Where are my dragons!?

When I grew up, I was fascinated by all those documentaries about foreign and exotic locations such as Sumatra, Java, Borneo or Komodo. For some reason they were constantly featured, but I didn’t have any preconception about where those destinations actually where. Turns out they’re all here, in good old Indonesia. Now, I find myself in that lucky position to actually visit some of them. Komodo always was particularly interesting to me, hiding the infamous Komodo Dragons (one of the oldest remnants of the dinosaur age, huge reptiles that look like supersised lizards – but deadly). Hence a 4 day boat trip from Lombok to the Komodo National Park, cruising through gorgeous landscapes and hopping from one secluded island to the next.

  

On Gili Air, a very, very charming island on the north tip of Lombok, which offers excellent food (namely Mowie’s Bar, with splendid sunsets and a 10 out of 10 on the foodporn scoreboard), I am starting to plan my next steps very slowly, while doing some dives and relaxing on the beach. Suddenly I am spotting very cheap deals for Komodo, almost too sweet to be true. I don’t hesitate long, as Komodo is on my to do list, and book the four day cruise – departure from the far more busy and touristy sister island Gili Trawangan (please avoid, if you’re over 21) with a first transfer to Lombok.

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Honestly, I expected the worst after having heard several horror stories about the boats, the crews, the people on board or the food. That being said, I couldn’t be more lucky: obviously, when you travel on budget, you can’t expect the Ritz Hotel standards, especially when sleeping on the deck of (very bumpy) boat. So we end up sleeping on mattresses in a big communal “room”. And on a side note, I am in fact happy I didn’t book the expensive cabin, as the fumes and the engine noise makes sleeping down there unbearable – turns out everyone ends up sleeping on the deck anyways. So the sleeping situation on the deck turns out to be good (enough), but we lucked out big time with the crew either: Especially the tour leader, Sunny, is excellent (however also borderline crazy and probably the loudest person I know) and wakes us up every morning with his not sooo angel like voice and his own interpretation of Bob Marley Best Ofs. The chemistry between the people on board is great, English, Dutch, Israelian and Germans are representing and, as always, epic stories develop, so epic, ancient greek’s Homer couldn’t fit them on his scrolls. The food is plenty and sufficiently satisfying btw., so guys, don’t worry: I am still being fed.

The itinerary along the way surprises us with unexpected and changing landscapes, from grass covered high mountain ranges, to smaller and arid, brown hill covered islands, turquoise water, great snorkelling (with Mantas) and concluding hikes along the Komodo National Park, hunting the dragons. And when I say hunting, I mean it precisely like that: approximately 100 tourists at a time would hike along the small pathway loops of the islands, trying to spot a dragon – only to realise that it’s nearly impossible to find them running around in the wild, unless attracted by tasty, blood drippy deer, hanging from the trees (obviously curtesy of the rangers, responding to the desperate cries of unsatisfied tourists who can’t cope with the statistical probability to see rare, wild creatures in action…). So at one point, when this poor single Komodo Dragon is finding himself walking into the tourist trap, rangers communicate their “find” via radio comms – and ten minutes later you can see a huge crowd of people circling around it.

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Thankfully, Komodo National Park covers plenty of more islands, and there is another very close option for Komodo Dragon hunting, Rinca Island, which not only offers a sensational hike through the arid steppe, but also a far more stress free shot at seeing those cold blooded animals in action – which we actually did. They are pretty cool by the way, as they can run freakishly fast if they want, but would generally rather wait for their prey to pass by and ambush them. One bite is usually enough to get their deadly bacteria into the blood system of their prey, eventually causing death, sometimes only weeks later. No problem for the Komodo Dragon, as he would just creep around and stalk the poor animal until it finally collapses. Only when it’s dead it’s feeding time! I love the fact that there are no antibiotics for those viscous bites in the area: you’d have to get helicoptered to Bali, about 4 air hours away, to get a cure! Excellent contingency plan!

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The cruise comes to an end in Labuan Bajo, a very charming but super small little town on the island of Flores. It is the single most important destination for divers all around the world, as all the liveaboards and day tours start from here. I figure, “why not?”, score an excellent two day deal for an overnight stay on a floating dive hostel and am diving the shit out of my two days on board, overseeing the beautiful corners of that Komodo National Park. Rumours had it, that I would the best diving in the world, so I put it to the test. It actually is quite phantastic, very diverse, and if you have any questions on the specifics, let me know. I don’t want to get into the diving side of my stories on here, as it might not be relevant to my millions of readers. But then again, what is? 😉 Stay tuned!
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