Dragons and Beaches in Komodo
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Silversea’s Silver Discoverer dropped anchor this morning off the picturesque hills of Komodo Island, Indonesia. It was an early start to the day for us, with Zodiacs heading ashore beginning at 6:45a.m. in order to escape the heat and humidity that are predicted for later today, with temperatures hitting 36°C before noon.
Our primary goal this morning: to spot the unique Komodo Dragon in Komodo National Park. Komodo National Park was established to help protect this endemic species, and has been doing so since its inception in 1980. In 1991, the park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and today it also encompasses the nearby islands of Padar and Rinca, in addition to 26 smaller ones.
The Komodo Dragon is a fierce-looking creature. Straight out of a horror movie, it looks like a cross between a human crawling on all fours and a lizard magnified several times in scale. You definitely wouldn’t want to see one run out of the darkness at you – and run, they can. Despite their heavyset appearance, the Komodo dragon can actually run at speeds of up to 20 kilometres an hour.
The largest lizard in the world, Komodo dragons are found exclusively in Indonesia. Komodo dragon mating rituals are also quite unique. Before winning a female’s (reluctant) affection, two male Komodo dragons will typically fight over her, and will vomit and defecate in preparation for battle. Which, if you’ve ever been to a bar before, sounds a bit like the Drunken Male Pickup Attempt. While mating, male Komodo dragons have to physically restrain the female or risk having their eyes scratched out by their unwilling partners. It all sounds very romantic.
Then, once their eggs hatch, the little ones have to watch out for Mom and Dad: if food isn’t plentiful, the Komodo dragons will simply eat their young. To make themselves less vulnerable, young Komodo dragons will roll around in fecal matter and do their best to coat themselves in the intestines of recently-deceased animals in an attempt to ward off hungry adult dragons.
Of course, none of this really matters when the thing lets out a low, rolling growl that sounds like it’s straight off the soundtrack to Jurassic Park and advances toward you. You’re told to not run, which, of course, is your absolute first instinct. Of the two Komodo dragons we saw, the female was less than pleased that we were there, and advanced threateningly toward our group several times. But at all times, our local park guides (who are each armed with a pointed stick) instructed us to stay together, and calmly told us which way to move in order to shake our stalker.
Other than that, the two we saw were quite docile; the male was having a snooze, and when he stirred, the female eventually became bored with us and wandered off. We caught her later trying to flank us; like a bad horror movie where you look over and say, “Where’d the female go?”, we realized she had advanced and was circling around ever so slowly, far from our peripheral vision.
But the Komodo dragon is on the Endangered Species list, with only about 5,000 of them in existence in the wild. Of those, the largest population is thought to be here on Komodo Island, in Komodo National Park where we were today.
Following our morning tour, we were back onboard by 09:00, and many guests opted to make use of the Swimming Pool on Deck 5 aft, while others – like yours truly – grabbed a cup of coffee and watched the endless stream of locals in boats sail out to the Silver Discoverer, offering pearls, Komodo dragon statues, and even fresh fish up. Two young boys who can’t have been more than 10 or 12 years of age took to paddling around the ship in a white skiff, shouting, “Grandma! Grandpa! Money, money!”
While people aren’t encouraged to just give the locals money (it sends the wrong message), buying goods from them is completely acceptable, and quite a few guests and crew members purchased some of the pearl necklaces and bracelets they had on offer.
This afternoon, Silver Discoverer sailed a handful of nautical miles over to Pink Beach, where guests spent the afternoon enjoying time swimming in Indonesia’s crystal-clear waters or snorkelling off the amazing coral reefs located nearby.
After not being able to swim in the waters of the coast of Australia’s Kimberley, a dip in the refreshing waters of Pink Beach were a fabulous way to beat the heat. It’s also one of the few beaches in the world to feature pink sand, though you have to look hard to really see its pink characteristics.
Some photographs from our afternoon on the beach:
Later today, I also had a chance to peek into some of Silver Discoverer’s accommodations, thanks to two unoccupied suites.
The first one I viewed was an Explorer Suite on Deck 3. These suites are 186 square feet, and feature two porthole windows. But they feel much larger than their dimensions would have you believe, and it’s easy to tell considerable work has been done on them. In fact, the only furnishings that are remotely original to the ship in her former life as Clipper Odyssey are the writing desk and the two end tables.
Bathrooms in the Explorer Suites have been entirely redone and are a slightly scaled-down version of the one I have in my Vista Suite. They’ve kept the same décor introduced onboard the Silver Spirit, which has ended up being one of Silversea’s most successful designs.
One deck up, I was able to check out a View Suite on Deck 4. These, interestingly, are five square feet smaller, coming in at 181 square feet – though any difference is completely imperceptible. In fact, the room is a carbon-copy of its Deck 3 cousin with the exception of a large picture window in place of the two portholes.
Is there a better room? Not really. These expedition cruises are so active that you’re really not in your suite in the same way that you are when you sail on one of Silversea’s more traditional luxury vessels. If you’re looking to get onboard for the least amount of money possible, the Explorer Suites on Deck 3 (there are nine of them) are a great deal.
There is no difference between View Suites on Deck 4 and Deck 5; only their relative location onboard the ship changes.
Tonight, we were treated to the most spectacular sunset we’ve seen so far this trip, as Silver Discoverer’s screws began to turn once again, propelling us away from the reddish sand and crystal-clear waters of Pink Beach and onward to West Sumba, Indonesia.
After having seen so much in the past 11 days, both in Australia and Indonesia, my first day onboard in Broome seems so very far away. It’s a testament to just how much can be packed into a few short weeks on an expedition cruise like this.
Silver Discoverer, The Kimberley Coast, Australia to Indonesia
|May 9, 2014||Day 1 - Arrival Down Under|
|May 10||Day 2 - Sydney and the Shangri-La|
|May 11||Day 3 - Perth|
|May 12||Day 4 - Embarking Silver Discoverer in Broome|
|May 13||Day 5 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 1|
|May 14||Day 6 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 2|
|May 15||Day 7 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 3|
|May 16||Day 8 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 4|
|May 17||Day 9 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 5|
|May 18||Day 10 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 6|
|May 19||Day 11 - Wyndham, Australia|
|May 20||Day 12 - At Sea|
|May 21||Day 13 - Savu, Indonesia|
|May 22||Day 14 - Komodo & Pink Beach, Indonesia|
|May 23||Day 15 - Waikelo, Indonesia|
|May 24||Benoa, Bali, Indonesia|