Friday, September 19, 2008

Here Be Dragons

This morning we awoke at Komodo Island. After breakfast we took the skiffs over to the visitor center at the park, where we hired guides to walk us around the island. On the walk we saw a lot of deer, a couple of wild pigs, Imperial pigeons, chickens, eagles, and some other birds. But no dragons. We did see some genuine dragon poo, complete with deer hair, so we know they are around and feeding.

As luck would have it, however, there are four big dragons who like to hang out by the kitchen at the ranger station, so they took us over there. It's not the same as seeing them truly in the wild, but they are wild and uncaged. Lovely animals, if a bit slothful this morning.

The island itself, at least the part we hiked, is quite dry ('tis the season)and not particularly diverse. After the obligatory stop at the ranger-station souvenir shop and one other little higher-end gift shop (I so wanted to buy a plush Komodo dragon, but didn't want to carry it home!) we walked through a local market where we were offered carved dragons (many wearing scuba gear), pearls, and some other crafts. Little kids followed us back to the skiff, imploring us to buy some pearls, a necklace, a carving. Or give us your hat, your sunglasses, something. They ultimately seemed pretty pleased with our plastic water bottles.

One of the ongoing difficulties in diving in some of these remote, impoverished areas is how to deal with such requests. We have so much, it seems criminal to leave without leaving something behind. Most of us try to help, and often bring some small gifts for the villagers, but it is always difficult.

I guess I'm slightly disappointed in the dragon encounter. It's cool to have seen them. In some ways the distant spotting of them on the beach the other morning was more satisfying, but both reinforce that we are really in Komodo.

Now back to diving for a bit. Supposed to be lots of fish life hereabouts.

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