After leaving Jogjakarta, we flew to the city of Labuan Bajo. We already knew we wanted to see Manta Rays in Indonesia, if possible, but when we learned that they can be found in Komodo National Park, there was no doubt we were going to visit this area of the country.
About Komodo National Park
Komodo National Park is more than 1,700km square and consists of 3 major islands as well as many smaller ones. It was founded in 1980 to help protect the very rare Komodo Dragon, but since then has become a protected zone for many other animals as well. Roughly 4,000 people live in the park, and many of them work in the tourism industry.
The park itself is pretty undeveloped and Dave and I were both pretty disappointed that more of the very high entrance fees weren’t used to keep the parks looking a bit nicer, but I wouldn’t say our visit was a waste of money…and it definitely was worth the trip to this area of Indonesia.
The dragons are what bring most people to Komodo, and they’re quite the sight to see! I can’t say I have a lot of love for them, but definitely respected them enough to keep a safe distance.
They’re clearly fed by locals because as soon as you arrive on Komodo Island, you see them all huddled around the restaurant where locals eat.
We saw plenty of other dragons along the way, and we learned about some of their rather nasty habits. Did you know Komodo Dragons spend their first few years living up in trees? They need to hide from other Dragons because these giant lizards are cannibalistic. They’re also terrible mothers, and do nothing to care for their young after they hatch.
As I’ve been researching for this blog, I’ve been learning more about these animals and sadly, I’m seeing that at least some of the information provided at the park was false. We were told multiple times that what kills animals from Komodo bites is the various types of bacteria in their mouths. Scientists recently discovered though, that a dragon’s mouth is no dirtier than any other animal’s. What kills their prey is a venom that they release when they bite.
This is actually why I enjoy when there is posted information available at parks and animal reserves. We had the same thing happen in India, and I’ve learned to fact check things before posting them in my blog. Apparently, you can’t trust everything local guides tell you about the animals native to their countries!
Rinca and Komodo were virtually identical in most ways. Both islands had dragons…and both islands were incredibly hot. We were marched around by guides who told us about the flora and fauna in the area (sorta…). We saw 1 massive buffalo, but the guide chased it away before most of our group even knew it was there. We also saw deer, birds and even some monkeys. I was already suffering from some heat exhaustion, so I only took 2 or 3 photos on Rinca, which is pretty regrettable. It was definitely the nicer of the two islands.
Padar Island was actually our second stop (Komodo Island was #1 and Rinca was #3). We arrived on the island shortly before sunset. Now, I should add that nothing was really explained beforehand on this tour…we would just arrive and do things. Any time I asked what was next, our guide would tease me for ‘worrying too much’. So, when we arrived on the beach of this little island, I figured we’d be spending some time watching the sun set from the pink sand. As it turns out, we were climbing a small mountain…
Now, I should also explain why this small hill was a big deal for me. I mean…I did a much harder climb than this in Kuala Lumpur and our Jungle Trek was WAY more intense. The problem was, at this point, I was suffering from pretty bad heat exhaustion. I was having a hard time catching my breath and I was completely and totally exhausted. If our guide had told us we’d be climbing, I probably would have stayed in the boat. So, I guess it’s lucky I didn’t know what to expect because….
When we arrived at the peak, we sat around, sipping beer and cold water, and chatting about life in Indonesia. Before we knew it, the sun had set and we had to climb down the ‘mountain’ in the dark. We all used our cell phones to light the way and it was probably pretty dangerous, as the path wasn’t really much of a path. But…at least it wasn’t all done in the sun!
Time In The Water
Dave and I were both really excited about snorkeling in Komodo National Park because we’d heard that it’s home to so many sea animals and beautiful coral reefs. The rumours were true, and it was a beautiful place to both dive and snorkel, but what I didn’t know was that about 30% of the sea life in Komodo National Park seem to be jelly fish!! If I didn’t get stung 50 times, I didn’t get stung at all!!!
The snorkeling was good, but as my heat exhaustion worsened, my tolerance for jellyfish lessened. Soon, I made the decision to stay out of the water until there was something REALLY interesting to see.
Of course, the real reason we were in the area wasn’t for the dragons, or even for Padar Island (we had no idea it was going to be that beautiful!). The real pull for us was the chance to see Manta Rays.
Manta Rays are intelligent and curious and we heard from many people that swimming with them is quite the experience! They’re huge, gentle and majestic and I was very much looking forward to seeing the giants in person. This was actually at the top of Dave’s bucket list too, so it was important to me because it was important to him.
Of course, things didn’t turn out the way I’d wanted. I woke up the day of our trip to Manta Point and ended up fainting in the shower….twice. I was so sick from the heat that if the sun touched my skin for even a moment, I became too dizzy to stand. So, while Dave and everyone else went swimming with the mantas…I sipped Sprite under the comfort of my over-sized hat, and tried not to throw up….
I was lucky enough to see 1 Manta right near the front of the boat. It came up to the surface and I was able to watch it from the safety of shade. Mostly, I’m just happy Dave got to see them, because it is truly an incredible experience.
So, I didn’t quite have the experience I’d hoped for in Komodo National Park. I hope to go back some day, to see the sea life and maybe do that discovery dive. Until then, I’ll just have to hang onto the memory of that 1 kind Manta who swam along the surface so that I could admire it’s graceful beauty.
Check back soon! This won’t be my last post of the week!