Komodo dragons were on my ‘wish list of things to see’ for a while. When we decided to spend time in Indonesia I wasn’t sure about many things, but I wanted to see dragons!
The only place in the world you can find the world’s largest living lizard in their natural habitat is Komodo National Park. They have been around for 20 million years and were discovered by the Western world in 1910. There are just over 4500 endangered dragons inhabiting four islands: Komodo, Rinca, Padar, Gili Motang and parts of Flores. Tourists are only permitted access them on Komodo and Rinca islands. We were lucky to visit Rinca, which is less visited compared to Komodo. It was easy to bear in mind that it was not a zoo. Rinca island belongs to the dragons; they run wild and they’re the ones in charge.
First thing we were asked after a short introduction by two park rangers was: did we have any bloody cuts, scrapes or abrasions? Next every woman got stared at after being asked bluntly whether any of us were menstruating. If yes, please stay behind in the office. Komodo dragons have a remarkable ability to smell blood from 18km away. We were told to stay in a close group, keep quiet so as not to attract the attention of dragons and keep an eye up in the trees for baby dragons. They also informed us that we wouldn’t be able to do the long (minimum of 6km) or even medium trek as recently there was an attack on a park ranger on the trail. It was the second this month. After the first incident, two park rangers had been hospitalised after getting attacked in their office – where tourists usually check in. All the victims were still in hospital. The most recent attack happened while the park ranger was trekking with a group of Indonesian visitors. So now the trail was closed as dragons tend to return to places where blood was spilled.
If our group was attacked they would try to fight them off with their wooden poles and if that wouldn’t be enough we are supposed to RUN. Not in a straight line but fast! Komodo dragons can run for brief periods at speeds of up to 13miles per hour! They not only have strength and shark-like teeth but venomous saliva as well.
The last recorded deaths caused by Komodo dragons were in 2007 when an eight year old boy was attacked and in 2009 when a fruit picker fell out of a tree into the jaws of a waiting dragon.
Our assigned park rangers with their forked poles for protection. Rangers are native to Rinca and know the island very well. They usually spend two weeks at the park and then head back to their village for two weeks time off.
Following one of the dragons.
They grow to three meters in length and over 100 kilograms in weight. They usually eat carrion, deer, wild pig, water buffalo, goats and birds. Komodo dragons have a venomous bite due to the toxic bacteria in their mouth which kills via blood poisoning. Even if the victim manages to escape, the dragon will follow it for miles waiting for the poison to take effect. They can eat up to 80% of their own body weight in one sitting
Baby dragon. How cute and harmless looking is that one? After they hatch, tiny dragons climb trees and live there until they are about 3 years old. At which point they morph/change into predators. Before then they are easy prey for adult dragons.
A last look through the pouring rain at the dragon and smiling ranger.
Just last week there was another Komodo dragon attack on 83-year old Indonesian woman. The numbers of attacks are growing. No known cause has been found.