Wednesday, August 13, 2008

August 13, 2008 - Rinca Island, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

It took us around 28 hours, and some help from the engine, to sail from Savu to Rinca Island, one of two big islands and many small islands that comprises Komodo National Park. The big attraction here is the Komodo Dragon, a giant monitor lizard with a nasty case of bacteria in its mouth. Our first anchorage, in Rinca's southern bight, held the promise of dragons, but we didn't see any on the steep arid hills around us. However, we did see a whole new world of coral and fish when we went snorkeling. Hello, Indian Ocean! There were so many new species that I had trouble focusing.

This morning, two rally boats joined us in the southern bight. We heard from one of them that the President of Indonesia flew down to Kupang and arrested the head of Customs for impounding all of the rally boats. These cruisers also said that the President made a significant donation to the Sail Indonesia Scholarship Fund, which benefits Kupang University students, as a gesture of goodwill. Now, this is an unsubstantiated rumor and I have no internet here so I can't confirm it. But if it is true, what an unbelievable thing to happen. I'm struggling to imagine the President of a country of 250 million people troubling himself with a rally of 120 boats carrying at most 300 tourists. Could there have been that much coverage in the international press? Could he be concerned about the impoundment of the rally boats having a negative impact on tourism?

This afternoon we motor sailed up the west coast of Rinca. The coast line was stunningly beautiful in a desolate way. High brown cliffs dotted with caves and shot through with red lines of clay dropped straight into the ocean. As we were dropping anchor this afternoon in our second Rinca anchorage, in an undulating bay on the west coast of the island, we spotted two deer on the shore. A short time later, a Komodo Dragon ambled down the white sand beach. We're headed to the park headquarters tomorrow, where we expect to see a lot of dragons, but it was cool to see one just wandering around. Just as the sun set, we saw a monkey meandering along the shoreline.

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