KOMODO ISLAND

KOMODO ISLAND

Komodo Island (east of Sumbawa and generally reached by boat from Flores) is the home of the famous Komodo Dragon, the world largest lizard which can reach lengths of three meters including the tail and wasn't even discovered by outsiders until 1912. They exist nowhere else in the world and are of great interest to scientists, especially for their evolutionary implications. Tourists used to come to see the dragons fed on a goat in a pit. The pit exists but dragons are no longer fed there. Some visitors skip Komodo altogether and look for dragons on Rinca island because it is easier to get to. Komodo Dragons also live on Rinca, Padar and western Flores. These volcanic islands are inhabited by a population of around 5,700 giant lizards. and are of great interest to scientists studying the theory of evolution.

About 30 kilometers long, Komodo is comprised mostly of grassy hills, steep mountains and dry savannahs. The forests are filled with tamarind and kapok trees. The dry savannah feature lonar palms, and stunted sujube trees. The rugged hillsides of dry savannah and pockets of thorny green vegetation contrast starkly with the brilliant white sandy beaches and the blue waters surging over coral. In 1928, Komodo was named a wilderness area, one of the first of its kind in Asia. Komodo National Park encompasses an area of 173,00 hectares, with three fourth of that on land and one fourth in the sea.

Other wildlife found on Komodo include Timor deer, wild pigs, an endemic rat, the Timor deer, the orange-footed scrub fowl, the black-naped oriole, a helmeted friarbird, a Wallecean drongo, yellow-crested cockatoos, baseball-glove-size moths, hand-size spiders (whose venom is a "little poisonous), and ants that has been compared with "meaty little dumbbells." There is also good snorkeling and diving around Komodo. The rich coral reefs of Komodo host a great diversity of species, and the strong currents of the sea attract the presence of sea turtles, whales, dolphins and dugongs. Divers claim that Komodo waters are one of the best diving sites in the world. There 385 species of corals, mangrove forests, 70 types of sponges and various types of sharks and stingrays.

Komodo island definitely has an eery feel to it. The first afternoon we were there my brother and I went looking for dragons: we didn't find any, but every time we heard a rustle in the bushes are hearts jumped. There are a lot of deer, wild pig and large birds on the island as well. The town of Komodo has several hundred residents. The live in ramshackle houses set up along dirt roads or the sea. Women hang squids on lines. Children tend goats and chase crabs. Visitors stay in Loh Liang, a tourist camp run by the Directorate of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA).

Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park (between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores) is composed of three major islands (Rinca, Komodo, and Padar) and numerous smaller ones, all of them of volcanic origin. Located at the juncture of two continental plates, this national park constitutes the “shatter belt” within the Wallacea Biogeographical Region, between the Australian and Sunda ecosystems. The property is identified as a global conservation priority area, comprising unparalleled terrestrial and marine ecosystems and covers a total area of 219,322 ha. The dry climate has triggered specific evolutionary adaptation within the terrestrial flora that range from open grass-woodland savanna to tropical deciduous (monsoon) forest and quasi cloud forest. The rugged hillsides and dry vegetation highly contrast with the sandy beaches and the blue coral-rich waters. [Source: UNESCO]

The park was established in part to protect the Komodo dragon, which is found only on the islands in or near the park and is officially classified as vulnerable. Because of the unique and rare nature of this animal, Komodo Nation Park (KNP) was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. There has also been an effort to include it on a list of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The park’s three major islands—Komodo, Rinca and Padar—and numerous smaller islands together total about 603 square kilometers of land. The total size of Komodo National Park, with sea areas included, is presently 1,817 square kilometers. Proposed extensions of 25 square kilometers of land (Banta Island) and 479 square kilometers of marine waters would bring the total surface area up to 2,321 square kilometers.

It is thought that the islands have long been settled due to their strategic importance and the existence of sheltered anchorages and supplies of fresh water on Komodo and Rinca. The evidence of early settlement is further supported by the recent discovery of Neolithic graves, artefacts and megaliths on Komodo Island.

For more information please contact:
Komodo Marine National Park Office, Jl. Kasimo Labuan Bajo
West Flores, East Nusa Tenggara 86445
Ph. +62 385 41004, fax: +62 385 41006
e-mail: tnkomodo@indosat.org
www.komodonationalpark.org
PT Putri Naga Komodo
Bali Branch, Jl. Pengembak No.2 Sanur 80228, Bali
T: +62 381 780 2408
F: +62 361 747 4398
e-mail: info@putrikomodo.com
www.gokomodo.org

Labuan Bajo
Gg.Masjid, Kampung Cempa. Labuan Bajo, 86554 West Manggarai. East Nusa Tenggara.
T: +62 385 41448
F: +62 385 41225
www.floreskomodo.com
www.gokomodo.org

Landscape, Vegetation and Terrain of Komodo National Park

Richard C. Paddock wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Komodo National Park boasts crystal-clear water, miles of deserted beaches and world-class dive sites where rushing currents help protect the reefs from bleaching. A visitor can sail among the park's islands all day and only occasionally see another boat. At Komodo National Park, visitors can approach within a few yards” of the giant lizards. “A ranger stands by with a long stick to fend off any animal that appears threatening, although it seems scant protection.” [Source: Richard C. Paddock, Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2006 ^*^]

Komodo National Park is a landscape of contrasts and unquestionably one of the most dramatic landscapes in all of Indonesia. An irregular coastline characterized by bays, beaches and inlets separated by headlands, often with sheer cliffs falling vertically into the surrounding seas which are reported to be among the most productive in the world adds to the stunning natural beauty of landscapes dominated by contrasting vegetation types, providing a patchwork of colors.

