This is the final part of Indonesia specialist The Lighthouse Consultancy’s article about Komodo National Park. Mike Veitch identifies more potential activities of interest for a cruise in the region.
6. A Guided Tour Through Dragon Infested Highlands
The best way to learn more about the history of the area, as well as the flora and fauna found in the park, is to participate in a guided tour of the islands with one of the resident team of National Park Rangers. Rinca Island and Komodo Island both have ranger stations where seasoned rangers lead a series of different adventures into the highlands. A selection of treks can last anywhere from one to five hours and often encounter a variety of wildlife such as deer, wild pig, snakes, monkeys, water buffalo, and of course Komodo Dragons. Talking to the rangers is also a great way to hear about their personal, and often hair raising experiences with the dragons!
7. Snorkelling World Class Coral Reefs
With over 1000 species of fish and 200 species of coral, Komodo is a marine lovers’ paradise. Healthy and colourful coral gardens surround all of the islands in the area and rise to very shallow depths where sun rays dapple the coral with light. The hard corals are generally located in safe and sheltered bays and these environments are appropriate for swimmers of all ages and skill levels. The snorkelling is among the finest in Indonesia with a variety of animals that can be regularly encountered: turtles, reef sharks, school upon school of small fish, anemone fish, and if luck is running high, even the endangered Dugong. For more adventurous and experienced snorkelers, an exhilarating drift snorkel can also be experienced by jumping into one of the narrow channels separating the islands for an extra jolt of adrenaline, as well as the opportunity to come face to face with larger denizens of the deep.
8. Pulau Kalong Bat Colony at Sunset
Located off the north end of Rinca island, Pulau Kalong is a small mangrove island that is home to an entire platoon of bats. These large flying foxes (fruit bats from Pteropus family) can reach a wingspan of 3 feet (1 metre) and the colony can be found during the day roosting among the mangrove trees. The optimum time to visit Pulau Kalong is just before sunset, just as these nocturnal beasts begin to stir for their nightly activities. It’s imperative to anchor or stand off in the correct location on the shoreline in order to watch thousands of bats take off into the sunset. Watching these awkward flying mammals with their unmistakable silhouette contrasting with brilliant pink skies, is the perfect end a day in Komodo National Park.
9. Explore a Traditional Fishing Village
Towards the northern border of Komodo National Park there are two villages inhabited by Bajau “sea gypsies” who build unique housing settlements on stilts and live off the sea by subsistence fishing. The villages don’t get a lot of visitors and as a result the villagers are always willing to welcome folks who take the time for a trip. Legions of eager young children surround visitors and escort them throughout the village in great excitement, all talking at once. On Komodo island, adjacent to the National Park building, lies the village of Komodo itself, the largest of the settlements with the National Park. The villagers here are also Muslim fishermen, many of whom are recent arrivals from Sumbawa or Sulawesi. All of the villages in the area are relatively poor and overpopulated for their size, the living conditions can be startling to some, as the locals live a much simpler lifestyle than residents of Labuan Bajo or Bali. However, even with many hardships such as poor health or lack of fresh water, they are always smiling and friendly to visitors. A village visit is certainly and eye opening and worthy excursion for anyone wishing to see all aspects of life in Komodo National Park.
10. Dive the Most Diverse Reefs of Indonesia
As mentioned previously, the snorkelling in Komodo is world class, but how is the diving experience? The good news is that during a cruise throughout the National Park, the diving is on par with the best in all of Indonesia, due in part to the sheer variety of habitats in the area. There are abundant weird and wonderful small marine life such as nudibranchs, frogfish, pygmy seahorses, and all kinds of crabs and shrimp that call black sand slopes home. Multiple shallow seamounts rise from the sea floor, many home to huge schools of fish, white tip and grey reef sharks, eagle rays, sea snakes, turtles - the occasional dolphin can be spotted too. The constant current that flows through the area provides nutrient rich water that creates the perfect conditions for soft coral growth, with an abundance found on all the major dive sites in a mesmerizing variety of hues and colours. During the period from April to October, the northern area of the park enjoys calm, clear water with average temperatures of around 28C (81F) whereas in the south the water can be rough with an average temperature range of around 19-23C (66-76F). From November through to March the winds switch and the north can be affected by wind, while the south enjoys calm seas with clear blue water. A word of warning for divers: the Komodo area is home to very strong and potentially dangerous currents at certain dive sites, an experienced dive guide is recommended in order to dive the more challenging sites at the appropriate tide.
Komodo can be explored year round, but to cruise the entire area – the north and the south, historically the preferred time to visit Komodo is from around the month of April through to late November, as prevailing winds come from the south and most areas are easily accessible. From December until March winds from the north can make the seas in the northern region challenging and some areas become less accessible due to the oceanic conditions.
Overall, Komodo is one of the most exciting and varied cruising destinations in Indonesia. From unique flora and fauna both on land and in the water, stunning vistas across volcanoes and coral islands, to beautiful white and pink beaches and stunning coral reefs, many weeks can be spent exploring Komodo and the surrounding archipelago.
The Lighthouse Consultancy’s series of articles on Indonesian cruising destinations will continue next time with an in depth look at the unique whaleshark cruising hotspot of the Cendrawasih Bay, West Papua.
Logistical Info Sidebar; Komodo National Park Article - Part II
The Importance of Experienced Cruise Guides
To fully appreciate the quality of Komodo’s natural topside and marine attractions, an experienced guide is an essential requirement for cruises in the area. As mentioned in Mike’s article, due to the location of the islands, the topography beneath the surface lead several of the straits in the region to experience severe currents at times when the tides are running at their peak – at times water movement has been observed by some of our yacht clients at over six knots. It is important to understand this when exploring the area, as it could affect itinerary suggestions and timing, but more importantly the safety of the guest experience. That being said, some dive sites will need some current in order to bring out the fish activity that they may be famous for. A dive guide with knowledge of the sites is therefore very important. Guides also benefit the cruise by identifying where to hike and explore the topside environment in Komodo, with beach explorations and treks embellishing the overall experience. The Lighthouse Consultancy has a network of experienced guides, both Indonesian and international, in addition to full time dive guides on staff, who are able to join and guide a yacht for short or extended timeframes in the area.
Provisioning and Logistical Support
Komodo cruises could be considered a gentle entry into understanding the requirements for cruising in Indonesia and experiences here can be a good learning experience for a vessel coming west and heading across to the east at a later date. Most vessels’ international clearances will be in to Bali, where there is a greater understanding of tourism. In addition, a significant network of international food suppliers ensure the five star hotels on the island, and therefore visiting vessels, can acquire the vast majority of import produce they request. Reprovisioning during a Komodo cruise would usually be offered in Labuan Bajo, with Styrofoam boxed shipments arriving as cargo on domestic couriers, or as cargo on seaplanes to an arranged rendezvous location with a vessel at sea. The Lighthouse Consultancy’s full time Provisioning Consultant, Kerry Shorten is always available to discuss seasonal availabilities as well as logistical constraints regarding the required supplies.
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