Indonesia :: Komodo Dragons

Victoria: Is there anything these things won’t eat?
Denby: Yeah, anything faster than they are, I guess.

– Komodo (1999)

The komodo dragon varanus komodoensis also known as the komodo monitor is a species of lizard found in the indonesian islands of komodo rinca flores and gili motang. Komodo dragons are the largest living lizards in the world. They have long flat heads with rounded snouts scaly skin bowed legs and huge muscular tails. The komodo dragon is an all purpose killing machine.

Needless to say this was a bucket list item.

Tidbit from Mentalfloss: “Ten years ago, scientists believed Komodo dragons had saliva laden with really deadly bacteria, and that bites containing the spit were potent enough to bring down a water buffalo. But that wasn’t actually the case: In 2009, biochemist Brian Fry tested this conventional wisdom by hunting for dangerous microorganisms inside several Komodo dragon mouths. Fry learned that, contrary to popular opinion, their chops have proportionally fewer bacteria than most meat-eating mammals do. Furthermore, Fry found no trace of any especially-hazardous ones. What he did find was venom glands. Situated in the lower jaw, these release a nasty cocktail that causes paralysis, extreme blood loss, inadequate clotting, tissue damage, and excruciating pain. Those poor buffalo never stood a chance.

I love lizards. They are beautiful creatures and if they weren’t so high maintenance I’d have one or two as a pet. I can’t remember when I read or heard about the Komodo Dragons first, but I remember the belief that their saliva was so germ-ridden you were dead if they bit you. I was fascinated by them, their size alone was awesome. I saw a documentary telling the story of Komodos stalking around the local population’s houses, snatching toddlers up and eating them. Parents distraught, building their homes on stilts to make sure the dragons couldn’t reach them and their loved ones… I was in awe of this creature, lobbing about eating whatever it found.

As soon as I started planning this trip I put “Komodo” down as a point on my “must see”-list.

Komodo and I

This picture is a massive lie. He’s not really that big, I’m at least a good meter behind him here.

I had nothing booked when I touched down in Labuan Bajo. There’s no need, every other building on the strip down by the water offers a tour to see the dragons, it just depends what else you want added. Most of them go a set route, but I managed to find a dive-tour, taking people who needed to practice diving for their PADIs. If you weren’t interested in the diving part you could snorkel the two first sites and then, as the divers went on to the third location, they’d drop you off on Komodo Island with a guide. A lot of the tours go or Rinca as the island of choice, but the dragons are plentiful so it doesn’t really matter. (I certainly wont matter anymore if the government make good on their promise to charge tourists $1000 to enter the national park!)

While snorkeling I saw turtles galore, plenty of manta rays and even a couple of sharks. Top that off with a dozen komodo dragons of various sizes and it made for a perfect day.

(I used sunscreen, but alas, my back was red and raw at the end anyway. I couldn’t sleep on my back for a week… didn’t even use a bra, it was hell… So that part: not so good. But the rest was awesome).

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