Komodo National Park – Dragon Spotting
What sounds more appealing than trekking through a national park in search of the largest, deadliest lizards in the world?!
Well, this is exactly what we did when we visited Komodo National Park. The Komodo Dragon is native to Komodo National Park and this is the only place in the world you will find this pre historic beast living naturally in the wild. Making the trip to see the elusive Komodo Dragon was something that was on our ‘must do’ list as soon as we started planning our trip to South East Asia.
Komodo National Park
Located between the large Indonesian islands of Sumbawa and Flores, Komodo National Park is made up of three main islands; Komodo, Rinca and Pada, as well as numerous small islands. It’s possible to receive guided tours on Komodo and Rica, from the expert tour guides who are employed by the national park (please note – it is not permitted to receive tours any guides other than the national park guides, so do not do this if anyone offers).
in 1991 the national park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also more recently, been declared one of the New7Wonders of Nature. Rightly so, the waters surrounding the islands on the national park are fantastic for snorkelling and diving, due to the rich biodiversity, in fact, some of the most diverse on the planet. Also, on the islands themselves, the scenery and nature are absolutely brilliant whilst trekking.
Quite surprisingly, there is a human population in Komodo National Park, who live alongside these deadly creatures. Around 4000 inhabitants live across the islands in the national park. All the villages in the national park did exist before being declared a World Heritage Site, however, in the last 20 years, the population has increased rapidly. I can’t quite see what the appeal of living alongside these creatures would be myself!
Where to Stay When Visiting Komodo National Park
There are a couple of options when deciding where to stay in order to explore Komodo National Park. We actually stayed in the nearest town to the national park, Labuan Bajo. Not surprisingly the majority of people fly into Labuan Bajo, on a not-so-safe looking propeller plane, choose to stay here and also book their tour here through one of the many tour agencies. We did exactly that, staying in Bajo Hotel for 275,000 IDR ($20.10) per night.
Another option is staying in one of the resorts close to the park, although these can often be much more expensive than Labuan Bajo accommodation.
Komodo National Park – 2 Night Boat Tour
Day 1 of the tour didn’t actually include any trekking to spot the dragons. However, having said that, there is so much more to this national park than its namesake. Like I mentioned earlier, the park is also very popular for diving and snorkelling due to the sheer scale and diversity of the marine life around the national park.
First thing was first, obviously, we made our way to the boat, met the other people who would be joining us on the tour, in total there was 6 of us and we made our way to our first stop off – Manta Point. If you haven’t already guessed it by the name, Manta Point is a snorkelling/dive area which is excellent for spotting the strange looking, huge, yet elegant Manta Ray.
Our first stop off was probably my least favourite. When we stopped, the water around the boat looked filthy in all honesty and it wasn’t the most pleasurable experience swimming in it either. However, getting the chance to see such a magnificent sea creature as the Manta Ray was an incredible experience, make sure you’re quick though as they certainly don’t wait around for long before effortlessly gliding away through the water.
Next up, we headed to the interestingly named Pink Beach for some snorkelling. I was quite intrigued to just how pink, Pink Beach would actually be. I had seen this beach before on pictures, you know when you have a look on Google Images or Instagram and every picture gives you an unrealistic expectation of just how beautiful somewhere is.
Not surprisingly, from afar the beach didn’t look all that pink. However, when you are actually on the beach, you can see the slight pink colour in the sand. The reason the sand is slightly pink is due to the small pieces of red coral which are mixed in from the bright red reefs just off the coast of the beach. In my opinion, the vibrant red reefs were the more spectacular sight, rather than the beach.
Following the snorkelling by Pink Beach, we jumped back on the boat and made our way to Komodo Village, located on Komodo Island. This village has the highest population of all the villages located in Komodo National Park. It was very interesting to see how the locals live in the national park, as I was curious. The village was actually quite charming in its own right, there were buildings which lined the pier by the sea, with wooden stilts in the water propping the unsteady looking pier up, kids playing football and everyone just going about their everyday business. It all just seemed normal and peaceful. I don’t know what I expected to be honest from a village on the same island as killer lizards, but I was pleasantly surprised.
On our final stop off just before we docked up on the pier for the night, we would go by the marshes to spot the Flying Fox, which is basically a huge bat. At dusk, thousands of bats leave their roosts and head for the feeding grounds. This was all relaxing watching the bats in the sunset, that was until a pigeon went and pooed on my hand, then just to do it again as I was cleaning the first lot of poo off myself!!
The day that we’d all been looking forward to, the day when we’d finally get the chance to spot one of the colossal lizards which make this national park their home. With the Komodo Dragons being wild animals and not in captivity it’s not guaranteed that you will see one while trekking, so we had everything crossed that we’d be lucky!
Our first stop over of the day was at Komodo Island. Please note – it is likely you will have to pay park fees when you reach either Komodo Island or Rinca, which won’t be included in your tour price, these fees came to 245,000 IDR ($18) per person.
The scenery on both of the islands is spectacular, rolling green hills covered with jungle, then in the distance the turquoise waters which surround the island as far as the eye can see. Around 20 minutes into our trek, whilst we were enjoying the scenery, it was then that we heard our guide say “shhh” as he pointed towards the ground around 5 metres ahead of us. This was when we got our first look at a Komodo Dragon in person. The dragon was just as large as we had imagined. It barely moved as we edged slightly closer to it, not too close though, as I can imagine if it really wanted to it could have easily attacked us. They don’t much move, but they are apparently incredibly quick and agile when they want to be.
Along the walk, there were a couple of other dragons which were pointed out to us by our guide. If it wasn’t for the guides sharp eye, I definitely would not have spotted them. They lay as still as still can be and due to the colour of their skin, they stay camouflaged in the surrounding trees and mud.
Our next and final stop of the 2-day boat tour was at the other main island which is accessible to tourists, Rinca Island. It was on this island where we got sight of a magnitude of dragons. However, the main reason why we saw so many dragons on Rinca was due to the reason that there is a number of them which are lured by the smell of food to the kitchens which the guides use. It was absolutely amazing to get to see so many of these creatures so up close, but it didn’t feel as satisfying as the dragons which we saw fully in their natural habitat on Komodo Island.
All in all, the tour exceeded all expectations. The total cost of the booking was 800,000 IDR ($58.60) per person, which included everything, apart from the park fees. The boat staff we incredibly accommodating, we never went hungry due to the masses of food they served us for each meal, we got to see what else Komodo National Park has to offer other than the beasts and of course, we experienced being face to face with the largest and deadliest lizard on the planet, the Komodo Dragon.
Would you like to be up close and personal with Komodo Dragons in Komodo National Park? If you have already, did you enjoy the national park or not?