Rinca is the lesser-visited island in comparison to Komodo but this shouldn’t put you off a visit. Rinca has a larger population of dragons than komodo, which makes viewing these dragons far more accessible than on Komodo. Rinca is the closest island to the town of Labuan Bajo, Flores and the boat ride to Rinca will usually take around 2 -3 hours by boat.
Once your boat has moored at the small port of Rinca, a ranger will greet you. You have no other option than to accept the services of the ranger, as he is your only form of protection from the dragons. The rangers are usually native to Rinca and know the park like the back of their hand. After a short walk through a mangrove you will be asked to register at small wooden office. You will be asked to pay an entrance fee of Rp 20, 000 ($2) and if you have a camera a charge of Rp 50,000 ($5).
The ranger will then give you some information on the dragons and the island of Rinca. Once the introduction has finished you will be asked if you would like the Long trek (6 km) or the shorter trek (3 km). At this point, we must add that the services of the ranger is free yet it is customary to give him a tip at the end of the trek as their salary is very low.
Mating season for the Komodo dragon is from July to September and this can cause some problems in spotting the dragons as they are well hidden from view. However you will see many nests that the dragons build yet often these nests are left abandoned. The baby dragons have a perilous start to life and are often eaten by their mothers or other hungry beasts. The baby dragons for the first three years of their life scamper into the trees where they are safe from their maternal jaws.
Rinca is not only home to dragons but wild pigs, goats, buffaloes, monkeys and an array of birdlife. It really is a naturalist’s paradise. Walking on the trek will take you through some quite arid brush and you are forever turning your head at the slighest sound of a twig snapping or a rustle in the trees. If you are lucky enough to see a dragon really in the wild then you can be assured that you will be safe with the ranger. Most of the dragons hunt at dawn and dusk and during the hot days they laze in the sun and rarely move. Do not attempt to touch a dragon as they have been known to take off people’s arms. You will undoubtedly be told the story along your trek of how a Swiss tourist strayed from his group in 1975 and was never to be seen nor found again. It is believed that after straying from his group, he encountered a dragon that took a shine to him. One of the reasons, his body nor skeleton was never found is the fact that the dragons will devour every single piece of their prey including the bones. You will often come across huge white lumps that resemble chalk – this is dragon pooh filled with all that calcium from bone.
It is possible to spend the night on Rinca if you are the more adventurous type. At the rangers barracks, there are basic huts that can accommodate, however make sure to notify the park authorities beforehand as occasionally they can be booked up with film crews filming a documentary.
Rest assured that if you do visit during these times, you will see plenty of dragons around the ranger’s barracks and cook house. It is the lazier dragons that tend to favour the food or left over scraps from the cookhouse.
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