The generally steep and rugged topography reflects the position of the national park within the active volcanic 'shatter belt' between Australia and the Sunda shelf. Komodo, the largest island, has a topography dominated by a range of rounded hills oriented along a north-south axis at an elevation of 500-600 meters.Relief is steepest towards the north-east, notably the peak of Gunung Toda Klea which is precipitous and crowned by deep, rocky and dry gullies. The coastline is irregular and characterized by numerous bays, beaches and inlets separated by headlands, often with sheer cliffs falling vertically into the sea.

To the east, Padar is a small, narrow island the topography of which rises steeply from the surrounding plains to between 200 meters and 300 meters.Further east, the second largest island in the park, Rinca, is separated from Flores by a narrow strait a few kilometers wide. As with Komodo and Padar, the coastline is generally rugged and rocky although sandy beaches are found in sheltered bays.

The mainland components of the park lie in the rugged coastal areas of western Flores, where surface fresh water is more abundant than on the islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar. The seas around the islands are reported to be among the most productive in the world due to upwelling and a high degree of oxygenation resulting from strong tidal currents which flow through the Sape Straits. Fringing and patch coral reefs are extensive and best developed in the west- and north-facing areas, the most intact being on the north-east coast of Komodo and the south-west coast of Rinca and Padar.

The terrestrial fauna is of rather poor diversity in comparison to the marine fauna. The predominant vegetation type is open grass-woodland savannah, mainly of anthropogenic origin, which covers some 70 percent of the park. The dominant savannah tree is lontar palm, which occurs individually or in scattered stands. Tropical deciduous (monsoon) forest occurs along the bases of hills and on valley bottoms. The forest is notable, lacking the predominance of Australian derived tree flora found further to the east on Timor. A quasi cloud forest occurs above 500m on pinnacles and ridges. Although covering only small areas on Komodo Island, it harbours a relict flora of many endemic species. Floristically, it is characterized by moss-covered rocks, rattan, bamboo groves and many tree species generally absent at lower elevations. Coastal vegetation includes mangrove forest, which occurs in sheltered bays on Komodo, Padar and Rinca.

Wildlife in Komodo National Park

Animals found in Komodo National Park include imperial pigeons, sunbirds, egrets, quail, and exotic mound-building megapodes, horses, wild pigs, crab-eating macaques, flying foxes, cobras, and vipers. Its flora includes orchids, lontar palms, bamboo, soursop, tamarind and custard trees. In the waters of the park live whale sharks, marlin, tuna, whales and dolphins. There are colorful corals, nudibranches, giant clams, turtles, and a plethora of reef and pelagic fish.

The population of Komodo dragons is distributed across the islands of Komodo, Rinca and Gili Motong, and in certain coastal regions of western and northern Flores. Favoured habitat is tropical deciduous forest and, to a lesser extent, open savannah. The mammalian fauna is characteristic of the Wallacean zoogeographical zone, with seven terrestrial species recorded including an endemic rat (Rattus rintjanus) and the crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis). Introduced species, such as rusa deer and wild boar, as well as feral domestic animals including horses and water buffalo, form important prey species for the Komodo monitor. Among the 72 species of bird found on the islands are the lesser sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea), the orange-footed scrub fowl (Megapodius reinwardt), noisy friarbird (Philemon buceroides) and common scrubhen. [Source: UNESCO]

The coral reefs fringing the coast of Komodo are diverse and luxuriant due to the clear water, intense sunlight and rapid exchange of nutrient-rich water from deeper areas of the archipelago. Upwelling of nutrient-rich water from deeper areas of the archipelago is responsible for the rich reef ecosystem of which only isolated patches remain due to anthropogenic disturbance. In areas of strong currents, the reef substrate consists of an avalanche of coral fragments, with only encrusting or low branching species. Reefs off the north-east of Komodo have high species diversity. The reefs off Gili Lawa Laut are variable. The marine fauna and flora are generally the same as that found throughout the Indo Pacific area, though species richness is very high, notable marine mammals include blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) and sperm whale (Physeter catodon) as well as 10 species of dolphin, dugong (Dugong dugon) and five species of sea turtles.

The number of terrestrial animal species found in the Park is not high, but the area is important from a conservation perspective as some species are endemic.. Many of the mammals are Asiatic in origin (e.g. deer, pig, macaques, civet). Several of the reptiles and birds are Australian in origin. These include the orange-footed scrubfowls, the lesser sulpher-crested cockatoos and the nosy friarbirds.

Reptiles: Other than the Komodo Dragons, twelve terrestrial snake species are found on the island. including the cobra (Naja naja sputatrix), Russel’s pit viper (Vipera russeli), and the green tree vipers (Trimeresurus albolabris). Lizards include 9 skink species (Scinidae), geckos (Gekkonidae), limbless lizards (Dibamidae), and, of course, the monitor lizards (Varanidae). Frogs include the Asian Bullfrog (Kaloula baleata), Oreophyne jeffersoniana and Oreophyne darewskyi. They are typically found at higher, moister altitudes.

