ICTP Chairman Juergen Thomas Steinmetz is currently in the Komodos where he has been meeting with leaders in the tourism industry. It is through this visit that Mr. Steinmetz now has the pleasure of welcoming the Komodos as the latest destination member of the International Council of Tourism Partners (ICTP).
Said Mr. Steinmetz: “Komodo is no longer a remote island accessible only by wealthy tourists on private boats. Today, there are over 20,000 visitors a year that visit the park. The majority of visitors still arrive by cruise ship, despite the fact that the most popular tour, Spice Island Cruises, ceased operations in 1999.”
Dr. Agustinus Ch Dula, the newly-elected Regent of West Manggarai on behalf of West Manggarai province in Indonesia stated: “Tourism involves all aspects of human beings - from the head of state down to the fisherman and the laborers. From environmentally friendly to trash, from clean water to roads - all of these are elements of tourism.”
The gateway to Komodo is arguably the island of Bali. While most visitors to Komodo National Park enter through the gateway cities of Bima in eastern Sumbawa, or Labuanbajo in the west of Flores, the departure point is actually Bali. Both Bima and Labuanbajo are serviced by regularly-scheduled flights that depart daily at 9:30 am from Denpasar to Bima, with connecting flights to Labuanbajo on Monday and Saturday. The gateway cities are also connected to Bali by overland buses and inter-island ferries. There are local coastal ships that travel between Lombok and Labuanbajo. These boats cater to tourists and take passengers on a four-day trip that includes a day and night in Komodo National Park (cost: $50 per person).
Feisol Hashim, Co-chairman of ICTP said: “We do not bequeath this beautiful planet to the children of our children, but return it intact and better. I am pleased to have this potential as a destination member of ICTP. We will certainly be able to assist them in the development of their future in tourism, like we will do with all other members.”
Italian-born Dr. Claudio Ciofi began his career by studying conservation first at Florence University and then at the University of Kent at Canterbury. He speaks four languages and has spent five years studying the Komodo’s biology and conservation. Mr. Ciofi is fast becoming a world authority on the Komodo dragon. He shared: “The Komodo dragon, as befits any creature evoking a mythological beast, has many names. It is also the Komodo monitor, being a member of the monitor lizard family, Varanidae, which today has one genus, Varanus. Residents of the island of Komodo call it the “ora.” Among some who live on Komodo and the islands of Rinca and Flores, it is known as a buaya darat (land crocodile), a name that is descriptive but inaccurate as monitors are not crocodilians. Others call it biawak raksasa (giant monitor), which is quite correct; it ranks as the largest of the monitor lizards, a necessary logical consequence of its standing as the largest lizard of any kind now living on the Earth.Within the scientific community, the dragon is Varanus komodoensis. And most everyone simply calls it the Komodo,”
The Komodo dragon is an ancient species whose ancestors date back over 100 million years. The varanid genus originated between 25 to 40 million years ago in Asia. The Komodo descended from this species and evolved to its present form over four million years ago.
Even without a a famous dragon, the dragon islands of Komodo National Park are surrounded by a thin chain of islands stretching east from Bali towards New Guinea, that divides the warm shallows of the South China seas, from the cool depths of the Indian ocean. The ebb and flow between these opposing bodies of water produces an astounding mixture of marine creatures of both warm and cold water, some species having no business to be anywhere near here at all, others found nowhere else, and many more constantly revealing themselves to be new to science.
No less than fifteen different varieties of whales and dolphins have recently been observed here, from pods of shark-eating tropical Orcas, to the two-foot long, exuberantly acrobatic spinner dolphins. These waters provide a magical place to dive into waters that makes one feel like they are discovering underwater life at the edge of the world.