twice a month, so there is not a whole lot of biting going on, unless you get in their way or try to disturb their nest or something.

After the hike over Rinca Island we posed with the Komodos and made our way back to the boat. It still wasn’t over with all the fun! We went to Kalong Island, home of the flying foxes. Every night they come out around sunset and fly to Flores where they go foraging for food (fruit mostly). It is a spectacle to watch and eerily quiet. The bats keep coming and coming and for about 15 minutes the sky is filled with black spots everywhere. Well that is what it looks like on the pictures, but in real life you can see the typical bat shaped wings flapping. Not as graciously as birds I might add and for a few bats I feared they’d fall out of the sky, but they seem to all make it every night. In the morning they fly back and then hang out in the trees of the island.

We followed the bats to Flores and when we got there at 8pm we were exhausted. Our last night on Flores was spent sleeping and dreaming of all the awesome things we’d seen that day.

* Praise to Osprey and Seager Repair! While on the boat in Komodo National Park I emailed the Singapore agent Seager Repair about my broken bag and they got back almost instantly (don’t you love having internet everywhere?!). Unfortunately the bag could not be repaired. At their request I sent them some more pictures of the damage and then 5 days later while in Singapore, I got an email from Seager saying that Osprey had agreed to exchange the bag for free and that I could come by at any time. I was super ecstatically happy and totally surprised. I never even imagined that that could be an option! Thank you so much Seager and Osprey!

6 thoughts on “Komodo National Park

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    1. Het was ongelooflijk fantastisch 😉 XXL monitors klopt helemaal, maar ze zien er iets vriendelijker uit met hun wat stompere kop. Maar niet vriendelijk genoeg om te willen aaien 😂

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