17.03.2010 33 °C
From Borneo we have flown back to Kuala Lumpur, then back to Denpasar in Bali and now onto Labuan Bajo in Flores, east of Bali along the Lesser Sunda Islands (I don't think anyone really calls them that but it sounds kind of cool). We are now back in Indonesia for the next 2+ months. First stop: dragon hunting.
No, really. We are very close to the island of Komodo where the last populations of Varanus komodoensis, better known as the Komodo Dragon, still live. Actually, Komodo is 'dragon' in the local language so the phrase 'Komodo Dragon' is a bit redundant, but I digress.
Regardless of what we call them, they are BIG, 2-3 metre, carnivorous lizards with poisonous drool and a mean turn of speed when they want to. Their typical modus operandi is to bite something, wait a day or two until the virulent pathogens in their saliva finish it off, and then eat the cadaver. Luckily, we have protection for our hour-long hike around the interior of Rinca - an 18-year old tourism student with a long forked stick.
I managed to get within about 2 metres of some of the 'tamer' ones around the camp to take some pictures without disturbing them, but then made the mistake of asking the guide how close he would go to the dragons. "Hmm, maybe 3 metres?" he opined. Oops.
Fascinating as they are, the dragons are but a small part of why we are here. We are on a 4-day dive safari around Komodo National Park to experience some of the incredible diving here. The marine part of the national park is one of the significant breaks in the chain of islands of the archipelago which stretches from Sumatra in the west to Timur in the east. Trade winds and tidal differences mean that the part of the west pacific immediately above Indonesia is about 20cm above the global average; meanwhile the part of the Indian Ocean south of Indonesia is about 10cm BELOW the global sea level average. Needless to say this is a LOT of water trying to make it's way through the limited number of channels between the islands which exist. What this means is (typically) very strong currents passing through the area, water being forced up from much deeper levels & hence being much cooler (and typically containing more nutrients), which means more fish, more coral and more life. Note however that it's not just a one-way flow, the extremely complex island & channel topography result in the craziest, most difficult-to-understand and potentially the most dangerous tides of any area we have dived in. Some of the straits we have sailed through have been pretty scary, full of randomly white water, whirlpools and ominously quiet bits.
You'll be pleased to hear that as I'm writing this we made it back from Davy Jones' locker though. And what an incredible few days diving we had. We still can barely believe how healthy most of the environments are, the stunning colours of the soft corals, the swarming multitudes of the fish and all the random small stuff we saw. Absolutely phenomenal.
Another big notch on the diving bedpost