Questing for Komodo Dragons in Southeast Asia
Vail CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: This is the eight in a series of travel stories from local resident Luc Pols, who is traveling through Southeast Asia.
Before leaving Mataram, I motorbiked around the city and surroundings, visited five temples and the town of Sengiggi. Temples on Lombok are not really worth a second look and Sengiggi was OK. In short, unless you need to visit the city to catch a boat ride to Komodo or to go diving at the Gilli Islands, skip Lombok.
The less said about the bus trip the better, take my word for it and I will not bring it up … it’s already forgotten!
In any case, in Labuanbajo I found what’s been the best little hotel of the trip thus far, with fantastic views over the Bay. The owner of this place, the Bayview Garden Hotel, is the jovial Dutchman Adriaan, who includes a great breakfast and even does some laundry for free. If you ever get over here, this is the place to stay (www.bayviewgardens.com).
Now it is time for the real “Quest for the Dragon.” With four other foreigners, I chartered a boat to the National Park and my luck returned. Upon arriving there, we were told to hurry; the Komodo Dragons, the largest lizards in the world at up to 7 feet long and weighing up to 200 pounds, have killed a water buffalo and are having a smorgasbord. Visitors have the incredible fortune of witnessing this spectacle three to five times a year. Hurriedly we paid and set off for the lunch table.
What an unbelievable sight ” I have never seen anything like it. There were about eight to 10 komodos, four comatose from eating, while two to three kept on tearing at the carcass.
The dragons are quite dangerous and while they look slow, they can be quite agile. We spent about an hour watching the creatures devour the remainder of the buffalo. The way they kill their victim is to bite them and then wait for the bacteria from their mouths to take effect. It takes the buffalo three weeks to die and during that time the komodos follow their victim until it is too weak to defend itself and the feast begins.
It was quite a day to encounter the lizards in their natural habitat and watch such a rare event. Even the two-hour boat ride to Rinca Island, where, as well as on Komodo Island, the UNESCO Heritage Site is located, is beautiful. Yes, the Quest was an overwhelming success.
Then it was on to the second worthwhile sight on the island of Flores. The volcano Kelimutu is probably one of the most interesting and beautiful places in this archipelago. With another foreigner I chartered a car (no more buses, please) and we left at 7 a.m. for the 500 km (300 mile) trip. While it was a gorgeous ride with countless terraced rice paddies, breathtaking views and quaint villages, it was also very long. It took us 12 hours to get to Ende. Moni ” our goal ” was still 60 km away. I had had enough. I never in my life have seen or been on so many hairpin turns. The entire trip to Ende has about five straight stretches and the rest is turns and up and down around mountains and through valleys. I was quite exhausted, so we dismissed the driver and car and stayed in probably the worst hotel I’ve stayed in so far. What can you do?!?
The next morning, at 4 a.m., I arrived in Moni, ready for sunrise at Kelimutu. I arrived on the back of a scooter and it was just beginning to get light. There were clouds, but no dense fog and it was an extremely beautiful and peaceful place. The energy there was so great that you just sit and contemplate the colored lakes.
There is, of course, a legend, but scientifically I think the good energy is due to the various ores and sulfides, which are different in the three lakes, thereby creating different colors ” turquoise, burgundy and black.
After an hour it started to rain. I had already dismissed the driver and scooter because I wanted to walk the nine miles down the mountain, and I was then forced to, whether I wanted to or not. It took three hours, but only rained for 30 minutes and then was beautiful.
Talk to you next week from Bali.
Have a travel essay you’d like to share with Vail Daily readers? E-mail High Life Editor Caramie Schnell at email@example.com.