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Mico Verde

Rinca Island, Komodos Group
August 26 - September 1, 2007

Bonus!!! Here's a link to a video we shot while on the island ...

(Steph) Three islands make up the official Komodo National Park, one of which is Rinca. We had been told that Rinca was the island with the best opportunity to see Komodo dragons, and were recommended a tour led by the park officers. Locals on Flores had also recommended Rinca, because the dragons on Komodo are "lazy." I guess we liked the idea of a non-lazy dragon or two, although after seeing the size of these things, lazy may not be so bad!

We timed our departure from Bajo with the currents that had reportedly been wreaking havoc on the boats ahead of us. We heard stories about boats getting spun 180 degrees in eddies, and having to drop anchor in the middle of a channel to avoid getting swept backwards while a 10-knot counter current finished its run. Woj figured out the currents pretty well, so we had no trouble catching a favorable current when we needed it, or making a transit at slack. We made it to Rinca by the early afternoon and were able to join some friends for a sunset tour of the island.

With a few hours to spare before sunset, we decided to head to shore and wander around a bit on our own. We read somewhere that a grumpy old dragon hangs out at the dinghy dock, but we didn't see her as we tied up. We wandered along a path that led to the few wooden buildings that house the park officers. Behind the buildings, we spotted a troupe of macaque monkeys. Captivated by the monkeys, we didn't at first notice the 10-foot-long Komodo dragon that was languidly walking through the camp. Woj saw it out of the corner of his eye, and we both stopped cold. The animal was HUGE. We then noticed about three or four other dragons lying around in the dust. I decided then and there I wasn't going to walk any further onto the island without a guide.

 

We high-tailed it back to the dinghy where we then saw the legendary dock dragon. We had walked right by her the first time, as she blended in with the dust and rocks around her so well. One of these dragons could just reach out and grab us anytime it wanted a snack, and we wouldn't even see it coming.

Later in the afternoon we went back on shore with a group of six other people. Safety in numbers, right? They had been on a dragon tour earlier that day, so they were looking for some of the other animals that call the Komodo islands their home. We spent a few hours bushwhacking along game trails with our guide Uncle Louie looking for Timor deer, wild pigs and horses, water buffalo, megapod birds and monkeys. There were some beautiful panoramic views of the Komodo islands group, and we even saw a Komodo dragon or two.

The next morning, we went on the highly recommended morning tour. The dragons are most active in the morning before the hottest part of the day. We saw a Komodo dragon guarding her nest of eggs from other dragons who might dig them up and eat them. At one point, she had to chase off another dragon who spent a few minutes trying to claw her with his enormous ... well, claws. But she successfully sent him on his way. We saw small, adolescent dragons and big, ready-for-retirement dragons. We saw one who appeared to be half asleep, but as soon as a wild dog went running by a few hundred yards away, he was up and off in pursuit, tongue slithering and leading the way. We also saw the stripped carcass of a water buffalo that had been killed just a few days before. Actually, the wheels in motion for his death had been going for a week or so -- the dragons kill their big prey by biting them once. The bite eventually becomes infected, killing its victim. It's then that the dragons descend to feed on the carcass until only bones remain. We had missed the last of the meaty bits by one day. I don't know if we regretted that very much.

(Wojo) Sometimes you really feel as though you've finally arrived somewhere. Dropping the hook, taking your dinghy in and seeing a Komodo dragon was one of these moments for me.

Google Earth overhead shot of the bolt hole anchorage in Rinca Park

The currents in the Komodo islands really lived up to the hype. 10 knot currents and whirlpools are not unheard of on Spring tides. However, if you pay attention to the tides and have a copy of a current atlas like the one found in _SE Asia Cruising Guide_ you should be fine. One thing to keep in mind is that all the current calculations are based on the upper and lower transit of the moon. This should not be confused with moonrise and moonset. UT and LT of the moon are akin to taking a meridian passage sight of the sun at local-apparanent-noon except that instead of the sun crossing your meridian its the moon. I used David Burch's StarPath hand calculator to find UT and LT and it was extremely accurate in the straits!

 

SV Mico Verde