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October 25, 2016

KOMODO NATIONAL PARK: On Dragons, Terrific Treks & Pink Beach!

October 25, 2016

KOMODO NATIONAL PARK: On Dragons, Terrific Treks & Pink Beach!





by Sheila Renei Gómez

Padar Island

Celineism stands on one of the peaks of Padar Island overlooking the one of Indonesia’s most breathtaking vistas.

The Komodo National Park makes up 26 of the 17,508 islands of the Republic of Indonesia. Situated in the Lesser Sunda Islands between East and West Nusa Tenggara, the park covers 1,733KM squared of land and water. Established in 1980 then officially declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, the Komodo National Park is home to countless aquatic species, coral, and the fearsome Komodo Dragon endemic to the area.

On our #TripofWonders with Indonesia.Travel, we visited 3 of Komodo’s largest islands and 3 of its most exquisite beaches. Komodo, Padar, Rinca are renowned for their scenic landscapes and trekking tours. Kelor, Kanawa, and Pink Beach, on the other hand, are held in high regard for their crystal waters and incredible snorkeling sites. We ventured into rugged landscapes, came face to face with Komodo dragons, and swam in the most biodiverse waters in the world—all in a span of 3 days!

If you want to experience #WonderfulIndonesia, it’s high time you make the Komodo Islands part of your bucket list! 

THE TRIP OF WONDERS INDONESIA SERIES 2016

INDONESIA: Experience the Wonders of Indonesia on your Next Trip in 2017!
BANDUNG: Top Must-See Destinations at The Weekend Capital of Indonesia
BOROBUDUR TEMPLE: Experiencing the Most Wonderful Sunrise in the World!
• SASAK TRIBE OF LOMBOK: How Ancient Traditions Still Endure in the 21st Century
• KOMODO NATIONAL PARK: On Dragons, Terrific Treks & Pink Beach!
• THE ROYAL AMBARRUKMO: Rubbing Elbows with Kings & Presidents through History
• ALILA SEMINYAK: Bali’s Prime Luxury Resort Destination!





Kanawa Beach

Our incredible journey to the Komodo Islands always started in the small fishing village of Flores, Labuan Bajo. To get to Komodo, you can either join tours arranged by local agencies or look for tour officers or boat captains right at the harbor.

 

HOW TO GET TO FLORES (taken from Flores Tourism)

The easiest and fastest way to reach Flores is by air from Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali. There are daily flights from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo (90 minutes) or Maumere (about 1 h 45 min). Depending on the weather, you may enjoy a spectacular view of the NTB (Nusa Tenggara Barat) and NTT (Nusa Tenggara Timur) island groups.

Unfortunately changes in schedule, prices and operating airlines are the order of the day. The most precise information about the current flight connections is best obtained via the websites of the operating airlines, at Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport, or at the local travel/airline agencies in Flores.

The airlines that currently fly to Flores are Garuda Indonesia.

-Ngurah Rai Airport office: +62 361 751011 ext 5216, +62 361 759764
-Nusa Dua office: Bali Collection, +62 361 770747, +62 361 770174
-Sanur office: Sanur Beach Hotel, Jalan Danau Tamblingan, +62 361 288011 Ext 1789, +62 361 287915

 

Here are some reasonable places to start if you want to prearrange your tour:
Komodo Trails
Discovery Komodo Adventure
Perametour
Go to Komodo
Flores Komodo Expedition

 

TREKKING AT KOMODO ISLAND  

Kanawa Beach

The ride to the start off point in Loh Liang National Park on Komodo Island can take a little over an hour depending on the speed of the boat.

 

Komodo Islands

The route on the way to the main island is scenic and takes your mind off the travel time.

 

Komodo Islands

Once docking at Loh Liang National Park, you can make your way to the ticketing office to book your trek if you are not part of a tour group already.

