Rinca Island, Komodo Marine Park
12.05.2013 - 12.05.2013
Now we'd already seen some big lizards on our trip (but considering the most 'lizard like' thing we'd ever seen in the wild in the UK is a small pond newt anything is big) from foot long geckos that look like they've been on steroids compared to their more common smaller brothers, to a 2m monitor lizard that we met on the path to our hostel in the Gili Islands.
However we were now in dragon territory and would be actively seeking a face to face encounter with the king of lizards, The Komodo Dragon, which can get up to 3m. With the powerful stance of a pit bull, long claws, a tail that can be used as a whip and a bite that is full of poisonous bacteria, you might question our sanity at choosing to do this, but we were super excited!!
We were up early to beat the crowds and jumped into the small boat to make our way to Rinca island (pronounced Rinja). There are 2000 dragons on Rinca and a further 2000 on Komodo itself. You aren't allowed to walk on the island without guides and ours were great. They both carried a long stick just incase the dragons got too close and one would lead whilst the other would be at the back of the group to make sure none of the stragglers were picked off!
It wasn't long before we came across this guy! Just chillin in the sun...
He seemed quite docile just lying there in the sun with an almost amused expression on his face, which I guess is why they are such good ambush predators, lulling passersby into a false sense of security. As we moved on I turned back and saw that he had got up and started to move. We could now appreciate just how big and powerful he was as he swaggered along. If a bouncer was a lizard it would be one of these!
Some Komodo dragon facts from our guides:
- A dragon waits in ambush for its prey, biting the leg. The animal will then slowly die over 2-3 weeks from the bacteria in the dragons saliva! All the dragon needs to do is be patient and then its dinner time.
- Use their tail as a weapon, if you see them curling it round get out of the way as they can break bones with it when they whip it back round.
- There are 3 males to every female, which means there's a lot of fighting in mating season.
- Mating season is June/July so would be the time to get dragon fight photos!
- Dragons fight standing on their back legs and grappling with each other using their front legs. Their powerful tail acts as a prop to help them stay upright. We saw one male dragon which had broken both his front legs in the previous mating season, so they are tough!
- Last year 3 rangers and 1 local were attacked! Including one of our guides! More on that in a bit...
- Average life span is 25 years but they can live up to 50.
- When they are younger they can replace teeth but lose this ability as they get older. As they lose teeth in fights once they are all gone they can no longer feed themselves and die.
- They can swim!! One dragon became a problem so they moved him to another island only to have him swim back. TWICE!
- They hold their breath whilst they run, so even though can reach speeds of 18km/hr they can only run for short bursts.
- If you hear a hissing sound, that's a warning!
- Credit for discovering the dragons was given to a Dutch guy, although of course the local people knew about them for ages its just he was the first person to be able to write it down!
This is a beautiful lady dragon, although dont be fooled by her coy smile.
She was much more alert and lively than the big males we had seen lounging around. Turns out she had picked up the scent of the monkeys that were behind us, which they sometimes eat
So we soon jumped out the way when she decided to investigate....and so did the monkeys!
We had an hour on the island to trek around and see the dragons.
Despite being early it was already really hot but we were rewarded for trekking in the heat by some great views and a lord of the rings type landscape.
We even spotted our liveaboard boat in the distance.
Surely this image below is every parents nightmare. Your kid sitting above a bunch of Komodos!
If you look closely you can see that they have boarded up the entrance at the top of the steps to the building. This is because the dragons can climb stairs!
One of the stories we were told was that one dragon went up to one of the ranger buildings and started tapping on the door with its long claws...this reminded me of the claw tapping in Jurassic Park!
The ranger inside had headphones in so didn't hear the dragon and so when it managed to open the door he got quite a fright!
It was on the walk back out of the park that I found out that our guide had been attacked by a Komodo on 24th May 2012 and luckily survived! He regaled an intense tale of being ambushed by a dragon whilst walking with a tourist. They think the dragon was stalking prey that had just crossed the same path and so unwittingly now became the target. He bravely got between the tourist and the dragon trying to keep it at bay with his stick but the dragon was too strong a pushed it out of the way. Now unarmed with a dragon in hunt mode he tried to run but the dragon bit him in the foot and he fell to the ground. The dragon still had hold of his foot and was trying to twist it off but he kicked all he could to free it from the dragons jaws. Before he could move out of the way he suddenly felt the weight on the dragon on top of him and it was now trying to bite him in the head!! Trying to hold him at bay some how the guide managed to punch the dragon in the face, stunning the dragon for long enough to be able to climb up a tree until help arrived.
Phew!! Can you imagine that!!
This guy surely gets legend status!