Komodo dragon

Deadly Komodo Dragon: The Largest Lizard on Earth

An adult Komodo dragon can grow to 300 pounds and three and a half meters. They’re scary, and have been known to kill humans. But this is good news for the dragons, because interest in their man-eating credentials has made them a compelling ecotourist attraction and kept them from extinction.

Komodo National Park
Grass and shrub-covered volcanic slopes in Komodo National Park

The Varanus komodoensis (Komodo Dragon) has been living around Flores for the last 1.4 million years, and if you thought that wasn’t prehistoric enough, take a look at its volcanic habitat. The area is one big, range of awe-inspiring volcanoes and barren hillsides, a bubbling cauldron of seismic activity.

SY Esper, safely tucked up inside the bay

Sailing in the Komodo National Park is not without its challenges. Apart from man-eating lizards, there are fierce, unnavigable currents running between the islands. But maybe that isn’t such a bad thing? In the old days, dragons were able to swim between islands, but not any more. Nno-one wants to run into a dragon when snorkelling!

The peaceful anchorage next to the Rinca Ranger Station & Visitor Centre, gave us great protection and a comfortable sleep.

It’s the best place to take a guided tour of the home of Komodo Dragons.

komodo dragons
Jamie gets as close as he can, while Rano watches, poised with his wooden “sword”

We know cruisers who prefer not to part with their money and to take their luck on shore. Or to watch with binoculars from the safety of the cockpit. But this doesn’t compare to meeting the real animals and wandering through their habitat.

But we believe it’s worth every rupiah of the ticket. And coming in at less than £5 per person, with a personal guide, excellent museum, souvenir shop and cafeteria the money goes a long way. The first-hand knowledge of the guide about the dragons, other animals, plants, trees, the islands and local communities was illuminating.

Within minutes of landing the dinghy and walking along the elevated walkway, we spotted our first dragon. She was a female who had recently fed on a buffalo.

Komodo national park
Komodo Dragons feast on buffalo, deer and any mammal they can find. Tourist bones are hidden from view…

Komodo dragons are most active at sunrise and at sunset, and the shaded area around the centre is the best place to spot them during these times. We recommend getting to the centre early, before anyone else, so you’ll end up having the place to yourself.

As the sun rises they saunter off into the shady scrubland, so it’sa good time to make a short hike to the top of the adjacent hill to take in those stark but stunning vistas.

Rano, our guide, accompanied us. He was armed with nothing more than a forked stick and some attitude to fend off the dragons in case of attack. Unlike their monitor lizard cousins, Komodo dragons are aggressive and will attack humans.

Komodo dragons
Home-made Dragon “Swords”
Rano, our knowledgeable guide

You may feel safe out in the open at the top of the hill, but you can’t help but look over your shoulder. Liz stuck to our guide like glue!

We don’t spend a lot of time in tourist spots, but were thrilled with our visit to see the Komodo dragons at this beautiful park. They only allow small groups on the islands, which means the Komodo dragons remain undisturbed.

If you get the chance, we say GO!

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