Page 18 - Global Treasures E

This is a SEO version of Global Treasures E. Click here to view full version

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

GL BAL TREASURE

INDONESIA’S

82 83

The Red Baron

Painted frogfsh ( Antennarius pictus )

Komodo

Serengeti f the east

omodo, a wilderness seemingly belonging to another place and time; its imposing ruggedness contrastING sharply with the serenity of the surrounding sea and sky. Though located in the centre of the Indonesian archipelago (between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores), its islands are unlike other tropical isles of Indonesia. The arid weather condition (annual rainfall averages about 800 millimetres) distinctive to the area, supports a dramatically desolate, harsh, undulating terrain, dotted at random with Lontar palms.

Adventures beckoned and I have made a few expeditions, each with a different accompaniment and striking in variation from one another. The frst, in the late eighties, was full of drama fostered within the hull of a traditional Buginese-designed vessel gone bad. Her two black sails fopped wickedly from crooked, red-painted masts, resembling a pirate ship out of a B-grade movie and the Captain wondered why she was delinquent at keeping course! She carried no life jackets, lifeboats or fre extinguishers. Our weight belts were chains from the spare anchor and the air in the scuba tanks were redolent of sewage fumes! On another trip, I tempted fate on the maiden voyage of a poorly reftted dive vessel. The dive ladder intermittently jolted our senses with a 400-volt current. The cabins leaked and were infested with cockroaches the size of overgrown rodents. On yet another occasion, I indulged in luxury on a 40-metre, fve-star catamaran, with a boatload of rich, oversized, loud retirees who reckoned that the diving was not much, but the dragons were impressive. Well, they were right about the dragons, but radically wrong about diving. I have been back nine times.

The islands of Komodo are the exclusive habitat of a primeval species of lizard, a gigantic monitor lizard so big, that a Dutch aviator reported sightings in the early 1900s, of four-metre long dragons roaming wild on an outlandish, Jurassic-like countryside. His story was probably discarded as a product of imagination of a silly explorer. Until another Dutchmen, a military offcer, took two cadavers to the curator of the Bogor Zoological Garden. The animal was formally described as Varanus komodoensis, in 1912. Because they exist nowhere else, evolutionary scientists began lobbying for the dragon’s protection as far back as 1915. Today, however, there may only be as few as 3,000 of these prehistoric monitor lizards, which walk and grunt aggressively like dinosaurs, remaining in the wild.

In 1977, Komodo Island and its environs were listed in the UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) program, a worldwide initiative designed to conserve the diversity of plants, animals and micro-organisms which make up our living biosphere, and to maintain healthy natural systems. Indonesia’s offcial bureau declared the inauguration of Komodo National Park in 1980, with the primary goal of protecting biological diversity and, particularly, the tongue-wagging dragon. In 1991, Komodo National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Investigative scientists suggest that the reefs of Komodo are among the most productive in the world, due to the rich upwellings and high degree of oxygenation produced by strong tidal currents fowing through the Sape Straits. Komodo harbours some of the most pristine, rich coral reefs on the planet. As one naturalist commented, diving in these waters is overwhelming and can be equated to being in the middle of a wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. My photographic portfolios of Komodo can attest to that.

K

Page 18 - Global Treasures E

This is a SEO version of Global Treasures E. Click here to view full version

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »