Travelling solo can be daunting, especially if you are a female solo traveller. The Komodo Islands were one of the last stops on my solo trip around Australia and Indonesia and probably the one I was most anxious about. It had always been a dream of mine to go to Komodo National Park, Rinca Island in particular as this is where the majority of Komodo Dragons are found. I know that there are a lot of tours that you can do, however, I really wanted to have a true solo experience, which doesn’t have to be expensive.
Not sure if I was suffering from Bali belly or nerves, I flew to Labuan Bajo, Flores from Bali in a tiny propeller plane which made a drop off on the way. Not too dissimilar to a bus, we all sat with our luggage dumped on our laps and politely waited for people to hop on and off. To read more about my arrival in Flores and what I did, check out my Labuan Bajo post.
I made a deal with some fishermen at the docks with the help of a local to take me for the day, going with the fishermen cost me 200AUD compared with 400AUD with a tour group and I had the freedom to choose where I wanted to go for the whole day which allowed me to visit places such as Kukusan Island, a small Muslim community of 300 people. You can read about my experience here.
The fishermen were really helpful and friendly, one spoke fluent English and Indonesian which came in handy when we went to Kukusan Island. I was picked up early on an ancient Honda motorbike and myself and Franco (who was now also my guide and also potentially my future husband if I wanted) went to collect our lunches from a local woman. Me being the clumsy person I am, I was not looking forward to balancing these two rather large lunches in cardboard cake boxes on my knee while we rode the uneven downhill track. Luckily Franco had managed to drop them upside down even before they got to me – we were already compatible.
I tried to explain to the hotel staff that I was going out for the day to a remote island with three men I just met on a wooden boat and that if I’m not back by 7pm send a search party. The concept was lost in translation, but part of my solo travelling was to learn to trust in others and to see the good in people so I just swallowed the feeling. The journey there took a little over two hours but it was beautiful, it was the stillest ocean I had ever seen and the landscape looked prehistoric and untouched.
As you get off the boat one of the guides will choose you, mine was a young boy who spoke amazing English as well as some French and German. He lived on the island and went home to the mainland every few months to see his family. Living quarters are basic and surrounded by lazy sunbaking Komodo Dragons looking for scraps. Your guide takes you for a walk around the island looking for dragons, monkeys and buffalo, carrying a stick to ward off active Komodo dragons. The length of the walk is up to you, I opted for a three-hour hike, however, it was very humid so any more and I would have been exhausted.
Upon arrival in the park, you are required to pay an entry fee in the office pictured below. In the green uniform is a lovely cheerful man who insisted that I call him ‘Uncle Lewis’ and was massively chatty and happy, something which I would say after my travels, is true for Indonesian people on the whole. I had heard that some people come to the Komodo Islands and don’t see any dragons but my guide assured me that Rinca Island was home to more dragons than Komodo Island, therefore, I was more likely to see one. Something that really surprised me was that during my time on the island I only saw one couple who were from Germany and then the local people who live on the island, I was expecting more tourists.
Our first Komodo Dragon, lazing in the shade next to one of the offices. Komodo dragons are very dangerous and although it looks like I’m touching him I was actually sitting farther back. If bitten it’s a two-hour speedboat ride to mainland Flores and then most likely a helicopter lift to Bali. It’s easy to get complacent as they seem so docile and slow but they move extremely fast when they want to. The guides collect all the skulls of buffalo that the Komodos have eaten and display them around the base camp.
During the walk, I was very lucky to witness two Komodo dragons fighting. The one pictured below was watching another dragon as it ran down the path. My guide shrieked ‘Mama Mia!’ and threw his arm out to push me back. The two dragons shifted so quickly we lost them and they reappeared in the bushes fighting. Other than that we saw some monkeys and bird life on the island but sadly no buffalo as they were all on the high ground.
As we arrived back at the camp there was a group of Komodo dragons hanging around the staff quarters feeling lazy. My guide told me that when he gets up to go to the toilet in the night he has to make sure the dragons are not in the toilet waiting for him. All of the buildings are on stilts to stop the dragons from climbing inside however I was told this was more a deterrent than a solution.
If I would like to, in fact, marry Franco he has offered to build me a house in Labuan Bajo which seems a fair deal and more than most western men have to offer. I would love to hear about your trip to Komodo National Park, I wanted to also go to Komodo Island so would love to hear feedback about that. Check out my video below taken by one of the guides of a Komodo Dragon up close and personal!
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