Indonesia: Island Hopping in Komodo

Indonesia is the largest island nation in the world with over 13,000 islands.  This is just about +6,000 more than found in the Philippines.  So no matter how much of Indonesia we could squeeze into our short trip, we would only see a handful of islands.

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To give you an overview of our travels, we started off on Java, to Flores, to Kelor island, Padar island, Komodo island, Gili Laba, and Moyo Island, to Lombok, and finally to Bali.  While we hopped around quite a bit we only visited 11 of the +13,000 islands!  The beginning of our trip was island hopping with Wanua adventure for 4 days.  During these 4 days our schedule was hike and snorkel, read and nap, eat, and repeat.

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The most exciting of the islands was Komodo island.

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As the name implies, Komodo is home to the Komodo dragon.  These are the largest, and heaviest, reptiles in the world.  The biggest Komodo dragon ever caught was 3.63 meters (10.3 feet) long, weighing  166 kilograms (366 pounds).  They use their tongue to smell the air and hunt prey.  After the Komodo dragon ambushes it’s prey it only needs to bite it once.  Even if the animal escapes anyways, the venom in it’s saliva will kill the animal in about 4 days.  The Komodo dragon can smell rotting flesh from 4 kilometers away (2.5 miles), so after the animal dies, the Komodo dragon only needs to get there before the other Komodo dragons to secure it’s meal.  (Smithsonian National Zoo).  Komodo dragons are endemic to only a few Indonesian islands.  With Wanua adventure, we got to visit one of these islands.

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Upon arrival we already spotted one Komodo dragon lazily sitting on the beach, basking in the sun.  Since they are cold blooded animals, they have to sit in the sun to aide their digestion.  Otherwise, their meal ends up rotting in their stomach and can cause a lethal infection.  We met our guides and our group was led into the forest.  As we’re walking and looking around Dani notices the three guides are distributed through-out the group and they’re carrying long forked wooden walking sticks.

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Dani: “What do you think those sticks are for?”

Me: “I’m pretty sure those are for the Komodo dragons”

KD1Shout out to Dani for the amazing close ups!

We walked into a clearing and saw the infamous Komodo dragon, lazily laying in the sun, not the slightest bit concerned with his visitors.  We walked down one of the pathways and saw another Komodo dragon, not far from the first laying across the pathway.  Suddenly the first one got up from it’s comfortable sunny spot and walked after us down the pathway.  Finding ourselves between the two Komodo dragons, I determined that there were enough of us that I probably wouldn’t end up as Komodo dragon lunch.

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Still not concerned with the people at all the one began slowly walking towards the second.  They are extremely territorial animals and so the larger first one chased the second one away from the path and back into the woods.  After that we walked through the rest of the park without much other excitement.  A few deer, who would probably later become Komodo food, and some time on the beach.

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After our 4 days of boating were over, we arrived in Lombok and traveled  7 hours to our next destination, Bali.

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Mount Bulusan: The Place Where The River Flows

Living near volcanoes is not something I had ever experienced before living in the Philippines.  When I arrived at my site, I found my Municipality snugly tucked between two sleeping giants; Mount Mayon and Mount Bulusan.  Both of these volcanoes have been active during my service.  Mount Bulusan was raised to Alert level 2 when I first arrived and I could see smoke pouring from the crater from my house.  Mount Mayon has only just recently calmed down from her activity earlier this year.  Mount Mayon was raised all the way to Alert Level 4 and I could see the crater glowing from the Casiguran pier.

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But with both the giants subdued, I can sit peacefully on the pier in the early morning and gaze at the volcanoes on either side of me.  I can only see Mount Mayon on clear days.  The iconic cone peaks above the Sorsogon Mountains from across the Sorsogon Bay.  Mount Bulusan is hard to miss. Directly opposite of Mount Mayon, inland, Mount Bulusan towers over my little Municipality.  Unlike Mayon’s perfect cone, Bulusan is far from perfect with it’s flat, slightly lopsided, top.

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In Bicol, Bulusan means the place where the river flows (Gintong Aral).  This name couldn’t be more accurate.  Mount Bulusan feeds a number of freshwater springs, lakes, and waterfalls, that run into 4 different municipalities.  If there’s one thing I’ll miss, it’s an impromptu day of discovering the hidden uniqueness to each spring and waterfall running down the sides of Mount Bulusan.

Coincidentally, most of these spring hopping adventures have the same beginning.  Me and my sitemate, sitting drinking coffee or tea with our friend Kenny.  During a lull in conversation, he would ask:

‘Have you ever been to Masacrot Springs?’

or Bayugin Falls, or Nagsipit Falls, or Buklad River, all places that would one day take the place of Masacrot.

Most times Perri and I would reply ‘not yet!’

‘Well,’ Kenny would start,

‘We should go there! Let’s go there now!’

And just like that we would be in a jeepney, tryke, or car, off to see some part of Mount Bulusan we had never seen before.  Although they all have the same source, each spring and waterfall in Sorsogon is unique in some way.

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Masacrot Spring is shaded by giant crawling jungle trees, the water is a deep blue-green that compliments the sandy colored stones that line the pool.  The name Masacrot Spring is after the water found there.  The water is ‘masacrot’ which means acrid.  The water tastes as if it’s been carbonated.  I asked Kenny why it was like this and he said “it’s because of the mineral content of the water.  It’s a soda spring, so the dissolved solids make the water taste that way.”

At Nagsipit falls, just above Urok cold spring, the green layers of moss, leaves, and vines crawl forward as the falls erode backwards sinking further into the forest.  It makes the place look like the perfect watering hole to spot water sprites taking in the dewy breeze rushing out of the narrow cove.

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San Mateo Hot Spring has water so hot you can’t help but respect the sleeping giant looming above you as your muscles melt to mush.  Kenny told us his favorite time to visit the hot spring is when it’s raining.  It happened to be raining when we visited, and I realized exactly what he meant.  As the pool elevates your body temperature, you can feel the refreshing but sharp contrast of each individual rain drop hitting your face.

Bayugin Falls is back in the middle of the jungle.  Before arriving at the waterfall, there is a long metal bridge that passes over a canyon that has grown deep into the earth.  The canyon meanders through the forest and leads to a waterfall.  The water of this waterfall doesn’t all fall down, it seems to spray in all different directions.  The jagged boulders at the bottom of the falls have not yet smoothed.  So the water falls downward, but is then launched into the air by the jagged rock. The water flows down to a pool that is bordered by a tall wall of green.  At the top of the wall giant trees appear to float on air as their branches grow away from the crowded jungle out over the edge of the wall.

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Buklad River, the perfect spot for an early morning walk, the sunlight streams into the crystal clear water and the rocks that peak out of the water just a bit are the perfect height for sitting and combing your mermaid hair.

These are only the few falls, rivers, and springs , I’ve been able to visit while here.  There are so many others I won’t get to explore, this time around.  I’ve always been a salt water girl, but fresh water is alright…as long as it’s in Sorsogon, of course.