Indonesia is a country of seventeen thousand islands surrounded by crystal clear blue water and vibrant coral reefs. The country is full of unique, beautiful, and sometimes terrifying creatures, and some of these species cannot be found anywhere else on earth. If you’re planning a trip to Indonesia or it’s on your backpacking agenda, surely wildlife sightseeing will be part of your adventure. But what’s the best way to witness as many different species in their natural habitats as you can? When you’re on a tight budget or a tight schedule, this question is an important one.
Most travelers who visit Indonesia go to Bali because it’s lined with beautiful beaches, full of ancient Hindu temples, and ripe with tourist attractions. Bali’s neighbor to the East is an Island of almost the same size called Lombok which is also lined with beautiful beaches but has far fewer tourists than Bali. Between these two islands are three small islands called the Gili Islands. If you visit a tourist travel centre on any of these islands you’ll see advertisements for the ‘Komodo Boat Trip’. This boat trip is three nights and four days long and leaves from a port on Lombok in the early afternoon. Over these four days you’ll stop at a number of snorkeling spots and do on-land treks. You’ll pay an all inclusive price for your food, simple but comfortable accommodation on the boat, and entrance into all of the wild and wonderful destinations. This price usually starts somewhere around 170 USD but can be bargained down. Even if this price seems a little out of your budget, consider that your food and accommodation are included, and I assure you that you will not be disappointed. Over the course of these four days you’ll see an amazing abundance of wild animals.
Because these animals are in their natural habitats, it’s hard to be sure what you will and won’t see. When I did this boat trip I snorkeled with huge manta rays, saw vibrantly colored fish and coral, watched a school of dolphins surround our boat, and swam in the ocean at night as it sparkled with green phosphorescent plankton. We also trekked through the jungle to a waterfall, and saw thousands of massive fruit bats or ‘flying squirrels’ fly over us, but the cherry on top and where the boat trip gets it’s name was seeing the komodo dragons.
Komodo dragons don’t exist anywhere else on earth besides Komodo island and it’s small neighbor Rinca island. They’re among the world’s largest reptiles and are similar to an alligator or crocodile except they look like a massive gecko. Komodo dragon’s mouths are full of extremely deadly bacteria which infects their prey and kills it in a matter of days. In which time the animal becomes weak and is surrounded by the dragons who wait until their prey dies to eat it. Very few humans have ever been killed by Komodo dragons but several trainers have lost limbs due to bacterial infections from a bite. The Komodo dragons roam free on these two desert islands and the people who run the national park do not feed the komodo dragons directly, but ensure that the island is well stocked with water buffalo and wart hogs for the dragons to hunt naturally. This ensures safety to the people who live in towns on the islands and visitors because the komodo dragons will only attack when they’re hungry. The komodo dragons spend most of their time lying in the hot sun lazily, warming their cold blooded bodies. Their definitely the creepiest and most unique animal I’ve ever seen in it’s natural habitat. We stood within six feet of a few of the komodo dragons and if you do this boat trip, you will too.
The boat will drop you off in a charming town called Labuan Bajo on Flores island on the fourth day. If you’re lucky your boat crew will allow you to sleep one extra night on the boat so that you can ease your way back into life on land and save you one night’s hostel fee. I highly recommend doing this boat trip if wildlife interests you because some of these species, you might never get the chance to see again.