Komodo is one of the Republic of Indonesia's 17,508 islands. Part of the Lesser Sunda chain, it forms part of the Komodo National Park which lies between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores. Administratively, it is part of the East Nusa Tenggara province. It has around 2000 inhabitants, descendants of former convicts who were exiled to the island and who have mixed with the Buigis from Sulawesi. They are mostly Islamic, but there are Christian and Hindu minorities.
The island is famous not just for its heritage of convicts, but for the komodo dragon. Dragons have roamed the island for more than four million years, but were 'discovered' just 100 years ago. They are known through myth and legend and inspired the 1933 Hollywood classic film King Kong. The feared and ferocious komodo dragon is the world's largest lizard. They measure up to 2.5 metres and weigh around 70kg. On the attack they can reach 20km/h and have no fear of humans. Over the last 60 years they have taken 14 human lives. Visitors must be accompanied by a guide at all times.
The monitor lizard inhabits Komodo and some of the smaller surrounding islands. There are around 4000 of the endangered dragons and the only way to reach them is by setting sail from the island of Flores. They, along with over 50 fantastic dive sites, attract many tourists.
Komodo National Park was established in 1980, its main purpose is to conserve the komodo dragon and its habitat. Over the years, the park's goals have expanded to protect its entire biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine. In 1986 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve.
While 67 percent of the national park is devoted to marine life, deadly dynamite and cyanide fishing practices are still carried out in the surrounding waters, so it's vitally important to protect one of the world's richest marine environments.
The park has three major islands Komodo, Rinca and Padar and numerous smaller islands, creating a total surface area marine and land of 1817 square kilometres.
As well as being home to the dragon, the park provides refuge for many other species, such as the orange-footed scrub fowl, an endemic rat and the Timor deer. It also has a wonderfully rich marine environment of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, seamounts and semi-enclosed bays. These harbour more than 1000 species of fish, around 260 species of reef-building coral, 70 species of sponges and dugong, sharks, manta rays, at least 14 species of whales, dolphins and sea turtles.
A great part of the excitement is getting there. From Flores Island you travel in a phinisi, an Indonesian sailing boat. These look like pirate ships because that's what they once were! The Bugis from Sulawesi sailed the Indonesian archipelago in them, plundering and pillaging as they went. These days the boats are purpose-built and used exclusively for tourism. They have comfortable sleeping cabins for dragon and diving adventures.
Nearby Rinca island is a lot smaller than Komodo and has the same number of dragons, so you are likely to see more of them there.
Komodo Island in Indonesia.
No Roads Expeditions has nine-day luxury Komodo Tours from Bali for $2100 per person twin-share. All accommodation, transfers and meals are included.
Garuda Indonesia has 29 flights a week to Bali.
- Darwin $610
- Perth $839
- Melbourne $1094
- Sydney $1109
There are five flights a week from Sydney, increasing to six from September 2, 2008; three flights a week increasing to four from July 22, 2008 and five from September 2, 2008 and 13 direct flights from Perth and four via Jakarta and three flights a week from Darwin.
Sales, taxes and departure dates vary according to departure city. Contact Garuda for details. Conditions apply.
Prices correct at June 12, 2008.
For further information
No Roads Expeditions
PO Box 109
Southland Centre 3192
Ph: (03) 9502 3789
Fax: (03) 9502 3327
Ph: 1300 365 331
It is recommended travellers to Indonesia see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended for Indonesia. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.welltogo.com.au.
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