2009 World Crusie – Feb 24 is Mardi Gras and, once again, Komang and his helpers did a great job decorating the dining room, Crow’s Nest Lounge and other areas of the ship. There was also a pile of purple, green and gold bead necklaces on the table for us to wear. The colors represent justice, faith, and power – in that order. Elaine had brought along a couple of Mardi Gras masks so she and I were decked out quite royally. The young Indonesian chap in the photo with me is our server André. He, and many of his fellow Indonesians on the ship were getting very excited because our next port is Semarang, Java. Many of their wives, husbands and children would be waiting at the pier. This was a tremendous opportunity for everyone to have a visit, even if it would be quite short. It is very rare that the staff gets near family during their 10 month contracts.
At the end of their contract they go home for 4-5 weeks and then sign on for another 10 months. HAL maintains a training school in Indonesia and the Philippines as these are the two nationalities they prefer to staff their ships. For the men and women who work on board it is a great opportunity to improve the lives of their families. They make a lot more money than at most jobs at home. And even though they are not home a lot, both of these cultures are very family and service oriented so wives and children are taken under the wing of extended family.
Indonesia has excellent cell phone rates so as soon as we got into range off Lombok any crew that had a few minutes would go out on the promenade deck and phone home. Indonesia is made up of over 17,000 islands so obviously all crew members will not have family meeting the ship in Semarang. But, they could phone cheaply and they did. We saw lots of mechanical and laundry staff as well as wait staff, bartenders and cabin stewards out on the deck talking on their phones.
The next day we anchored in Slawi Bay off the coast of Komodo. The entire island is a National Park to protect the Komodo Dragons. You could only go ashore if you were on a guided tour. The famous Komodo Dragons are a type of Monitor Lizard. They were discovered in 1910 and caused a sensation in zoos around the world. The island of Komodo, plus two other large islands and several small ones were designated a National Park to protect them in 1980. The focus has enlarged to protect several others species as well. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. The dragons are carnivorous, eating mostly carrion, deer and wild pigs, but they will also ambush birds and invertebrates. It was a very hot and humid day. Walking through the bush to the area where some park guides had spotted some dragons was exhausting. The Komodo Dragon grows up to 11′ (3 m) long and weighs up to 300-400 lb ( 120 kg). Despite their size they are very fast; up to 20 mph for short distances. There are only about 300 dragons left in the wild and they live 40-50 years.
The guides kept the two dragons under the trees for most of the day so all the tours would be guaranteed to see them. Their only protection is a forked stick that they will position beneath the head to encourage the lizard to go in a different direction or stop them from coming close. It is not uncommon for someone to be killed each year so no one is allowed to wander the island alone.
Their saliva is red. It is absolutely crammed with bacteria. If the dragon can get close enough to a large animal to rush in and bite it, it will then track the animal until the rampant infection causes it to collapse and then the dragon will kill it.
There is a village on Komodo. Most of residents are descendants of convicts exiled to the island who have mixed with the indigenous people. The main occupations are fishing and working as park guides.
Even though about half of the crew is Indonesian most had never seen a Komodo Dragon. After the last passenger tour was completed the ship provided opportunity for crew members to go to the island and see the dragons. It was a wonderful experience to see such a rare and interesting animal.
We now have a day at sea before we reach Semarang.