Komodo National Park: More Than Just Dragons!
Everyone has heard of the Komodo dragon – the largest lizard in the world and part time human eater who stalks the barren islands off Flores, Indonesia. There is far more to Komodo National Park than just dragons though, including a pink beach, some beautiful mountainous coastline and that calm feeling you get while sleeping on the deck of a boat under the stars. If you are heading to Bali or Lombok it’d be a huge mistake to miss out on this new wonder of the world.
Spotting wild Komodo dragons
There are 2 islands where you’ll see these interesting creatures: Rinca and Komodo. You’d imagine that Komodo island would be the best place to see them, but in this case the advertising is false – you’ll most likely see far more on the less exotically named Rinca. I was on a 1 night tour of Komodo National Park, and being a solo traveller I bought a ticket on a boat and hoped I got put with people I got along with. After a couple of weeks travelling through Flores I was tired, so it was with some relief when I found out my shipmates were a family from Denmark. They were really friendly, but it gave me the chance to keep to myself a bit more than if I’d been on a boat with younger people.
Our first stop was Rinca, a barren and dusty island with a Wild West feel. We didn’t have to wait long until we saw our first dragon; in fact we got 2 for the price of 1. Similar to walking in on your parents having sex (assuming they’re old and extremely wrinkly), it was quite an odd welcome to the world of dragon spotting. They weren’t actually going at it, the male was just lying on top of her hoping she’d let him in and the female was waiting patiently for him to give up – a true stalemate!
We saw around 5 dragons on Rinca, mostly around the park headquarters. We went for a short trek and learnt a lot about the dragons (keep reading for some interesting dragon facts!). On Komodo we saw 2 dragons, but only after walking for over an hour (and we saw them right by the park headquarters again!). One of them was huge and looked pretty hungry; luckily we had a guide with a stick to discourage any advances.
- Male dragons have 2 penises.
- Baby Komodo dragons have to fend for themselves when they are born. They take to the trees to avoid getting eaten (and probably to mope around because their parents abandoned them) and eventually end up fighting/eating each other. It sounds like a horrible existence, but when they grow up they become the top predator in the area, so that kinda makes up for all the broken dreams of childhood.
That’s all I can remember – I should have listened more carefully!
Further reading: Check out National Geographic’s page about Komodo Dragons for more information.
The pink beach
Komodo National Park apparently has some of the best snorkelling and diving in Southeast Asia, and a perfect place to get a glimpse of the underwater world is at the pink beach. The snorkelling is great (I heard you can even see dolphins if you’re lucky) and the pink beach is one of those unique quirks of nature that you’ll remember forever. I have no idea why, but the sand really is pink, only in the small area where the water meets the sand though. If you go to the pink beach make sure you climb the small hill for a stunning view over the surrounding area – it’s one of the best views I’ve seen for a while!
FURTHER READING: 10 of the Best Beaches in Southeast Asia
Sleeping on the boat
Boats come in all levels of luxury – the one I was on was somewhere near the bottom though. It didn’t really matter, because the food was great and sleeping on a gently rocking boat surrounded by exotic islands is a great experience. Boats with cabins cost more and might be more comfortable, but I’d highly recommend going for the more unique experience.
Just outside of Komodo National Park is a tiny island called Kanawa. There is one resort (which is kind of expensive on a backpacker budget) but it’s so peaceful, and there is excellent snorkelling to be had just off the beach. I saw turtles, small rays and so many fish. You can get dropped off there after the Komodo tour or get a free transfer from Labuan Bajo. If you get dropped off after a tour you might miss “Manta Point” (I did) which is obviously a spot where you’re likely to see manta rays.
Komodo National Park: The details
You can take a 3 or 4 night boat trip from Bali/Lombok which will take you around all of the best snorkelling spots and to see the dragons on Komodo and Rinca, or you can take a 1 night tour if you are already in Flores. Labuan Bajo is the gateway to the park and is a bit of a mess, but it’s an OK place to spend a night or 2 and has some great Italian restaurants. I paid 750,000 rp for the tour, which included all food and drinking water, but not the park fees. Kanawa Island cost me 350,000 rp per night, but it was worth it! It’s a similar feeling to staying on a 1 resort island in the Maldives but at a fraction of the price.
FURTHER READING: Exploring the 17 Island Marine Park in Riung, Flores
Have you been to Komodo National Park, and do you think it is worth the detour from Bali? Let me know!
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