Trip of Wonders: Komodo Dragons

Labuan Bajo

Leaving behind the exquisite beaches of Lombok and Gili Islands, we headed to our 5th destination for the #TripOfWonders (a 12-day media familiarization tour by Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism) – Labuan Bajo.

Labuan Bajo is the capital city of Mangarral Barat regency, which serves as the jump-off point to these adventures around the increasingly known Komodo National Park.


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Home to an abundant marine life, Komodo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site that makes up 26 of the 17,508 islands of Indonesia. What it is most known for, however, are its deadly Komodo dragons that are endemic to the area.

Here we visited 3 of its largest islands – Komodo, Rinca and Padar over a period of 3 days! (More of the last 2 in the next posts).

Komodo Island

Our adventure took off from the small fishing village of Flores in Labuan Bajo. There are tours operated by local agencies, which you can book beforehand. If you’re more of a spontaneous traveler, however, the harbour that serve as port of entry to the islands have tour officers for on-the-day bookings.

Komodo Island in Indonesia
Komodo Island in Indonesia

The ride to our start off point in Loh Liang National Park on Komodo Island took a little over an hour, depending on the speed of the boat.

Komodo Islands
Komodo Islands

Komodo Island

As we docked at the Loh Liang National Park, all 40 of us adventurous souls were separated into smaller groups, each with a designated ranger that we have to stick close to throughout our trek.

Komodo Dragons
Komodo Dragons

A brief orientation on the basic rules and regulations was given prior to the trek, and it was vital that everyone paid attention.

Orientation
Orientation Photo by Sheila Gomez

The rangers mean business when they said, “stay close to us”. But, of course, they were also kind and fun enough to answer all our questions. They even suggested that we name our group! We called ourselves the team “Bongga” (Filipino word for fabulous) as suggested by Potpot of Travel Trilogy.

Notice the distance between the ranger above and the Komodo dragon
Notice the distance between the ranger above and the Komodo dragon, that’s as close as you can get to them.

While it is unlikely for Komodo dragons to attack visitors (if proper rules are followed), the anti-venom for their bite is nearly 2 hours away in Bali by air.

The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis)
The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis)

These dragons are sensitive to the smallest of movements so it’s best to take slow and gentle movements around them. That said, even the lowest of voices could be heard so try to keep them down as well.

Komodo dragon up close
Komodo dragon up close Photo by Aileen Adalid

For ladies, it is advisable that you refrain from taking the trek when you’re on your period, as these dragons can smell blood up to 5.9 miles away! They even run as fast as 20mph and they can climb trees as well! Not to scare you, though. For as long as you take the necessary precautions then you’ll be fine. Some of the ladies in the group were actually on their period but they stuck real close to the rangers and they all got out in one piece. 😀

As these islands are one of the driest and hottest spots in the country, it would be advisable to apply sunscreen and wear a hat as you go trekking with the proper shoes. I actually went with slippers but the route we took was fine enough for this kind of shoe wear.

If you’re more than the usual adventurer and would want to take a slightly more challenging (yet more exciting route), there are 3 types of trekking tours offered by the Loh Liang Park. Depending on the duration and difficulty that is most suitable for you, you may choose amongst the options below:

Short Trek

Duration: 30 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Terrain & Sights: dry forests, komodo dragons, simple slopes, view of the ocean from Regatta Hill

Medium Trek

Duration: 1.5 hours

Difficulty: intermediate

Terrain & Sights: dry forests, hot conditions, short climbs and steep descents. Waterhole with Komodo dragons and other species on the island (Timor deer, wild boar, etc.)

Long Trek

Duration: 2.5 hours

Difficulty: challenging (This trek is for the visitors in good physical condition)

Terrain & Sights: higher altitudes, stiff climbs, hot conditions, rugged terrains. You’ll get a better understanding of the predator-prey relationship of Komodo dragons (you may actually see them hunt).

We took the easiest route out of all 3 for obvious reasons for some ladies in the group, but it was still quite an experience. Being a little frightened, anticipating what might actually happen next in the tour was actually fun in itself, to be quite honest.

Thankfully, there were no accidents that took place.  The Komodo dragons remind me of Godzilla in real life. Scary, yes, but if you watch them from a distance, they can actually be quite admirable.

Up next would be yet another encounter with the dragons in another island, plus a hike up one of the best views of Indonesia!

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