The Komodo Chronicles – Part 10 – There Be Dragons

Awoosh.com Images

Komodo Game Warden – Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick

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.

Awoosh.com Images

Loh Buaya Landing

Awoosh.com Images

Doc & Dragons at entrance to the dragon sanctuary.

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.

Awoosh.com Images

I spy, with my steely eye…

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.

Awoosh.com Images

The Kiddocs and Komodo Dragon.

Awoosh.com Images

Saudio, up close and personal with a pair of dragons, one of whom looks like it is in need of a good chow.

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.

Awoosh.com Images

Hiking on Rinca Island

Awoosh.com Images

Beautiful Komodo, viewed from on high.

Awoosh.com Images

Free range Water Buffalo living in uneasy proximity to Komodo Dragons.

Awoosh.com Images

The gang’s all here.

Awoosh.com Images

Saudio stalking the water buffalo (with camera).

Awoosh.com Images

What goes up, must come down.

Awoosh.com Images

Michael Ishak, our Cruise Director, gets up close and personal with a Komodo Dragon in the wild.

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…

Awoosh.com Images

Gunard & Dora frame up a poser.

Awoosh.com Images

You need big, er, balls, to share your home turf with Komodo Dragons. ;^)

Awoosh.com Images

Monkey marvel.

Awoosh.com Images

Awoosh.com Images

The Komodo Dancer at anchor.

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:

Awoosh.com Images

Mating Mandarinfish – Synchiropus splendidus
The larger of these two fish was maybe an inch and a half long

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.

Awoosh.com Images

Warty Frogfish – Antennarius maculatus. About four inches long.

Awoosh.com Images

Okay, I’ll admit it. I didn’t see the “tongue eating parasite” – Cymothoa exigua – on this Warty Frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) until I came home and downloaded my images. If I had realized it was there, I might have waited a while to see if I could get a shot of the frogfish yawning. This gross, opportunistic little parasite eats the tongue of its host, and then lives out its days in its place.

Awoosh.com Images

Check out this crazy crab – the first of this variety I’ve seen. It is a Corallimorph Decorator Crab – Cyclocoeloma tuberculata. About 3 inches high.

Awoosh.com Images

Spanish Dancer Nudibranch – Hexabranxhus sanguineus. These things are huge – this one was about 12 inches long.

Awoosh.com Images

Barred Fin Moray Eel – Gymnothorax zonipectis

Awoosh.com Images

Painted Spiny Lobster – Panulirus versicolor

Awoosh.com Images

No one was really sure what kind of octopus this was – it could be a common octopus, camouflaging itself against its backdrop, or possibly an Algae Octopus.

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

About Judy G Diver

Born and raised on the west coast of Canada, I have always felt a strong connection to the sea. But for many years, I stayed on the surface, afraid of what lurked down deep. When I was in my early 30's, with three young children (aka the P's), my husband (aka Mr G) signed us up for a SCUBA certification course, as a surprise. Although I had my fears, my stubbornness prevailed, and somehow I made it through four murky, frigid, cold water dives in Vancouver to successfully pass the course. Soon after we went diving off the west coast of Mexico, in the Sea of Cortez, where my eyes were opened to the beauty and other-worldliness of the life down under. And the rest, as they say, is history. I currently have well over 2000 dives under the belt, and I have been fortunate to travel extensively in Asia, Australia, Fiji, Galapagos, Costa Rica, California, the Caribbean, Mexico and here in British Columbia. After shooting hefty DSLRs for many years, I just switched over to a groovy Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera, in a Nauticam housing, with dual Sea & Sea strobes and a bag full of lenses. In addition to this blog and my personal website (Awoosh.com/Directory), which is linked at the top of the blog, my stuff has been widely published in a variety of magazines and websites, including an ongoing regular monthly feature on Scubadiving.com. All links to this work can be found in this blog.
This entry was posted in All About Scuba Diving, Indonesia Travel, Photography, Travel, Trip Reports and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Komodo Chronicles – Part 10 – There Be Dragons

  1. Cathy Wyss (Cat) says:

    What a lovely surprise to awake to this wonderful read on a cloudy not yet too warm morning. As always the photos are great. The mandarinfish and painted lobster are both such fabulous colors.

    Happy Diving! Cat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.