 

Komodo Islands

Unconfirmed tales of the mysterious Komodo Dragon circulated for a long time. Hazy accounts of these giant lizards remained as simple hearsay until news reached Lieutenant Steyn van Hensbroek from the Dutch Colonial Administration of Flores in 1910.

Hensbroek visited the islands and caught a monitor lizard that measured to be 2.1 meters long. Multiple samples and photos were taken, then sent to Peter Ouwens, director of the Zoological Musuem and Botanical Gardens in Bogor, Java. The Komodo Dragon garnered international attention when Ouwens published his findings in 1912. Believed to be an endangered species, the Dutch Government took steps to protect the Komodo Dragons in 1915.

 

Komodo Islands

There are anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 Komodo Dragons on Komodo, Gila Motang, Rinca, and Flores. The giant lizards previously inhabited Padar Island until they went died out due to food scarcity by poachers—pushing Komodo Dragons into the endangered status.

 

Komodo Islands

The Komodo Islands are the driest in Indonesia. Arid with a few forests and savanna vegetation here and there, the daily average temperature can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius. The highest level of elevation is around 735 meters where the sun is the harshest.

 

Komodo Islands

Loh Liang offers 3 trekking tours of differing durations and difficulties. You may refer to the information below to determine which tour is suitable for you.

Short Trek
Duration: 30 Minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain & Sights: Dry forests, Komodo Dragons, simple slopes, view of the ocean from Regatta Hill

Medium Trek
Duration: 1.5 Hours
Difficulty: Intermediate
Terrain & Sights: Dry forests, hot conditions, short climbs and steep descents. Waterhole with Komodo Dragons and other species on the island (Timor Deer, Wild Boar, etc).

Long Trek
Duration: 2.5 Hours
Difficulty: Challenging (this trek is for the visitors in good physical condition)
Terrain & Sights: Higher altitudes, stiff climbs, hot conditions, rugged terrains. You’ll get a better understanding of the predator-prey relationship of Komodo Dragons (may actually see them hunt).

 

Komodo Islands

Before starting your trek, you will be briefly oriented on the basic rules and regulations of the park. The rangers, mostly natives to the island, speak English well and happy entertain any questions you may have.

SAFETY TIPS & REMINDERS
-The most important rule is to stick with your chosen group and guide. While it’s unlikely you’ll be attacked, the anti-venom for a bite is almost 2 hours away in Bali by air.
-The Dragons are sensitive to movements of small or hanging objects—try to prevent your belongings from dangling.
-Keep your voice down.
-Komodo Dragons can smell blood up to 5.9 miles away. It’s not recommended to take the tour during menstruation.
-Komodo Dragons can run up to 20MPH—unless you can outrun them, running in a zig-zag fashion will apparently distract them!
-These islands are one of the driest and hottest places in Indonesia, so don’t forget to apply sunscreen and wear a hat.
-Wear proper walking or trekking shoes.

 

Komodo Islands

The 1KM Trek, being the easiest, is relaxed and requires minimal effort on the way to your first major stop at Regata Hill.

 

Komodo Islands

The view of the Komodo Islands from the hill isn’t too shabby. Here is one of the most popular photo spots on the island.

 

Komodo Islands

Komodo Dragon sightings seem random and there’s a chance you may not even see any during your trek. However, I’m sure the park rangers know the animals well enough to be able to guess where they love to hang out.

Komodo Dragons can grow up a little over 3 meters and can weigh over 70KG. Although they are not social creatures, they’re capable of recognizing individual faces.

 

Komodo Islands

In the morning, you’ll see Komodo Dragons lazily indulge in the shaded areas under trees or cabins. Sluggish and heavy-set, they almost seemed cute and cuddly to me. Still, this didn’t convince me enough to approach them with ease! Just remember that these “lazy” creatures are capable of running up to 20MPH and have a venomous bite known to inhibit blood clots, induce muscle paralysis, hypothermia, and shock.

