Komodo Dragon Slayer Me! *Video*

DragonI went to Indonesia for one reason only: to see the famous Komodo dragons!

So after “extensive” online research (I read one recommendation on Trip Advisor about the Perama Boat Tour), I booked my trip for the maximum 5 day / 4 night “Hunting Komodo with Camera” tour experience. Boy, did I get my money’s worth!

I had heard about the Komodo dragon while living in Hong Kong in the early 1990s. My neighbor, John Liu, had gone and come back with great tales of these blood-thirsty beasts! John showed me a blurry photo of a Komodo dragon racing inches from his foot as it went to tear apart a sacrificial goat. That’s all it took – I was sold!

(In those days, you could pay an extra fee and witness a live goat being torn apart by dozens of frenzied dragons. Now the Komodo experience is a bit more PC / civilized and is run by national park rangers = No more animal sacrifices for tourists.)

It took me 20 years, but I made it. Komodo here I come!

Komodo National Park

Erin_in_ActionThere are only about 2,500 Komodo dragons left, all living on the 3 islands that make up Komodo National Park. Komodo Island has 1,200, Rinca Island has 1,100, and Padar Island has 200. These are the only places in the world where Komodo dragons live and the Perama boat tour took us to 2 of the 3 islands.

· Komodo Island: Our first foray into Komodo National Park was a tad disappointing. We really only saw dragons hanging around the ranger huts, lured by the smell of food and the hope of dinner scraps. I called these guys “resident dragons” because while they weren’t tame, they weren’t exactly wild either.

· Rinca Island: This second hike was led by a very patient guide that actually helped us spot dragons in the wild. We saw at least 5-6 in the wild: head up, alert in the tall grass; sunning themselves flat on rocky outcrops; slithering along the ground.

We hiked twice as long as the allotted time, the whole group enthused with seeing more and more dragons! Check out this video of dragons on the move!

Can’t see this video? Click on: Komodo Dragons

Komodos’ Carnivorous Behavior

Erin_and_Komodo_StickThe only thing keeping us from being dinner was a forked stick. The rangers would use the forked end to hold down the dragon’s neck, and use the pointed end to pop it in the nose if it got too close. I have to admit, those beasts moved surprisingly quick for their size and the stick came in handy a few times.

The interesting part is that the dragons’ jaws aren’t strong enough to kill large prey. Instead they lung at the water buffalo and deer that are their main diet, and bite them in a soft area like the stomach. It’s the dragon’s saliva that is poisonous that slowly kills the animal, until it’s dead (or nearly) and the dragons come to finish them off. This whole stalking process can take up to 3 weeks, with the dragons patiently following their prey until they finally succumb to their spit.

People Eating: The last person to die from a Komodo attach was a small child about 20 years ago. The child’s mother had thrown some food scraps out the window, tempting the dragon. It was hiding under the house (which was on stilts) and when the innocent child came out, it pounced. The child was bit between the legs and bled to death.

Several rangers since then have also been bitten. A ranger was coming back from the outhouse one night and a dragon bit him on the ankle as he was walking down the ladder. Another ranger was attacked in his office and was bitten several times before his fellow rangers could rescue him.

There is an antidote to the Komodo bite that will counteract the poisonous saliva, but the limited stores are located in Bali, which is a bit strange, since Bali is a full 1-2 day boat ride away from Komodo National Park.

Komodo is King

I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with my Komodo dragon experience. My 5-day boat trip was well worth the money and my 2-days spent “Hunting Komodo with Camera” were definitely memorable.

In fact, I think you should go and check out these magnificent beasts for yourself. Then you too can be a Komodo Dragon Slayer! (with camera).

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 and is filed under Asia Pacific.

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