Friday, September 17, 2010

Ferocious Komodo Dragons

September 16, 2010—On September 8 we left Labuan Bajo with Tin Soldier and moved southwest to the Island of Rinca. It was a beautiful day so we had good sunshine that would help in spotting the reefs along the way. We had a lovely trip except for one uncharted reef that was difficult to see until we were close to it.

We anchored with four other cruising boats at Loh Buaya Rinca, a beautiful bay surrounded by mangrove trees, and then we ate a quick lunch. By now it was overcast and sprinkling rain, but we all decided to go ahead and go see the Komodo Dragons. We tied our dinghies at the dock and stopped at the small shelter to allow the rain to stop. Just a short distance away an older dragon was sleeping. There was also a small group of monkeys that immediately came up to us when we got the camera out of the backpack—not because of a picture, but because they thought there would be something to eat.

We walked a short distance to the Komodo Dragon National Park office and purchased our tickets for the tour. Our guide’s name was Obie, and he spoke very good English. He showed us two dragons hanging around the kitchen hut hoping for some scraps, but he informed us that they never feed the dragons.

The Komodo dragon is a ferocious looking lizard with enormous claws, fearsome teeth, and fiery yellow tongues. The Komodo dragon is actually a monitor lizard. All monitors have some things in common: the head is tapered, the ear openings are visible, the neck is long and slender, the eyes have eyelids and round pupils, and the jaws are powerful. The dragons also have massive bodies, powerful legs (each with five-clawed toes) and long, thick tails (which function as rudders but can also be used for grasping or as a potent weapon). The body is covered in small, non-overlapping scales; some may be spiny, others may be raised and bony.

The dragons’ legs allow them to sprint short distances at a pretty fast speed. They have a very keen sense of smell. The Komodo dragons feed on deer, wild pig, and water buffalo. They bite their larger victims and wait for the potent bacteria their mouths contain to take effect—waiting for up to two weeks for the buffalo to die. We have since heard that there is some doubt about the bacteria aspect, but we don’t know for certain.

The Komodo dragon lays the largest eggs of the monitors, and the female lays 15 to 30 eggs at a
time and usually buries them in the wall of a dry river. The incubation period is nine months, and after they hatch, the female will protect them for three months from predators. The young then spend about five years living up in the trees in order to protect them.

The one-hour tour was very interesting, and our guide was very knowledgeable. We saw one female protecting her nest, and we saw a water buffalo as well. After the tour we returned to the main base and enjoyed a cold soda while watching two dragons lounging on the ground.

It was now late afternoon so we returned to our dinghies, which were now almost out of the water because of the tide. We had to walk them out a ways before we could get in and discovered some sea snakes along the way. Not my idea of a good time.

It was now raining pretty hard so we quickly returned to the boat and put the dinghy on board since we were wet anyway. We fixed dinner, took showers, and then read for awhile. It was a rainy evening, but we really enjoyed it, and the rain gave the boat a nice bath.

The next morning we headed north to Gili Lawa, which is a popular anchorage on the northern tip of Komodo Island. We pulled into the bay and anchored in beautiful, clear water. We enjoyed a snorkel in the afternoon, where we watched two turtles digging into the coral, and a beach bon fire in the evening with three other boats. By the time we left the beach, however, the north wind had picked up, and now the bay was quite rough. We spent a miserable night sleeping on the settees with the boat rocking and rolling.

The next day was beautiful again. We went for another snorkel and again enjoyed the beautiful coral and sea life. In the afternoon we joined four other boats for happy hour on the catamaran Orono I and had a great time. In the evening the swell came in again, so we were rolling and spent another uncomfortable night.

In the morning we had planned to go on a dive, but it was overcast and raining so we left and moved west to Batu Monco about two hours away. This bay was also lovely, well protected from most winds, and had only our four boats in it. We got our anchors down, enjoyed some lunch, and then met for a dive at one o’clock. The dive was not deep, but the coral was lovely, and there were so many types of fish around that we enjoyed it very much.

That evening we had another beach bon fire, mainly in order to burn our plastic trash, but it was again a lot of fun. We returned to the boat around 6:30 and got her ready to go early in the morning. This anchorage was much calmer so we were able to get a good night’s sleep.

We left at 5:20 in the morning when dawn gave us just enough light to see. Three of us left, but sv Imagine decided to stay. Because of light winds we motor sailed. There was a narrow channel a few miles out, and the tides and currents produced a very sloppy sea plus the current was against us, so we spent a lot of time trying to make it through the two-mile wide and 10-mile long channel. That put us into our anchorage at Batoc Basar at dusk with barely enough time to see where we could anchor. At least there was no roll here so we spent a pleasant evening in this spot.

From Batoc Basar we went to Medang, which took another long day of motor sailing. We arrived at dusk but had no trouble anchoring along with about 12 other boats. We left Medang at 2:30 the next morning so that we could arrive in Lombok by dark. We had a lovely trip and passed Mount Rinjani, a beautiful volcano that rises to almost 13,000 feet.

When we arrived at Medana Bay Marina, we heard that there was very little space. This is a virtual marina with no docks, just mooring balls and anchorage space. We were lucky because we were able to pick up a mooring ball just off the beach. We ran a stern line to the beach to keep us in place, and then we settled in to get ready for the next festivities.

1 comment:

Jeffery Schmitz said...

Cool those dragons are amazing