The world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, is found on a select few Indonesian islands in the Komodo National Park, and on Western Flores. With a maximum length of three metres, the dragons can tackle prey much larger than itself, including pigs, deer, and water buffalo. But this giant lizard doesn’t just have size on its side; it can deliver a venomous bite, which, combined with the bacteria in its saliva, is said to slowly weaken, and eventually kill its prey, whilst the dragon watches on in anticipation.
Having observed them in zoos, and been enthralled by the epic fight scene in Planet Earth II, I knew that I had to see these fantastic predators in their natural habitat. Fortunately, the perfect opportunity arose this year, and in October I headed off to Indonesia. Komodo National Park has become a real draw for tourists, and the majority of people fly into Labuan Bajo, Flores, and organise one or two day tours from there; however, my girlfriend and I decided to experience a few more of Indonesia’s islands by booking the Komodo Island Hopper tour through TruTravels, that took us to Lombok, Sumbawa, and Moyo as well.
The journey from Sumbawa to Komodo was an interesting one; we travelled by boat along Sumbawa’s northern coast with the Flores Sea, stopping for frequent snorkelling trips to see the fantastic underwater life that Indonesia has to offer. The first night on the boat was a restless one, with the large swell and small boat meaning that beds and belongings constantly being flung around the deck. This, combined with a raging headache from being out in the sun all day, meant that I didn’t have the best night’s sleep, but these challenges are to be expected when you stray from the well-trod tourist trail. The next day we were rewarded with sightings of sea turtles, manta rays, and an amazing sunset trek up to the viewpoint on Padar Island, which may or may not still have Komodo dragons present on it. That night the combination of a few beers, and being anchored in a calm bay meant that we slept well, and at the crack of dawn we set off to Rinca island; a hotspot for Komodo dragons.
Our first sighting of Rinca island was the vast mangrove forest growing around its coast, which gave the island a greenery not seen on many of the other islands that make up the archipelago. On docking, we observed a cheeky macaque trying to steal from other boats, so made sure to keep our food and valuables hidden away to stop us succumbing to the same fate! After breakfast it was finally time to step foot onto Rinca island, and after a few minutes of walking across the dry plain, we saw our first dragons. These large carnivores can eat up to 80% of their body weight in one sitting, so only need to eat about once a month. This means they spend a lot of time lounging around digesting their meals, and that’s exactly what we found them doing, relaxing in the shade of the trees. After a few minutes of taking in the sight of these monstrous reptiles, we were taken on a 45 minute guided trek around the island in search of more dragons. We saw water buffalo, deer, monkeys, and orange-footed scrubfowl in the forest, but unfortunately no dragons! That didn’t matter though, as the trek was enjoyable, although scorching, and we were rewarded by some fantastic close-up views of huge Komodo dragons at the start, that had been attracted to the kitchens by their keen sense of smell. Although they are attracted by the smell of cooking food, the dragons on Rinca aren’t fed, unlike on Komodo island itself, so they can still be thought of as truly wild (and dangerous) creatures.
After our trek on Rinca, we set sail for Flores, and were given a touching goodbye as we left Rinca, by a lone dolphin playing around the boat. A fantastic end to a fantastic journey around Komodo National Park.