I woke up at 5:30am and tired fishing around the boat. I only had one bite from a Yellow-tipped Threadfin Bream. Similar to last night, there were predators chasing bait in the mangroves, but the boat was anchored too far away. I tried to fish a lure around the boat but nothing came to play.
The crew was up at 6am. My sister and I decided to start the Komodo hike as early as 7:30am to take advantage of the cooler morning temperature. We had an early breakfast and then made a short move to the pier at Komodo Island. On the way, I saw a school of small Tuna surface feeding. I was trolling the X-Rap with wire and the small Tuna didn't want it. I didn't have enough time to rig the lighter rod with a small lure and fluoro leader to try for the Tuna. Oh well.
Once the boat was docked, I had about 30 minutes to fish. There were some Indo-Pacific Sergeant Major and other Damselfish around. However, most were too small to hook or too picky to bite. Luckily, I found a little fish propped vertically against a column that greedily gobbled up a small bait.
Spotted Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys aprinus) - Species #663
Bluefin Trevally patrolled in a school of 4 to 5 individuals. There was also a Giant Trevally. However, these fish were found under the pier deep among the pylons. It would be almost impossible to pull them out if hooked. They seemed very intelligent since I did not once see any of them swim out of the pier.
Four other boats docked and soon we saw a few tour groups passed by. It was time to start out hike.
Komodo Island - welcome to Jurassic Park!
The tour groups were organized as two large groups of 40 people. They were guided by two rangers. Beni arranged a separate ranger for my sister and I so we would not need to follow the large group. It will be an advantage later.
Just like Rinca Island, there were some Komodo dragon around the ranger buildings. This was an eight feet long male.
We were slightly behind the large tour groups so we followed them initially. The trail took us to a waterhole where Komodo dragons often use the feature to ambush animals that come to drink. Around this water hole, we soon found another eight feet long male moving with intent. This was the most active Komodo dragon we saw. It was coming toward people constantly flicking its tongue while swinging its head from side to side. It was tasting something in the air and actively looking for food. We had to backing up to get out of its way multiple times.
It is not an animal you want to take lightly. This male had a white scarred area on its tail that was likely an injury sustained from fighting with another male.
The large tour group stayed with this dragon for a while. We decided to continue our hike. Our ranger took us to a side trail. A little down the trail, our ranger got very excited. We finally realized the reason the big male was moving about so intently. Our ranger found a six feet long Komodo dragon feeding on a deer kill!
Some closer-up shots
Komodo dragon may only feed once a month. Thus, it is very rare to find them on a kill. We were extremely fortunate to have witnessed this one with the deer kill. The large eight feet male was likely attracted to this kill, but it was still search for the kill's location. Other dragons in the area could also have sensed the kill and making their way to the area. Thus, while we took pictures and watched the feed, we were also on high alert for any approaching dragons that may suddenly appear.
Unfortuanly, after waiting for 15min, no other dragons appeared. At one point, a small wild pig came out of the tall grass almost directly in front of the deer kill. The feeding dragon lifted its head up and looked directly at the pig and there was a brief tension in the air. Lucky for the pig, our ranger made a commotion to scare the pig away. It could have become the next meal since the dragon appeared to be planning an attack.
Although we were certain other dragons were slowly searching for the kill, we had a tight schedule and decided not to stay to wait for the other dragons. We returned to the main trail and found the large tour group. Our ranger shared the location of the feeding dragon with the other rangers. Strangely, the other rangers did not bring their groups to the kill site. Lucky us!
Our ranger, Beni, my sister and I moved ahead of the large tour group as the group was slowly strolling through the forest. We hiked briskly but quietly to look for wildlife. We saw a couple more dragons along the way but did not take any photos since they were quite far off the trail.
Finally, we hiked out of the forested valley into the hilly savannah.
We soon saw a dragon trail on the path. It appeared the dragons prefer to use the cleared foot path as well. Soon, we found this male under the shade of a tree.
Beni told us to position our hands as if we were petting the dragon.
We had about 5 minutes with this dragon until the tour group caught up. Everyone from that group wanted photo opportunity with this dragon so we decided to keep moving. We were always trying to keep one step ahead.
Perhaps our small group and quietness allowed us to see this buck. He was really shy and skittish. We managed a couple of photos before he ran back away from the trail.
We didn't see any dragons on the remaining trail. However, we saw lots of butterflier and caterpillers, knocked fresh tamarind pods from the tree, and collected lemon basil for cooking.
The trail soon lead us back to the beach and the pier where our hike finished.
Beni promised me time to fish on the pier as I saw patches of coral with a number of interesting species. I had about 1.5 hours to fish before an early lunch.
I started with strips of squid but most of the fish were not keen to bite squid. Only these Damselfish appreciated squid. I caught a handful of this Damselfish species. All the individuals share a very distinct green spot just above the gill. There were a few smaller, fainter green spots on the nape immediately behind the more obvious spot. I have yet to determine the identity of this species. I may need professional help.
Damselfish species - Species #664
After trying for over 15 minutes without much success with squid, I switch to bread. Fish loved the bread but bread fell off the hook easily. So it took a while until I was able to hook another fish.
