11 January 2013
Meeting Komodo Dragons and Snorkeling at Pink Beach
Maen lost a limb to an attack by a Komodo Dragon. He could have lost his life. Instead, he survived and courageously has returned to his post as a ranger in the Komodo Islands looking after an environment and an animal that perhaps does not have his best interests at heart. [Michael recounts his story far better than I could.]It’s a harsh place. On a hot day in a spot without shade the sun can make you stroke out before you even realize you’re tired. Komodo Dragons aren’t caged or penned, instead roaming wild, the entire island their kingdom. One comes to the islands to learn about the circle of life and yet at all times, death lingers in your mind because there is always the possibility of another attack. Yes, rangers accompany you - armed with little more than sticks. Yes, they know how to defend against an attack - but here, nature does not always cooperate and dragons aren’t really afraid of sticks.Still, our visit was attack free. Unless you count Komodo Dragons running toward us at a rather alarming pace…And I learned to relax for long enough to admire an animal which truly remains at the top of a food chain in an environment where their might is perfectly on display, as opposed to being handicapped in a zoo. I also noticed the environment itself. There is much that is alive. And even more life teeming under the surface of the ocean that surrounds the islands in the Komodo chain. My favorite place was Pink Beach. It’s named for the sand, literally pink, caused by red coral washing up and being ground by the constant pressure of the tide and the waves. Snorkeling here was the best I have ever experienced and yet it isn’t even the best in Indonesia.From a cliff above the beach I surveyed our paradise and thought again about life, how glad I was to be alive; how alive I felt being so enveloped in nature, without cares and worries to distract me from the beauty.However, the resort at Kanawa Island provided its own perfection. Enormous starfish lingered on the floor of the ocean begging to be admired. Bright orange, shades of pink and black spots made a delightful contrast to the turquoise water and white sand.For as long as we could we bobbed and swam and floated in the beautiful water, appreciating the bounty of life and the gift of another day. None of us know how long we are guaranteed and the blessing of being able to spend a few days living in the Komodo Islands may be one of the greatest I have ever had, one of those experiences after which one tends to say, mostly joking, "I can die happy."As if to confirm all of my sappy thoughts and the scribbled entry in my journal, penned with beer in one sandy hand and the sun blinding me... on our way home, first a rainbow greeted us and then a spectacular sunset signaled the end of our experience in the Komodo Islands. I wasn't the only one with sappy thoughts after that...
Disclaimer: The story I began with, of the ranger Maen, is not dramatized. He really could have died and did narrowly escape a worse fate. However, do not let that story make you afraid to visit the Komodo Islands yourself. As with all wild animals, caution is necessary but irrational fear, is not.