Komodo, Rinca and the Komodo Dragon
Why would you want to visit Komodo or Rinca islands? They're part of the Lesser Sunda chain of islands and home to the Komodo National Park with the famous Komodo Dragon as prime attraction. In addition, the island is a popular destination for diving.
Apart of Komodo and Rinca, there are more smaller islands including Padar which are included in the Komodo National Park. The Komodo Dragon is for most travelers the main reason to visit.
Due to humans and they're need for more space, the Komodo Dragon has become an endangered species.
The villages at Komodo Island have always lived with the 3 meters long lizard but due to hunting their natural prey, the Komodo Dragon is more often seen in and around the villages in their search for food.
Other endangered species are the orange-footed scrub fowl, an endemic rat, and the Timor deer.
In 1986, the Park was declared a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
As being a national park, your only entrance is by joining a tour from either Sumbawa (Bima) or Flores (Labuan Bajo). When you arrive in either of the two, you will quickly find a boat to bring you to the islands.
You can visit both Komodo and Rinca (I did Rinca).
The Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is the biggest and heaviest lizards in the world. They can grow in the wild up to over 3 meters long and weight up to 70kg.
As all lizards they have an excellent sense of smell and can smell dead meat from very far.
But basically they eat anything, from dead meat to chicken, goats, waterbuffalo and even attack humans.
Komodo Dragons, despite their size and weight, are fast runners, good tree climbers and excellent swimmers.
The problem these days is that the ecosystems the animals live in gets smaller because of a growing human population. This leads to obvious confrontations. The people living on the islands have been dealing with the lizards for century and know how dangerous they can be.
When visiting Komodo or Rinca, your guide will advice you to take a stick and a few stones in case the animals come to close. They can be very aggressive and are known to attack humans.
Personally I find them interesting, if not exciting. They're survivors, omnivores like us humans and able to survive in different ecosystems, excellent swimmers and runners. Although the Komodo Dragon is only found in the Komodo Islands, their close cousins live in for example Malaysia (where I live these days) and where you find them all over the country including in cities like Penang, Ipoh or Johor Bharu.
Diving in Komodo
Komodo is a spectacular dive site. The variety of marine life is staggering. You can arrange diving here in Labuanbajo (Flores) and Bima (Sumbawa). You will find plenty of wild life including whale sharks, mantas, eagle rays and clownfish amongst many more. Much of the coral is still relatively untouched by over (dynamite) fishing thanks to the National Park status.
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Of all islands of Indonesia, this was my favorite trip. The beauty of the island, plus the variety of culture and nature made it a memorable week. And the local population was beautiful.
Flores is a magnificent island. It has a very rich culture, some beautiful nature to explore and it's not spoiled by mass tourism. An ideal island to get a bicycle.
Although Lombok is a rather small island, it's certainly possible to go around on bicycle. From west to east it's only 80 km or so, which is possible to do in a day. And yes, it's hot but hey... this is the Tropics!
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