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This was a hard one for me….I have read that there are a lot of unscrupulous “zoos” in Bali & Lombok and was worried by going to this place, that I would be supporting animals being mistreated, drugged and taken from the wild for the pursuit of money and entertaining tourists. But I really wanted the experience of interacting with an Orangatuan!

As an informed tourist, I did a little research and found that although the animals do live in small environments at the Elephant park…they do spend most of their time in a “natural” outside space. The park is also a liscelic rescue facility and animal sanctuary. They are one of the only places that responded to an investigation into animal abuse at local zoos.

The Elephant Park is ran by a wealthy veteranarian who is heavily involved in animal conservation.  They report that their animals have all been rescued from poor environments and overcrowded zoos. The animals had already been through “training” at their previous homes; a sad and often tortuous time for the animals. The animals are still paraded out for people to see, but the staff showed general love and care for them.

Although the sanctuary still offers elephant rides, a long time practice in Indonesia, they do seem to limit the amount of time the elephants have to endure this…I did not participate in this offering. Overall, the elephants seemed happy; flopping their ears and waggling their tail. A fairly large area had been built where the elephants could fully submerge themselves in water, graze from naturally growing flora and still interact with the guests.

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Several of the Orangatuans at the park were actually raised in captivity after being taken from their parents in the wild. Wild adult Orangatuans are often killed so their babies can be taken and sold at a premium to unscrupulous zoos and circuses. This practice is now highly illegal in Indonesia…but unfortunately still happens and is only continuing the depletion of such magnificent animals in the wild.

I asked the staff if they have plans to reintroduce the animals into wildlife sanctuaries such as Camp Leaky in Borneo. They stated that it is in the plans..but they have only been open for a year and a half. They are trying to pair each animal with a mate in hopes of breeding and increasing the population of these endangered species. I am sceptical of this…but eh, what can you do. The animals are basically incapable of living a life in the wild as they have been either “broken” of their wild instincts or raised from birth in captivity. One of the domestic Orangatuans was supposedly reintroduced to a wildlife sanctuary and ended up being removed as she was reportedly beaten up on by the other animals. She was never taught to forage for food and began to suffer from malnutrition as well. Once again, I take these explanations with a grain of salt and hope they are true.

Any way, the animals were amazing to see up close and my interation with Palen, the 8 year old Orangatuan was beyond cool. Palen was brought up by people and loves the interaction with guests. He was given a little treat and walked in holding his trainers hand. They were very natural with him, but stood by to make sure he wasn’t overzealous in his affection. Orangatuans are 7x stronger than humans.

Here are some pics:

Google photo album of Lombok Elephant Park

Stuffed breaks on boats…alot. So when we noticed we broke the gooseneck of our staysail boom, we had to source out a welder. Turns out the only guy who could do it was on the other side of the island…and he doesn’t pick up. So we intrepid and cheapo cruisers went to find the cheapest way to get it to him. Hiring a car and driver was expensive, renting a car was boring…mopeds I said!!!!

So two mopeds and 20$ later we had bikes for 2 days and time to explore.

After a few minutes of scooter operator error mixed with driving on the wrong side of the road and we were off. We went on small local roads through rice paddie villages and on to the coast where we found a sweet bungalow on the beach.

The island of Lombok is famously touristy, but as soon as you turn out of town and hit the local villages, Indonesian culture starts flowing through ya.

Here are some photos.

If you want to conquer the world, you best have dragons.
-GEORGE R. R. MARTIN, A Dance With Dragons

DSC_0024Komodo National Park lies just east of Flores island. Within the park there are 3 major islands (Komodo, Rinca & Padar) and 26 islets and atolls. The Komodo dragon is only found in this small region and Komodo National Park is now a world heritage site.

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The Komodo dragon is the largest species of lizard. They are cannibals, loners and bad parents. The eat their young and each other if times get hard…or not. They lay in wait and attack by surprise. They can take down a water buffalo and will scavage it down to nothing in a blink of an eye. So pretty much they are the badasses.

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We are at Rinca Island…within the National Park. Oddly enough, you are more likely to see dragons here than their name sake…Komodo Island. There are also deer, water buffalo, monkeys and numerous bird species. 

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We went into the park early AM, as we heard they were most vicious then…I am not sure about the vicious bit…but we saw a boat load of them…both hanging around the cook tent and in the wild.

Here are some photos:

We took the “long” hike…which was only 1.5 hours. It started in the forets and peak out on a ridge then back into the forest. We saw tons of wild life. All in all, a great experience!

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This photo is taken by AllWinner's v3-sdv

Every region, if not island group, in Indonesia is different. The people look different from each other, they have different customs, different beliefs and different food styles. It is the most wonderful part of this huge island archipelago. So why wouldn’t their reefs and underwater features be the same?

The diving in north eastern Indonesia was so lovely. It was remote, untouched and wonderful in its simplicity. We dove in the Banda or Spice islands and found the reefs full of huge cones and giant fern corals. The fish were plentiful with huge specimens of Potato Grouper, Napolian Wrasse and Giant Trevally. There was so much to look at ones head would nearly snap from looking back and forh. Here, the waters are calm, the fish are not scared and the over fishing problem that plagues so much of Indonesia is almost non existent.

The Wakatobi archipelago, which lies 400 miles a bit south and east of the Spice islands, features pristine reefs with micro corals and delicate fan corals. The fish were plentiful and small feeder fish swarmed on the edges of the reef. The waters here were so crystal clear one could see for ever. The Wakatobi islands are in a National Park. Fishing is allowed, but not on certain reefs and only for private consumption or local market sales. 

I made a really poorly edited video combining the diving and snorkeling. The first part of the video is Banda Spice Islands and the later Wakatobi.

Diving and Snorkeling in Banda and Wakatobi Islands

Up next is diving in he rather different environment of Komodo National Park.