If you are encounter any picture-taking opportunities, they should always be maintained at a safe distance of 2 meters.

 

Komodo Islands

Just a 1 minute walk from the orientation grounds, you’ll find an area where you can buy some snacks and trinkets. The vendors are happy to haggle, but will sometimes tell you they don’t have enough change for your “big bills” after you pay. Bargain at your own risk! 

Most of the souvenirs are anywhere from IDR 15,000 to IDR 300,000.

 

TREKKING AT RINCA

Kelor Beach

Like Loh Liang on Komodo Island, Loh Buaya is the start off point for treks on Rinca (Rin-Cha) Island. Locals of these islands also refer to the Komodo Dragon as Ora, Biawak Raksasa (big monitor), and Buaya Darat (land crocodile). 

 

Rinca Island

Loh Buaya is smaller, less scenic, less visited than Loh Liang. However, I enjoyed more because it felt natural and less developed.

 

Kelor Beach

A Timor Deer spotted in the shade.

You’ll notice the natural diversity of the island right from the get go and have a greater chance of encountering more wildlife.

 

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In the first 5 minutes of my walk, I saw around 5 Crab-Eating Macaques and a Timor Deer. Other animals you can see around the island are an assortment of birds, water buffaloes, and wild pigs.

Did You Know? Komodo Dragons can eat up to 80% their body weight (around 50KG).The metabolism of Komodo Dragons is so slow that they can last with only 12 big meals in a year!

 

Rinca Island

Just like Loh Liang, there are 3 trekking routes depending on your needs and physical condition. Same safety tips and reminders oh Loh Liang apply to Loh Buaya.

 

Short Trek
Duration: 30 Minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain & Sights: Mostly flat, dry forests. Komodo Dragons in their natural habitat, and nesting sights. 

Medium Trek
Duration: 1 Hour
Difficulty: Intermediate
Terrain & Sights: Shaded forest and nesting sights. 20 minute climb on semi-steep hills and a view of the island.

Long Trek
Duration: 2 Hours
Difficulty: Challenging

Terrain & Sights: Steep climbs on rugged terrains. Komodos hunting for prey, watering holes, and better vistas.

 

Rinca Island

Komodo Dragons on Rinca are known to be more active and aggressive. In fact, we got the opportunity to watch a few of them wrestle for dominance.The Buaya Darat, as the natives call them, are solitary animals and only gather together to mate and feed. They eat in a hierarchical order, with the largest male always eating first.

 

Rinca Island

A Komodo Dragon’s diet consist mainly of Timor Deer and carrion (decayed flesh of a dead animal). They are stealthy hunters with a keen sense of smell, and are known to knock down prey with their powerful tails. Poison glands on its lower jaws inject toxic proteins to incapacitate prey.

Prey is devoured by tearing large chunks of flesh or eat them whole. Komodo Dragons produce blood-tinged saliva that helps lubricate their food as it passes their detachable jaws and flexible stomachs. Breathing is facilitated by the small tube under their tongues.

 

Komodo Islands

Contrary to popular belief, Komodo Dragons are very clean eaters. While they have extremely septic bacteria in their mouths, they also have a rigorous cleaning routine!

After regurgitating gastric pellet (a nasty clump of indigestible materials such as horns, fur, and teeth covered in mucus), Komodo Dragons spend 15 minutes licking their lips and rubbing their heads on leaves to clean up.

 

Rinca Island

For centuries, the natives traditionally fed the Komodo Dragons by leaving deer or goat parts around. Steps were taken to prevent deer poaching and sacrificial feeding was eventually abolished to re-introduce their natural feeding patterns. Deer populations stabilized and Komodo Dragons began hunting more and feeding themselves.

Accustomed to their previous eating lifestyle, some Komodo Dragons still wander into human settlements and wait for food. Human attacks are always a possibility and medical facilities in The Komodo Islands are ill-equipped to deal with fatal bites. Our tour guide told us a story of a man who was bitten and had to be flown all the way to Bali to be treated. Scary stuff!

