Komodo National Park world famous for the giant apex predators that roam the islands. There is a lot more to Komodo than the dragons though. The area is part of the Coral Triangle – one of the most biodiverse marine environments on the planet.
Dragons, stunning marine life and even surf if you know where to look – Komodo is truly an amazing place for anyone with a taste for adventure.
Pulau Padar is one of the more popular tourist spots thanks to the pink sand beaches and after a solid hike up one of the jagged peaks – stunning sunset views of the neighbouring Komodo Island.
Royal Fortuna Cruises
A crew of us set sail on Royal Fortuna Cruises for a week to explore the natural wonder of the Komodo area. The Royal Fortuna is a traditional Pinisi – a large Indonesian sailing ship, the style of which was typically used for trade. Measuring at 29m long, the ship can comfortably accommodate 10 or so guests, along with a few local staff.
On the agenda was the typical Komodo dragon walk and snorkelling tour combination, however some of us snuck a few surfboards on the trip to hopefully score some empty waves as well. After a week of chaos in Bali, we were desperate to get a few waves to ourselves and boss-man Rob was more than happy to oblige.
But first – dragons!
The Komodo Dragon is the world’s largest lizard, and there an estimated 3000 individuals living in the wild today. Most of the dragons can be found on Komodo and Rinca Islands, within Komodo National Park.
These islands are hot and dry. With no natural predators the dragon’s are free to swagger about – taking down a deer, monkey, pig or water buffalo when needed for prey.
We visited the conservation area on Rinca Island, spotting several small Komodo’s in the wild within a short amount of time. You are assigned a local guide who is armed with a large wooden stick to fend off any aggressive dragons if needed during your walk around a circuit track. Coming up over a large hill, our group ran face to face with a massive male dragon. These beasts reach up to 3m long and about 70kg when fully grown, and this one was not far off. Licking the air, and walking with intent – he looked hungry but paid us little attention. Marching on by, in search of something a bit more edible than us. As the dragon passed, he slipped off into the grass and melted out of sight. They are incredibly camouflaged in their preferred terrain – which is a scary thought for anything that the Komodo might decide to hunt.
‘Dragons can easily swallow monkeys and small pigs whole – after which they do not need to eat for several months’
Komodo Dragons are known to attack humans, and are responsible for fatalities on children in the local area from time to time. They are serious predators and will eat nearly every single part of their prey, only leaving the skull of deer and buffalo as they cannot swallow the horns. Dragons can easily swallow monkeys and small pigs whole – after which they do not need to eat for several months.
Getting so close to these animals in their wild habitat is an unforgettable experience.
The marine life around Komodo is simply stunning – dolphins, fish, coral, turtles, sharks, manta rays – we saw an amazing amount of biodiversity, with every different spot revealing new species.
It is obvious why Komodo National Park is quickly growing into a diving and snorkelling hotspot, particularly with European tourists. The quality matches the best of the Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea.
‘The Manta’s were curious, but altogether calm about our presence, slowly dodging as they swam right at us’
The highlight of our time in the sea was drift snorkelling at Manta Point. Most of the reefs in Komodo lie on old mountain tops that used to tower above the sea at the time of the last ice age. As a result, the reefs have steep drop offs and very strong currents as the water moves in and out through Sumba Strait. The warm water, deep drop offs, healthy coral reefs and strong currents create a perfect combination for large marine life. The Reef Manta Ray’s come en masse to drift in the current, filter feeding for plankton. We were lucky enough to snorkel with 60-100 large Manta’s, with the biggest ones with a wing span over 3m. The Manta’s were curious, but altogether calm about our presence, slowly dodging as they swam right at us with their feeding lobes wide open – scooping up all the plankton they could.
Komodo is not far from both Sumbawa and Sumba – two of Indonesia’s prime surfing islands. We ducked away to East Sumbawa for a few days and scored waves at a swell magnet peak.
Despite the grim forecast, the waves were always over head high, with the last day topping out around double overhead. Look closely in the picture below, and you’ll see someone in our crew duck diving the right hander. Best of all, most sessions in the water had no other souls in sight. This part of Indonesia has huge potential for surf exploration – particularly in shoulder seasons when the trade winds are light.