The area of Komodo National Park was a very pleasant surprise for us. Although we were excited to be seeing the famous Komodo dragon we were unaware of the quality of the diving and snorkelling in the area.
Our first stop was in Waecicu Bay from where we were able to go (by boat taxi) in to Labuan Bajo for provisions. Luckily we didn’t need more than fruit and veg as the town itself was filthy, smelly and dusty - its only saving grace was a superb italian restaurant (Made in Italy) where we had dinner with Champagne Charlie and Anthem - our first truly western meal out since leaving Australia - great pizza and a decent wine list - so grown up!
We did not want to linger in Labuan Bajo so the next morning we headed out early to visit the island of Rinca to see the fearsome Komodo Dragons. We anchored in the bay near the rangers station, tied the dingy to the jetty and walked the few hundred meters along a path to the rangers station to pay our dues. Before we had gone very far we heard rustling in the undergrowth, looked up the slope beside us to see a dragon coming down to cross the path. Chris ran (very quickly) on whilst Sara tried to get a picture, but we had been warned not to get in their way as their bite is toxic enough to be fatal. They are the biggest of the world lizards, incredibly gnarly and though prefer to eat carrion, will eat anything including their young and each other. As we neared the rangers station we saw many more, but non so active. They can move very fast on land as well as being good swimmers. Most were basking in the sun or slumped in the shade. As you can see from the photos they really are the most prehistoric looking creatures - and quite a size. We went for a guided walk seeing more dragons and monkeys by which time it was getting really hot, so back to the boat to head off to find a nice peaceful anchorage for some swimming and snorkelling.
We spent five days in the Komodo area, each day anchored off a different island paddling, swimming and doing lots of snorkelling including a couple of superb drift snorkels being sluiced along the edge of the channel between the islands by the current - great fun, but you have to hold on tight to the dingy. The water clarity and condition of the coral was much better than anywhere we have seen in Indonesia so far and friends that went diving said it was the best yet - manta rays, sharks, turtles and the first big fish we’ve seen (they are protected in the national park and not fished to oblivion like elsewhere). The currents between the islands are fierce - as much as 6 knots making moving around quite a challenge but great if you get it right.
We were sad to move on from Komodo, but there are still many places to visit - next stops Lombok and Bali. As we left Gili Banta, our last anchorage, we went past Mount Sangeang, an active volcano which pushed out a puff of smoke as we sailed away.