Komodo: One of Nature’s Best Kept Secrets

Komodo is a place to escape the real world and enjoy some of nature’s finest creatures and landscapes. Komodo is a tropical destination with a UNESCO World Heritage site that is considered to be one the seven new wonders of the nature world. These volcanic mountains meet with azure blue waters or even pink sand beaches. Komodo offers a tropical climate and the opportunity to see more animals and sea life than people. Whether you want to see the endangered Komodo dragon, enjoy some world-class diving or a little of both, Komodo is a dream trip that must be included on your bucket list.

Sailing through the islands around Komodo with its rugged mountains and varied topography sets the mood before you even set foot on Komodo Island. Komodo is a unique, special place where you truly feel like you are going back in time and entering a Jurassic Park world. It is hard to believe that these huge reptiles have been living here for over 10 million years.

Although Indonesia is typically known to be wet and tropical, Komodo Island itself has a dry savannah-like climate. The Komodo Dragons prefer it dry and hot and live in savannahs, open dry grasslands and the lower elevations of tropical rainforests. There are several trails on both of the islands of Komodo and Rinca to explore in search of viewing the dragons. Your guide will choose a trail best suited for the group according to recent sightings and other conditions.

Once you meet your guide and see he has nothing but a big forked stick to protect your group, you know this is going to be an adventure of a lifetime. When I saw my first Komodo dragon, it was a little tamer than I expected. He has just lying there taking a nap in the shade. But when he opened his eyes and raised his head to look at our group, the excitement began. I felt like I was looking into the eyes of a living dinosaur and it was an amazing feeling. The guide allowed us to get within a safe distance of the dragon and we had our photo taken with it. This is one of those pics that make you look twice and wonder if it’s been photoshopped. It’s hard to believe that one could be so lucky to get that close to the largest living reptile.

Our group continued on the trail and was shown a dragon’s nest and learned more about their mating habits. They mate between the months of May and August, and incubate their eggs for seven to eight months and generally hatch in April. The Komodo Dragon lives for approximately thirty years, and reach maturity at about eight years of age. Their food of choice is deer but they also eat pig, water buffalo, horses, long-tailed macaques, dogs, goats, sea turtle and bird eggs, birds, and other small animals. Young dragons also eat insects as well.

The forest was eerily quiet with just the sound of our group’s footsteps until we came across a dragon that was alert and awake and he was heading right toward us. Everyone got excited and the adrenalin started pumping. The guide asked us to move behind him and give the dragon the right to pass. This big boy was moving quickly until he got closer to our group. He slowed down as if he was curious to see these strange creatures that were watching him. His eyes were focused on us, his tongue was flicking in and out and drool was hanging from his mouth. These dragons average up to almost 10 ft (or about 3m) and weigh about 150 lbs (or 70kg). This was intimidating knowing this huge reptile feeds opportunistically and can eat up to 80% of his body weight at a time. This encounter was truly unbelievable and kept our group reminiscing about this moment throughout the rest of the trip.

Every day on and in the water was an adventure. Dolphins were common to see on most mornings and it seemed as if they popped up out of the water to give us a good morning greeting and a smile. Days were filled with plenty of underwater adventures and ended with spectacular sunsets. The kaleidoscope of sunset colors reflected off the smooth and slightly rippled water and made the landscape feel like a warm and inviting artistic painting. The changing colors from reds and oranges to pinks and purples, made a perfect end to each wonderful day in the land of the dragon.

Indonesia is ranked as one of the top diving destinations in the world. Komodo National Park is known to have one of the richest marine environments including coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds, seamounts, and semi-enclosed bays. The combination of both warm and cold water makes this an incredible habitat for a wide variety of marine life. Komodo National Park has more than 1,000 species of fish, 260 species of reef-building coral, and 70 species of sponges. It is also home to various species of dolphins, manta rays, sharks, sea turtles, whales and the dugong. Komodo is an underwater treasure full of biodiversity for both divers and snorkelers to discover.

The sail through the islands was relaxing and breathtaking. The waters were flat and calm and we were surrounded by beautiful views in every direction. Looking over the side of the boat was no exception. It reminded me of what you see on a glass bottom boat tour. Clear and calm waters offered the first glimpse of what lies beneath. The sneak preview didn’t disappoint and got us excited for the main feature that was coming soon. We hadn’t even put our faces in the water yet and were captivated with the underwater paradise of Komodo.

With excellent visibility and 73-81 degree waters, the reefs invited us with their bright and vibrant colors. Not to mention the anticipation of getting a closer look at the wide variety of abundant marine life had us eager to dive in. We were ready for the treasure hunt to begin and find as many species as possible. The waters around Komodo make you feel like you are swimming in an endless aquarium not knowing what you might see next. It is exhilarating to discover anything from the small creatures such as the nudibranches or pygmy horses to the bigger creatures such as manta rays, sharks, and sea turtles.

Each dive spot was magnificent but my favorite was the manta ray cleaning station. I have been lucky enough to encounter manta rays in several places throughout the world but the group of mantas we found in Komodo was one of my best manta experiences. I was mesmerized watching several huge manta rays gliding through the water and passing me by with no worries or fear. But my favorite moment is the barrel roll, which looks like a graceful ballet that begs for an encore. I felt like I hit the jackpot at a casino when two of the mantas barrel rolled and looked like they were dancing together. This was the first time I’ve seen a double manta barrel roll and needless to say, it took my breath away. The experience might have only lasted for a few seconds but it is a memory that puts a huge smile on my face every time I relive it in my mind.

The diving and snorkeling in and around Komodo National Park was exceptional and it is understandable how it has earned its reputation as a world class diving destination. If you enjoy going below the water’s surface, this place will knock your mask off and leave you with some awesome travel stories to share.

Komodo is truly one of nature’s best kept secrets and offers the best of both worlds – on land and under the water. Ready to go to Komodo? Check out our Komodo Wild Tales tour and we’ll help to make your wildest dreams come true.

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