Mammals: Mammals include the Timor deer (Cervus timorensis), the main prey of the Komodo dragon, horses (Equus sp.), water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), wild boar (Sus scrofa vittatus), long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis), palm civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus lehmanni), the endemic Rinca rat (Rattus rintjanus), and fruit bats. One can also find goats, dogs and domestic cats.

Birds: One of the main bird species is the orange-footed scrub fowl (Megapodius reinwardti), a ground dwelling bird. In areas of savanna, 27 species were observed. Geopelia striata and Streptopelia chinensis were the most common species. In mixed deciduous habitat, 28 bird species were observed, and Philemon buceroides, Ducula aenea, and Zosterops chloris were the most common.

Komodo Dragons

Komodo dragons are the world's largest lizard. They can weigh up to 100 kilograms and reach a length of three meters and take prey as large as a water buffalo. They are giant versions of monitor lizards, a reptile that resides all over southern Asia and Africa and are related to goannas found in Australia. Monitors in Malaysia can reach lengths two meters. [Source: Eric Wikramanayake, Smithsonian; The Behavioral Ecology of the Komodo Monitor by Walter Affenberg; James Kern, National Geographic, December 1968]

The name Komodo dragon is kind of nickname. The animals are properly known as Komodo lizards or Komodo monitors. Their scientific name is Varanus komodoensis. They were long thought to related to monitor lizards found elsewhere in Southeast Asia but now it is believed they are the last representative of a relic population of large lizards that once lived across Indonesia and Australia.

Henry Allen of the Washington Post described the Komodo dragons as the "baddest reptiles of them all, real prizes, the crepuscular glamour of meat-seeking missiles with tongues...that flick like foot-long pieces of meat paranoia...They don't move a lot, but when they do it's with sullen self-assurance, their legs rotating forward like the arms of a fat man putting on an overcoat. The tongue flicks. The eyes have all the soul of mirror sunglasses." "They are also the pit bull, the chopped Harley, the Darth Vader, the .44 Magnum of lizards... They are not left over dinosaurs, they are monitor lizards—pro--active, self-propelled chain saws with legs."

Komodo dragons live in tropical savannahs, stream side thickets and coastal regions. There are between 4,000 and 6,000 of them left in the world today, with about half of them on the island of Komodo. The range of the Komodo dragon is smaller than any other large carnivore in the world. Komodo dragons reside only on four largely deforested islands in Indonesia— Komodo, Padar, Rintja, and Gili Motang—and parts of Flores. All of these islands are east of Java and Bali in a chain called the Lesser Sundas. Local islanders call the Komodo dragons "ora." Komodo dragons are good swimmers. It is not known why they don’t live in other places.

Jerome Rivet of Reuters wrote: “Three meters (10 feet) long and weighing up to 70 kilograms (150 pounds), Komodo dragons are lethargic, lumbering creatures but they have a fearsome reputation for devouring anything they can, including their own. They prefer to scavenge for rotting carcasses, but can kill if the opportunity arises. Scientists used to believe their abundant drool was laced with bacteria that served to weaken and paralyse their prey, which they stalk slowly but relentlessly until it dies or is unable to defend itself. But new research has found the lizards are equipped with toxic glands of their own. One bite from a dragon won't kill you, but it may make you very sick and, eventually, defenceless. About 2,500 dragons live on the island named after them ("komodo" means dragon in Indonesian). Along with neighbouring Rinca island, it is the main dragon habitat in the Komodo National Park, created in 1980 to preserve the ancient species. [Source: Jerome Rivet, Reuters, December 22, 2010 >>>]

Book: Zoo Quest for a Dragon by David Attenborough

Komodo Dragon Tourism

Reporting from Komodo, Jerome Rivet of Reuters wrote: “They don't breathe fire but Komodo dragons can kill a buffalo or any one of the intrepid tourists who flock to their deserted island habitats. "I feel like I'm in the middle of Jurassic Park, very deep in the past," said Hong Kong visitor Michael Lien during a recent trip to Komodo Island, the main habitat of the threatened Indonesian lizards. Spread out before him is a landscape from the dawn of time -- mountainous islands with palm trees plunging down to the azure sea. Lien and his wife are excited and a little nervous at the same time. "What am I supposed to do if a dragon appears suddenly?" he asks Johnny Banggur, the guide on a tour of the island, an almost uninhabited speck in the east of the vast Indonesian archipelago. [Source: Jerome Rivet, Reuters, December 22, 2010 >>>]

“Armed with 18 years experience and a hefty club for good measure, Banggur dispenses some welcome advice: don't wander from the track and stay with the group. Banggur explains that dragons can devour half their own weight in a single meal. Reassuringly, he adds that they "prefer" buffalo, deer or wild boar and the danger to humans is "very limited". Even so, the Liens have no intention of going anywhere near the menacing reptiles, with their yellow, forked tongues, powerful jaws and sharp claws. >>>

“The island's brave human inhabitants -- about 2,000 in all -- used to hunt wild boar and deer, thereby competing with the lizards for food. Now they are the dragons' chief guardians. "On Komodo, everything is done for the peaceful cohabitation of humans and dragons," park manager Mulyana Atmadja told AFP. >>>

