Wide World Blog
Dragons and Mantas and Bats, Oh My!
Blog by Justin Huguet
After 40+ hours of dirty boats and bug-ridden buses, we arrived on the island of Flores unsure of whether our trans-Indonesian travel would prove to be worth the long haul. But once we arranged our boat charter and were enroute to Komodo National Park, we felt 110% sure that there was nowhere else we’d rather be.
We docked at Komodo Island just in time to catch a glimpse of a dragon disappearing into the bush, leaving its trail of massive prints along the beach.
Welcome to Komodo!
We were told that our chances of seeing a dragon were good, but that there was no guarantee. It was our lucky day! Apparently it’s pretty rare for komodos to pig-pile, but on this particularly hot afternoon they all crowded together in the shade for our viewing pleasure.
Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizards, and even more deadly than crocodiles. One bite from their powerful, bacteria-infested jaws sends their prey into a slow state of paralysis. Thankfully for us, they only feast once a month. This guy seemed pretty well fed, but we still didn’t want to get too close.
Like snakes, Komodo Dragons smell with their tongues.
Here is a nice example of a dragon doing what our guide called the “smelling of the tourists.”
We were interested to see the types of protections in place to ensure our safety on Komodo Island. When we realized the only real systems of defense against the man-eating beasts were essentially just pointy sticks, we weren’t too sure how we felt.
The guides assured us that a forked branch is all you need to stay safe. We were eventually convinced, and in little time, Emily had joined the ranks of a regular ol’ dragon wrangler.
At one point, she heard some rustling in the woods, quickly shot around and forked a wild beast before he could bite any of the tourists. Whew! Close one.
We didn’t go anywhere without our trusty stick, even when taking in the great views from atop the island.
Once back on the boat later that evening, we were privy to an awesome display of hundreds of giant bats known as “flying foxes.” Many of them were up to three feet in wingspan! We watched them all as they swooped out of a mangrove swamp and set off into the night sky.
We slept under the stars on the boat’s upper deck. Just before sunrise, we were woken up by the screeches of the bats returning to their seaside tree dwelling.
Saying goodbye to the islands of Komodo and Rinca, we headed back to Flores. Along the way, we convinced the captain to cruise by an area known for the occasional sighting of the elusive “bats of the sea,” or giant Manta Rays. Worth a shot, right? RIGHT!! When the ship’s crew started yelling excitedly in Indonesian, we knew we were in for something special. Just ahead in the water was a school of looming shadows. Peter, a fellow traveler and highly experienced diver, assured us that the mantas were perfectly harmless, so everyone grabbed their snorkel and plunged right in. It turns out that mantas are curious, gentle animals that like to come up to divers and explore. We spent the next hour swimming among these beautiful creatures, many of which were over ten feet in wingspan and within arm’s reach of us. Definitely a very magical moment. Many thanks to Peter and Kim for this incredible shot:
Komodo National Park completely exceeded our expectations. Thank you Indonesia for all that you’ve offered us!