PADAR ISLAND AND KOMODO DRAGON
Padar Island is one of the islands that belongs to Komodo National Park in East Nusa Tenggara Province, Flores Island, Indonesia. It’s the third largest island after Komodo and Rinca Island, about 14.09 square kilometers.
The uninhabited island is a home for savanna and palmyra palm trees flourishing on the hilly terrain, along with mangrove, gecko, snakes, eagles and crows. On the other hand, the sea is a home for manta rays, sea turtles, corals, and sharks.
But, how about Komodo dragons?
The locals said that not long ago, there were 5 Komodo dragons exiled on Padar Island after attacking humans on Rinca Island, where the more aggressive dragons (than those in Komodo National Park on Komodo Island) live. However, recently there are only 3 left due to lack of food and eventually dead.
Fortunately, our tour leaders mentioned this information the day after in order not to scare us! Anyways, suppose they happen to be on the island, they would be somewhere off-the-beaten path on the other side of the hill.
Regardless the 3 remaining hungry dragons, those days, Padar Island was once the habitat of Komodo dragons. Nonetheless, illegal hunting and food deficiency finally lead to their extinction. FYI, feeding Komodo dragons is not allowed on Komodo Island and the rest of the islands to preserve their survival instinct.
Padar Island is one of the popular destinations for island hopping, besides Kelor, Kanawa, Gili Lawa, Pink Beach and Rinca Island. The only transportation is a local boat, and spending overnight at sea is the most efficient way to explore the beauty of each island.
So there I was, in the boat with other group members of Indonesia Photo Tour, a photography-oriented tour, to capture sunset and sunrise views. Departing from Labuan Bajo, the capital city of East Nusa Tenggara province, I tried my best to take a nap during the 3 hour trip. But in the end, I only laid down on the bench with my eyes closed instead of having a proper sleep.
CHASING SUNSET: NO PAIN, NO GAIN
Three hours later, our boat approached Padar Island, docking few meters from the shore. Then, we immediately took another 10 minute ride with a lifeboat to actually get our feet to the ground (read: sand).
We had been previously warned that reaching the top to hunt for sunset would be a challenging job, but “slightly less” strenuous than trekking on Kelor Island.
In the beginning of the trail, I was glad that the wooden stairs welcomed us, becoming the saviour to save our energy, although they only covered a very small percentage of the whole trail.
Actually, the stairs were created to ensure the safety of The Minister of Indonesian State-Owned Enterprises (BUMN), Rini Soemarno, and the officials who visited Padar Island on Youth Pledge Day last year. They are initially not meant for trekkers, but manage to offer easier options for visitors, nonetheless, who either have less fond of adventure or less physical strength.
On the other hand, European trekkers object the availability of the stairs as they ruin the fun and challenge that the nature already delivers. Not to mention that nearly all national parks in Europe have stairs with a better quality than those in Indonesia.
The ugly truth of the hilly terrain with gravels and steep paths came next after the last step of the stairs. I was (and still am) a trekker newbie. Without some helpful hand from our guide, I could only imagine how many more times I would get slipped. I was amazed that some people (not from our group) can walk nearly effortlessly only by wearing a pair of cheap flip-flops!
The view point from each level of the hill was pretty. Every time we took a break, we looked down to see how far we had been. We chuckled in awe, witnessing the beauty of God’s creation and capturing with our camera as much as we could. Yet the local guide kept reminding us,
“You haven’t seen it all. More magnificent views await as you go further up.”
So true. The higher we went, the more stunning views we got. In fact, Padar Island has a very unique shape, like a tree with crooked branches on both sides, creating giant C-shaped silhouette hugging the water. Not to mention that the savanna made the entire surface of the island looked like a hilly golf course from the distance.
I felt so lucky that the savanna was still green when we were there in April, as it will dry somewhere in July and the hills will become barren and look more “rocky”.
The most outstanding viewpoint of all was indeed the destined location for chasing sunset, which was actually not on the peak of the hill. There were 2 C-shaped angles instead of 1, creating a signature characteristic of this spot. The sun was shining right above the crooked part of the hill and I couldn’t be more excited how the sunset would look like. We immediately placed our tripod and set up the (photography) tools required for best results. I didn’t really have those sophisticated tools, except a tripod, a shutter release and of course, my own Fuji XA-1.
Landscape photography requires a lot of patience, the right technique, tools, and timing. But suddenly, when the right (sunset) time arrived, the uninvited cloud came out from nowhere blocking the view of the sun going down!! A stroke of luck is something we should not put aside, and that’s what we missed at that time.
The picture below was taken a few moments before the cloud hid the sun.
I think the sky could be more reddish in blue hour if the thick cloud didn’t conceal the source of residual sunlight before it completely disappeared. No matter what happened, I still believe that all the struggle we had from the start was paid off with picturesque views like nowhere else in the world.
Other remaining challenge was going down from the hill after dark and get ready to gather at 4.30 am the day after at the dining room above our rooms for chasing sunrise.
CHASING SUNRISE: BEST VIEW FROM THE BEACH
Despite motion sickness due to the mild wave that shook the boat the night before, I managed to get up 40 minutes earlier than the actual gathering hour. What motivates me the most was to take a shower before peak hour since there were only 2 shared bathroom for 12 people. So, I really needed to outsmart the situation to avoid the queue.
Fortunately, there was no need to trek for sunrise hunting because we captured the moment from the beach, with an eye level view of sailing boats at sea. The colour change of the sky started at 5 am and gradually turned into the most spectacular red sky I’ve ever seen in my life, just before the sun was up.
Since we were the only ones witnessing the sunrise, there was no need to fight for a great spot. When we headed back to the boat for breakfast after the sky turned brighter, we saw a group of non-photography tour who just arrived at the beach and start trekking.
Well, I wish they knew what they just missed a moment ago.
Please note that I’m not affiliated with this company and not paid for this article. I’m nothing but a participant of this trip.