As the giant lizard bursts out of the bushes, the tourists diverge. A woman scares frightened behind a tree. No one has seen the Komodo dragon coming, it is kindling and almost silently it runs to the waterhole.
The up to three meters long monitor lizards are the big attraction in the Komodo National Park in Indonesia. They are also referred to as the "last dragons of the earth," which leads astray because the mythical creatures exist only in the imagination. In fact, the warans are more reminiscent of a cross between a strangler and a crocodile.
10 picturesKomodo National Park: island hopping in the Indonesian style
Every year, about 175,000 visitors come here - also to be guided by park keepers to the animals. Recently, even cruise ships anchor at Komodo. "Then suddenly 800 people are on the island," says chief ranger Johanes Rawi. "We can never control that many."
There were plans to close the main island of Komodo for tourists. The idea was, according to local media reports, a reaction to the theft and smuggling of baby monitors from the park. In addition, the population should recover on Komodo. Then the government considered the measure - it is now off the table.
The Komodo dragon is far from the only attraction in the national park, which in addition to Komodo itself includes several other islands. Tourists explore the park best on a multi-day boat trip, instead of just once for an hour to visit the Warane. Those who come exclusively for the lizards miss something: powder white beaches, species-rich coral reefs - and giants under water.
Starbucks and street grill on Flores
The boat trip, which also includes boarding, starts in Labuan Bajo on Flores, an hour's flight from Bali. The choice of accommodation in the coastal town is great. At the waterfront there is a fish market in the evening, where street cooks grill octopus and parrotfish in front of the customers.
Labuan Bajo has grown with tourism: new hotels are emerging, there are many scaffoldings. You will not find the charm of a fishing test in vain. Although the Starbucks branch takes in the patterns of regional Tenun weaving in the interior, but could also stand in Singapore or Hong Kong.
Up to ten places in the national park start the rather small ships on a three-day boat trip. First stop on this tour: Kanawa Island. White sand, turquoise water. Two Indonesian couples, three couples from Europe, a local veterinarian from Bali set to the small island. A path leads up to the highest point of the island - the moment for the mobile phone camera, he came. Seen from above, the colors of the water are indeed beguiling.
What also shows from this perspective: The Komodo National Park is extremely barren during the dry season. There is no sign of the otherwise lush vegetation of Southeast Asia.
Philipp Laage / TMN
Padar Island - outstanding landscape
In the afternoon it goes by boat deeper into the national park. The boys of the crew, no older than 20 years except for the tattooed captain, serve fish. For dessert, there are fried bananas. The sea shimmers in the light of the sinking sun.
Curse of beauty
Not far from Rinca - next to Komodo the second big island of the park - the crew throws the anchor at an inconspicuous island. It is almost dark, the hour of fruit bats begins. Hundreds of animals rise from the mangroves and flutter across the ship to search for food at night.
If you want to bring spectacular photos, you have to get up before sunrise. A dozen or so excursion boats land in front of Padar Island with at least 200 tourists climbing up a path to the highest point. As overcrowded the viewpoint is, so lonely and wild is the island world dar.
Everyone enjoys the nearly two hours on the island in his own way. Couples crouch off the hustle and bustle in the grass and look at the horizon. Instagram tourists spend their time with selfies. Padar is one of those places whose beauty can do them harm. Once chosen as a supposed insider tip, photos of it go around the world immediately - and attract even more people.
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Course on Komodo. Before the visit of the Warane is still the Pink Beach on the program. The closer you get, the more the name unfolds. Due to deposits of coral, the sand actually has a reddish-pink color, which can certainly be enhanced by appropriate image processing. Result: On many an Instagram picture the colors seem unrealistically gaudy.
Visit on the Dragon Island
The tour group is euphoric when it finally goes to the Waranen. Transfer by dinghy, registration in Ranger Center, one hour walk with guide. Then at the waterhole the encounter with the waran from the bushes. He is not aggressive.
Nevertheless, you better keep a sufficient distance as a human. The lizards even hunt wild boars and deer. Of the 54 different bacteria found in the mouth of a Komodo dragon, one is deadly to the prey. Often, however, the world's largest lizards are motionless. That one sets in motion and also rips open the mouth, is rather rare. The visitors are then thrilled - after the first shock has passed.
Seek Sophie / iDive / TMN
The highlight comes at the end of the tour - and that is not the Waran encounter, according to many travelers. The boat heads for Manta Point in the late afternoon. The experienced crew is looking for: "There!" Shouts one. At some distance a big fin appears. Quickly into the dinghy, put on the snorkel masks and into the sea. A manta ray with a span of nearly three meters glides through the water like a flying carpet a few feet below its own body.
More mantas appear. Some swim towards the snorkelers and turn off shortly before.
According to recent plans, Komodo is not to be closed, but to become a place for rich tourists, as BBC reported. An annual fee of 1000 US dollars (about 900 euros) is planned. Whether this will really be introduced in early 2020 is questionable. The locals are against it anyway. They fear for their income.
How to get to the Komodo National Park
Where are the islands and how do you get there?
The Komodo National Park is located east of Bali and Lombok in the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara and west of the island of Flores. Direct flights to Labuan Bajo are daily cheap for example from Bali and Jakarta. Depending on the itinerary, the Komodo Park can be installed flexibly.
When is the best time to travel?
The best weather for a visit is during the dry season from May to October. Manta Rays can be observed all year round.
Where do holidaymakers spend the night in the National Park?
There are hardly any hostels in the national park. That's why you sleep best on a tour boat. Many providers have such tours in the program. The higher the price, the greater the comfort on board and the more individualized the route. Some providers, however, is poorly organized, and the program is shortened spontaneously. Tours start in Labuan Bajo on Flores. There are accommodations of different price ranges.
Do I have to protect myself against malaria?
For the islands east of Lombok, tropical medicine recommends malaria prophylaxis. Locals assure that this is not necessary in the dry season in the National Park. Many tourists who fly over during this time for a boat trip, therefore refrain from taking malaria tablets.
Visit Indonesia Tourism Office Germany, Hanauer Landstrasse 184, 60314 Frankfurt / Main (Tel .: 069/175371038, www.indonesia.travel).