Sunday 19th March 2017
This was probably our most eagerly-awaited port of call so far, with the opportunity to come face to face with the legendary Komodo Dragon.
Komodo Island, together with two neighbouring smaller islands, make up Komodo National Park. Indonesia set it up in 1980 to protect the Komodo Dragons and the ecological balance that supports them. There are deer and wild pigs as well as smaller creatures, and hunting of these by locals had reduced the Dragons' food supply and hence their numbers.
We'd repeatedly been warned that they were fast, powerful and cunning predators. The on-board lecturer had said that it would be difficult to run away from one, in which case your best survival tactic would be to trip up someone else ;o) Today we learned that they can swim and climb trees too, and can smell their prey 5 miles away or more.
Why all these warnings? Well, as we arrived ashore by tender it became apparent that we would be walking amongst them, with no protective barriers at all. We were divided into groups, each guarded by two locals with long forked sticks and accompanied by an official guide. Almost as soon as we moved off into the forest we ran into our first dragon. It was lying in a clearing close to the shore, looking really quite bored and ignoring a deer that was wandering nearby. Nevertheless, the guards were a little edgy and kept warning people not to get too close – we were getting complacent already.
Setting off further into the forest the heavens opened and really heavy rain began to fall (it's still the rainy season), and before long everyone was soaked and muddy. We were shown a dragon's nest where they lay their eggs, but there was no one in residence. We'd walked quite a long way further without seeing much of note, but were thinking that at least we'd seen one dragon – many tourist excursions warn, 'Animal sightings not guaranteed'.
And then we reached a clearing with three large dragons loafing about and eyeing us. It really was quite bizarre – here were three dangerous creatures that will attack humans if really peckish, and yet here we were, looking at them from fairly close quarters, with our only protection being two forked sticks! Unforgettable.
A little further on we saw deer and wild pigs mooching about, seemingly unconcerned about the predators nearby, and perhaps that's how it works when nature is in balance, i.e. dragons aren't hungry all the time, and as long as there is enough prey wandering around the chances of any one animal falling victim is small.
At the end of the walk we were back at the shore, and it seemed that every single local was there with souvenirs to sell – it really was, 'Exit via the store'. It was incredibly difficult to walk past without stopping to buy things, because it was apparent that there aren't that many chances in a year for the locals to sell to people from cruise ships.
When we travelled back to the ship by tender everyone was very bedraggled, even those who'd taken ship's umbrellas with them. Our shoes were so muddy that I had to spend some time washing them in the shower. But now we've showered and changed and are ready for the String Quartet and then dinner ;o)
Tomorrow is the first of two days on Bali.
[Sydney] [Brisbane] [Whitsunday] [Cairns] [Alotau] [Port Moresby]
[Darwin] [Bali] [Broome] [Exmouth] [Fremantle]
[Penneshaw] [Portland] [Melbourne] [Geelong] [Hobart] [Eden]