Komodo National Park.. this is officially cool!
We bashed across the Sape Strait into the Tradewinds to a group of very different islands. Gone were the dark greens of the lush tropical forests, the soaring volcanos and rugged coastlines. The Komodo Islands lie in a rain shadow and their rounded and surprisingly low forms are golden with dried grasses and orange clay soil. A few brave trees cling in the valleys where what water there is must run.
|Loh Serau at Komodo Island|
|Sunsets ... volcanoes ... ho-hum.|
Our next stop was Rinca and the ranger station at Loh Buaya. We wiggled our way through the Komodo Islands into this fabulous fjord-like anchorage surrounded by mangroves and golden rolling hills. We eagerly scanned the hills, trees and waterline for its famous resident but to no avail. Heading into the dinghy dock, the locals, and a large sign, warned us of crocodiles. There goes our evening swim!
As the dragons are most active in the early morning, we arranged a guided hike for 6am. Our guide, Ramley, was a wealth of knowledge and had worked with both David Attenborough and Steve Irwin when they were there filming. He is also a Rinca local and walked five hours each way to volunteer at the ranger station. He worked 10-days-on/10-days-off as a volunteer ranger then walked home and fished for 10 days to earn a living.
|Can you spot the dragon?|
|How about now?|
|How about now?|
... and that's why we stay behind our guide.
Komodo Dragons are huge! Think crocodile rather than goanna! They will eat a pig for dinner and take down a buffalo for a banquet with a couple of mates. Fortunately for the other wildlife on the island, they need only eat about once a month. They swim, they climb and they can reach speeds of 20km/hr over a short distance when motivated. There is no escape! AND, they don’t actually have to maul you to death. One good, hearty bite will transfer lots of nasty bacteria into your blood stream and you will die, slowly and painfully of septicemia. The good news is, they do have an antidote you need to take daily for about 20 days. We stuck pretty close to Ramley!
|... but the phone got closer than we did.|
|Arid savannas ... in Indonesia!|
The hike took us up through the rolling savannas with stunning views out over the islands. We saw water buffalo, pigs, long-tailed macaque, deer and, of course, Komodo dragons.
And to add just a small amount of excitement, I watched a Komodo dragon swim past the boat and disappear into the mangroves. The swim platform stayed firmly up!
|Popeye in the mangroves at Rinca - swim platform up!|