The Lounge Lizards of Labuanbajo and Dragons of Komodo National Park – Flores Island, Indonesia – Part One
Stepping off the ferry onto the landing pier of Labuanbajo was a bit of shock as most of the town were milling around on the jetty to greet the boat. Dreading the onset of dozens of touts we girded our backpacks, put our heads down and with a determined air marched off the ramp into the melee. As it turned out we were not hassled too much as the arrival of the ferry was a major social event for the residents of this small town and they were far more interested in chewing the fat with their neighbours than paying us any attention. So after only having to brush off a couple of sprukers we made our way to recommended lodgings and bagged a room. Although Labuanbajo is the gateway to Komodo National Park with its famous lizards, rugged scenery, perfectly formed volcanos, pristine coral reefs, small islands with white sandy bays and aquamarine water, the town itself is a bit of a dump. Choose your accommodation carefully there a lot of rats around. The best deal while we were there seemed to be the Gardena Hotel which had identifiable food and OK bungalows – also the sunsets were pretty awesome from the garden.
There is not a lot to do in Labuanbajo apart from lounge around in the shade and wait until you can hook up with a couple or group before renting a boat out to the national park or wait for a place in the limited beach accommodation available on one of the islands close by. Boat hire is cheap between a few people and the trip lasts for 2 – 4 days depending upon the itinerary. Some tours include a night camping on a remote beach in the park and cooking dinner caught on the line. We were lucky to meet another couple and the wonderful Rastafarian called Thomas who owned a two yachts – mix all the elements together and we had ourselves a trip (3 days with food, water, soft drinks, tea and coffee, national park fees, snorkel and mask included) worked out to about 120 Australian dollars each – not bad really! However, if you are going to hire a yacht, do your homework, as there are a lot of shady operators around and some of the boats are in poor condition. We spent a lot of time lounging around, drinking coffee and talking to Thomas before viewing the boat, meeting the crew and finally agreeing a price.
While we were town news reached our ears that the BBC had been filming on Komodo Island for the last couple of months. Locals were full of pride at being befriended by members of the crew and many had stories they wanted to share. According to the local gossip the BBC had been present on the island for a few months waiting to film a buffalo dying and the Dragons eating it. Not having an understanding the niceties of lizard dining, I thought it a bit strange that the monitors would be polite enough to wait until it’s prey dropped dead of old age or sickness. As it turned out the dragons bite their prey, sit back, watch with anticipation as the bacteria (all 57 strains of it) in their saliva does the hard work and kills the animal by causing sepsis. They then tuck in. Talk about tenderising your meat on the bone! By the way Dragons are not fussy as to what kind of meat they eat and one bite will more than likely kill you. Stay with the group!!! Several tourists have gone missing when they stupidly struck out on their own against advice. Having heard all this we were all keen to head off but had to lounge around in the heat like lizards until the boat became available. There is only so much one can do in Labuanbajo!
Next post – peeping toms, snoring captains, bat island, killer dragons, and sparkling white phospherence in midnight blue waters