Komodo National Park was established in 1980 and was declared a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1986. The islands of Komodo and nearby Rinca are the native habitat of the unique Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) the world's largest lizard which can reach 3 meters long and weigh 90 kilograms. It is the single land animal from the era of the dinosaurs still surviving until today. On Komodo and Rinca they can easily be spotted in the wild.
Located some 500 kilometers east of Bali, The Komodo National Park is in fact an archipelago of about eighty islands in between Flores to the east and Sumbawa to the west. Aside from the dragons, the fauna includes deer, buffaloes, boars, monkeys, wild horses, sea eagles, sulfur crested cockatoos and flying foxes.
In addition the park offers a universe of spectacular underwater beauty, one of the very richest in the world in terms of diversity, host to more than 1,100 different species of fish and over 250 types of corals. The waters of the park are a special border area between two totally different marine ecosystems. To the north there is the Flores Sea, a purely tropical environment with clear warm waters, kaleidoscopic corals and unsurpassed visibility. The Savu Sea to the south is in reality a sector of the Indian Ocean. Between the islands there is first of all the eternal lunar clockwork of the tides. However, in addition there are also the currents from the deep of the Southern Ocean that are pushing up against the continental shelf and venting through subterranean passages, they carry a never ending supply of plankton. In the interface of these two underwater worlds there is abundance of marine life like few other sites on the planet can offer. In this diving paradise it is not unusual to encounter manta rays, whale sharks or hammerheads, endless schools of pelagic fish and too many more species to mention. At the same time popular dive sites like the famed Pink Beach on Komodo are fantastic spots for snorkeling. It is important to know that ninety percent of reef life lives in the top 10 meters of water, so snorkelers do not miss out on anything by not diving. The average water temperature is year round between 22º and 28º C (76º -85º F) and the visibility is usually between 15-50 meters.
Most islands of the National Park are uninhabited, except for just four small settlements of Bajo people, ‘the sea gypsies’ whose livelihood depends entirely on the sea. Formerly they were fully nomadic, living on their boats, but nowadays they also live in houses on stilts over the water. They consider themselves as the ‘children of the sea’ and do not feel at home on the land.
The gateway to the park is the small harbor of Labuan Bajo on the west coast of Flores which is only 30 nautical miles from Komodo Island. It is the home port to a variety of small vessels that go back and forth between the islands. Its small airport has been rechristened to “Komodo Airport”.
Komodo : Nature reserve of a distant past
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