“Visitors pay to set foot on the islands and take guided tours on designated tracks, always in the company of a ranger. Some 40,000 tourists are expected this year, 90 percent of them foreigners. "We need to act carefully because an excessive number of visitors will trouble the Komodos' natural habitat," Atmadja said. US environmental group The Nature Conservancy has helped the Indonesian authorities shift the local economy into one that sustains both the human and reptilian inhabitants. >>>

“The villagers still fish but no longer compete with the dragons for food. To supplement their incomes they have the exclusive right to sell Komodo miniatures, pearls and other souvenirs. "We've done campaigns to raise the locals' awareness and provide other sources of income for them. The more tourists who come to visit, the more money they can earn," the park chief added. It's worked so well the park managers were able to stop feeding the dragons in 1990. Some of the lizards had apparently forgotten how to fend for themselves and simply waited for tourists to offer them live goats.” >>>

Komodo Dragon Pit

On Rinca Island, you can see Komodos lying down outside the homes of national park rangers, or "parking" near the officials' homes. Short treks can be organized to look for dragons on Komodo and Rinca. Sometimes dragon wait outside the Loh Liang camp on Komodo. The Poreng Valley, 5½ kilometers from Loh Liang, is another places where they are seen. On Rinca there are no designated viewing areas but the lizards are often seen around the jetty and the PHKA camp at Loh Buaya. Guides know the places where they are most likely to be seen but that is no guarantee the lizards will show up. There is more wildlife on Rinca, including colonies of monkeys, wild pigs, barking deer and fish eagles, than on Komodo.

Previously, to find one, you had to “offer” a goat to attract the Komodo, but now this practice is no longer allowed. In the old days, Komodo dragons were often spotted at Banu Nggulung, a dry river bed about a half hour walk from Loh Liang. A little pit with few benches organized around it was set up here for viewing the lizards. The dragons used to feed on a freshly killed goat there and a number of dragons regularly showed up. Dragons still appear to drink but they no longer show up as reliably as they used to.

In the old days, in morning the giant lizards came to the pit to get fed. When I visited in the 1980s, thinking the whole thing was a little touristy, a friend and I hiked to the pit before the tourists arrived. When we got there, there were no lizards, but soon enough three of them came ambling along. First we watched them from above the pit, then we thought it might be fun to climb into the pit with them. And that is what we did until one turned slightly in our direction and we both went scrambling up a tree. The largest of the three dragons was about eight or nine feet long. It was interesting to watch. When it walked it rocked its shoulders back and forth, sort of like a strutting linebacker. Its forked tongue was constantly going in and out, curling and probing.

Finally the others arrived with the dragon food, a live goat. But it didn't stay alive for long. The Indonesian guides cut its throat. After which it was tied to a rope and dangled above the heads of the dragons. The lizards obviously had been through this routine before and there was no way they were going to leap into the air to grab the dead goat. When it was dropped down to them, that is when they started ripping it apart. One of the little dragons got a piece of intestine stuck between its teeth, sort of like we do with a piece of corn, and I felt sorry for it because what ever it did it couldn't it out.

This went on for a while. Later the guides carried the goat carcass out of the pit and placed it a little corral next to the tourists. At first the lizards didn't want to climb out of the pit so a couple of park ranger climbed into the pit and prodded one of them out with a long forked stick. The big lizard obliged and everyone got good close-ups of the beast snapping its jaw shut on a piece of goat leg.

The dragons are no longer fed the goats on the grounds that had become lazy and less able to find food of their own. Visitors now hire dragon finders who take them though the forest and underbrush, looking for dragons.

Hiking in Komodo Dragon Country

Brendan Borrell wrote in Smithsonian Magazine, “It didn’t seem prudent to bring two small children along. We had just docked at a remote island in southeastern Indonesia, and the five-hour hike would traverse a rocky, exposed ridge in the baking heat of the dry season. My companions—a blond Frenchman named Fred, his wife and their two kids—were dressed for a game of shuffleboard. My concern heightened when I saw he had a single water bottle for the four of them. Also, there were dragons. [Source: Brendan Borrell, Smithsonian Magazine, February 2013 <=>]

“Komodo National Park has become Indonesia’s hottest tourist spot this side of Bali. Our starting point in Labuan Bajo, on the island of Flores, was packed with hip cafés, hostels and diving shops. Cruise companies offer a two-day expedition to parkland on Komodo and Rinca islands. Komodo, about five times the size of Manhattan, got a makeover in the late 1990s, when the Indonesian government asked the Nature Conservancy and the World Bank to help it protect the island’s biodiversity, develop hiking trails and build a visitor center. Even with these amenities, the destination’s popularity is surprising. Whale-watching may appeal to our spiritual side, while a glimpse of an orangutan or other primate cousin tugs at an evolutionary heartstring. The Komodo dragon, I believe, taps into our basic fears: a living incarnation of the fictional monsters that haunt our imaginations. <=>

“Our guide that August morning, Ishak, lifted his forked stick—a defense against snapping jaws—and we marched into the bush. Even the vegetation is reptilian: Crocodile trees with spiky bark sprout from volcanic soils, while Lontar palms tower over the upland savanna. After only a ten-minute walk we came to a gallery of tamarind trees shading a pit of mud and greenish scum. A female Komodo dragon was sprawled next to a tree, her black obsidian eyes unreadable. The beaded folds of her flesh hung from her neck and she had kicked her rear legs behind her with the insouciance that comes from being at the top of the food chain. Luckily, she was still digesting a meal from earlier that week—a small deer, according to Ishak—and in her postprandial stupor would probably not be pondering cuisine for another month. Up ahead, however, I knew there were dragons in the brush, possibly hungry ones. At the top of a pass, a white cross commemorates Rudolf Von Reding Biberegg, an elderly Swiss tourist who vanished in 1974, presumably killed by a Komodo dragon. “He loved nature throughout his life,” the epitaph says.” <=>

