August 30, 2009

Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park was established in 1980 and listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1986. The total area of the park is 1,817 km², of which a third is terrestrial land areas, including the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Gili Mota, Nusa Kode and Padar, while the remaining area consists of marine waters, including coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangrove, and semi-enclosed bays.

Komodo National Park was established in 1980 and listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1986. The total area of the park is 1,817 km², of which a third is terrestrial land areas, including the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Gili Mota, Nusa Kode and Padar, while the remaining area consists of marine waters, including coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangrove, and semi-enclosed bays.

After 10 years of work supporting the natural resources of Komodo National Park, The Nature Conservancy's Coral Triangle Centre (previously named South East Asia Centre for Marine Protected Areas) has successfully transferred its programme to a new eco-tourism development enterprise PT Putri Naga Komodo (PNK). This signifies the start of the Komodo Collaborative Management Initiative (KCMI), a path breaking model for saving Indonesia's national parks.

The new enterprise company is set up solely to develop eco-tourism, promote conservation activities, and to support natural resource management and park operations within the Komodo National Park. Although legally organised as a private company, PNK's charter provides that all revenues will be used to support the management and development of Komodo National Park and the development of alternative livelihoods and enterprises for local residents.

PNK is working closely with the Komodo National Park Authority, the District Government of West Manggarai, local communities, the tourism sector and other stakeholders. The goal is to implement an innovative and multi-disciplinary approach to achieve long-term financial sustainability of the park through professional park and conservtion management, sustainable eco-tourism development and destination marketing.

PNK-supported conservataion activities include a comprehensive set of biological monioring programmes for both the marine and terrestrial eco-systems of the park, including continuous assessment of resource use and tourism impacts. PNK will also undertake upgrading of eco-tourism infrastructure to improve safety and enhance the experience of those visiting the park.

The new company is Putri Naga Komodo or Dragon Princess, who in local legend was said to have given birth to twins - a human boy and a Komodo dragon, symbolising the essential identity of humans and nature. PNK has acquired a 30-year license from the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry to generate park revenues through the development and management of nature tourism in Komodo National Park. The new company is staffing up its key managerial positions while most of the Conservancy's Komodo Field Office staff have moved over to work with PNK.

To kick-start the project, PNK has obtained bridging funding from the World Bank's Global Environmental Facility. The 7 year US$ 5 million grant is provided through the World Bank's private sector financing arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) with matching funds from the Conservancy. By the end of the grant period (in 2012), it is expected that the park will be generating sufficient eco-tourism revenues to sustain ongoing management and conservation work.



Dragons On Land, Paradise Underwater

Approaching the islands of Komodo and Rinca on an Indonesian liveaboard boat, you will feel like one of the voyagers of old who gave fame to the islands by marking on a map "Here Be Dragons"!

Pygmy seahorse in Komodo - Indonesia - photo courtesy of Komodo Dancer

Few places enjoy Komodo's reputation for being a remote and inspiring place and diving Komodo and the surrounding area evokes the same feelings. These small, brown scorched-earth islands fringed with sandy beaches are lapped by the clear waves of the national park, where you may even see the dragons patrolling the beach or viewing you from a high rocky outcrop.

Unlike other parts of Indonesia, the reefs around the south of the islands have suffered relatively little damage from dynamite fishing. Much of the area now lies within the protection of the national park. The shallow reefs between Flores and the northern region however, were bombed in the past but are now recovering their former splendour. The affected area covers around 15% of the archipelago, and even here steep drop-offs and current-swept points offer excellent Komodo diving.

Besides the sheer excitement of simply being somewhere like Komodo, you are also cruising over some of the most exciting dive sites in Indonesia. The water is not always warm, in fact it can be decidedly cool. The seas are not always calm, in fact the currents can rage. But the abundance of pelagics, more critters and interesting macro-action than you could imagine, the dazzling colours and diversity, make diving here truly the stuff of legend.

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