Komodo Found

We arrived in Flores, named by the Portuguese for its rich flora.  We pulled into the harbor in Labuan Bajo and immediately were offered cruises to Komodo.  Both of us were too tired to bargain after our long long ride and instead checked into a hotel and settled in for the day to rest and explore the tiny town.

In the evening, we checked out some travel agents for pricing to Komodo and Rinca, the two islands where the lizards roam free.  We bargained with a few and learned that having more people on a cruise reduces the price and thus decided that the next day we would try and find some people or check back with the agents to see if they had a full boat that we could board for a discounted price.  The cruises are all inclusive and include lunch, dinner, snorkeling, and "sleeping" accomodations to be explained later.....

As luck would have it, we came across a French couple who also were looking to go to Komodo and coincidentally were with us on the 24 hour journey.  We ran into them on the street and recruited them to join us for the next day cruise.  Our boat was to sail at 9 AM and so we walked down to the docks to acquaint ourselves with the crew and to hop on board.  We set sail for Rinca, about a 3 hours journey through beautiful blue green waters surrounded by more peaks, hidden pink and white sand beaches, and coves.  Arriving at Rinca and after disembarking, we walked the dock to the entrance of the park with a bit of caution, when we heard excited shouts of "dragon" "dragon" and sure enough a 6 foot male was resting lazily on the beach and sunning himself. After a fortuitous beginning, we walked to the ranger station to pay the park fees, hire a guide, and begin our trek.  Note, the guide incredibly is only in the front and the rear is completely unguarded.  As soon as we left the ranger station and came upon the general management area, there were a dozen or so Komodo Dragons taking shade underneath the buildings.  The ranger had informed us that the lizards had killed a village boy and in the past have taken down farmers who live on the island.  Their diet is strictly carnivirous and they eat buffaloes, deer, monkeys, wild rooster, wild boar, birds, and their young if they are not quick enough to climb up to the safety of trees.

We decided to do the longer hike to improve our chances of seeing more Dragons and take in the beauty of the island with volcanic rocks and beautiful views of the surrounding waters.  Along the way, buffaloes were spotted eating and one bathing in the river.  The favorite tactic of the Dragons is the sneak up on a sleeping animal, take a poisonous bite, follow it around for weeks depending on the size of its prey, and wait for its death and then consume it all including bones.  Couple of the rangers had witnessed buffaloes being hunted.

As we rounded a bend in the trail, we heard the ranger telling us of a Dragon on the trail and as we neared it, it had a freshly eaten buffalo's skull in its mouth and it was rolling it around on the ground trying to get its mouth around it.  We made a short video, kept our distance but watched in awe of its size and weight, which measured over 6 feet long and according to the ranger, weighed over 300 pounds.  Komodo Dragons are solitary hunters but will congregate to eat as a group when a big kill is made.  The lizards have a poisonous saliva, can outrun humans in short bursts, have a keen sense of smell, and have large claws for grabbing, running, and taking down prey.

Walking back to our boat, please note, there is no ranger escort and you are left on your own to mind the beasts and perhaps make a run for your life should they come looking.

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