We were so happy with day one of our Komodo National Park adventure that when we woke up really early on the second day, we were excited to head out in the search of the legendary Komodo dragon. We love to sleep and usually sleep until noon if we can, but sleeping on the beach does something to you – you wake up smiling when the sun rises around 6 a.m. no matter what.

We got served delicious breakfast on the beach before heading out to sea in search of dragons and mantas.

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Our captain at Salacia.

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A sailboat on the same mission as us – finding a Komodo dragon

In Search Of Komodo Dragons On Komodo Island

Komodo dragon is the largest living species of lizard on earth. It can be up to 3 meters long and weigh around 70 kg! We are talking monsters here……

The Komodo dragons only live on five islands in the world, all in Indonesia – Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Padar. The first island we visited in the search of Komodo dragon was, of course, the island that gave the name to the lizard – Komodo Island.

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Entering Komodo Island

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Komodo island

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The entrance to Komodo Island National Park

It was extremely hot that day, around 35 °c, and we were sweating like crazy. Once we entered the park, we were met by a friendly guide who organised our tour around the island. There are several tracks to choose from on Komodo Island, but since is was so freaking hot we decided to go for one of the shorter tracks.

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Where are you Komodo dragon?!

At first we only saw deers, plenty of them. They were not afraid of us at all so we could get real close.

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A deer on Komodo Island = potential Komodo dragon food

Komodo Dragon

The deers are cute enough, but what we really came for, the Komodo dragon or Ora as it is called in Indonesia, were not to be found. 🙁 We walked and walked in the burning hot sun until we had almost given up. But then, all of a sudden we finally saw it – laying peacefully under a tree. It was a G-I-G-A-N-T-I-C Komodo dragon! Hurray! 🙂

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The evolutionary development of the Komodo dragon originated in Asia as far bask as 40 million years ago, so we are talking real prehistoric animals here. It then spread to Australia and it is believed that today`s Komodo dragon evolved in Australia before spreading to Indonesia about 4 million years ago.

The Komodo dragon was however first recorded by Western scientists as late as 1910.

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“Hey YOU! Yeah, I`m looking at you…..you yummy thing….” 🙂

In 1926, W. Douglas Burden went on an expedition to Komodo Island to capture some Komodo dragons for the New York zoo. He set sail with a team of adventurers including a hunter, a herpetologist, a cameraman, and his wife. They returned with 12 preserved specimens of which three are stuffed and still on display in the American Museum of Natural History, and 2 live Komodo dragons. It was Burden who came up with the common name “Komodo dragon”.

Here is a short film of Burden`s Komodo Island expedition:

King-Kong-1933-Movie-PosterThis Komodo Island expedition was actually the inspiration for Burden’s friend, the filmmaker Merian Cooper`s then upcoming movie King Kong (1933). The biography of Cooper claims that much of the story in the film is based on Burden`s Komodo Island expedition, everything from the female on the expedition (originally Burdon`s wife) to capturing King Kong and bringing him back to New York and the zoo.

Cooper apparently liked the strength of the hard “K” in Komodo, so that may have been the reason for calling his movie King Kong.

But how has the Komodo dragon become so gigantic? One theory is that their unusually large size is because there are no other carnivorous animals filling the niche on the islands where they live. As a result of their size, these lizards dominate the ecosystems of these five islands.

 

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Komodo dragon`s hunting style is exceptional in the reptile world, but a bit cowardly in my opinion. The thing is that Komodo dragons have a venomous bite as their jaws produce toxins. So they ambush their prey (birds, deers and water buffalos) by biting it for instance in its leg, and then they wait and follow their prey until it dies peacefully by toxication.

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Komodo dragon can be up to 3 meters long and weigh around 70 kg!

Komodo dragons have an extreme sense of smell and are able to detect carrion up to incredible 9,5 km away. They can sprint up to 20 km/h in short distances as well as dive down to 4,5 meters, and when young climb up trees using their strong claws. So watch out, they can catch you anywhere!

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Our guide with his “weapon”, a wooden stick. Hmm, not very reassuring if the Komodo dragon decides to attack……

Do Komodo dragons attack humans? Yes, they do! It is very seldom thank god, but the guides, of course, tell these awful stories about how friends, family members and tourists have been attacked by Komodo dragons.

Their large size and fearsome reputation make them popular zoo exhibits. Due to human activities, there are unfortunately not many left in the wild. They are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Pink Beach

Komodo National Park is not only famous for the Komodo dragon, it also contains a beach with pink sand. It is one of only seven pink beaches in the world.

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Pink Beach. Not that pink if you ask me.

Why is the sand pink? Well, from a distance it does not look that pink in my opinion. But once you go ashore it looks a bit pinkish from a mixture of white and red sand. The red sand is formed from pieces of red shells.

The beach is, however, a very popular tourist spot and it was packed with Chinese tourists dipping around in the ocean with bright orange vests when we visited. We did not stay on the beach for long, only snorkelled ashore, went for a short walk on the sand, and swam back out to the boat again. Not our favourite part of the Komodo National Park.

Snorkelling at Batu Bolong

We were not that impressed by Pink Beach and it`s snorkelling, but Batu Bolong was definitely something else! It is a very small island, more like a rock, out in the ocean surrounded by an incredible coral reef. It is probably one of the best places to snorkel and dive in Komodo National Park.

