Although the main purpose of our Komodo trip was a diving trip, it would still feel not complete if we didn’t visit the Komodo National Park, watching and observing these endangered creatures in their natural habitat. We’ve already made a long trip all the way here. It would have been a loss if we didn’t stop by, especially for some of us who were first-timers going to this Komodo region. So, on the last day of the trip we only did two dives in the morning and right after lunch MV Tarata sailed towards Loh Buaya, one of the ranger station locations on Rinca Island..
Rinca island is one of the five major islands which are part of the Komodo National Park. In addition to the island of Komodo, Rinca, Padar, Nusa Kode and Gili Mota which are the five largest islands, there are several other small islands in the national park covering an area of 173,000 hectares. Loh Buaya is the entry point for tourists visiting the national park area on the Rinca island. In addition to Loh Buaya on Rinca island, the access for tourists who want to closely observe the komodo dragons is also available in Komodo island through Loh Liang.
The sun was shining brightly when MV Tarata docked at Loh Buaya. A must and should not be forgotten: hat and drinking water. After crossing the trail in the woods that connect the dock to the ranger station complex, we were met by Pak Castro (yes, it truly is his name..) and Pak Sofyan, two of about ten rangers on duty that day, ready to take us to trek across the observation trails that have been prepared for tourists. There are five different observation trail options. The longer the trail we chose, the better our chance to encounter the komodo dragons and other wild animals in their habitat. And we can proudly pronounce that we chose NOT the shortest path, but the second shortest path.. 😀
After a short briefing, what to do and what not to do when met with wild animals, we all set off to walk the trail that cut through the seasonal tropical forest and savannah grasslands, the habitat for wild animals on the island. Pak Castro led the group, while Pak Sofyan was at the tail of the group, ensuring that no group member was left behind. Every time Ihsan, Vita, Madon or I took a long stop to take pictures, Pak Sofyan also stopped and made sure that we did not lag too far.
I guess he also stopped to make sure that we did not disturb the wildlife we encountered.. 😀
In addition to the ancient giant reptile – which is the main tourist attraction – the national park, which in 1991 was declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also home to 50+ species of animals and more than a hundred species of birds. The variety of vegetation on these islands seems to provide a good environment for many species of animals in the region to live and breed. There are also several villages on the islands within the national park. There is one village on the Komodo island (Komodo village), two villages on the island of Rinca (Rinca village and Kerora village), and one village in the island of Papagaran (Papagaran village). Most of the rangers that are working at the Komodo National Park, including Pak Castro and Pak Sofyan, came from these villages. And the rest of them are coming from the main island of Flores.
Other than the komodo, we were not lucky enough to be able to see other wild animals. Perhaps it was because of the short track we chose, or it could be the hot weather that made the animals to stay in their nest instead. The trekking continued across the savannah towards the Nikita Willy hill (honestly, I really have no idea why the hill was named like one of the Indonesian celebrities) where we can have an overlook towards the Loh Buaya bay and small islands surrounding the island of Rinca..
After enjoying the views, taking lots of pictures of the view from the ‘Nikita Willy Overlook’, and also not to forget the group & selfie photo sessions, we went down the hill and back to the ranger station complex. There is also a small café to freshen you up and a souvenir store that offers a variety of souvenirs related to the national park. After spending some money for cold drinks & souvenirs, we immediately returned to MV Tarata for the journey back to Labuan Bajo..
We stayed another night onboard MV Tarata before we went ashore to the town of Labuan Bajo. City tour and (again) souvenir shopping was the itinerary of the day. Labuan Bajo is situated on the ridge. It’s not too big, so it didn’t take long at all to complete the city tour. That even included Friday prayers, lunch & afternoon coffee break. From a chat with Wilson & Robert who accompanied us doing the tour, we found out that Labuan Bajo, which in fact is the main gateway for tourists who travel to the Komodo National Park, does not yet have a general hospital that has the facilities to deal with the dragon bites. The town is also yet to have hyperbaric chamber facility to treat divers who experience decompression sickness problems. Ironic, considering that both Komodo National Park and diving tourism are the bread and butter of this region’s tourism sector..
Hopefully the event of Sail Komodo 2013, which was also attended by the Indonesia’s head of state and also other senior officers who are responsible in developing our country’s tourism sector, could accelerate the progress of facilities and infrastructure improvement to support the tourism industry in this beautiful region, although the event also left an bad impression and unpleasant experience to the local communities as they found themselves excluded and not being involved in the event, and even felt a stranger in their own home when the event took place..
- Information re. Komodo National Park was obtained from http://komodo-park.com
- Map image (*) was taken from http://www.komodocruises.com
- Photos from Komodo trip are stored at http://www.ismawanismail.com/gallery/index.php?/category/komodo
- Several airlines provide flights to Labuan Bajo. The easiest way would be flying from Denpasar, Bali. There is no direct flight from Jakarta to Labuan Bajo. Check Garuda Indonesia at http://www.garuda-indonesia.com, Lion Air at https://lionair.co.id, TransNusa Aviation at http://www.transnusa.co.id