Some of you may be wondering if this blog series about our awesome group trip to Komodo last fall is ever going to end. The short answer is: you betcha. There are three or, at the most, four more chapters of the adventure left to share. But I am saving some of the best for last – and by that I mean the diving we did at Cannibal Rock and South Rinca Island, which, in one word, rocketh.
In the last episode, we had left North Komodo and were in transit to the southern parts of Komodo National Park. We stopped and did a dive at Current City on the way, and this area more than lived up to its name.
In lieu of the usual afternoon dive on this day, we were offered a land tour on north Rinca Island, at Loh Buaya, one of a couple of Komodo Dragon sanctuaries in Komodo National Park.
There was a bit of nervous joking about the dragons before we went ashore – they are fearsome predators that have been known to attack, kill and eat humans. These big lizards (they can weigh up to about 150 lb) can run very fast, for short stints. They are ambush predators, that is, they lay in the weeds, waiting for some tasty tidbit to wander by, and then they strike, biting their victim. Not content to continue the attack until their victim (most often wild boar, goat, deer, monkey or water buffalo) is killed, instead they inflict the bite and deposit festering, nasty bacteria in the flesh of their victim. They they will track their prey, sometimes for days, as it sickens from the bite, and eventually dies. Then they eat it. Nice. Not.
Anyway, there was some kidding about just needing to be able to run faster than the slowest member of our group ;^)
The Dancer ferried us in to the island on the boat’s tenders, and deposited us on shore. We made a short trek to the conservation station, where we were introduced to our two guides who would take us on a walkabout to look for wild dragons.
We didn’t have to look far – sprawled out in the shade around the lodge there were several lazy looking dragons. The park rangers swore that they don’t get fed by the humans, but those dragons sure looked like they were staying tuned for a free lunch. The wardens allowed us to approach reasonably close to these animals, but they kept a sharp eye on the lizards. They arm themselves with a big forked stick, with which they can apparently “discourage” the dragons. I wouldn’t want to test that theory.
After this introduction to these big boys, we set out on our walkabout. The hike was hot, humid and hilly, and in pretty short order we were all a hot mess. The island itself is very beautiful – lush highlands and lovely beaches, with stunning views out over this part of Komodo.
After the tour, we wandered back down to the harbour, where the tenders would pick us up and scoot us back out to the Dancer. Lining the route were some monkeys. They are understandably skittish little beggars, living uneasily in such close proximity to the dragons. In fact, all the animals on Rinca Island seem a bit on edge. It is no big mystery why…
With all present and accounted for, the crew pulled the pin and motored to a nearby site, Wai Ni Lo, for a dusk dive.
This was a fairly productive site, and we were promised the opportunity to see, and with some luck, photograph the beautiful mandarinfish. For anyone who has attempted to shoot (with a camera) these skittish little fish, you will understand the frustration. They typically live in a rubble patch, and only become active as it gets dark. They skulk around the crevices in the rocks, and then, in quick bursts, lift up off the rubble to frenetically mate (an encounter that lasts mere seconds), before diving back down to the rocks again. They don’t like light, so attempting to shoot them using a focus light is an exercise in futility. Instead, one lies in wait, in near darkness, looking for some indication of activity, then point and pray. This is the best I got, and it ain’t great:
I’ll admit that I gave up pretty quickly – never the world’s most patient person, I just don’t have the temperament to camp out for long periods of time, peering into the dark, hoping for a lucky shot.
Moving on, a couple of frogfish were spotted in close proximity to each other. Unlike the skittish mandarinfish, the froggies are content to sit still, and make for an easier shot.
Next up, we go in search of more Manta Rays, and finally land at Cannibal Rock.
Chapters of the Komodo Chronicles:
Chapter 1 – Here We Be
Chapter 2 – Time to Rock and Roll
Chapter 3 – Champagne Diving and Nudibranch Dreams
Chapter 4 – Things That Go Bump in the Night
Chapter 5 – Getting Bombed in Bima
Chapter 6 – The Muck, And Nothing But The Muck
Chapter 7 – Rinse & Repeat
Chapter 8 – Back In The Blue
Chapter 9 – Current City, Man
Chapter 10 – There Be Dragons