It started with Dragons: Postcards from Komodo National Park, above & below

     Getting an early start is best in Flores, before the heat hits, and depending upon the time of year, the rain (which comes thundering down late afternoon). As the sunlight grases the docks, as the doors to the dive shops & tour agencies swing open, it's nice to wake up with the help of an espresso from Cafe in Hit (aka the coffee shop at Green Hill).   

     Strolling down the main strip of Labuan Bajo loaded with dive shops, tour operations. Take your time to speak with 'shops' to see with whom you would like to spend your day/s.  

     For me, It all started with dragons.  I met Christopher, a lovely tour guide running shop across the street from the cafe.  We agreed to meet at 7am the next morning to go 'trekking' on a nearby Island to observe the wildlife (mostly Komodo Dragons, monkeys, & water buffalo).  Pictured above, one of the tour operators at Christopher's shop, enjoying the view as we take the hour long (or so) boat ride to Rinca. 

     Pictures above is a female Komodo about 20 years old.  For a day trip to see the dragons you will go to Rinca ('Rihn-Cha') Island.  Tip: I would recommend going NOT in July!! July is mating season, so they tend to run off into the brush.  Alas, I was there in July.....but I did see dragons as quite a few of them hang out by the ranger post near where you pay the entry fee.  Be alert! the dragons move FAST, contrary to what you may think once seeing them.  There are rangers to help protect you (using sticks to keep them away).  Please be mindful not to get close, they can run 0-20 kilometers an hour in the blink of an eye. The bacteria in their mouths is even more dangerous than their claws (Which you can see from this photo appear quite menacing).  They eat anything & everything including each other (& the offspring of other komodos). They are extremely patient when it comes to their pray.  They can take one bite out of a water buffalo, then wait upwards of two weeks while the buffalo dies (slowly) from the bacteria in the bite. Once the prey takes it last breath, the komodo/s swoop in for dinner. 

Though it started with dragons, a good amount of the beauty of Komodo National Park is 'down below', under the water's surface. If you don't (yet) dive, or at least snorkel, I HIGHLY recommend coming here with an advanced diving certification and at least 50 logged dives.  Many of the shops will take you regardless, and most of them have courses.  Blue Marlin has an onsite pool, and a FAST dayboat.  Most shops have slower day boats which limit the amount of dive sites you can access compared to a fast day boat or liveaboard.  As well, they (Blue Marlin Komodo) have a GREAT atmosphere for grabbing food, drinks (yes alcoholic) and meeting and greeting other divers. As I mentioned, most shops will offer courses if you are not yet certified or not yet advanced certified.  However the currents can get crazy here. I would recommend going with a shop that takes safety VERY seriously! Blue Marlin is my pick (others I would recommend would be Divine Diving,  Über Scuba, & Manta Rei).  

Though it started with dragons, a good amount of the beauty of Komodo National Park is 'down below', under the water's surface. If you don't (yet) dive, or at least snorkel, I HIGHLY recommend coming here with an advanced diving certification and at least 50 logged dives.  Many of the shops will take you regardless, and most of them have courses.  Blue Marlin has an onsite pool, and a FAST dayboat.  Most shops have slower day boats which limit the amount of dive sites you can access compared to a fast day boat or liveaboard.  As well, they (Blue Marlin Komodo) have a GREAT atmosphere for grabbing food, drinks (yes alcoholic) and meeting and greeting other divers. As I mentioned, most shops will offer courses if you are not yet certified or not yet advanced certified.  However the currents can get crazy here. I would recommend going with a shop that takes safety VERY seriously! Blue Marlin is my pick (others I would recommend would be Divine Diving,  Über Scuba, & Manta Rei).  

Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Siaba Besar, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Siaba Besar, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Blue Spotted Stingray at Siaba Besar, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Blue Spotted Stingray at Siaba Besar, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Nudibranch at Siaba Besar, Komodo national Park Indonesia

Nudibranch at Siaba Besar, Komodo national Park Indonesia

Anemone & Clown fish, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Anemone & Clown fish, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Eel, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Eel, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Blue spotted Stingray, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Blue spotted Stingray, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Leaf Scorpionfish Siaba Besar, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Leaf Scorpionfish Siaba Besar, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

FrogFish (hiding amongst the algae) Siaba Besar, Komodo National Park Indonesia

FrogFish (hiding amongst the algae) Siaba Besar, Komodo National Park Indonesia

Leaf ScorpionFish (same one as above but different angle) Siaba Besar, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Leaf ScorpionFish (same one as above but different angle) Siaba Besar, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Yours Truly :) 

Yours Truly :) 

Tips from this trip:
1. If you are hell bent on seeing lots of dragons, don’t go in July (mating season-they will run for the hills)
2. you won’t gather much info with dive shops nor tour operations over the phone. Show up a day or two before you would like to begin your excursions, so you have time to research in person which shops you would like to spend your time.
3. download google translate, & download Bahasa Indonesia BEFORE you arrive on Flores. Internet is spotty at best (SLOW) and you will go a lot further with some language skills or at least a few phrases of Indonesian.
4. If you are diving bring your own gear, OR thoroughly check your rental gear prior to leaving the shop. I done with really good/solid people (Blue Marlin) and did NOT have any issues, but I did hear of people having issues with another shop (I won’t mention here but if you send me an email (samiamphoto@gmail.com) I will divulge the ‘goods’ :) One issue in particular is the mouthpiece came off the regulator during the dive. Hence I can vouch for the shop with which I dove and the others mentioned (excellent safety record).