“August is the height of the breeding season and, during our visit, most Komodo dragons were defending their nests or looking for mates far from established trails and water holes. Fred and his family were chipper as usual as we passed mounds of dirt and rock that were 10 to 20 feet in diameter and at least as tall as his 9-year-old son. The mounds are the nests of chicken-like birds called orange-footed megapodes, which don’t incubate their eggs with body heat but bury them atop plant matter that produces heat as it decays. The dragons remodel these nests for their own eggs, and guard them for six months, a rather long incubation. <=>

“By noon, we were out of the forest and had crested the ridge, gazing out across golden meadows and aquamarine waters that could have easily been mistaken for a southern California scene. We then trotted down the mountain. I slipped three times—unlike Fred’s 6-year-old daughter, who held out her arms like she was flying and didn’t trip once on the crumbling slope. When we got to the bottom and arrived at the last stop on the hike, Loh Sebita camp, we saw our last dragon, a somewhat pathetic creature lounging next to a wooden building on stilts, the kitchen. “If the dragon can’t hunt, he might come here,” Ishak says. “Sometimes the cook may throw out a chicken bone.” <=>

Conservation in Komodo National Park

The boundaries are the park considered adequate to secure the habitat and the main ecological processes to preserve them. The extensive marine buffer zone surrounding the park is key to maintaining the integrity and intactness of the property and the number of exceptional species that it hosts. Illegal fishing and poaching remain the main threats to the values of the property and its overall integrity. There is an extensive marine buffer zone to the park, in which management authority staff has authority to regulate the type of fishing permitted and to some extent the presence of fishermen from outside the area. This buffer zone, which assists in controlling poaching of the terrestrial species that provide the prey species for the komodo lizard, will become significant in the overall long-term protection of the property. [Source: UNESCO]

Komodo National Park is managed by the central government of Indonesia through the Directorate General of Forest Protection and Natural Conservation of the Ministry of Forestry. The history of protection afforded the site goes back to 1938 while official protection began when Ministerial Decree declared the area as a 72,000 ha National Park in March 1980. This area was subsequently extended to 219,322 ha in 1984 to include an expanded marine area and the section of mainland Flores. Comprised of Komodo Game Reserve (33,987 hectares), Rinca Island Nature Reserve (19,625 hectares), Padar Island Nature Reserve (1,533 hectares), Mbeliling and Nggorang Protection Forest (31,000 hectares), Wae Wuul and Mburak Game Reserve (3,000 hectares) and surrounding marine areas (130,177 hectares) the Komodo Biosphere Reserve was accepted under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme in January 1977. In 1990 a national law, elevating the legislative mandate for conservation to the parliamentary and presidential level significantly empowered the legal basis for protection and management.

In order to ensure the effective management and protection of the park and its exceptional landscapes and biota, the park is governed through the 2000-2025 Management Plan and a 2010-2014 Strategic Plan, which will require revision and updating. These plans are important for ensuring the effective zoning system of the park and guaranteeing the sustainability of the ecosystems of the property. The management authority is known for designing specific plans to guide management decisions which will require updating in line with changes to priorities and threats, in particular expected increases in visitor numbers and impacts from tourism.

The Park receives strong support and resources from the central government of Indonesia. As a tourism location known worldwide, the Indonesian Government has a specific program for ecotourism management to promote the park at the international level and to ensure the sustainability of tourism activities. Additionally, in order to address illegal fishing and poaching, regular patrolling of the marine and terrestrial areas is carried out for law enforcement and a number of the problems and impacts associated with these activities have decreased. Community awareness and empowerment programs are being implemented to engage the local villagers regards to the sustainable use of natural resources and park conservation. Research and study of the unique biological features of the park is also being promoted and supported by the management authority.

Increasing levels of tourism and matters related specifically to the komodo lizard are the major management issues that have been focused on to date. A broadening of the management focus to address issues within the marine area of the park along with other terrestrial species is required to ensure the long-term effective conservation of the property. A focus on the issue of depletion of Komodo monitor prey species stocks has resulted in some success and the same efforts need to be focused on the issues of damaging fishing practices and impacts on other unique species contained within the property.

Pink Beach on Komodo

Pink Beach (eastern side of Komodo) is aptly named and one of only seven pink beaches in world. This exceptional beach gets its striking color from microscopic animals called Foraminifera, which produce a red pigment on the coral reefs. When the tiny fragments of red coral combine with the white sands, this produces the soft pink color that is visible along the shoreline. Aside from Pink Beach (Pantai Merah) itself, a few small segments along Komodo’s eastern bay also have a pinkish tint.

The beach is hard to get to and often no one is there. It’s a magical place: not only because of the pink sand but also because of the turquoise seas, green rolling hills and blue skies found at the beach. Offshore are amazing corals of all shapes and sizes jut from the sea bed.