 

Rinca Island

Scattered in choice spots on the island are abandoned nesting sites you can see on the 1KM trek.

 

Rinca Island

Megapode-like nests up to 3 meters deep where eggs are incubated.

Mating season begins in June and July, then around 20 eggs are laid in September. After 8 months of incubation, eggs begin hatching around April when insects are most populous. The sex of an unborn Komodo Dragon is temperature-dependent.

 

Rinca Island

Approximately only 15% of of the batch of 20 eggs hatch every year. Komodo Dragons are cannibalistic and have been known to eat their own children and eggs from other nests.  

Since youngsters are vulnerable, they usually hang around in trees in search of insects, bird eggs, and geckos. It takes around 9 years to develop into a full-fledged adult.

 

Rinca Island

Your tour ends after after the nesting sites, and you return to the orientation grounds. Short and sweet, the 1KM route is an essential trek if you don’t have much time at Komodo.

 

TREKKING AT PADAR ISLAND

Padar Island

Padar Island is the 3rd largest in Komodo and is about a 3 hour boat ride from Labuan Bajo. Surrounded by calm waters and rounded hills, this land nearly uninhabitable and relatively untouched—save for the trekking paths.

 

Padar Island

The trek on Padar Island is easily one of the most breathtaking treks I’ve been on. Getting to the peak a little challenging due to the loose soil and scorching sun, but I assure you that it’s totally worth it.

There are no dragons to see here, as they went extinct on Padar due to human activities.

 

Padar Island

I suggest you wear proper footwear when conquering Padar or risk slipping and cutting yourself on sharp rocks. The trek takes about 1.5 hours and features various steep climbs and descents.

 

Padar Island

Padar has the best vistas of all treks in Komodo, and gets even better the higher you go!

 

SNORKELING AND SWIMMING AT PINK BEACH

DJI_0029

Drone footage and pictures by Wahyu Mahenra of @iwwm. Taken from a a DJI Phantom 4.

Pink Beach, or Pantai Merah, is one of the seven pink beaches in the world. Tucked unassumingly into the Komodo Islands, this beach gets its blushing hues from Foraminifera, the microscopic organisms that give coral its bright, red colors.

 

Pink Beach

The Komodo Islands are part of the Coral Triangle, or the most biodiverse aquatic zone on the planet—this includes parts of the Philippines, Malaysia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. This area has more than 500 reef-building organisms and is home to a rich array of marine life—within these waters you can find whale sharks, manta rays, pygmy seahorses, dolphins, sperm whales, dugongs, and blue-ringed octopuses.

 

Pink Beach

On the island you can do your own personal trekking if you don’t feel like swimming yet. Landscapes here are strikingly beautiful and further enhanced by the turquoise-emerald hues of the water.

 

Pink Beach

The snorkeling spots just near the coastline are an underwater garden! It is simply magnificent up close.

 

Pink Beach

Cai Dominguez of Travelosyo dives into the water to get a better look of the reef. 

The shallow snorkeling waters are ideal for first-timers. You won’t feel like you’ve missed out, as various species of fish, sponges, nudibranches, and tunicates can be found so close to shore.

 

Pink Beach

You will regret not bringing a GoPro or underwater cam! To get the best shots, don’t forget to bring a red diving filter to get the best results. A red filter helps cancel out the overwhelming blue ting and gives you more colorful, natural results.

 

Pink Beach

I am currently using a GoPro Hero 4 with a Polar Pro Filter .

 

KANAWA BEACH & KELOR BEACH

Kanawa Beach

Kanawa beachfront.

Kanawa Beach is famous for its smooth, white sand, tropical terrain and crystalline waters perfect for the snorkeling enthusiast.

For those who’d like to extend their stay on Kanawa Island, you can relax at Kanawa Island Resort's eco-friendly bungalows just by the beachfront.

