Location: Rinca Island

Hellooooo everybody!

Yet again, I hit the jackpot on skipper days and get to report back to you after a day of seeing DRAGONS!!!! After a night out filled with a delicious dinner and spectacular gelato, we woke up this morning to a sun that sent purple and orange spilling across the sky and Vela cruising between islands. Still rubbing the sleep from our eyessome of us clocked a late night putting the finishing touches on our Marine Biology species logbookswe gathered in the cockpit for some delicious egg sandwiches concocted by Larkin, Emma, and Ethan. With coffee and calories finally kicking in, we buzzed around the salon after clean up, lathering ourselves in sunscreen and decking ourselves out in our best dragon-themed attire. After an hour of motoring through rolling islands and despite the usual morning chaos, Vela settled off the shore of Rinca Island, part of the Komodo National Park and home to 1,500 of the 3,000 members of the Komodo Dragon species. Margaret could be heard yelling “DRAAAAGOOOONSSS” through Vela’s halls as we hurried on deck to catch the first dinghy ashore.

After an in-depth photoshoot with a statue of ferocious fighting dragons, our group anxiously gathered at the park’s entrance, ready for our chance to glimpse the world’s biggest lizards. Unfortunately, Drew and Ethan were denied entry on account of their flip flops, causing a scramble for solutions that resulted in Nora saving the day with an extra pair of Tevas, two lanyards, and, believe it or not, two carabineers that were conveniently living in her bottomless backpack. Finally accepted into the park, our group took off through the dry heat, our eyes inspecting the landscape for scaly friends. We were met by a group of park rangers (real ones, not Nora and Romeo, despite their convincing khaki hats and Steve Irwin impressions) who taught us a bit about these incredible creatures, including details about their bacteria-saliva-venom bite that packs a deadly punch. Despite being told we might be touring the park at the exact wrong time to see dragons, we made it about three minutes into our hike before seeing one of these giants shuffling through the brush with his tongue flicking through the air in front of him. There is nothing quite like watching the slow meandering of a deadly beast 10 feet away from you as Margaret ignores a ranger’s request to move slowly and quietly in order to jam herself into a bush and capture a satisfactory photo. Truly something else. After our friend moved on through the brush, we hiked through the beautiful, dry hills until we crested the island’s peak. There was a collective loss of breath as we stood side-by-side looking out over sapphire water, bleeding into turquoise shallows that lapped at the edge of soft islands.

Among goofy laughter and genuine awe, Heloise ever-so-eloquently captured my own feelings by whispering “holy bananas” with an expanding grin and wide eyes. As we hiked down, Jack asked us what the best view of the trip had been so far. It is with profound gratitude that I can tell you there does not exist a singular answer to that question. Between the fiery sunsets that sent oranges and reds cascading across the Pacific’s horizon, the islands of Palau that overflowed with life and spilled into the sea below them, the rainbows of coral and fish we have breathed among, and countless more, there is no one answer. For that, I am endlessly grateful.

Upon returning to Vela, we shared a lunch recounting the stories of our hike. Among the laughter, stories were told of a fully grown dragon falling from a tree, a mother monkey carrying her baby on her tummy (Mom, I love you), and Romeo and Nora performing their ranger bit in front of a deeply confused Komodo National Park ranger. Happily filled up, we headed down to the salon for our last Oceanography class with Heather and Leadership with Emma and Lilli. We wrapped our day up with burrito bowls, double-squeeze (Batman voices were involved), and a glowing orange sunset. We miss you all, love you more, and can’t wait to hug you so soon.

With love from Vela,
The crew

P.S. Challenge yourself with tonight’s squeeze question: What do you think is the vegan version of the phrase, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse”?
Some notable responses: “I’m so hungry I could eat another vegan”, “Forget the fruit, let me have the whole tree”, and “I’m so hungry I could mow this lawn with my face”.