Meet the Dragons

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Due to the obvious reason, we unfortunately canceled our trip to Japan and decided to explore another Indonesian island instead. After an 1,5 hour flight from Bali towards east, we arrived at Labuan Bajo on West-Flores – one of the Little Sunda islands – a fascinating, mountainous and remarkably beautiful island with a volcanic topography, still rather undeveloped and undiscovered by tourism. The nearby Komodo National Parc has some of the most exhilarating scuba diving in Indonesia, with dozens of world-class dive sites and plenty of fine snorkelling opportunities around the islands near Labuan  Bajo, which attracts many divers and marine lovers from all over the world – and now also us.

Additionally the famous Komodo Dragons are close. We did read so much about them, that we were curious to see them alive in their natural environment.

KOMODO DRAGON

These varans are are the biggest, living lizards on earth, getting up to 3 m length, a weight of 170 kg and an age between 50 and 100 years.

The Komodo Dragons (local name is “ora”) have massive bodies, powerful legs – each with five-clawed toes – a long thick tail, a long and slender neck and powerful jaws. The dragon’s leg allow them to sprint short distance and they get speed up to 18 km per hour.

They feed on animals, the mature ones hunt wild pigs, water buffalo, wild horse and deers. They ambush their victim, bite it and wait for the potent bacteria their salvia contain to take effect  waiting around for up to 2 weeks for the buffalo to die – before tucking in. They can expand their mouth considerably, enabling them to swallow prey as large as a goat. Mature ora are also cannabalistic, thats why the young ones live on trees the first 5 years of their life.

The female lay 15 to 36 eggs in deep holes on hillsides or in dry streambanks; around 9 month later, after the rain season in March, April , the hatchlings (it has been counted up to 33 new born, with a size of about 40 cm) immediately climb up the trees and for the first five years feed themselves with small insects and geckoes.

Why they exist only around Komodo is a mystery, as is why males outnumber females by a ratio of 3 to 1. Around 1,300 “ora” live on Komodo, 1,100 on neighbouring Rinca, and are a protected species.

On the trail of the Komodo Dragons

At 5:45 am we picked up our freshly prepared lunch box (fried noodles with vegetables) at a restaurant at the harbour village. It was still slightly dark, when we climbed into the chartered wooden boat and headed towards Komodo National Park, a 2.5 hours boat ride away.

We arrived at the island, passed the observation entrance and got introduced to our personal ranger. It was explained that we might see deers, waterbuffalos, eventually wild horses and for sure dragons. We should be aware of the various poisening snakes such as kobra and viper and should in any case watch out. We had choosen the long treck of 2 hours, a tiny path through the wilderness of the hilly island, in front our guide with a long stick. On the way to the forest, we saw the first dragons. Very impressive examplares! A very big one was laying on our way but would not move, even with some hints with the stick. The dragon moved his head up and blow up his throat. “He is agressive” the ranger stated and we turned and took another path….

We walked through the forest, saw some dragons and their nests, passed huge banyan trees and dried riverbeds and enjoyed the wild nature around us. No deers so far. However lot of skeleton bones laying around, reminding us that we are not on a cozy sightseeing tour. We walked through the savannah covered with long grass and huge stone formation. Beautiful ! We arrived at a riverbed and came close to waterbuffalos, having their heavy bodies comfortably covered with water, laying peacefully down in the refreshing source, heavily breathing. I felt so sorry for them, knowing at one certain point they would be victims of the dragons.

We continued our narrow path, been sweating like crazy, sourrounded by moskitos and god knows what else. But nothing bite us, arms and legs are still there.

The treck was really enjoyable, the nature unspoilt and authentic; we didn’t see much animals but got some memorable impressions about the dragons and we are very happy that we did it.

Once in a lifetime, probably.

Petra

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