We stepped off the boat and onto a dry, desert-like island, then walked on a rocky path until we reached two towering statues. These stone Komodo dragons guarded the entrance to the national park. Within minutes we spotted a troop of mischievous macaques, and one 7 foot long Komodo dragon sauntering across a dry marsh where the tide encroached during the wet season.
Our first excursion onto Komodo was short, but exciting. We needed a chance to acclimate and get over our excitement at being on the very same island that was inhabited by Komodo dragons. We met some smaller dragons at 4 feet, but also saw a large individual well over 10 feet long.
The next morning we woke up at 5am and sleepily packed our loaves of bread, jar of peanut butter, and bottles of water into our bags and headed down to the docks to find the boat we had hired to take us back to Rinca (pronounced Rin-Cha).
We took a tiny boat captained by a man and what appeared to be his grandson. To take a 2 hour journey on such a small vessel seemed daunting, especially when the boat was far too loud for conversation and smelled strongly of fuel.
When we arrived back at the field station on Rinca we were immediately recognised. Three younger, white girls don’t go unnoticed many places in Southeast Asia, especially because we were trying to talk them into taking us on the longest walking tour that was available. However, we were not willing to pay the 40$ per person fee and settled on a shorter tour.
But we learned a valuable lesson that day: bribing forestry officials can get you far, and our field guide was more than happy to take us walking across the island for less than half of the money, so long as it went directly into his pocket.
So we began our 10 mile trek off the path and up and down the hills of Rinca Island in search of dragons, water buffalo, and anything else we could find. Once we reached the top of the first hill our breath was taken away. We could see miles in every direction, all the way across to Komodo Island and beyond. I knew then that even if we saw no Komodo dragons we were still in for a fantastic day.
Even still, we were not disappointed. We came across several Komodo dragons, including one very uncommon juvenile dragon, water buffalo wallowing in a river, and views unlike anything I had seen before. When trekking deep into Rinca Island it was like the entire world faded away. It was just the three of us and our impressively chain smoking guide. We could hear only our footsteps and the occasional call of a young water buffalo. After the hustle and bustle of Labuan Bajo, the peace was needed.
This post ended up being a bit longer and more about the journey than the dragons themselves, but hopefully this video can help give you a better idea of exactly what we encountered as well as a little bit more about the dragons. Thank you, as always, for reading, and for going on this journey with me.