Blog, Indonesia

Here There Be Dragons

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In a land far far away…

If you don’t want to become lunch make sure you stay behind me” calls Safi as he veers off the dusty track onto the parched forest floor. Suddenly he stops and peers at something on the ground; a powdery white substance, the colour of ground up bone “Just as I thought; dragon poo. We are on the right track”.

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The pace quickens, he’s seen something. Now we are racing through the undergrowth, startled monkeys and deer, darting out of our path.

Clambering beneath a bush we stop and stare in awe at Safi’s discovery; a female dragon protecting her nest. Sitting above her eggs, giving us a warning snort, we have to remind ourselves that she cannot actually breath fire. Death by dragon would be a much less dramatic yet equally gruesome demise; caused by a bite with her shark toothed venomous mouth. Venom capable of bringing down a water buffalo. The wait for the venom to work and dinner to be ‘ready’ can be a long one but as she only really needs to eat once a month, patience comes easily. With this in mind we keep our distance, yet we cannot help but notice we are still close enough to see her drooling at us.

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Satisfied that we have seen enough, or perhaps not wishing to push our luck Safi leads us on. He has heard news of a kill elsewhere in the park; a dragon feast.

Approaching the group, it’s hard to see from the writhing ball of scales, where one dragon stops and the next one starts. All that remains of the buffalo seems to be a jaw, one rib cage and what may or may not be a knee joint. Without teeth strong enough to break up such a meal into bite sized pieces. The dragons swallow what they can and then wrestle to break up the joints. Although they seem preoccupied and not bothered by our presence, it does not leave our minds that they have taken down an animal over 5 times our size and are now swallowing it whole, bones and all.

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A fisherman for most of his life, Safi is now a park ranger on Rinca, one of only four islands that Komodo dragons now live in the wild. All four of those islands are situated within the Komodo National Park. His job is to protect the wildlife of the park whilst producing income for both his family and the Indonesian Government. Tourism is big here, it’s the first place we have visited in Indonesia that this is the case and it comes as a bit of a shock. Fishing boats have been exchanged for huge live aboard dive boats ‘phinisis’, the beaming smiles, “hello mister” and “selfie-selfie”s have stopped, it’s even hard to get a smile out of the many tourists on holiday here. I would love to write about how tourism wealth seems to have brought health, happiness and prosperity to everyone here, yet as with many tourist hot spots we travel to, if this is the case it’s hidden deep in the bottom of the bargain souvenir barrel.

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3 beautiful ‘Phinisi’ Dive Boats lined up. There are hundreds of these boats in the National Park.
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Florence anchored among the Phinisi’s in Rinca during an unusually quiet period.

However like many tourist destinations, there are many good reasons to visit the Komodo National Park, even beyond the opportunity to see a dragon. This area is one of the best dive destinations in the world. Sitting within the coral triangle it hosts rich, diverse range of marine life with healthy corals, abundant fish life and more manta rays than we have ever seen. It also has very strong and unpredictable currents meaning the easiest way to see all the spots is with a live aboard dive boat. Unable to justify the cost of such an excursion, particularly when as we arrived by boat ourselves, we explored the park on Florence.

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Although it may look idyllic, not wishing to motor from island to island meant sailing extremely slowly, backwards or sideways due to the currents and missing some of the ‘top spots’ where anchoring is not allowed and dive boats hang off under engine waiting to pluck their divers out of the ripping current at the end of their dive. We did however get lucky and bagged a mooring in Gili Lawa Darat , Motoring the dinghy upstream we jumped in to drift the channel which held the best snorkeling of our trip so far from the variety of fish and coral plus turtles and manta rays. The only disappointment was that we did not see any sharks (a sentence I never thought I would write).

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What we missed from not snorkeling all of the top spots, we gained from waking up to Manta Rays circling our home, eagles soaring overhead, squid hunting beneath the boat. All with the ability to enjoy them in our own pace and time with the comfort of our own bed.

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2 thoughts on “Here There Be Dragons”

  1. Wow😮this episode left me speechless. Such beauty, not only in nature and photos but the words written. I could sense the feel these islands are giving you…..one day we hope to be there too⛵️Ingrid and Alan

    Liked by 1 person

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