Obviously snorkeling and diving have become a sort of compulsory activity while visiting this beach. The corals of the Pink Beach’s underwater gardens are in excellent condition, with hundreds of species of both soft and hard corals, and thousands of species of fish. Pink Beach is a terrific choice for snorkelers and beginner divers as even the shallow waters are home to an abundance of species to keep you more than entertained. Of course, there is much more to see the deeper you venture.

Relax on the fairytale-like pink sands and work on your tan. Or join in with the various other available water sports such as kayaking or just having a leisurely swim. If photography is your passion, this is definitely a place to try your hand at capturing the stunning natural beauty of the island. And make sure you stick around till sunset, as the view is amazing.

A few points to keep in mind, is that this is an uninhabited island, and it also is the natural habitat of the Komodo Dragon. If you see the creatures roaming the coast or in the water, be sure to keep a distance. Komodo Dragons are excellent swimmers and are even capable of swimming inter-island. Komodo Dragons are wild animals that could be potentially dangerous to people, so it is not recommended to visit this beach without the help of an experienced guide or ranger.

The only way to reach Pink Beach is by boat. As the area around beach is uninhabited and fairly remote area, most tourists opt to stay in Labuan Bajo in Flores for proper accommodations. If you wish to stay on Komodo itself, there are available homestays on the island with modest facilities and simple food. Your guide should be able to help you on this matter should you choose to overnight on Komodo.

Diving Around Komodo Island

The sea around Komodo Island offers vibrant colors and exotic marine life which will enchant divers and snorkelers alike as endless schools of fish ride the waterways rushing up from deep sea vents, below them the seabed is covered with a thick carpet of florescent corals and marine invertebrates, an underwater photographers paradise. Many tour operators run liveaboard tours for divers out of Bali.

The waters that surround the island are turbulent and teeming with unparalled marine life. A marine reserve has recently been established and this reserve is largely undocumented and remains unexplored. Komodo National Park was established in 1980. It was declared as a Man and Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site in 1986. KNP includes three major islands - Komodo, Rinca and Padar and numerous smaller islands together totaling 41,000 ha of land contains 132,000 ha of marine waters.

The corals in Komodo National park are pristine, with Mantas, sharks, turtles, dolphins, dugong, many pelagics, to the tiny pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, frog fish, you name it we've got it. The sites vary from gentle easy coral slopes to heart pounding adrenalin rides, from the warm waters of the Flores Sea in the north to the chillier waters down south in the Indian Ocean, the underwater terrain is so varied with sheer cliff walls, pinnacles, sandy flat bottoms, underwater plateaus, slopes, caves, swim-throughs, channels, all with varying colors, sizes and types of coral both hard and soft.

Diving the Komodo National Park provides some fantastic conditions: 1) Water Temperature: 20 - 28 Degrees Celsius (68-85 F), cooler water is experienced on the southern sites. Full 3mm wetsuit & hood is recommended. More active people will prefer a sports suit in northern sites. 2) Visibility: 10 - 50M year round. Traditionally clearer water on northern sites.CURRENT: Komodo experiences a strong tidal flow. Not all sites are affected by current. Drift diving is excellent, however during spring tides some sites are impossible to dive. Particular attention is placed on diving the correct sites at the most suitable time to ensure optimum conditions, in accordance with the preferences of the group. 3) Night Diving: The night diving in Komodo is breathtaking. The sheer beauty, color and diversity of life makes it a must see for all divers. 4) Walls, Canyons and Seamounts: There are numerous walls to choose from. Both drift and static wall dives are offered. Huge chasms drop thousands of meters, fringed by extraordinary coral gardens. Seamounts, fringing reefs, gutters, muck, and sandy locations are also found in the archipelago.

Dive Sites Around Komodo Island

Bidadari Island: Angel Steps, huge towers of stone, encrusted with hard and soft corals, covered in nudibranchs, small caves and overhangs make this a very interesting and beautiful site, Dusky sharks, humphead parrot fish are among the bigger creatures we see here. Cathedral Coral, a gentle slope covered with table corals of every color and schooling fish, a towering spire of coral with a small cave at it's base is the home to some huge lobsters.

Sabolon: Sabolon kecil a slope on the east side of this tiny island, with two underwater mounds at the southern end with fields of garden eels and sea pens, schools of round bat fish are often seen coming quite close for some nice photography.

Sabolon Besar steep slopes off the southern and western sides of the bigger island, fabulous coral coverage and a good chance of spotting Scorpion leaf fish.

Sebayur kecil walls and slopes of every kind of coral you can imagine, wide variety of marine life to be seen at this site, mantas often seen.

Tatawa Besar slope with soft coral garden changing to hard coral along the slope, lots of shoaling fish, rainbow runners, fuseliers and often turtles and black tip sharks.

Tatawa Kecil (current city) as the name implies, this site is washed by very strong currents, which is why this site is among the many world class sites in the Komodo National Park, schools of pelagic fish patrol the waters, best dived at slack tide.

Batu Bolong: A little further west from current city a small rock outcrop with a hole through it is the surface mark of another world class site, only to be dived at slack tide or with a current not long from stopping or starting to run, these giant slabs of rock which disappear into the depths are an amazing sight to see, covered with every form of marine life and patrolled by giant trevally, Napoleon Wrasse, sharks and turtles with schools of barracuda sweeping in to check out the divers.