 

Available Accommodations:
Single—IDR 550,000
Double—IDR 700,000 

Prices are subject to 10% tax. Minimum booking is 3 nights. Walk-in guests allowed. Credit cards not accepted.

 

DJI_0053

Drone footage and pictures by Wahyu Mahenra of @iwwm. Taken from a a DJI Phantom 4. Featured subject is @sartorialpanda.

If your plan is to snorkel, one of the best times to go is at noon when the sun is high. However, Kanawa has an abundance of sea urchins and sharp coral that may hurt you—remember to bring aqua shoes and be mindful of where you step. 

KANAWA ISLAND RESORT
Pasir Putih, Komodo, West Manggarai Regency, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
Telephone: +62 812 4647 1915
Email: info@kanawaresort.com
Facebook: @Kanawaisland
Website: www.kanawaresort.com

 

DSCF7192

Kelor beach is one of the more colorful and visually stunning islands.

Kelor Beach is small, but definitely the most colorful islands and visually stunning we’ve visited. Unfortunately, the weather was so overcast that swimming wasn’t as enjoyable.

I looked around for snorkeling sites, but could not find anything—I might have been on the wrong side of the island! Just near the island is a sand bar you can walk on during low tide.

 

DSCF7211

Kelor is worth the visit because of the view of the surrounding islands. Stunning!

 

DJI_0127

Drone footage and pictures by Wahyu Mahenra of @iwwm. Taken from a a DJI Phantom 4.

Alas, Kelor was our last stop in our journey. The Komodo Islands are beautiful in all its extremes. Its rough, dry lands, and scorching climates are balanced out by the vivid reefs below brimming with ocean life.

I discovered a newfound love for the giant monitor lizards that rule the islands. Truth be told, I had so much fun writing this article because it meant learning more about Komodo Dragons! They are simply astonishing creatures that have surprised me every step of the way.

To wonder, to discover, to fear, to be in awe, to fall in love—these are all the things you can look forward to when you visit Wonderful Indonesia. 

I, known as the most quiet member of the travel group, have so much to say about this beautiful place. I could go on, but I’ll leave the discovering to you.

 

NATIONAL PARK FEES (information taken from Wikitravel)
Monday - Saturday
IDR 150,000 (USD 16) per head for foreigners
IDR 5,000 for locals

Sunday
IDR 225,000 (USD 24) per head for foreigners
IDR 5,000 for locals

Tax
IDR 50,000 per head 

Guide Fee
IDR 80,000 per guide (group of 5 people need 1 guide)

Diving
IDR 25,000 per head

Snorkeling
IDR 15,000 per head

*all prices are per head and per day basis.

 

THE TRIP OF WONDERS INDONESIA SERIES 2016

INDONESIA: Experience the Wonders of Indonesia on your Next Trip in 2017!
BANDUNG: Top Must-See Destinations at The Weekend Capital of Indonesia
BOROBUDUR TEMPLE: Experiencing the Most Wonderful Sunrise in the World!
• SASAK TRIBE OF LOMBOK: How Ancient Traditions Still Endure in the 21st Century
• KOMODO NATIONAL PARK: On Dragons, Terrific Treks & Pink Beach!
• THE ROYAL AMBARRUKMO: Rubbing Elbows with Kings & Presidents through History
• ALILA SEMINYAK: Bali’s Prime Luxury Resort Destination!

 

Live an Awesome Life,

sheila signature

SHEILA of Team Our Awesome Planet

Disclosure: Travel and style bloggers from Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Singapore, and Malaysia were invited by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism in the second run of #TripofWonders. During the course of our adventure, we experienced various destination highlights in Bandung, Yogyakarta, Lombok, and Labuan Bajo. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights

P.S. On the Islands, I saw a few spots full of litter (i.e. plastic bottles and food wrappers). Please keep the Komodo Islands pristine and beautiful by not haphazardly throwing your garbage where you like. 




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