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Batu Bolong is the perfect place to go snorkelling and diving

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Max and Detlef did some diving at Batu Bolong

The current is however pretty strong here, so you have to be careful not to be dragged on shore and cut yourself on the sharp rocks.

The coral reef at Batu Bolong is packed with colourful fishes. It felt like swimming in an aquarium. So beautiful!

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Manta Point

The highlight of day 2 of our Komodo National Park adventure was the stop at Manta Point. OK, the Komodo dragon was cool too, but nothing beat swimming with mantas which has been high up on our bucket list for like forever.

Oh boy, we were so lucky meeting a whole pack of manta rays! Yay! 🙂

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Me swimming with mantas! Yay!

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The mantas came real close.

The mantas came up so close that it was actually a bit scary. It was almost like they wanted to touch us. My heartbeat sure went up! 🙂

If you get the chance to swim with mantas, whatever you do, do NOT touch them! Touching a manta harms the protective slime coating on its skin. They also don`t like being touched, and might leave the area all of a sudden.

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But we did not have to worry, mantas don`t eat humans, only planktons. They swim with their mouths open and filter planktons like shrimp, krill and planktonic crabs which they swallow while they swim. They eat an tremendous amount of planktons, an individual manta eats about 13% of its body weight each week! That is a LOT of planktons!

Mantas often visit cleaning stations on coral reefs to remove external parasites, where small fish eats off their parasites. Maybe that is why they all come to this spot? Or maybe it is an area with high density of planktons?

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A manta with beautiful pattern, almost like “zebra stripes”.

Mantas are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are threatened by pollution, entanglement of fishing nets and direct hunt by humans for their gills to be used in Chinese medicine. Their slow reproductive rate increases these threats and make them very vulnerable.

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Mantas can be as wide as 7 meters!

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Pretty cute, huh?

We also bumped into a huge steam of fish, sparkling like silver. They totally surrounded us.

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Fish Dinner And Bon Fire At Sebayur Island

Back at camp on Sebayur Island we got served delicious fish for dinner while watching the most spectacular sunset.

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Returning to our base camp at Sebayur Island

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We finished off day 2 of our Komodo National Park adventure with a bon fire at the beach, before crawling into our sleeping bags on the beach under millions of blinking stars.

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Komodo dragons, mantas, a pink beach and thousands of colourful fish all in one day – can it get any better? The second day of our Komodo National Park adventure was just as perfect as day 1 and felt like a dream come true, especially swimming with mantas.

What will the last day of our Komodo trip bring? Stay tuned for some more Komodo dragons, a mountain trip on a deserted island, making new best friends in a fishing village and thousands of giant bats…….

 

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Would you like to visit Komodo National Park? Have you been to any cool national parks? Where and how was it? Please leave a comment in the comment area below. If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it on social media. Thanks! 🙂

 


Where To Stay In Komodo National Park

Most visitors to the Komodo National Park spend a couple of days in Labuan Bajo arranging their tour. Labuan Bajo is a small village but offers a wide selection of accommodation for all budgets, and you will have plenty of choices when it comes to finding the right place to stay. Accommodation prices do vary greatly with the season. We stayed in Labuan Bajo at the end of October, so peak season had not yet started.Below are some of the best accommodation options in Komodo National Park and Labuan Bajo city:

Laprima Hotel

We stayed at Laprima Hotel in Labuan Bajo before and after our three-day boat trip with Flores XP, and had an excellent stay.This hotel has one of the best locations in Labuan Bajo, right by the sea and away from all the hustle and bustle in the main village. It is however within walking distance to the main street of the village. The hotel has a top notch swimming pool right by the sea, which we loved! Gorgeous view from the room, with the most stunning sunsets.The food is not the best however, but there a are plenty of nice restaurants in the main street so we mostly ate there. They have ok wifi both in the rooms, restaurant and reception.
  • Address: Jl. Pantai Pedeh No. 8, Labuan Bajo, Flores Island, Indonesia
  • Price Range: From about 55 us$
  • Click for latest prices

Komodo Resort & Diving Club

DSC09620This place looks like paradise! It gets very high score on tripadvisor, and looks fantastic. This is the place we`ll be staying at on our next trip to Komodo National Park, no doubt.It is located on the same island as we slept on, Sebayur Island, although we slept in tents on the other side of the island. It is a beautiful island.

Golo Hilltop Hotel

We wanted to stay at this hotel in Labuan bajo, but it was unfortunately fully book while we were there. It looks lovely, with amazing view and a great swimming pool. It is beautifully located on a small hilltop surrounded by a nice garden.

Luwansa Beach Hotel 

This is a fairly new hotel, only three years old and looks really nice. It is beautifully located in a garden right by the sea, and the swimming pool looks heaven! It is though further away from the main center of Labuan Bajo than Laprima Hotel where we stayed, but the hotel has a free shuttle into town.

The Jayakarta Suite Komodo Flores

This is also beautifully located by the sea with a lovely swimming pool.
  • Address: Jl. Pantai Pede Km.5, Labuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia
  • Price Range: From about 100 us$
  • Click for latest prices
 

Useful Books

Here are some great books to read up on before heading to Komodo National Park (click the images and you will be taken to Amazon):

Mysteries of the Komodo Dragon LonelyPlanetIndonesia History_Of_Indonesia Indonesia_For_Tourists Komodo_Dragons
Maria

Maria

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd, who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a masters degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. See our about page for more about Maria.
Maria

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