We collected Tim and his son Owen in LBJ (Labuan Bajo is just too difficult to say/type all the time) a small grubby and hectic port on the west coast of Flores. Its the departure point for most tourists heading for the islands of Komodo and Rinca and the harbour is full of wooden boats of every shape and size – you can take a day trip or charter a liveaboard boat for a few days or a large dive boat for longer. The area is scattered with islands and anchorages and we often found we had an anchorage to ourselves once the tourist traffic had left for the night.
Together with the crew of Why Not – Chris, Michelle and Sean – our first jaunt after a night at anchor for swimming and snorkelling off Pulau Sebayur was a dragon hunt but first we had to find the correct bay on Rinca, this island being apparently a better one for seeing Komodo Dragons than the island they are named after. Our information gleaned from other cruisers gave us a waypoint but charts in this part of the world do not conform exactly to WGS84 so the waypoint was neatly on a headland between two bays. We choose the wrong one at first! Eventually by watching the local boats we not only worked out which bay but also a safe route through the reefs and found ourselves in a lovely spot at the head of a narrow deep bay; the trees around were full of birds of prey (we think sea eagles and brahmin kites but could have been ospreys too) and monkeys. The following morning early five adults and two twelve year old boys set off on a two hour trek from the Loh Buaya Ranger Station to hunt down a few dragons.
The most we spotted were a group of five or six actually hanging around under the ranger station kitchen hut but further on the rangers showed us a female guarding a nest. They apparently incubate their eggs for nine months! The newly hatched young are then liable to be eaten by the adults including their own parents so quickly make off up the nearby trees. The males are fatter and almost twice the size of the females, a formidable three metres or more of lizard and can reach speeds of 30 km/h.
Our next encounter was a huge male sitting on the trail facing the breeze waiting for his monthly meal to unsuspectingly come along the path. These dragons are sinister creatures – they bite their prey just once then follow them around until the victim dies of septicemia brought on by the listeria in the giant lizard’s bite. Water buffalo and deer are their main targets but obviously humans could potentially make up their diet too so our little group had two rangers one at the front and one behind wielding long sticks with forked ends to protect us. We skirted around the hungry one and climbed the hill. Sadly we saw no more dragons but had a great view down into the bay where Why Not and Temptress lay at anchor as well as across the islands. despite being not long after 8am it was already very hot and we were glad some thirty minutes later to reach the ranger station once more. Once back on board we said farewell to Why Not who were heading west to Bali whilst Temptress crew intend to spend the remainder of the week exploring the myriad of anchorages nearby.