We were picked up at 7.45 to catch our boat and I was a little dubious at first. It seemed like the two guys on the boat weren’t expecting us and they didn’t speak a word of English. They stood around for about 20 minutes trying to figure out how we were to get on the boat. They swung from the dock onto the boat like athletic and well balanced monkeys but there was no way we could get on it the same manner. One we were finally on, it starting raining and we huddled together under the small piece of shelter the boat had to offer while the guys busied around us preparing the boat.
It was a small fishing boat with a toilet at the back, a small area to cook, a raised area that was sheltered with tarpaulin and this was where we slept and then a bigger area at the front with a table and 3 chairs and some mats where we could sit and sunbathe.
As soon as we left the mainland the sun came out and our crew, Samuel and Jimmy, were actually really nice despite the rocky start. They spoke on a few words of English but they spoke more English than I spoke Indonesian so I couldn’t complain. They were lovely but the boat was a different matter. It seemed to be desperately chugging along and making more noise than an old steam train and we were moving painfully slow. And then after about 10 minutes we simply weren’t moving at all. I started working through my options incase we sank and began calculating the distance to the mainland and decide if I could swim. Samuel and Jimmy spent about 15 minutes chucking a worrying amount of water over the side of the boat and then we were off again.
We made it to Rinca at about midday and we already had a guide waiting for us. Rinca was exactly how I thought it would be; all dry open spaces with cracked, dusty ground and monkeys foraging for crabs in little holes. We saw a Komodo Dragon straight away. Apparently it was just a baby but we were impressed. We were told that it was unusual to see such small ones out in the open because they spend their first few years in the trees to avoid being eaten by their parents.
There were places to stay on Rinca so there was a kitchen area where about 10 Komodos lazed underneath in the shade with the promise of being fed the scraps at some point. These ones were absolutely massive so I was thankful that they barely moved. The guides told us that they were relatively still during the midday heat but they carried huge sticks ‘just in case’. When they did move, it looked like such an unnatural movement, perhaps like they should slither like snakes rather than have these legs that they looked so awkward on as they bent to the sides in an uncomfortable looking angle. It was their feet I loved the most; they were so human except with big claws and thick scaly skin. Sometimes they let out the strangest noise I’ve ever heard. I actually just cheated a bit and googled how to describe it and the answer is: ‘ribbetruffroar’. This is quite accurate but I’d say it’s like a roar made whilst breathing in rather than breathing out so it wasn’t very loud and was kind of raspy and ghostly and a million times scarier. I hid behind our guide’s stick every time I heard this noise.
We took a look around and went for a walk around the forest and up a few mountains to see some amazing views. We didn’t see any Komodos just walking in the wild. Apparently this was because it was rainy season – even though it was boiling hot and really dry – but there is a supply of water everywhere on the island during rainy season so all the animals can spread out a bit more. During the dry season, which must be unbearable, there is only one watering hole that all the animals gather around so the guides know exactly where to find the Komodos.
We saw where they lay their eggs and were told about the hatching process but apart from the great views there wasn’t much else to see on the island.
We got back on the boat and it took a few hours to get to near Komodo Island where we spent the night. The boat chugged along slowly and rocked us to sleep during the journey. When we arrived at the mooring, there were about 5 of 6 guys in tiny wooden canoes who immediately clung to our boat and tried to sell us the usual tat and some wooden Komodo Dragon figures. It was so strange because we were out in the middle of the sea and we still couldn’t get away from people selling us rubbish!
A much posher boat than our own pulled up alongside of ours for the night and we were very jealous to see their cold beers. Jimmy must have seen our envious faces and, with a little help from the translator from the posh boat, he told us he could take us to the village in Komodo to buy some. We could see the village from where we were and could see a row of about 30 wooden houses on stilts so I wasn’t really convinced that they would sell beer but we went for it anyway. It was only about 10 minutes away and was unlike any village I’ve ever seen. Once we’d scrambled onto the jetty we were met by a huge crowd of people. Some of them were wanting to sell us stuff but most of them just wanted a look or wanted to use their 5 or 6 sentences of English.
All the houses were high off the ground on skinny wooden stilts and squeezed together so they were basically touching and we walked along the well trodden paths below the houses. They were all made up of one, small square room, about the size of my bedroom, and were packed with family life. We could hear people chatting and babies crying and occasionally we’d see a head popping out of a window to look down on us. The houses probably ran 3 deep for about 100 meters so it was like a massive maze once we were inside and there was a mosque in the middle. It was strange that some of the houses seemed to be nailed together with any old piece of wood and didn’t have windows but they did have really fancy, ornate front doors.
The supermarket was a small. Wooden room crammed with goods and as soon as the 3 of us squeezed inside about 6 young guys pilled in from a back room. One of them was a family friend visiting from Java and spoke reasonable English so we had a little chat while half the village gathered around to stare at us. We bought two bottles of warm Bintang each which cost twice as much as it usually should but it was worth it, especially when Jimmy and Samuel’s faces lit up when they realised we’d bought a bottle each for them. We also got to see a side to Komodo that most tourists don’t see.
All of our meals on the boat were the same but they were delicious so we didn’t mind. Jimmy cooked sticky rice, boiled veggies in butter, fish in a kind of sweet and sour sauce and noodles. We had banana pancakes for breakfast and there was tea and coffee all day but the water had a worrying amount of floaty things in it.
After dinner the posh boat next to us invited us aboard where they had a guitar and they were all singing. Their guide had a bottle of arak wine (homemade wine that is usually ridiculously strong) and he was force feeding it to everyone. They were all lovely and they also had a proper toilet on their boat so we were grateful for the invitation.
We slept on the deck of our boat on squidgy mats and under our sarongs. I thought it would be awful, especially with all the cockroaches scurrying around, but with the gentle swaying and a few too many arak wines I was sleeping like a baby and awoke to a gorgeous sunrise over perfectly still water.
The next day, after a brief stopover at the village on Komodo to buy parts for our sinking boat, we headed to the national park area of the island. It was pretty much the same as the previous day at Rinca Island but this time we saw a lot more deer’s and wild pigs and our guide showed us a lot of the fruit and plants that grew in the area. There were Komodos around the area where people stayed but we didn’t see any others.
Back on the boat and we stopped at Red Beach for some snorkelling. The current was really strong and Nat struggled without fins and had to turn back but Sam and I managed to make it to a perfect little white beach where we could rest for a while. The snorkelling was amazing, probably some of the best I’ve ever done. The coral seemed to go on for miles and was so colourful and all unique and one just one bit of coral there would be so many different kinds of fish. I was gutted that the current was so strong because I felt like I could have snorkelled for hours but I was worried about tiring myself out and not making it back to the boat.
We snoozed and read on the journey back to Luban Bajo after an amazing two days.