Day #115 Komodo Islands, a piece of paradise on earth
Our dazzlement with this place started from our flight seats when the cabin crew told us we were about to land. Up from the air, we could see a dozen volcanic islands covered in hills, grass savannah, tropical forest and surrounded by dreamy transparent turquoise waters. There was hardly any sign of human presence: only a few boats and small agglomerations of houses near the shore in very few of these islands. Somehow, we knew we had arrived to a truly unique place on earth: a place where nature was respected and where it was more abundant than human life itself. Nevertheless, a place that is friendly to human presence and that has many magical places to explore for those who like nature and adventure.
We landed in a village called Labuan Bajo which is part of the bigger island of Flores. The airport matched our first impression of the place: it was so small it could only indicate we had discovered an untouched paradise. For some reason, only a few tourists decided to venture here. To be honest, we only came here because we saw the Islands were called Komodo in the map and felt like seeing these dinosaur-like animals that we cannot see anywhere else in the world! But little did we know that the Komodo Islands behold many other treasures such as their idyllic white sandy beaches, their abundant sea life with the most colorful corals I ever saw in my life and with the possibility to spot turtles, sharks, big manta rays, dugongs (similar to sea cow’s) and all types of fish. We only learnt after we had booked our way there that the Komodo Islands were actually one of the top diving and snorkeling spots in the world!! And, considered one of the 7 Wonders of Nature.
We decided to book a 3-day live-aboard trip while we were here. It was a vehicle that allowed us to spend more time at sea and to more easily explore the hidden gems of the Komodo National Park. We booked our tour with Flores XP and were in a beautiful wooden boat with 3 other couples, 2 of which were also traveling the world with their young kids. The boat was quite big so we never felt we were on top of each other and always found a quiet place to sunbathe or read. When we started sailing it felt like our honeymoon had finally started :) Antonio and I, were looking at the horizon and already we could spot what we believe was our first majestical manta ray of the trip, coming to the surface for some air. Manta rays can be as big as 5 meters and when they come to the surface their tail makes them look like a shark but they are not dangerous.
For me, the highlight of these days was without doubt the underwater world that we came to explore in different places of the National Park. The currents were quite strong that week so we were only allowed to snorkel but it was nevertheless worth every bit. Waters were crystal clear, allowing us to see the bottom before we even jumped from the boat. But as soon as we put our masks on it felt like I had arrived to another world. I was now in the underwater kingdom of the “Little Mermaid”: corals there where unparalleled from what I saw in the Maldives or even Australia. They were abundantly growing in all colors and shapes with all of its aquatic residents continuing their life knowing that, in this place, they are the majority. Some fishes would even curiously come around and take a little bite of you. On our second day, we snorkeled in 4 different spots and one in particular, had so many fishes around a reef coral that I thought I was inside an aquarium! It was indescribable. Each spot was different but they all had their special touch: the quantity and variety of fish or coral life, the proximity with the beach and the possibility to swim from there to spot sharks and turtles or snorkeling open sea along with families of manta rays!
Despite this underwater paradise, the islands and overland fauna did not disappoint us. We walked along some of the most beautiful white and pink (from the mix with red coral) sandy beaches, delighted ourselves with the view of jurassic-like sunsets in which thousands of flying foxes toke off from the mangroves in one island and flew towards Flores mainland to find food at night and trekked two different islands to spot Komodo dragons. It is funny how much the animals and landscape in this protected area remind you of the “Jurassic Park”. In fact, the flying foxes were huge bats that flew over at sunset, allowing us to see clearly all of their bone structure and Komodo dragons in many ways look like dinosaurs. You would think they are lazy and slow when you see them but they are actually a very dangerous animal. They have a strong venom and one bite can slowly kill you if not treated. The Komodo Islands contain around 5000 Komodo dragons that live freely and dominate their ecosystem. They can be as big as 2 to 3 meteres long. It was really impressive to better understand this species and really made me wonder about the evolution of this animal which, is actually a giant lizard.
Not much more can be said about this place, except that you can only really witness its wonders when you experience it for yourself which, we would highly recommend to anyone!
We are heading to Thailand next where we are meeting two Portuguese friends and exploring the North of Thailand together.