at Komodo and Bali, the bulk of the itinerary
aims to travel far from the nearest tourist routes.
At our ;rst stop, Gili Bidara in eastern Lom-
bok, we had the island to ourselves (save for a few
groups of locals coming in on jukungs or outrig-
ger canoes). Our notes for the day spelled it out:
“Island has no facilities, just sand and sea.” Like
most of the islands on the itinerary, Gili Bidara
is great for snorkeling and is home to some of
the most vibrant blue sea stars I’ve ever seen. ;e
lapis-lazuli star;sh — which really looked like
a latex glove blown up in ;ve directions — are
known to inhabit sunny and shallow parts of the
reef, meaning even a mediocre swimmer with a
fogged-up mask can spot them (ahem).
More di;cult to discover are Komodo dragons during mating season — but we tried anyway
the next morning at Komodo National Park.
“Like humans, they’re not having sex in
public,” advised Kissner, who said our chances
of spotting Komodo Lizards (also known as
“dragons” due to their large size and aggressive
behavior) were slim.
;e park — which was founded in 1980 and
recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
in 1991 — is one of the few places where the
animals still roam.
My naturalist guide vehemently denied a
rumor that rangers feed dragons who come
by the ranger station, but we saw a large, adult
dragon — one of about 5,700 that live in the
park — minutes upon entering.
;e park walk was the itinerary’s attraction
highlight, but Pink Beach — located at another
part of Komodo — was a favorite water stop
for many. We were told that it was rare to see
Komodos there, and that they’re not particularly fond of swimming, but park rangers
armed with long, forked sticks monitored the
beach just in case.
Instead of watching for deadly lizards, I
became trans;xed by the beach’s white sand
as it comingled with fragments of coral,
stained red from microscopic animals called
foraminifera. Every time the glassy waves
broke at the shore, the white sand rose to
the top, clouding the water. But as the water
settled, the sand once again mixed with the
broken coral and created a rosy canvas.
We enjoyed our next stop, Satonda Island,
all to ourselves — there weren’t even locals
around. A;er checking out the island’s crater
lake, I joined a few friends for a hike along its
caldera. Butter;ies ;ew by, lizards scurried in
the leaves and, gradually, the trail became little
more than loosely assembled dirt and rocks.
A German man, clad in a shirt made a shade
darker by his own sweat, nearly pummeled
into us while making a rushed descent.
A bit anxious, I continued on, but not
far enough to discover the island’s sizeable
community of fruit bats hanging upside down
Our last stop, Gili Nanggu, more than
remedied the sting of that missed connection.
Here, I savored my favorite aspects of the itinerary — tracing the length of an entire island,
scrambling over rocks, snorkeling with ;sh and
discovering a vacant beach to adore in private. X
Visitors to Komodo
National Park are
accompanied by park
rangers who watch for
beaches with opportunities for
snorkeling and watersports.