Despite having to wait around on Gili for this trip to leave (a real hardship), the Komodo island trip was definitely the best thing we've done so far, and I'm writing this two weeks on. Once we got back, we heard tales of less-than-seaworthy boats and rubbish crews but luckily our trip couldn't have been much further from these stories.
We got on the boat in Lombok, with absolutely no idea what to expect from it - whether there would be beds, what the food would be like, what we'd actually be doing when not hunting down the dragons. It quickly became clear that of course there were no beds, just thin mattresses laid down on the deck, which was also where we ate. Every meal was based around rice, but they did actually vary it so we pretty much ran through the entire repertoire of Indonesian cuisine in the four days we spent on the boat. And, even better, every meal was vegetarian! With one very notable exception - the meat for this meal was provided by the poor chickens that had spent most of the trip dangling in a bag at the end of the boat. So that one really was just rice.
We didn't actually get to the Komodo national park until the third day - the first two were spent getting there, and stopping off at various beautiful islands along the way for snorkelling, hiking, waterfalls, and a very very pink beach. We never got a full night's sleep, especially on the second day, when the boat was moving for 17 hours straight. Trying to sleep on that moving boat was very similar to how I imagine it would feel to sleep in a blender.
And then we got to Komodo island, and straight away, right at the entrance to the park, we saw a baby dragon sunbathing, and got a bit complacent, expecting to be almost tripping over them after that. But they did prove a little more elusive; we trekked around Rinca island for two hours looking for them in vain, only to discover when we got back to the start that they'd all been waiting for us there! About 12 were huddled in the shade under a hut, all looking quite lazy and lethargic, or so we thought. Until we were reminded that it's mating season at the moment, and the dragons aren't even nearly as private as you might expect! They're also quite unrealistic-sounding - apparently they have three eyes, infra-red eyesight, an exceptionally good sense of smell, poisonous saliva, move SO much more quickly than their size and shape suggests, and to top it all, they have two penises. So we kept a pretty good distance when they noticed we were watching them and started to pay slightly closer attention to the group of camera-toting prey.
Aside from the obvious point of the trip, the dragons, the other highlight was the people on our boat. There were 18 people, from 8 countries, plus the crew, and they definitely made the trip as good as it was. Jean-Francois and his wife, very comfortably in their sixties, were particularly amazing - we'd wake up every morning to a dripping JF standing over us in teeny tiny eighties Speedos shouting "Eet iz so good in ze water, you must go een!" They ate and slept on the floor with the rest of us, and never ran out of hilarious stories (definitely improved by the accent). Just goes to show that this actually isn't one of those trips you've got to do while you're young.
And then, after a goodbye dinner in Labuan Bajo (pizza, no rice!), where the boat docked for the last time, we took the quick route back to Bali from the local airport, once the goats had been herded off the runway.