During the trip we had the chance to visit Komodo Island, famed throughout the world for the dragons that live there (and Ringa the neighboring island) and only there.
We jumped on the Zodiacs one early morning and headed for the island to have a wander around the island and to go in search of the famous Komodo Dragon. It was an early start (6.30am) as we didn’t want to waste too much time on our itinerary and diving was the real reason for the trip, but a few hours on the island was all that we needed to see some of these impressive beasts. After arriving on a very wet and slippy dock off one of the beaches of the island we entered into the park for a brief talk and description of the island and the dragons. The dragons are a venomous species of monitor lizard which can grow to an average length of 2 to 3 metres and weighing around 70 kg. These lizards dominate the ecosystem of the island and are known to kill, boar, deer (introduced in recent years for sport), water buffalo and pretty much anything else they can get hold off, including humans. Originally the island was inhabited by elephants and the dragons were known to feast on them from time to time. The dragons themselves have poor hearing and sight, but with their great sense of smell they will use stealth to attack their prey. Generally they will bite their prey (or use a combination of their powerful tails and their venomous silva) under the neck and hold on. Once the dragon has bitten their pray they will either hold on and wait for the prey to die or they will track the prey until they die – usually within 10 hours. The dragons can generally eat up to 80% of their body weight and they will eat one at a time the dominant male eating first.
So it was with that knowledge that the guides took us out on a short walk around the island armed with just a large sturdy sticks whilst telling us to be calm and quiet as to not disturb the large beasts. Like we would try to! We were also told that the dragons could outrun us, climb tress and swim a little so my main plan was to stand behind the guide and offer him as sacrifice or defense depending on their demenour when we encountered one!
The walk took us around a arid yet scenic island encountering on the way a deer, boar and the Komodo orchid and up to a view point on the island where in the distance we saw our boat and Ringa island. Still no dragons yet. The short walk down to the visitors center (where the guides told us we were gauranteed to see the dragons) near the port was more exciting though.
Upon arrival at the visitors center we came upon our first dragon, learing on all fours snarling, hissing and running towards us with great vigor and speed. Well that’s how I envisaged it! Actually it was a lot sedate, the dragon itself was sound asleep on the warm sand. A little disappointed with the lack of gusto the dragon showed we all took a few pictures and ambled around the beast. This one as around 3 meters in length and well pretty docile. That was until it got up and everyone around it sprang up fell back and generally laughed at the surprise. The Dragon however got up, looked around and then moved to another warm spot 1 meter away!! We soon realized that “these” dragons were pretty docile and pretty much static and for show and used to humans, so we jumped back on the zodiac and headed for another beach looking for some more interesting action.
We were not disappointment as we headed for a beach where we spotted two dragons patrolling the shoreline. We scrambled up on the beach and the first thing we did was grab ourselves some weapons to fend off the dragons if they came at us. I armed myself with as large trunk of bamboo which i was sure could deliver a painful blow if needed. PJ one of the divemasters from the boat kindly opened a tin of tuna to “get them going” and soon enough they were galloping towards us. They seemed more interested in the tuna than us thankfully and after a few close photo shots one of them decided to they might like a piece of me!! They say you shouldn’t run from them and just fend them off with your sticks however when these beast opened its mouth and showed me his teeth before bumbling towards me, i forgot all teachings and slipped and scurried up the sand flainling my stick behind me in hope. Luckily for me the dragon got tired after about 3 steps and returned to his tuna dinner!!
After a lot more photos we returned to the boat to calm down and start diving again! They were truly magnificent beasts and very powerful apex predators and amazing to see close hand and personal, well the ones on the beach anyway! Next stop mainland Ubud, cultural center of Bali.