Thursday, July 27, 2023

Rinca Island (Komodo NP) - Indonesia

Rinca Island, pronounced Rintja in Indonesia, is an island between Komodo Island and Flores Island among the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia. Most people get there by a 2 hour flight (about 306 miles) from Denpasar's Gusti Ngurah Rai Airport (on Bali Island) to Labuan Bajo's Komodo Airport in western Flores Island, followed by a two hour boat ride, if heading straight there, to the pier in Loh Buaya Valley run by Komodo National Park. Rinca is 70.46 square miles and has 1,747 inhabitants as of 2020. Loh Buaya Valley is the only place on Rinca that tourists can visit and it is not possible to spend the night there (Loh Buaya Valley is only open between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.) and it is not near where the inhabitants live. Tourists are limited to the boardwalk and the 1.07 km circular Hidden Nirvana trekking path which goes through the forest and then up a small hill, to give a view of Loh Buaya Bay, then back to Loh Buaya Vallley. Tourists must be accompanied by a NP guide. I am only now seeing that the age limit for visitors is age 65 (I was 66). Komodo NP gets less precipitation than any other area of Indonesia, and it is warm: the average high temperature is a low of 84 degrees in January and a high of 91 degrees in September with an average 36% humidity level, which sounds pretty low, but I was sweating profusely.
Komodo National Park was established in 1980 and declared a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1991. It was established to protect the Komodo dragon but its purpose was expanded to protect both terrestrial and marine biodiversity. It is part of the Coral Triangle and was selected as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature beating out other contenders such as the Galapagos Islands and Grand Canyon. It covers Komodo Island (which is 150 square miles), Rinca Island (which is 70.46 square miles), Padar Island (which is 3.86 square miles),  Nusa Kode (in the south bay of Rinca), Gili Motang (which is 12 square miles) and 24 other islands and a portion of Flores Island (119.69 square miles in Mbeliling and Ngorang Protection Forests and 11.58 square miles in Wae Wuul and Mburak Parks). Komodo dragons, the jewel and namesake of the park, are rated as endangered by the IUCN and the most recent statistics I could find (as of 2021) show they are found on Rinca (1,100 to 1,500 with about 500 adults, the largest subpopulation), Komodo (earlier estimates show it with more than Rinca, but the most recent shows similar numbers, but a little smaller than Rinca), Padar (extinct in the 1970s but re-colonized in 2004 with less than 10), Nusa Kode (less than 100), Gili Motang (less than 100) and three subpopulations on Flores (about 100 in Wae Waul Reserve and 2,000 scattered in non-protected areas). Flores is very large, 5,996 square miles, with a population of 1,897,550, but most of the Komodo dragons on it have been extirpated. 
We flew from Bali to Labuan Bajo and were picked up at the airport by our guide, Vincent. We were taken to the harbor and taken by a small boat to our boat moored in the harbor with five individuals on it, a captain, two cooks and two other deck hands. We went to Kalong Island first, where we purchased a carved wood Komodo dragon and a shell necklace from local vendors, then climbed to the top of a small mountain for views.

Then we sailed to Rinca where our boat was moored and we were taken by small boat to the dock in Loh Buaya Valley. There is a very large statue of two Komodo dragons fighting on the dock. 

Where the dock hits dry ground there is a large section of mangroves along the shore where we saw a number of long-tailed macacques, also known as crab-eating macacques. They were looking for and eating crabs.

This mother crab-eating macacque has a baby and appears to be suckling while she is groomed by another macacque.
We also saw a few birds. My camera and lens were damaged by water in Sumatra and so many of my photos are blurry because I was using manual focus on a camera that was not cooperating (many of the photos were taken using my i-Phone). 
Pacific swallows

Hair-crested drongo
We walked along a board walk where there were several stations with national park personnel giving information on the Komodo dragon and Komodo NP. Before the first station Vincent spotted a huge dragon just off the side of the elevated boardwalk resting.

Eventually the boardwalk led us to a compound with two large circular buildings surrounded by walls. There was a small museum inside one with information about the NP, a small snack station and souvenir venders selling carved wooden Komodo dragons, necklaces and other items. There we met our NP guide. Then I noticed a Komodo dragon in the area outside the gated compound and rushed over to take a photo. 
Victor accompanied us with our NP guide who was carrying a long pointed stick with two prongs at the end to push back any aggressive dragons. There was another large resting dragon outside the gate which didn't move and another one near it that our NP guide was able to get to move. 

We took the Hidden Nirvana trekking path up through the valley and climbed slowly up to the top of a small hill where we got a beautiful view of Loh Buaya Bay and other islands beyond it.

Behind us was the terrain of Rinca.
We started to slowly walk down the hill and Vincent noticed a dragon curled up in the grass off to the side that our NP guide had missed.
We continued down the hill near the compound where we got extensive views of some more dragons. 
Our NP guide was able to distract and wake up the snoozing dragon we'd first seen and got it walking. 

Then it encountered another dragon that had come into the valley and everyone got excited because they thought they were going to fight. However, they just stared at each other for a while and both walked away, one some ways back of the other. Judy and I followed them from behind the barrier, watching them go closer toward the ocean. 

Another dragon came out of the forest and into the yard outside the gated buildings. We went back out into the yard with the NP guide for some more photos. 

The Flores Rusa is a subspecies of the Javan Rusa on Flores and nearby islands. It is one of the dragons' favorite meals. What was amazing is that they were in close proximity to the dragons outside the main buildings. Apparently the dragons, like a large snake, eat and then go long periods of time in between meals. The deer must sense when it is safe to be near them. 

This Flores Rusa was a particularly fine specimen that was in tall grass on our way back out to the dock.  

This was a spectacular visit. We saw a good number of dragons and some of their prey and got quite close to the dragons. This was something I've wanted to do since I was a little boy and it was a dream come true. 

1 comment:

  1. Those deer wandering around were bizarre. But then, I remember how when we were on safari in Africa, a lion could walk through a group of zebra and none of them seemed to care that much. It's just the law of the jungle that some will get eaten, I guess.