Aug 31 - And then there be dragons

This has been a day to cross off one of those things on my bucket list - meeting the Komodo dragons up close and personal. We were picked up by our tour boat and joined 10 other folks for the 2 hour trip to Rinca Island, the other large island besides Komodo Island where the Komodo dragons are found. Coffee and tea were served and it was a great feeling for all of us not to have to navigate thru the many reefs, just to be tourists for the day and relax. Hendrik, our tour guide, was a 7th generation descendent of the Portuguese settlers of Flores Island, and spoke fluent English, Dutch and, of course, Indonesian. We docked at the small boat dock at the entrance to the Rinca Island Park, and met our two rangers assigned to our group. They both carried long forked sticks, and one was in front and one took up the rear of the group. Accidents do occur here, and people are occasionally attacked by the Komodo dragons, whose saliva carries toxic bacteria. We were told that the dragons bite and attempt to tear their prey up by shaking it from side to side. Hmmm. At any rate, about six dragons were resting under the kitchen cabin where the rangers cook their meals, so finding them was easy. There are different choices of trekking paths of different lengths, 1-5 km in length, so it's up to the individual folks which trail they walk. We came across a female dragon guarding her nesting area, a 3 feet deep hole in the ground, and the ranger explained their breeding habits. If I recall correctly, about 15-30 eggs are laid, although the survival rate is about 20%. We then saw a very unusual sight, another female digging her nesting hole, like a dog throwing dirt all over digging for its bone...The ranger was very excited at this event, as apparently it's quite rare to actually see it. We stood about 25' away from her, busy taking pictures but giving her lots of room and attempting to be as non-threatening as possible. After walking back to the entry area, we had again seen about 8 more dragons, so the total days sightings were quite high. We returned to our boat for a wonderful freshly cooked lunch of rice, fish and tofu dishes, with plenty of food for second helpings. We then took a diversion to go snorkeling and found a beautiful reef with lots of fish and plentiful coral. After, we ate a dessert of fried bananas and finally returned to our boats in the late afternoon. What a great day! Total inclusive cost per person: $48 USD. We'd highly recommend Hendrik, who arranges the boat and tour; his cell is 62-81-331-364-926.

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