Could you go to a diving trip in Komodo National Park and not go to a Dragon Tour ?
Well, technically yes, but why would you miss that ??
NO WAY !
And also because NO, Komodo National Park hasn't been, is still not, and is not planned to be closed anytime soon ! So let's go there and enjoy this wonder of the World !
Let me take you there and tell you more about it !
Rinca : Loh Buaya and its Ranger Station
So here we are, sailing to Loh Buaya , the Ranger Station on Rinca Island.
A nice and narrow channel, with turquoise and green water, and mangrove all around.
Loh Buaya in Indonesian Language means “the Crocodile Bay”, and even if it’s been a long long time since any has been seen there, better stay careful !
Let’s enter the site through the "Dragon Gate" !
Arriving on the Ranger Station, with a welcoming committee made of Buffalos skulls !!
Guided by one of the Rangers, you'll be walking around the station first, and then leave to more wild landscape. That's where the fun begins !
Along the path, you may get into some Varans' way, or any of the other residents of the place.
Dry ground, high trees, hills, that's your environnemetn or the next 45 min, enjoy !
The Ranger will take you to one unique place to see : The Nest of the Komodo Dragons.
It looks like a big tumulus of sand / mud, hidden behind the skinny trees.
Actually, it's even not their nest... it's the Megapods's one, used by the Dragons !
Depending what season you go there, beware of a protective mother !
Going further on, you'll have to make your effort of the day on a little climbing, but you'll be rewarded by a stunning view on Loh Buaya's Bay or landscape.
Time now to go back to the Station, and maybe have more chances for great encounters, Dragons or one of their co-residents !
The Famous ones : The Komodo Dragons
Dragons ? Like in "Games of Thrones"? Spitting fire, flying and saving princesses ?
Woh woh woh... let's relax here ! No such Dragons, just really big lizards !!
But in former times, local people confused them with Dragons, and the name stayed.
Desappointed ? No reasons, they are amazing anyway !!
The Komodo Dragons, or monitors (Varanus komodoensis), are an endemic species, and their protection is the reason why Komodo National Park was initially created in 1980.
I won’t tell you everything about them cause the Rangers or my "Dad" will do it much better during your little trek. But here are just some main facts.
big, and biggest
The Komodo Dragon is the biggest varan / lizard in the world, with maximal size of 3.05m for the males. Their tail is as long as their body !
He is endemic from this area with a population of around 4.000 Invidious spread between Rinca, Komodo, Padar and Flores.
way of life
Komodo Dragons are sedentary, so you'll find them all year long on Rinca Island.
But depending the season it may be more or less easy to spot them.
Mating season May to August may see the Dragons looking for a mate deeper inside the island.
This could be the moment to see males fighting. Impressive, but sometimes feels like it's slow-motionned !
September is time for laying eggs for female, you may have chances around the nest area.
Same for the few following months, where some females will guard the nest again their eggs' predators (other Komodo Dragons, wild boars, birds...).
Rest of the time, a bunch of them will hang out around the Ranger Station, looking like lazy big monitors having a good nap time !
Dragons have very bad hearing sense.
Sight is also not good for stationnary objects.
So if they're almost blind and deaf, how can they be efficient in hunting ?
Thanks to their forked-tongue, together with their Jacobson's organ, that let them sample the air and have great analysis of what's going on around them, as far as 4-9 km away !
New born Baby Dragons directly climb up the trees to escape from their biggest predators…. Bigger Dragons! Yes they are cannibals and would eat the smallest ones if caught!
The young ones would spend about their first 3 years up there until they become big and strong enough to defend themselves, and too heavy for the trees.
And their Companions !
On your way from and to the Ranger Station, you will probably be lucky enough to have a couple of other majestic encounters. Some you may like more than others....
The "ground" ones
Deer of Flores (Rusa timorensis, subspecies floresiensis)
This Javan Rusa Deer likes dry bushes and tropical climate.
Most likely brought in initially by fishermen, they have very well adapted to Rinca Hills.
You'll find a few of them around the Ranger Station, surprisingly closed from their natural predators : the Dragons.
Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis)
The favorite prey of the Dragons despite their huge size (2.5 to 3m for average 900Kg).
They look calm, but are super powerfull and their horns (up to 2m for biggests males) can be really harmfull.
Crab Eating Macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
Those monkeys live and forage in mangrove, looking for their favorite prey : the violonist carb (see below).
But they'll be more than happy to steal some bananas or cookies that you may leave unattended on their reach !
Fiddler Crab (Uca vocans)
Living in mangroves and muddy areas, they live in burrows and go out at falling tides to search the sediment ground for food.
Males present a huge right claw, used in mating battles, giving the name of "Fiddler".
Orange-Footed Scrubfowl (Megapodius reinwardtii)
A chicken with big feet ? Well, kind of !
You'll see them scrubing the dry groundfloor of the hills, looking for food, often in groups of 3-4 individuals.
The flying ones
White Bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)
From Brownish on their juvenile stage, they become whiter with age, on head, belly, legs and below their wings.
They like to rest or nest on a dead branch.
Their fishing technique is perfectly developed and youmay have the chance to see one of them speeding down to the sea, feet first under their chin, ready to catch diner !
Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)
He's the "almost twin" of the Sea Eagle.
Main detail to tell them apart is the color of the wings and tail : brownish for the Kite, while the eagle has them half white.
The Snaky ones
Oriental Wolf Snake (Lycodon capucinus)
A cute and tiny wolf snake, harmless even if sometimes nervous.
Mostly nocturnal, he feeds on small lizards and frogs durings wet season.
Green Tree Viper (Trimereserus insularis)
This arboreal pit viper is endemic from Indonesia and East-Timor.
Usual color pattern is a scale of green and yellow, but an endemic one from Komodo Island presents an amazing and usual blue coloration.
Golden Spitting Cobra (Naja sputatrix)
Yes, a proper Cobra ! My dad's favorite !
You should have seen him jumping to catch it and cuddling him to show my guests !
Ranger and "Mom" were hidding behind while the more courageous ones were coming closer to take pictures and videos !
And all the others not yet seen !
I'm obviously not trying to give an exhaustive list here, as we know there are a lot of other animals living there, and not easy to spot !
Lots of smaller lizards, wild pigs, birds, amphibians, other snakes etc...
Did you see any of them ? Do you have pictures ?
Feel free to send them to my Mom, and together we can enrich this article !
Photo Credits : Vincent Gillet, Géraldine Maqua, & TidakApaPa Liveaboard.