I cannot remember when I first heard of or learned about Komodo dragons, but I’ve always wanted to see them. Although we’ve seen various species of monitor lizards throughout SEA and we could’ve seen Komodo dragons in a handful of zoos, I really wanted to see wild dragons. The dragons can actually be found in some coastal regions of Flores, but they are most populous on the islands of Rinca and, their namesake, Komodo. So this morning, we hired a boat to take us to Rinca.
a scenic early morning boat ride
After a two-hour ride, we pulled up to Rinca’s shores and hopped off. We walked through some mud flats filled with crabs, before arriving at the ranger station, where we hired the required guide. Armed only with a long stick, our guide led us out of camp on a two-hour hike.
Luckily we saw a group of five Komodos right away, sunning themselves in the morning sun on the outskirts of the camp. Despite their lazy disposition, the sight of them was scary. Besides the 3 meter length of the two males, the first thing I noticed was the size of their enormous feet and claws. They appeared disproportionately large compared to the rest of their bodies. Even though the dragons we’re just sunning themselves, Sufrey, our guide, told us to stay at least 3 meters away. He said even though they look pretty lazy when they’re sunning, they could still move incredibly quick and lethally.
thats bigger than any persons hand I\’ve ever seen, to give you a frame of reference
We learned a few other scary facts, as well. The dragons occasionally kill people, the most recent victim being a village boy in 2007. The Komodos have no natural predators and they prey most commonly on buffalo, wild pigs, horses, and deer. They’ll also attack and eat baby Komodo dragons and people if the opportunity presents itself. While a group of dragons can kill and eat an animal at once if they hunt in a group, most hunting is done solo. Due to high-levels of bacteria in the dragons’ saliva, a single bite is all it takes to kill. Most often, a dragon will attack and bite a buffalo, only to leave until two weeks later. During those two weeks, the buffalo (or whatever animal was bit) develops an infection from the bite and dies, whence the dragon returns to eat. The toxic saliva is lethal for humans too, unless that person can make it to the hospital for a heavy and lengthy dose of antibiotics.
Adding to the list of scary facts, Komodos are excellent swimmers. On our hike, we passed a nesting area. Luckily females only guard the nests for the first 3 of their eggs’ 9-month gestation. We saw a couple more dragons on our hike; one sleeping under a tree and another walking towards us on the trail- we obviously gave it the right of way and plenty of room. Unfortunately my photos did not come out very well, though. You’ll have to take my word that their muscular legs, reptilian swagger, and flicking yellow tongues are one of the scariest things imaginable. Besides the dragons, we also saw a ton of wild buffalos, a few megapode birds, and a lot of little insects, reptiles, and plants.
It was a beautiful hike that took us high up on the island, from where we had commanding views of the surrounding islands and sea. It was an enjoyable hike and I got to see something I’ve always wanted to, not a bad day. Need a reason to stay awake at work? Our guide, Sufrey, told us a story that occurred several years ago. A dragon wandered into the ranger camp and entered the cafeteria, probably lured by the smell of food. The dragon was probably pleasantly surprised to find a cafeteria worker sleeping and attacked, biting the worker’s arm! The guy was lucky to have survived, but had to spend 3 months in the hospital and take a daily cocktail of antibiotics before he was cured.