Hunting For Komodo Dragons on Komodo Island
Let it be said right from the get-go. There is never a guarantee you’ll spot a Komodo Dragon in the wild but there are usually a few hanging around the kitchens on both islands. The Park Service on Komodo Island feeds the dragons in the morning; chicken and fish. They used to throw the odd goat or two in the past to keep tourists from being disappointed if they didn’t see one lurking in the underbrush. I don’t think a chicken or fish would go far in sating a Komodo Dragon’s intake of 50 kilos/110 pounds at one sitting. That would take a lot of chickens.
The Sea Star moored close to the Loh Liang jetty on Komodo Island around 3:00p. Captain dropped anchor and we were assisted into a little dinghy towed behind the boat. Neither of us understood why we had to take a dinghy in when there was a long pier available with no other boats. Ah…little grasshopper, the ways of others are beyond me. It was just us and the Komodo Dragons this afternoon since the majority of tourists work their way west from Flores to Rinca to Komodo Island. Komodo Island is the largest of the islands in the Komodo National Park.
A member of the crew accompanied us to the main office for check-in, carrying paperwork since we had prepaid entrance, camera and guide fees. There are hiking trails throughout the national park but it is not permitted to walk without a guide as dragons have occasionally attacked, and killed humans. There are small fishing villages on Komodo Island and occasionally a dragon feasts on a human; rare but it does happen. Guide Latif asked us to stay together and not wander off. Was he crazy? Wander off? Steve and I made one silhouette. Latif armed himself with the traditional forked stick used to ward off dragons, selected the forest trail and off we went, sticking to him like glue, towards a water hole. Perhaps, a Komodo Dragon would be lurking in the underbrush waiting for a deer.
There are four different treks a person can take. Easy takes one hour; Medium 1-1/2 hours; hard and adventurous 2+ hours. Even if you pick the hardest trek, there is still no guarantee you’ll see one of the 1,200 dragons on Komodo Island. One hour, one and a half hours sounds very easy until you experience the steam heat of Komodo Island. Those of you who have grown up in a Houston, Texas summer will have no problem. Sweat poured off with each step.
We squished through the mud and saw…an oriole…a pigeon. Continued on and saw…palm trees. More walking. A wild pig disappeared into the bush. Still walking, Latif tried to keep up our interest talking about palm trees since there was nothing interesting to see. Nirvana. Towards the end of this boring forest walk, Latif spotted a baby Komodo Dragon high in the crack of a cave. How he saw it, I’ll never know. The baby was perhaps two months old and would stay concealed in the rock crack for another month. Older dragons eat the babies if they are on the ground.
Fortunately, four Komodo Dragons were hanging around the kitchen area – an adult male and a few younger ones. Latif kept urging me to get closer for photographs. (The shaky video attests to the fact that I was not getting closer and telephoto’d in the best I could.)
The unexpected baby Komodo Dragon sighting was thrilling. However, seeing Komodo Dragons was not as stupefying as envisioned, but we can now add it to our “been there…done it” list. Back past the gauntlet of men selling pearls and carved Komodo dragons to the Sea Star. Coffee and a yummy but strange saltine cracker that was sweet as well as salty, we motored off towards Rinca Island where the Captain would moor the boat for the night, along the beautiful coastline
We’d visit the dragons on Rinca Island tomorrow. For now, more rain, dinner and sleep. Or, try to sleep. The Sea Star leaves lights on throughout the night. Pretty difficult to sleep with a light bulb hanging over your bed, and a noisy generator. Add climbing up and down ladders to the bathroom during the night, and walking on a rain slick deck trying not to do a “Natalie Wood.” I finally dug out the old ear plugs, covered eyes with a towel and dozed off.