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Sailing Komodo Island in Indonesia

I’ll be honest – I didn’t know much about Komodo Island before I was told I’d be visiting it on a work trip to Indonesia. And while I was excited to see the feared Komodo dragons in the flesh, I was actually most looking forward to trekking through the rice paddies of Ubud and stretching out on the beaches of Seminyak.  But while Bali was amazing, it was Komodo I was telling everyone about when I returned home. I spent two days at sea, sailing around the mesmerising national park, watching the best sunrises and sunsets I’ve ever seen and getting up close to some of the most fascinating wildlife on the planet – including the captivating dragons. Here’s what it’s like to sail around Komodo Island…

The boat

After flying into Labuan Bajo from Bali, the first glimpse of my home for two nights was from the deck of Plataran Komodo Resort & Spa; our phinisi schooner was floating gently on the ocean, sails billowing in the breeze. As we hopped aboard a speedboat and set foot onboard, I was greeted with a cool towel and a chilled glass of orange juice. After dumping my bags in my ensuite cabin – one of five onboard – I stretched out on a beanbag on the upper deck as we made our way to Kalong Island. Soon, we anchored in what felt like the middle of the ocean. The only sound we could hear was the gentle lap of the waves, as the sunset cast a golden hue over the water. Seconds later, a flurry of bats emerged from a cave the rest of us hadn’t even noticed and soared above us, on the hunt for food… the first of many amazing wildlife experiences I encountered on the trip.

The sunrises

If I thought the sunset was spectacular, nothing could have prepared me for the sunrise. We were up at 5am the next morning and ushered into a speedboat, before zipping across the inky black ocean to Padar Island. Renowned as one of the best spots in Indonesia for sunrise, we began our trek up to the top, watching the scenery slowly come into view around us. The burning sun cast an orange glow on the undulating hills and shimmering water – it was like something out of Jurassic Park. The climb was tough, but so worth it – we reached the top just as the brilliant sun made its way up from behind the ocean. It was so peaceful; the sky a kaleidoscopic mix of pink, orange and yellow. We stood here for the best part of an hour, drinking in the view; it was the best sunrise I’ve ever seen.

The dragons

Soon it was time to discover what we’d come here for – the feared Komodo dragon. The heaviest lizards on Earth can only be found in Komodo National Park, and they will eat almost anything – including water buffalo, and even fellow Komodo dragons! We’d been warned not to underestimate their speed either; they can run at 12 miles per hour. With these alarming facts fresh in our minds, we jumped in a speedboat once more to Rinca Island, one of the best places to spot the dragons in their natural environment. We’d barely stepped off the boat before we saw one – a small dragon making its way towards us. “Don’t be fooled by their size; the small ones are often the most deadly.” I turned around to find another, much larger dragon, staring me down. It is hard not to be wowed by these magnificent beasts; they are so much bigger in real life than I’d anticipated, tails whipping behind them and tongues darting in and out. Some were lazing in the sun, others were hunting out food – one was staring down a deer, about to strike. The deer must have sensed danger, as it quickly scarpered, racing through the undergrowth out of sight. The dragon stayed exactly where it was – lying in wait for its next potential prey. All too soon, our time with these unique creatures was up and it was back to the boat.

Pink Beach

As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, we spent the afternoon sailing to Pantai Merah – one of the few pink beaches in the world. As we hopped aboard the speedboat once more, the blushing sand soon came into view; it was almost glowing under the golden sun, and we had the beach all to ourselves. I sat down and ran the pink sand through my fingers, before searching for sun-bleached seashells. As I bent down to pick one up, I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye – it was a Komodo dragon, sitting in the sun several metres away; a sharp reminder that I was on a beach unlike any other.

The night sky

Our final night onboard gave us our last chance to catch one more incredible sunset. I’m not sure if it was the light reflecting off the water, or how peaceful it was on the boat, but the sunsets I experienced were genuinely some of the best I’ve ever seen. I lay back on a beanbag as the sun dropped beneath the ocean and waited for the night sky to appear. It wasn’t long before the first twinkling stars emerged; as the sky slowly turned indigo, the glittering tapestry above shone bright. I could see the entire Milky Way and it was mesmerising. I couldn’t think of a better way to end my sailing adventure.

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Written by Tessa Watkins

Formerly a local news editor and reporter covering court cases and crime stories, I’m obsessed with all things travel. Often found exploring a new city and seeking out the world’s best beaches, there are a plethora of destinations I remain desperate to discover. Tweet me @tess1977