It’s not often in life that you get the chance to hang out in the wild with almost mythical creatures..
Komodo and Komodo Dragons are names that you talk about when you discuss cruising and places you are going to visit. As cruisers we toss around names of places we visit like suburbs, however to most people we could be on the moon for all they know. Kavieng, Gizo, Tanna and the like are actually meaningless names to most people. A vast percentage of the general population would have difficulty finding many of the countries we visit – let alone individual islands, so predictably we spend a lot of time with the app iSailor zooming in and out of places trying to explain to people where exactly we are. The maps that start most of our You Tube Adventures take Jamie 1-2 hours to create, specifically to explain where exactly we are!
Komodo however, is the stuff of David Attenborough, National Geographic and BBC documentaries. Now, to be fair most people still don’t know WHERE it is, but they have at least heard of it. For us Australians, its and easy ‘placeable’ island once you mention it’s close to Bali, everyone goes – oh, of course! (Yes, I know there are quite a few islands between – Sumbawa and Lombok just to name a few), but hey in the big scheme of things it’s ‘close’.
We were in Komodo for quite a few days prior to actually getting to the Islands of Rinca to see the dragons. Rinca? I hear you say – bloody hell, you just told me you were in Komodo!! Now, before you go all crazy let me explain. Komodo is actually a National Park comprised of MANY Islands – of which the 2 biggest Komodo and Rinca have dragons that you can visit. For us yachties, Rinca (Loh Buaya) is the easiest anchorage to manage and reports have it that the dragons are plentiful and easy to get to. In this heat we don’t really need the 3 hour trek each way (Komodo Island dragon tour), we are happy with the 1 hour trek available on RInca. Also, visiting the dragons and the National Park is EXPENSIVE. It’s almost like a Monty Python skit trying to work out the permits required for both the national park and the visit!!
It seems to be structured (and I use that word loosely) like this:
National Park Entrance Fee
Anchorage Fee – per PERSON per DAY
Snorkeling fee– per PERSON per DAY
Diving fee– per PERSON per DAY
Komodo Dragon tour
Komodo Dragon guide
These fees really add up if you stay for a few days!! Because of this, we have been exploring the greater area (well outside the actual fee zones - actually prettier and less crowded) for the last few weeks .On the day we decided to visit the dragons, we went in and paid ALL the fees. We opted to pay for 4 days to allow us to explore a few of the other islands, after which we will continue on west on our quest to get to Lombok to leave the boat. All up I think we paid about $200 for the 4 days (OUCH)!
But I digress, dragons were the idea of this blog. We anchor down in a small muddy bay teeming (no exaggeration) with day boats – Komodo National Park is tourist crazy during the day, and we head into Rinca to do our early morning tour. Dragons are most active at dawn and dusk in the cooler parts of the day. We are immediately surprised. While we were expecting to see dragons, we were not expecting to be almost on safari. To start with the land is really really dry – like an Australian summer, cracked hardened soil, so different to the lush green tropics we have been in up to now. Secondly, not just dragons! Before we even saw the dragons, we saw deer, monkeys and water buffalo. All native, all wild and all food sources for the amazing dragons. We didn’t see any of the 10 poisonous snakes that call the island home, nor the crocodiles (totally ok with missing out on them).
We pay our fees and join our guide, seconds later we are walking along a path and encounter a few very large dragons. Our tour group is just the 2 of us, and Ahmed our guide is very knowledgeable. 5 minutes into him informing us about all things dragon primarily that they are big, grumpy and very unsociable (they REALLY don’t like each other), we hear a very loud hissing noise. Ahmed is super excited – “they fight they fight” he says – “take photo”!!!
Sure enough, two large males stand on their back legs (they are taller than us) and start fighting. Yes, they are mean aggressive looking lizards, and you certainly don’t need to be Charles Darwin to see the clear evolutionary link to dinosaurs (sorry all you creationists out there), but they fight in slow motion – like wrestlers. Doesn’t look all that scary until you look at their claws and teeth.
The fight doesn’t last long, but Ahmed is SO excited for us, he says it doesn’t happen very often that the tourists get to see a fight (hey, he could be pulling our chain, but if he was he’s a great actor – even he was excited about the fight!!).
We leave this group and head down the path – only to be stalked by the largest male in the group. I have a habit of being stalked by aggressive looking animals and I’m starting to get a bit of a complex. He lumbered down the path just behind us licking his lips, looking menacing and hungry, Ahmed with just his pointed stick to protect us, advised us to move on a bit faster. Seemed like good advice to me, and we sped of up the trail, eventually leaving our hungry friend behind to snack on the next tourist group.
Fun facts about Dragons:
They happily (tongue in cheek) eat both their young and each other.
The young (in order to survive their parents AND their siblings live (hide) in trees).
They grow as big as 2.8m long – they are the biggest lizards on the planet.
Only 2884 left in the world (2017).
Can run 20km per hour and can swim and climb – so you can’t escape!!!
They kill by biting their prey, and then follow the blood trail from the wound for up to 2 weeks while the poison from their mouths slowly kills the animal – (even that’s Jurassic Park like)!
Our tour continues on showing us huge nest (like big holes in the ground), they lay a LOT of eggs so need big holes. We walk further through the bush and come out at the top of a hill with stunning 360-degree views of the island and our anchorage. Once again we are lucky according to Ahmed as another dragon walks down the path with us. This one less menacing looking, more out for a Sunday stroll. We make our way back to the ranger station very happy with our morning, only to find another ranger vocally “shooing” a large dragon out of the ranger station. It would appear steps are no deterrent to these lizards!
And that’s it, we’re done. After weeks of anticipation it is yet another amazing animal encounter that we can tick off. Next up Borneo’s Orang-utans.
Our latest Adventure shows all this and more - check it out at - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VToSKeb6hSU