Marine Life and Ecosystems in Komodo National Park

Marine Physical Environment: The marine area constitutes 67 percent of the Park. The open waters in the Park are between 100 and 200 meters deep. The straits between Rinca and Flores and between Padar and Rinca, are relatively shallow (30 to 70 meters deep), with strong tidal currents. The combination of strong currents, coral reefs and islets make navigation around the islands in Komodo National Park difficult and dangerous. Sheltered deep anchorage is available at the bay of Loh Liang on Komodo’s east coast, the South East coast of Padar, and the bays of Loh Kima and Loh Dasami on Rinca.

In the North of the Park water temperature ranges between 25 — 29°C. In the middle, the temperature ranges between 24 and 28°C. The temperatures are lowest in the South, ranging from 22 — 28°C. Water salinity is about 34 ppt and the water is quite clear, although the waters closer to the islands are relatively more turbid.

Marine Ecosystems: Indonesia is the only equatorial region in the world where there is an exchange of marine flora and fauna between the Indian and Pacific oceans. Passages in Nusa Tenggara (formerly the Lesser Sunda Islands) between the Sunda and Sahul shelves allow movement between the Pacific and Indian oceans. The three main ecosystems in Komodo National Park are seagrass beds, coral reefs, and mangrove forests. The Park is probably a regular cetacean migration route.

Marine Flora: The three major coastal marine plants are algae, seagrasses and mangrove trees. Algae are primitive plants, which do not have true roots, leaves or stems. An important reef-building algae is the red coralline algae, which actually secretes a hard limestone skeleton that can encrust and cement dead coral together. Seagrasses are modern plants that produce flowers, fruits and seeds for reproduction. As their name suggests, they generally look like large blades of grass growing underwater in sand near the shore. Thallasia sp. and Zastera spp. are the common species found in the Park. Mangroves trees can live in salty soil or water, and are found throughout the Park. An assessment of mangrove resources identified at least 19 species of true mangroves and several more species of mangrove associates within the Park's borders.

Marine Fauna: Komodo National Park includes one of the world's richest marine environments. It consists of forams, cnidaria (includes over 260 species of reef building coral), sponges (70 species), ascidians, marine worms, mollusks, echinoderms, crustaceans, cartilaginous and bony fishes (over 1,000 species), marine reptiles, and marine mammals (dolphins, whales, and dugongs). Some notable species with high commercial value include sea cucumbers (Holothuria), Napoleon wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus), and groupers.

Accommodation on Komodo

A Limited amount of accommodation — namely simple guest houses offering few rooms — is available at Loh Liang (Komodo Island) and Loh Buaya (Rinca Island). A luxurious hotel with limited capacity is currently being built in Loh Liang. Many visitors sleep in the boats that brought them to the islands. Most tourists visiting Rinca Island don't stay overnight (they come from Labuan Bajo and stay in the hotels in Labuan), while those coming to Komodo Island usually stay in their rented motorboats. Nearly all motorboats have cabins and bed rooms. Large motorboats usually have good bed rooms. Live aboard cruises are also available. For information on these check komodoliveaboard.com and komodo-diving.com

Ranger's Houses - Komodo Island: The new renovated ranger's houses in eco style accommodation, with modern facilities featuring with private bathroom, limited electric power supply, dining. Only few step to the beach of Lohliang. Ranger's houses becomes an alternative accommodation offer to visitors whom for some reasons are not able to sleep on boat.

Bajo Komodo Eco Lodge has developed environmentally friendly buildings with the use of solar power for hot water, an extensive rain water storage system, and the use of a biological sewage treatment plant where all waste water is returned to the gardens through irrigation. The Bajo Eco Lodge is under control of Iniradef non profit organization where to participate in developing the human resources on the area and also building the natural environment conservation. This program have fully accepted by locals.

Boat Accommodation from Labuan Bajo: Simple boat sleep on the deck with set mattresses, fit for a small group up to 4 peoples only, meals freshly cooked on board, mineral bottled water supplied, simple toilet.

Boat Accommodation depart from Bima: Larger boat with cabin, dining facilities and standard safety equipment available for those who are travel to Komodo via Bima. Although it takes you over 7 hours on water - the facilities promises on the boat better enough compare to those who are start from from Labuan Bajo.

Puri Komodo Resort Batu Gosok: Set on the northwest tip of Flores island of Indonesia, this location well known with Batu Gosok, secluded peninsula. 250.000 square meters of land hideaway guaranteed to thrill snorkelers, divers and adventurers. A magnificent secluded cove with over 1.000 meters of white sandy beach and a wooden jetty protruding 450 meters into the coral rich turquoise waters. Opulent sea gardens in colors of purple, yellow, blue and fuchsia blend with brightly colored tropical fish drifting aimlessly amongst the coral.