Tail-spot Wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus) - Species #665
There was a dark aggressive fish guarding a coral head. At first, I thought it was a Hamlet species as its flapping pectoral fin reminded me of the Black Hamlet I saw in Belize. But Hamlet species are only found in the Atlantic Ocean. Luckily, the fish was quick to bite and I could determine its identity.
Bowtie Damselfish (Neoglyphidodon melas) - Species #666
There was a pair of Spinefoot that kept stealing the bread off my hook. Eventually, they were fed and the pair moved on. A larger fish bit my bread and I pulled the hook out on the hookset. Luckily, it came back later and I did make the mistake twice. It was gorgeous!
Floral Wrasse (Cheilinus chlorourus) - Species #667
I also missed the hookset on a Parrotfish. The hook was likely deflected off its beak and never found soft tissue. I also saw a Checkered Snapper that did not want shrimp or squid, but it was actively chasing small reef fish. I did not have any small lures with me, but at least now I would know how to target that species next time.
There was a couple of Sixbar Wrasse around. These fish had been difficult so far. In some snorkeling video, this species of wrasse seemed to outnumbered all other fish species when they were drawn in by fish food fed by the snorkelers. However, the two Sixbar Wrasse here were very line shy. Eventually, I had to downsize to 4lb fluoro and #20 hook to catch one.
Sixbar Wrasse (Thalassoma hardwicke) - Species #668
Soon, time was up and lunch was ready. We had lunch before making a quick move to Pink Beach. Even with the short move, I sent out the X-Rap but did not get a bite.
Unfortunately, snorkeling videos are too shaky and my footages sucked. You'll just have to take my word that it was the most beautiful snorkeling spot we visiting on this trip. We were fortunately to find a Green Turtle and watched it for at least 10 minutes. I also saw a larger Two-spot Red Snapper (aka Redbass) that had me wishing for a rod.
The sand at Pink Beach was coral pink.
I had scheduled a little time to fish after snorkeling. I wasn't able to fish at Pink Beach since there were a lot of snorkelers around. We relocated to the island across from Pink Beach to fish the shallow reef .
A couple of new species were quickly landed.
Yellowstripe Monocle Bream (Scolopsis aurata) - Species #669
Streamlined Spinefoot (Siganus argenteus) - Species #670
Then, the bite slowed except for Small-toothed Whiptail and Orange-lined Triggerfish. It took quite a while until another interesting species was encountered.
Green Wrasse (Halichoeres solorensis) - Species #671
It was followed shortly by one more new species until the current started to pick up and the bite stopped.
Black Blotch Emperor (Lethrinus semicinctus) - Species #672
We decided to make our way slowly to our next snorkeling location. The boat was moving at 4kts and I was able to troll the X-Rap Magnum close to the reef ledge of Komodo Island. Ten minutes into the troll the rod took a strong hit! This was a decent size fish and it was headed for the bottom. I managed to keep it from the bottom on the first two runs. However, the fish was stuck in the reef on its third attempt. Compared to the Wahoo yesterday, I had more trouble fighting this fish. Its dive were so powerful that I had to sit down on the deck and brace against the floor board for support. Luckily, I was finally able to winch the fish off the snag. I was expecting a Giant Tevally but was completely surprised by an awesome splash of red!
Two-spot Red Snapper (Lutjanus bohar) - Species #673
Everyone was excited again to see a decent fish in the boat. Here's Beni, our first mate, and our cook Francis.
I had read about this species before. They are common in the South Pacific and Australia. It is regarded as one of the most powerful species on the reef. I can attest to its amazing strength for its size. I would rank it stronger than Wahoo but the Wahoo is faster. It was a little surreal that I saw my first specimen while snorkeling just a couple of hours ago, and now I was holding one in hand. I couldn't believe Komodo had delivered two dream catches!
The crew wanted the fish so we kept it. It put the X-Rap out again and not 5 minutes later, it was hit again! This time, the fish seemed relatively weak. However, it was yet another dream fish that I had waited for the chance to chase one day in Australia, but fortunately found it in the Komodo!
Yellowspotted Trevally (Carangoides fulvoguttatus) - Species #674
We continued to troll for an hour to Manta Point without any other hit. The current was really strong during the tide change and perhaps it had affected the bite. However, as we neared our snorkeling site, the captain slowed the boat down. the X-Rap passed over a section of shallow reef and then boom!
This trip had exceeded all my expectations!!!
Leopard Coralgrouper (Plectropomus leopardus) - Species #675
Beni was on the bow looking for Manta Ray that were feeding close to the surface. It didn't take long until a few of them were spotted. Here are a couple of feeble attempts to photograph them from above the water.
We hurriedly entered the water and started to swim with them. The Manta Ray feed facing the water so we were constantly swimming up current. We had to constantly kick to keep pace with them. But as you will see in the video below, if the Manta Ray wished to leave, it was impossible swimming at their speed.
We were very fortunately to find a dozen of these gentle giants since they can be difficult to locate.
Our day was a complete success - from feeding Komodo dragons to dream catches to snorkeling with Manta Rays. This beautiful sunset was the cherry on top!
I asked Francis to prepare some Two-spot Red Snapper fillet for dinner. It was delicious! The meat was mild, moist and not too firm. It may have been even better as a steamed fish.
After the long day, I was pretty tired. I tried to fish after dinner for a bit, but decided to head to bed early when nothing bit after an hour.