Rinca is a rough and tumble little island located in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia just off the western tip of Flores. One of only a very few places to spot Komodo dragons in the wild, Rinca is often overlooked by tourists on their way to the more-popular Komodo Island. You are much more likely to spot Komodo dragons in their natural habitat on Rinca Island where there is less impact from tourism.
Rinca is a part of Indonesia's Komodo National Park and has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status. If you find yourself in search of the famed Komodo dragon, avoid the crowds on Komodo and visit Rinca instead!
Rinca occupies only 123 square miles and aside from a tiny fishing village, the island is completely undeveloped. Miserably hot and usually dry, Rinca is the perfect home for exotic and dangerous wildlife. Dense forest gives way to grassy fields and a few scattered watering holes where the Komodo dragons hunt for prey.
When arriving at the dock, a short walk takes you to the ranger camp where you will be required to pay a fee (around $15) which includes a guide for one to two hours. Two hours is all that you will be able to handle in the extreme heat. It is not possible to explore the island without a guide .
A few lazy Komodo dragons can be spotted right away lounging around the camp waiting for handouts or rummaging through the garbage. Take photos, but do not approach the dragons - they can run nearly twice as fast as you can!
- The island is very hot; use sunscreen and take more water than you think necessary. Read more about sun protection in Southeast Asia.
- A small canteen at the camp has drinks and snacks, but no food.
- If a large group has formed, simply tell the rangers that you want to wait for the next guide. Your chances of spotting Komodos are much better in a small group.
- Stay close to your guide and watch carefully when walking through tall grass for Komodos hiding in ambush.
Members of the monitor family, Komodo dragons are the largest and most lethal lizards on earth. Adults regularly live up to 50 years and reach more than 10 feet in length. Only in 2009 did researchers discover that the dragons are venomous; it was previously thought that the high level of bacteria in the mouth was the primary cause of deaths after a bite.
Biologists estimate that less than 5,000 Komodo Dragons exist in the wild; around 1,300 are thought to live on Rinca Island. Komodo Dragons are known to exist only in five places in Indonesia: Gili Motang, Gili Dasami, Komodo, Rinca, and in Flores.
Indonesia's Komodo National Park claims some of the best diving in the world for those brave enough to face the strong currents. Deep ocean currents coming from Antarctica pour into the Indian Ocean creating dangerous and unpredictable currents. A staggering array of marine life comes to feed on fish and organisms brought in by the currents.
In 1991 the Komodo National Park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site to protect the fragile environment and endangered Komodo dragon population. A 3-day pass to the park costs USD $15 and is required to visit Rinca Island or dive in the national park.
Komodo dragons aren't the only impressive wildlife on the island. Some of the life on Rinca includes water buffalo, deer, wild pigs, monkeys, and many exotic bird species. Cobra snakes - responsible for more fatalities than the dragons - are frequently spotted at night or swimming in the water.
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When to Go
Rinca is best visited between April and November. Mating season for the Komodo dragons is during July and August; the females will be guarding eggs on their nests in September.
Staying on Rinca Island
The camp has a small bungalow operation, but no longer accepts guests. It may be possible to sleep on your chartered boat and return to Labuan Bajo in the morning. For obvious reasons, there is no camping available on the island.
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