Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We got up at six, as Alit was set to pick us up at seven. We got packed, putting everything we needed (*) for Komodo in the blue bag and the big backpack, so we could leave the two big bags at our hotel. But between having to account for rain, taking stuff for snorkeling, taking stuff for hiking (including the small backpack), plus camera gear and washroom materials, the blue bag was totally full. At the hotel checkout, when the guy said "see you again soon," he wasn't expecting to hear "we'll be back tomorrow."

It was a short drive to the airport. At the airport, the power kept going out, which freaked out the passengers, but didn't seem to phase the security folks, ticketing agents, etc. It seemed like this was a common occurrence. In the waiting area for our flight, we ran into an Italian guy who was a divemaster for a company called Wickeddiving.com. He was telling us he used to work in the Persian Gulf area, then Thailand, now was coming to Komodo. If we were diving instead of snorkeling, we might have given him a ring.

The flight was just over an hour, and - as usual - we saw more volcanoes. This was one was a big one, and we were told later it was Mount Rinjani on Lombok. When we landed in Labuan Bajo, we were greeted by our guide Simin. It was a very short drive to the jetty, then headed out on a small motorboat to the main boat. The main boat was huge, we wondered who we'd be sharing with. As it turns out, we weren't sharing with anyone. We basically had a six room boat to ourselves.

We spent most of the late morning making our way SW from Flores island towards Rinca. It was very relaxing up top, with a nice breeze. The scenery was amazing, with lots of gorgeous blue/green water and palm-covered islands everywhere. Simin told us about the time he got bit by a Komodo Dragon. He was sleeping in one of the rooms in the Park on Komodo island, and forgot to close his door. He was asleep on the bed, with his knees protruding off the edge, a small Dragon came up and bit him. He went to the hospital, got a bunch of shots and antibiotics, and three months later, he was all good. If this was a story to make sure we were careful around the Komodo Dragons, it sure worked.

We docked at the ranger station in Rinca a little after 1pm. We took a five minute hike from the docks to the main area. At the main camp area, we saw a baby dragon up in a tree. The young Dragons stay up in the trees to avoid the larger Dragons, who will absolutely eat them. As we were about to head out on the path, we spotted a large group of dragons by the kitchen. They never get any food from the kitchen, but they come to congregate there anyway. Today there was 10, including a couple big ones. They weren't doing much of anything, however.

On the path, we spotted a female right near the path after just a couple minutes. She was not far from her nest, and our guide surmised she was checking out the nest before breeding season. As we walked farther we saw a whole host of other animals we didn't know were on the island - deer, boar, and macaques. We came up on one dragon wandering around in the forested area, going across the stream. Walking out of the forest, we entered the savannah, walked straight uphill for quite a bit, where the views were very good.

We were starting to come back down the hill, and we came upon a fork in the road. Agus (different Agus, by the way) went left, Crystal noted the giant Komodo Dragon that came around the corner on the right. It wasn't very far away at all, and was coming straight for us. We, stupidly, were taking pictures. Agus and Simin, after they started to breathe again, got us moved off the path, where we let the Dragon go by. If Agus had chosen the right path instead of the left, he would have walked right into that dragon.

The rest of walk back was uneventful, especially in comparison to what we'd just experienced. Back at the main camp, we checked out the big group of Dragons again - still not doing much of anything. They were laying on top of each other, and kind of reminded us of the Elephant Seals in South Georgia. Back on the boat, we saw a number of additional boats in the bay - we were one of the first to get to the island that day. After boating for awhile, we went snorkeling for a bit, but the current was rough and we didn't stay too long.

We boated back towards Rinca village, then stopped near a mangrove forest. Simin told us that some flying foxes would be coming out around 6. We sat and waited (Justin fell asleep), before seeing two birds hunt for fish and then a group of what we thought were bats circle above the mangroves. Turns out these were not the main bats, however. When the big group of bats came out, they really came out. Waves of dozens of them were taking off literally every second. Every minute there must have been thousands. They were all headed in the vicinity of Flores to eat, to return in the morning. We kept watching until it got dark, and they were still coming - there must have been millions total. We had a nice dinner, then went to bed early, about 7:45 for Justin, 8:15 for Crystal.