Rinca Island is a place lost in time, to be found somewhere when megafauna still roamed the planet. I had traveled through the lush jungles of Sumatra, Java and Bali but didn’t expect the transition to be so dramatic in crossing Wallace’s Line to the savannah country of Rinca Island. It was blisteringly hot and dry, much similar to Australia’s Gulf region. And there were Komodo dragons wandering the landscape, trying to blend into the rocks and the grassland wherever possible.
The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is endemic to the volcanic islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Motang, which form the UNESCO World Heritage Komodo National Park. After flying into Labuan Bajo on Flores, I took a boat to Rinca Island to trek with a park ranger through the strange environment the dragons dominate. Armed with a forked stick to fend off one should it decide to attack, the ranger chose a route which took me by dragon nests, water holes which the dragons monitor and indigestible regurgitated masses of horns, hair, and teeth known as the gastric pellet.
Animals [pigs, buffalo, deer] that escape the jaws of a Komodo will only feel lucky briefly. Dragon saliva teems with over 50 strains of bacteria, and within 24 hours, the stricken creature usually dies of blood poisoning. Dragons calmly follow an escapee for miles as the bacteria takes effect, using their keen sense of smell to hone in on the corpse. A dragon can eat a whopping 80 percent of its body weight in a single feeding. Source: National Geographic
On the days following I returned to brave the curiously swift currents and snorkel the amazing reefs off Komodo Island, ever on the lookout for manta rays which are known to frequent the area. When I get my diving license I’ll have to return because it was just as incredible under the water as above.