Komodo Resorts consists of 14 spacious bungalows that fit perfectly into the surrounding landscape, just a short stretch from the beach. The bungalows are made from teak wood that has been recycled or that has come from controlled plantations. Each bungalow is equipped with hot water and fans, and 8 of the deluxe bungalows also include air-conditioning and a minibar. Dive trips and live aboard cruises are also available at this resort. Komodo Resort, Tanjung Pelinta, Sebayur Island, Komodo, Manggarai Barat, Flores 86754, Tel. 62- 85 - 42095, Fax : 62 — 385 — 42094, Website: komodoresort.com

Bintang Flores Hotel is a four-star hotel in Labuan Bajo located amidst spacious grounds and overlooking a private beach. Guest rooms come equipped with a king-sized bed or twin beds, satellite TV, safety deposit box, mini-bar, IDD telephone and air-conditioning. Ground-floor rooms offer direct access to the hotel gardens, while those on the higher floors provide a spectacular view of the Flores Sea. Rates start at USD 120 — 230 per night. Bintang Flores Hotel, Jalan Pantai Pede, Labuan Bajo, Tel. 62 — 385 — 2443755, Fax : 62 — 385 — 2443762, E mail: info@bintangfloreshotel.com, Website: bintangfloreshotel.com

Tips for Tourists on Komodo

Tips for visitors: 1) Don't walk alone. It is best to walk around with a ranger or guide. 2) Don't disturb or feed komodos. Despite slow and lazy movement, this animal can suddenly turn aggresive and move fast. 3) When trekking, please take a stick with you. Komodos are usually afraid when threatened with a stick. 4) Please wear shoes. Komodo, Rinca, and Padar islands have 12 types of snakes and three of them are poisonous, namely green snakes living on trees, cobras and russel's viper who live on the ground in holes on the savannas. 5) Women having their menstruation must report to a guide or ranger for special attention. Komodos have a very strong sense of smell and may turn agresive when they smell blood. 6) Please bring along your insect repellant because this area has many mosquitoes who'll be excited at the prospects of having fresh blood.

Restaurants: In Loh Liang, the KNP management (PT Putri Naga Komodo) owns a restaurant. No restaurant is available in Rinca Island, though. There is only one kiosk selling drinks and snacks. If you stay in a guest house, you will have food available with your stay. If you take a rented motorboat, your rental usually includes meals (but you have to confirm it when negotiating the rental price).

Things to Buy: At the reception in Loh Buaya and Loh Liang, there are souvenir shops selling t-shirts with komodo pictures on them and wooden komodo statues. There's not yet a shop selling a t-shirt saying, "I went to see the Komodo Dragons and all I got is this lousy T-shirt." So that's a potential market for you.

Getting to Komodo

The only ways to really get to Komodo are fly from Labuan Bajo in Flores and join a group and hire a boat for the trip to Komodo or join a package tour that arranges transport to Komodo. There may be a ferry between Pelabuhan Sape on Sumbawa and Labuan Bajo in Flores. The trip takes about eight hours and is may not be operating anymore. It used to stop in Komodo but no longer does. There is a 36-hour ferry ever two weeks between Benoa, Bali — Bima, Sumbawa — and Labuan Bajo, Flores but I don’t think that one stops in Komodo. The waters between Bali, Komodo and Flores are said to be treacherous and very hard to navigate, which may be on reason why regular ferries in the region are so infrequent. Also people on the other islands generally have no reason to go to Komodo, which is why ferries don’t stop there.

Hence organizing a boat in necessary. Some people make arrangements for a boat to Komodo in Pelabuhan Sape on Sumbawa but most do it Labuan Bajo in Flores. The trip between Labuan Bajo and Komodo takes about four hours one way. Some go to island and back in a day trip. Most stay over at least one night. The journey to Rinca takes only two hours. Some stop in Komodo as part of boat tours between Lombok and Flores. The caist for charting a boat to Komodo is around $200 for up to six people. To Rinca is about $1000. Komodo has a helicopter pad for the super rich.

Most people get a group together and hire a boat. The trip can be quite an adventure The currents around Komodo are very unpredictable. One minute the ocean is calm; the next minute the next the boat is around by large waves coming from different directions, whirpools and rip tides.. Often times when you reach you destination boat anchors far offshore and you have wade in with your luggage over our heads.

These days most people visit Komodo as part of a tour arranged in Labuan Bajo (or Bali or Lombok, but starting in Labuan Bajo). These tours are generally a boat following a set route with a captain dropping you off and picking you up at certain places. There are several different options for tour routes, and different ways yo can book the tour. If you’re going in high season (May-July) you may want to book your tour online; but if you can get to Labuan Bajo there are plenty travel agencies and street tour-vendors that can fix you up. Generally, you HAVE to book the tour at least the day as they tend to leave very early in the morning.

A day tour starts at around $30 if there are enough people on the boat. if you want to spend more time and more money there are live-aboard boats and boats that will drop you off so you can spend the night on Komodo. On a typical one day tour you hike around through desert and brush looking for Komodo dragons, which your guide will protect you from with a big forked stick. Some tours of Komodo include a three to hour hike and climb 538-meter-high Mount Ara.On Rinca island, you have to trek for about one and a half hours on designated paths. In addition to the day tour fee, you’ll also have pay the Komodo National Park fee and a fee or tip for the guide.

As for getting to Labuan Bajo, everyday, there are two to three flights from Bali to Labuan Bajo by Transnusa, IAT (Indonesia Air Transport), and Merpati. In addition, there is a twice a week flight from Kupang, Timor from which there are air connections to Australia. . Inter-island motorboats from Sape in Sumbawa and Labuan Bajo are also available everyday (when the weather permits). By daily flights between Bali and Labuan Bajo take about 90 minutes. The Trans Nusa airline daily flights to Labuan Bajo on Flores is by a small jet or turbo-prop plane carrying 50 passengers. The port in Labuan Bajo is about a 10 minute drive from the Labuan Bajo airport.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Indonesia Tourism website ( indonesia.travel ), Indonesia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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