Saturday May 22nd
Afloat on the Flores Sea
Prunella awoke before dawn and sat as our boat rocked gently. She climbed as high as she could on the bow, till she was perched high up on the prow and lay down to admire the stars. All the others slumbered. She closed her eyes to imagine it was only her and no-one else but the gentle breeze and the lapping waves – such silence before the dawn.
It was a magical moment as the veil of the night lifted to reveal the beauty of a new day. As the boys woke they sleepily joined Prunella and soon it was the three of them together. Suddenly, they were thrilled to see a mother and baby dolphin flash beneath their feet as they headed for the open sea and took a pause to enjoy this gentle moment which they knew none of them would ever forget…
The first stop of the day is Pink beach where we spend a few hours playing and snorkeling. Although rare there are several beaches around the world that have this colour due to the red coral that grows in these areas. They vary in intensity and hue during the year and even due to the lighting, during each day. It was quiet and peaceful.
The third largest island in the park it has become famous for instagram photo’s, due to it’s famous three coloured beaches and spectacular vista. It is undeniable the most beautiful view in the National Park. But although it is no longer home to the Komodo dragon, it is home to a remarkable variety of wildlife. There are six species of shark, and two of manta rays, many different reptiles and lots of birds.
We saw an eagle soar past, surfing the hot thermals.
Today it was searingly scorching hot and only Reuben had the determination and ability to make the almost hour long climb to the top. This climb is not easy as it involves an array of uneven steps and the last part means scrabbling on your hands and knees on the lose rock. It was a very tough climb and we were so proud of Reuben’s determination to make it. But the view was well worth the effort.
We also enjoyed more snorkeling at the tiny Kanawa island. Here we walked away from the tourist area and had the beach to ourselves. The boys made a sand sculpture of a komodo dragon emerging from the sea, decorated with shells and seaweed. Snorkeling nearby Prunella was delighted to see sea slugs, starfish, hard and soft corals plus a variety of iridescent marine animals. The water here is crystal clear.
“Takat Makasar” or Manta Point
Komodo Island and Rinca were once part of Flores and separated from the large Island of Sumbawa to the West by the Sape Strait. The ocean in the Strait drops hundreds of meters. The Pacific Ocean to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south are actually at different heights – so the flow of currents from the Pacific to the Indian during tidal exchanges makes these currents among the strongest in the world. These currents can be extremely dangerous.
Komodo is an important marine habitat because it is the only equatorial region on the planet where two oceans, the Pacific and the Indian, meet and exchange marine life. The converging of currents brings in nutrient upwellings that provide food for the bottom of the food chain, which carries through to the top predators. This is why the Manta flourish here.
We spotted our first Manta, a flash of black – gone in a few seconds, from the boat deck. The boys then watched these magnificent beasts from the safety of the punt while Prunella took the plunge. There were a few moments where the current was so strong she could not swim forward. A few times where she struggled. This was not made easier by the sea lice (jellyfish larvae) that inhabit these waters and sting you like tiny pin pricks, as you try to fight the current.
But seeing a Manta emerge from the depths and effortlessly glide, then disappear, is something that will always be remembered with wonder and a instinctual touch of fear. That fear that comes upon you when you are in open water with such a large powerful creature. We had no idea just how big these animals were, until we saw them with our own eyes. We noticed that all manta are distinctive in their markings and a few of the largest had white back strips. Manta can grow up to nine meters and weigh up to two tons (most of these seemed about 4 metres) but they are completely harmless plankton eaters and do not possess the tail barb of the stingray. It was truely a surreal dream to see them in this pristine environment and swim with them.
Another evening on board where as always the crew cooked up delicious local cuisine and then the slow ride homeward. At the end of our journey the sun was setting and the boys spotted a dragon in the sky. The end of a truly magical boat trip in the Komodo National Park…