I have a confession to make. I kind of, don’t like slithering, slimy reptiles. Ok! Scratch that! Let me give it to you straight – I am petrified of snakes and dislike the scaly lizards. When I heard that I was on a trip that would take me to see a giant monitor lizard – the Komodo Dragon, I rushed to google up more on this creature. It did not help that there were scary stories about them, facts that were not very encouraging and well, a chit of a brother who insisted on sending me dangerous shots of the crazy Komodo Dragon showing off its forked tongue. Reading was not enough. I even got in touch with people who had gone to see them. It was heartening to know that they were back without a scratch 😉 and that is when I decided to take on the advice that my fellow blogger – Rutavi Mehta – FACE YOUR FEARS!!!
I decided that I was going to take a selfie with the Komodo Dragon!
And with that objective in mind, I loaded myself with all the knowledge that I could gather about this beast. The more I read about them, the more fascinated I was and my fear dimmed remarkably.
Facts about the Komodo Dragon
This giant monitor lizard has an ancestral link to the prehistoric beasts of yester-era – the dinosaurs. They are known to be found only on 3 islands in Indonesia. They cannot survive a zoo and if you are keen to visit them, then the Komodo National Park is the only option. Frankly, this exclusivity made me feel really brave and important – well, I was one of the few who was going to sight these rare creature. I do think that this is something that one can be proud of. 🙂
Here are some other fascinating facts about the Komodo Dragon, some as explained by the rangers at the Komodo National Park –
- The Komodo dragons are found on three islands – Padar Island, Rinca and Komodo Island
- They grow to over 3m, in fact the largest ones were on the very island – the Komodo Island, that I visited
- They have a forked tongue and use their saliva to disable and poison their prey. Their saliva has 60 different toxic bacteria. (ARGH!!!)
- They hunt solitary but like to party together once the prey is caught.
- They are quite fast and can rush upto 15 – 20 kms per hour. They can even swim.
- They have a keen sense of smell and quite like the sharks – can smell blood 18 kms away
- They don’t bite but eat on the whole. Their food consists of deer, pigs, water buffaloes and well, sometimes humans. (DOUBLE ARGH!!!) Why they don’t even leave their own babies.
Loaded with all this information and with a determined mind, I was all set to meet the Komodo dragon in its own lair. It helped to know that I had 9 other bloggers with me as distraction and possibly to call on for help. To be honest, it was the sheer spirit and excitement of these bloggers and the Skyscanner team that my fear completely gave way to a pleasant anticipation.
Sailing to Komodo National Park
The only way to get to Komodo Island is to sail there from the little town of Labuan Bajo. The Komodo National park is not just about Komodo Island and spotting the Komodo dragon. There is plenty more to do – which I will cover in my next post. For now, let’s take it from our boat speeding towards the Komodo Island. A long wooden bridge led you from the shore into the home of the Komodo dragon.
When I was walking on that ramp, I do admit I felt as if I was walking towards the gallows. 🙁 However, when I saw folks walking back with a smile on their face, those thoughts just vanished. With my senses on high alert, I went on to meet the rangers – our protectors and our guides.
Advice from the Rangers
Once you enter the park, rangers take over. They share their knowledge of the Komodo dragon with you while introducing you to their weapon of choice – a stick with a fork on the top. I probed them on how they would use the stick . With a smile, the ranger in charge said – “Well! We just tap them on their nose and they go away”.
They did give us quite a bit of advice, all of which I am sharing with you so that you are in turn, well prepared to meet this rare beast.
- Stay in a group, do not venture out alone.
- If the Komodo dragon fancies you and sets off towards you, run as fast as you can but not in a straight line. Run in a zig zag manner.
- Keep your voices low and stay alert
- Do not smoke while there.
- If you have any wounds or cuts, please let the ranger know so that he can keep a special look out for you. In case of ladies, if you are having your periods, please do let the ranger know.
And the last tip from my end – “Just stick close to the ranger” 🙂
Scary tales of the Komodo dragon
While we set our on a trek to hunt for the Komodo dragon, the ranger entertained us with facts about the island and the dragons there. The Komodo Island itself, had over 2000 dragons residing on it. He warned us that there was a chance we may not encounter any dragon. It was a matter of chance. He then, also, told us some really scary tales about the Komodo. They are best heard by you from the ranger. Click on the video below –
After these tales, I gulped down my fear, reset my ambition of taking a selfie and marched on close to the ranger.
Searching for the elusive Komodo dragon
Through the trek, we passed their water holes, saw some deer and some wild orchids but no Komodos. We reached the end of the trek with none in sight. It was a little disappointing but the ranger was quick to assure us that since it was past noon and their meal time, they would be resting near the kitchen and we were bound to find at least one there. And true to his words, we found not one, but two of them getting ready for their noon nap.
Selfie with the Komodo Dragon
Finally the moment – the selfie with the Komodo dragon. Despite the tourists, these creatures were least bothered. All they seem to want is to rest. The ranger pointed out that their bellies were full and now was a great time to pose and take a selfie. The trick here was to be at least 2 – 3m away while the ranger took a picture of you. You are not allowed anywhere close to the dragon. Well, technically I could not take a selfie – but then, something to prove to my brother that I was no longer scared of them.
After the snap, I was treated to one more of these dragons, sleeping under a shed. They resembled a crocodile with their paws and scaly skin and actually slept like them too. I stood there with a smile on my face, thinking – “Why my friend Komodo, you are not all that bad!”
Would you care to visit these elusive, mysterious and rare Komodo dragon? Let me know.
- Labuan Bajo is the closest airport to get here. There are several flights from Denpasar and Jakarta that take you to Labuan Bajo. You can book them through this website.
- Once in Labuan Bajo, you need to take a cruise to the Komodo Island.
- Click here for the official link to this national park on the Ministry of Tourism Indonesia website.
- Here are the entrance fees and other charges for Komodo Island.
- I would recommend picking a package boat cruise in Labuan Bajo. There are plenty of operators that can be found online as well as in Labuan Bajo. Our trip was organized by Oradive and included all our entrance fees and other costs. It made the entire journey much easier and smoother.
- Ensure that you follow all the instructions that the ranger gives you.
- Do not attempt to touch the Komodo dragon. All said and done, they are quite dangerous.
- It is fairly warm here throughout the year. Ensure that you dress in cotton clothes, wear a cap and some comfortable shoes for trekking.
- I highly recommend combining this visit with all the other activities that Komodo National Park offers – diving, snorkeling and trekking. A post on this will be up soon.
- Stay options – mostly homestays are available in the Komodo Village. Alternatively, you can stay on a boat or in Labuan Bajo.