I do a lot of pretty crazy things: unusual, unorthodox, exciting, fun things. But occasionally I do something and then look back on it and think, whoa, that was actually REALLY crazy. My 4-day boat trip to Komodo Island, Indonesia was like that.
To summarize, I spent four days on an old, old wooden ship (no, it wasn’t named Diversity) that barely looked fit for a harbor, let alone the treacherous waters of Indonesia. There was one tiny toilet on board for 25 people and no showers or fresh water. The crew ate the food they were meant to cook for us (fresh egg omelets, luscious tuna steaks) and we survived on cabbage and noodles. The sea was so rough it made most people sick and we spent nights inhaling the sweet aroma of diesel.
It was exhilarating and exhausting; I loved it, and I never want to do it again.
It wasn’t all bad, of course. The long bouts of motoring through rough seas were tempered by stops in beautiful sheltered coves where we jumped in the clear, warm water and swam to deserted beaches. At night, jutting my head out the window intending to vomit, the breathtaking night sky would distract me with her millions of brilliant stars.
We departed from Lombok Island and headed east, stopping our first evening at a beautiful deserted beach. Like a scene in a movie, naked children came running from the forest to greet us, but the beach was otherwise empty. We boarded the boat again to start a grueling 16 hours of nonstop motoring through tumultuous seas. The following day included hiking to a waterfall, snorkeling, and beach stops.
On our third morning we were each given one piece of white toast with a smear of some kind of fluorescent jelly and told, “okay, now go climb a mountain.” The hike led to a viewpoint that gave spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding islands; on the way down we saw wild deer roaming in the grass and contemplated hunting them for sustenance.
The entire purpose of the journey was, of course, to reach the remote island of Komodo, home of the famed dragons. It turns out they are not the winged, fire-breathing creatures of the fairy tales, but they are frightening beasts nonetheless. I learned this the hard way when I was chased by one. Okay, perhaps slowly pursued would be a more accurate description, but it felt like a high speed chase at the time.
On our fourth day we arrived at Komodo Island, a national park dedicated to the conservation of the Komodo dragon. Because nothing in Indonesia can be simple we spent an hour waiting around for paperwork to be done before we could explore the island and search for dragons. In the mean time, Dave thought it wise to lure dragons in by posing as a tasty meal on the ground.
Komodo dragons are the largest living species of lizards in the world. At first glance they look like a lazy, oversized lizard you might find in your garden but you mustn’t be fooled: these animals have powerful jaws filled with razor sharp teeth and a poisonous saliva that, if left untreated, will kill you within hours of a bite. They may appear lazy and slow as they lounge on the ground, but they can be lightening fast when hunting deer and other prey (ahem, humans).
We spent the morning being guided on trails through the park by several rangers who carried large sticks to help keep the dragons at bay if they came too close. We came across several dragons and did our best to take dragon selfies because wouldn’t you?! A member of our group also had to jump to avoid stepping on a spitting cobra, because the island was apparently teeming not just with dragons but a healthy population of deadly snakes.
At the end of our tour we sat in plastic chairs ordering food (because breakfast that morning had only been ultra greasy fried bananas) when the aforementioned “pursuit” happened. A curious dragon approached the souvenir tent, presumably to purchase a Komodo t-shirt, and frightened tourists scattered away. I scooted closer to film the encounter (because a dragon on a shopping spree is not an everyday sight), when suddenly he turned straight toward me and began lumbering forward.
I took a few steps backward, hoping he would change direction, but he continued at me like I was calling his name. I reversed until I was back in the food tent I had just ordered from but he quickened his pace; I can prove this because in the video my friend cries out worriedly, “why is he getting faster?!” We scurried away from the tent and the dragon barreled right under the chair I had been sitting on moments before and sniffed around. I prayed it was the scent of the noodles he was attracted to and not my human flesh, in particular.
The dragon was eventually prodded away by the rangers and their sticks and he moseyed on to survey the beach (I hope there were no innocent tourists out for a sandy stroll). Meanwhile, we high-fived each other for surviving our dragon encounter and headed back to our questionable boat and hoped it wouldn’t sink on the ride to the harbor.
As you can tell, we survived. Phew!