Day 21-28 (part 1): Padar Island, Rinca Island and Komodo dragons

We stayed in Labuan Bajo, Flores for 7 days. This port is the jumping off point for boat trips to Komodo and Rinca islands where Komodo dragons live. The area and its islands are also known for great diving and snorkelling. The boat trips often combine visiting the dragons with some snorkelling.

Unfortunately, while we were there, the harbourmaster had closed the port because of rough winds and currents so many boats weren’t risking the dangerous trip across the open ocean to Komodo Island without being able to get help from the harbourmaster, should an emergency happen.

How strong are the currents? Well in 2008, five divers were swept away 25 miles off course, and ended up on Rinca Island having to fend off an attack by Komodo Dragons. They were missing for 36 hours.

We finally did book a boat. Going to Komodo Island was out of the question but they would take us to Padar Island, Rinca Island (to see the dragons), and a couple of snorkelling spots. So one sunny morning, we headed out to sea.

Our boat.
A settlement on one of the islands we passed.
A village with a mosque.
A passing boat.
We reached Padar Island after about 1 1/2 hours.
The dock at Padar Island.

This winding path and many, many stairs walking up without any shade or trees in the hot and sticky climate was hard and sweaty work – all to get to the top for a view.

And what a view — it was awesome! This wasn’t even the top.

The water was crystal clear.

The obligatory selfie. I took this selfie without Paul and Elina because they went to the very top. I decided this view suited me just fine as there was a cross-breeze at this particular point. It was like gold.

We left Padar Island and headed to a snorkelling spot, but less than 30 minutes later, our boat had engine trouble. The crew spoke of sabotage; apparently there was a dispute the night before with the captain of another boat and no one slept on board that night to guard it. As the crew tried to figure out what was wrong, Paul and Elina took the opportunity to jump into the water.

One of the crew put snorkelling gear on and went under the water to repair the propellor. After being stranded for awhile, we got a tow from another boat.

We finally made it to Rinca Island, which is part of Komodo National Park, but it took longer than expected to get there because we were being towed. We had to pay a fee to enter the park and a fee to go snorkelling in the water within the park’s boundaries, it was something like $30 each.

The first animals we saw weren’t Komodo dragons, they were its prey: water buffalo and deer. The dragons are at the top of the food chain.

Our guide with a forked wooden spear to protect us from the dragons, who can run up to 20 km/h. Umm… should I be scared?

A male follows a female dragon. Komodos can grow up to 3 metres in length and up to 90kg. Interestingly, female Komodo dragons can reproduce without a male.

These dragons live near the national park office. There are more that live on other parts of the island.

Apparently, the dragons can swim but won’t unless absolutely necessary. Learning about the dragons left us feeling awestruck and scared at the same time. It’s quite something to see them in real life.

The beautiful vista from Rinca Island.
We pulled up anchor after Rinca for one last snorkelling spot.
Elina dived down to the sea floor to grab this very nobbly starfish.
A rocky island on our way back to the port of Labuan Bajo.

We got back just as the sun was setting. What a long and memorable day!