Dragons ahoy...

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September 6th 2009
Published: October 6th 2009
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Our great bus ride ended abruptly when we got to Sape in Sumbawa, this is the port where you catch the ferry across to Labuanbajo in Flores. We'd read that there was a ferry at 8am so when all the people told us it had already gone when we pulled up we thought it was the usual scam of trying to get us on their private boat so brushed them off. Finding anyone from the ferry office was quite difficult and all the time we were being told the ferry had gone, after about an hour of waiting around we found someone in a uniform who confirmed our worst fears that the ferry had indeed gone at 5am and the next wasn't due until 9pm.. or 8pm.. or 3pm... no one really knew for sure! In any case we were faced with a days wait in Sape.. another town where of course there is nothing to do while you are waiting...

Along with Owen who we'd travelled from Gili Air with, we amused ourselves by walking round the ramshackle houses which belong to the local fishermen and their families. The people here were super friendly all rushing out to say hello and get their photo taken, others got out their wedding photos to show us which were quite amusing because there are no smiles on these photos and they are very very serious! Walking around saying hello to everyone and seeing their catches of the day managed to kill about one hour so we were only left with another 10 to go!

There was a small group of Westeners all in the same boat (or not as the case was!) and we all hung around the port until 9pm when it was finally time to board! We were all just glad that the boat had turned up at all because for the next 2 days there was no boat at all so we made it just in time. On the boat our group all opted to pay the additional 10,000Rp ($US1) to upgrade to the VIP area which had reclining leather seats and air con.. well worth it not to have to sleep on the grubby floor we all thought and we all managed to get some sleep for the 9 hour ride to Flores.

We were both very excited when we arrived in Flores at the prospect of seeing the infamous Komodo Dragons which make this area their home. For Sophie this really was a dream come true ever since she'd seen them on a nature programme years ago and always dreamed of seeing them for real! We formed a group with Owen, Ash & Emma (also from the UK) and Jacques from France who spoke fluent Indonesian and managed to bag us a boat for 2 days and one night to take us to Rinca. This is the other island in this National Park aside from Komodo where the dragons live, it is much closer than Komodo and is therefore the most popular place to see them with a group of around 1100 living there.

We didn't really plan things that well but managed to get some supplies of water, crackers & peanuts before we left for the 2 hour ride to the island. The boat ride there was a scenic one passing lots of small deserted islands and coral reefs as we went, we even managed to spot the odd dolphin & turtle. At around 12pm we arrived on Rinca, we literally stepped off the boat and were greeted by a dragon lazing in the sun just by the pier. We were all stunned that they were so easy to see, we'd expected hours of walking to just spot one but it seemed it would not be needed.

It's a short walk to the visitor centre where you have to register and pay to enter the park. We'd all planned to stay here the night but accommodation was all full so we had to come up with a plan B. First though we wanted to more of the dragons we'd all come so far to see but again no effort required here.. the dragons come to you! There was around 15 huge dragons all hanging outside the camp kitchen sheltering from the sun and waiting for scraps. Although it was great that we could see them so easily it took the edge off a bit as there was no real adventure in going out to find them yourselves but we weren't complaining! We watched the dragons sun themselves for a bit, had our photos taken with them as close as we dared to get making sure our guide was close at hand with his big stick to fend them off if they decided to eat one of us for a snack! We may joke but one tourist has actually been eaten in the past.. it was about 10 years ago but still a scary prospect to be on the other end of a dragons mouth! One of the dragons in the group was 3.3m which is huge, especially when the biggest one ever recorded was 3.4m! They think he is around 30 years old so the same as both of us!

Included in our fees was a 1 hour trek so we took them up on their offer and set out to see some dragons 'in the wild'. It was a good job we had a guide as they are really hard to spot in the dry grass and we would have walked right past them.. or trodden on one! The ones we did see were females protecting their nest so we didn't get too close for fear of her getting upset.

As it was the 1 hour was enough walking for one day as the sun was in full force, this is such a barran sun burnt landscape it feels eerie walking around and we didn't fancy lingering too long. We were actually quite glad the accommodation was full because apart from seeing the dragons which we had done in the first 5 minutes, there really isn't much to do here so we had a bit of lunch and then set sail for a deserted island our boatman promised to take us to. We all had concerns that we didn't really have any food or enough water but the prospect of spending the night on our own island won and off we went...

The island was actually one we'd passed on our way to Rinca and it had everything to amuse us for one afternoon & morning.. hills, coral, a bit of mangrove and it was perfect. As soon as we landed we spread out to collect firewood and search for food.. well the boys decided that they would hunt for food for us that evening and the girls just wanted a fire so they could see! The fishing didn't go so well, Dale almost got a fish but when he lifted the rock it was under he found it attached to a moray eel and both promptly took their escape! As it got dark we made the most
Naughty monkeysNaughty monkeysNaughty monkeys

Yes they do sometimes become dragon dinner
of the crackers and peanuts and resorted to an early nights sleep on the boat! The night was an interesting one when the boat first drifted off to the other side of the island, then we must had drifted back again because the next thing we knew we were beached and the boys all had to get out to push us back into the water!

As soon as we all got up at 6am we were in the water to make the most of the high tide and the crystal clear waters over the coral. Snorkelling here was excellent (Flores has some of the best in Indonesia) and we spotted stingrays, eels, hundreds of fish and our first pair of Lion Fish which were stunning. Not tired out from the snorkelling we all headed up the hill to get a birds eye view of the area and the surrounding reefs & islands looking back towards land. It is a really beautiful area and one we really wish we had more time to spend in.. a 5 day boat trip would be perfect we thought!

By lunchtime we were all fading fast from hunger and thirst so had to head back to town, we wished we'd planned things a bit better so we could have had a BBQ on the beach but nevermind we had an excellent time nevertheless.

Back in town we booked into the nicest accommodation we could find which was an extortionate 165,000Rp ($US16.50), we don't mind paying a price if you get good value but the hut we had was really basic and comparable to those we've paid just $US5 for in Thailand. For $US8 for in Vietnam you get a hot shower and tv! Again we were reminded that Indonesia offers very bad value for money as far as accommodation is concerned and is a long way off from the supercheap destination that everyone raves about.

We spent our afternoon trying to find the well hidden Pelni office to book our onwards ship travel to Sulawesi. We had hoped to spend a week in Flores making our way to the east coast but the ship we'd banked on catching apparently didn't exist so we booked tickets from Labuanbajo to Makassar for the following day a little sad we wouldn't get to see the volcanic lakes but pleased to be getting to Sulawesi a bit sooner than we'd thought.

On our final day in Flores we thought we check out the local area and took a walk down to the nearest beach and wow what a beach it really wasn't! The beach and sea were typically Indonesian.. pure white and turquoise but it was completely spoilt by the litter that was along the complete length of it. We have never seen a beach quite like it, there was everything from water bottles to handbags and banana skins to dead rats all swilling around and washed up. What made it worse was that people were actually still sitting on the beach and swimming in the water. It's such a shame that such a beautiful country is ruined by this kind of unnecessary pollution. We can see exactly why it happens as the sea, along with the land and rivers is just another place to dump things for the locals, we've even seen boats docked at the harbour empty their rubbish right into the sea rather than take it onto land to dispose of.

Needless to say we didn't linger too long and went back to our accommodation to sit in their garden and enjoy the views of the port and wait for our Pelni ferry... not yet realising just what lay ahead of us for the next 18 hours!

Additional photos below
Photos: 85, Displayed: 29


Sophie and the fisherman familySophie and the fisherman family
Sophie and the fisherman family

they always want photos with us holding the babies! They normally cry!

9th January 2010

Awesome guys, i hadn't got round to looking at your blog till now...thanks for the mention! Great photos and good memories!

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