Indonesia: Being Chased By A Komodo Dragon

By , March 7, 2011 6:06 am
Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon

Since childhood, I have been fascinated by the largest lizards on earth, the Komodo dragons. They are named after the small island they were first discovered on, Komodo, which is off Flores Island in Indonesia.

To get there from Bali, we board a rotor-powered plane for 2 hours and arrive in Komodo Airport in Flores. Looking down at the lush green island and lack of cities, we thought we were going to land on a dirt runway. It turns out the runway is not all dirt, but not far from it as we can see a food vendor walking along the runway.

Boarding Our Rotor-Powered Plane

Boarding Our Rotor-Powered Plane

Window With View Of  Rotor

Window With View Of Rotor

Outside the airport, we are offered a range of prices for transportation to our hotel in the village of Labuan Bajo. While the lowest price we get is 50,000 IDR ($5.5) per person, it doesn’t make sense, as the guesthouse is only a couple miles away. Next thing I know, MuiMui gets us on a bemo for 2,000 ($0.22) each.

We stay at the Golo Hilltop, which is run by 2 Dutch women that moved to Indonesia 10 years ago. It is a good 15 minutes walk to the town, but the view and quietness are priceless.

View From Golo Hilltop

View From Golo Hilltop

Our Room At Golo Hilltop

Our Room At Golo Hilltop

The next day we negotiate for a small wooden boat to Rinca (pronounced ‘Rincha’), find a French Canadian couple to share the costs with, and spend the day with Komodo dragons. Rinca is an island similar to Komodo, but it is more accessible from Flores (2 hours by boat versus 4 hours one-way for Komodo) and more dragons can be easily spotted here.

This Is Considered A Medium-Sized Boat

This Is Considered A Medium-Sized Boat

With New Friends Onboard Our Wooden Boat

With New Friends Onboard Our Wooden Boat

Rinca Island

Rinca Island

Upon our arrival, we see a small Komodo dragon walking freely next to the entrance. We keep walking cautiously and arrive face-to-face with a horde of 7 to 8 HUGE dragons. Our guide tells us that it is very uncommon to see more than 3 at the same time.

Our First Komodo Dragon!

Our First Komodo Dragon!

More Komodo Dragons

More Komodo Dragons

Don't Get Too Close

Don't Get Too Close

The dragons are 7 to 10 feet long, weighing around 150 pounds (the biggest ever found was 370 pounds) and usually live up to 50 years. Komodo dragons eat invertebrates, birds and mammals, sometimes turning to cannibalism and eating their own eggs or babies.

I Want To Eat You

I Want To Eat You

With our guide holding onto a y-shaped stick, we go on a one-hour hike into Jurassic Park. Early on, we get to observe a female dragon digging a 5 feet deep hole into the ground. She finally finds what she is looking for, which is bird eggs, and consumes it within seconds. It is an incredible moment for us to be able to see this just a few feet away. As we click away on our cameras, the noise seems to irritate her and she starts to come for us. With a very serious tone, our guide tells us to start moving. Without hesitation, we start to run!

Female Digging For Eggs

Female Digging For Eggs

Dragon's Face

Dragon's Face

Run!

Run!

For a long time, it was thought that Komodo dragons infect their prey by using high quantities of bacteria in their saliva. It’s been discovered in 2009 that it is actually a poison that slowly kills, resulting in a dead buffalo within a month.

Water Buffalo Skull

Water Buffalo Skull

In the middle of the dirt path, we run into a large pile of white droppings. We are told that the dragons can’t digest the calcium of the bones they ingest, so it comes out in their excrement.

The most incredible thing about Komodo dragons is that they are capable of parthenogenesis, which means that females can lay eggs without ever being in contact with a male. However, the offspring will always be male. This is a survival instinct that can have single female swimming to a nearby island and establishing a new population of dragons.

Our hike becomes very tiresome, as the sun gets more violent. We quickly take a few pictures of the landscape and monkeys hanging around and then head back to the boat.

Water Buffalo

Water Buffalo

Monkey Hanging Out

Monkey Hanging Out

As we make our way back to Labuan Bajo, we get caught up in a storm. It’s raining hard and it feels like pebbles are being thrown at us. The ocean starts to roar and we are caught in large waves. We are happy to arrive back onshore but we are all feeling a little sick.

Source: Wikipedia

Drinking To Celebrate Our Day

Drinking To Celebrate Our Day

Flores Island

Flores Island

Labuan Bajo From The Sea

Labuan Bajo From The Sea

Platform That Did Not Make It Through The Last Storm

Platform That Did Not Make It Through The Last Storm

Jakarta To Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo To Rinca

What We Paid: IDR USD Euro
– Flight from Jakarta to Labuan Bajo on Merpati Airlines [layover in Bali] 884,000/pp 101 72
– Bemo from Labuan Bajo airport to Golo Hilltop hotel [Free airport pickup with advance hotel reservations] 2,000/pp 0.22 0.16
– Double room with private bath at Golo Hilltop [great view, clean rooms, nice staff, just sounds of waves, free complete breakfast, free wifi but was down during our visit] 200,000/double 22.80 16.25
– Boat rental with a captain to Rinca [max 5 people] 500,000/boat round-trip 57 40.65
– Komodo National Park Entrance fee 20,000/pp 2.30 1.60
– Rinca Island guide fee [required for each group] 40,000/group 4.60 3.20
– Rinca Island camera fee 50,000/camera 5.50 4.00
– Laundry in Labuan Bajo 10,000/kilo 1.10 0.80
– Bemo from Golo Hilltop to Gardena hotel (center) 1,000/pp 0.11 0.08
– Street Food 3,000/pp 0.33 0.24
– Lunch at The Lounge [great western food, free wifi, nice atmosphere for drinks] 60,000/pp 6.90 4.80
– Dinner at Paradise Restaurant with view and great live band 60,000/pp 6.90 4.80
– Private transportation from Golo Hilltop hotel to Labuan Bajo airport 30,000/ride 3.45 2.40
– Flight from Labuan Bajo to Bali 434,000/pp 49.50 35.30

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

11 Responses to “Indonesia: Being Chased By A Komodo Dragon”

  1. The Dr. says:

    Love these pics… wish we’d had another week to travel. I noticed
    in Gili T. that there are fast boats to Labuan Bajo! LP didn’t say
    anything about that, they must be relatively new. Too late for us
    but maybe other people will come across your blog while they’re
    researching their own trips.

  2. Anthony says:

    Des majuscules a chaque mot pour les sous titres de photos ?

  3. Anthony says:

    Frais pour l’appareil photo ?? entre ça et les autres prix ,
    certains , on voit bien que je ne voyage plus avec vous

  4. brian says:

    wow! much fun! great story! Remember the story of the big newspaper
    editor in SF who on his birthday got into a Komodo dragon
    enclosure- but he was wearing white and the dragons were attracted
    to his white attire and bit into his foot. His wife, Sharon Stone
    had to get help for his soon to be terribly infected foot. Your
    story and photos are excellent. Were you guys on level ground with
    these dinosaurs, or elevated? Seems dangerous otherwise. Thank you
    for sharing!

  5. Boris says:

    @ The Dr. Thanks, we wish we were there as well. Hope you enjoyed
    your time in Bali though. @ Brian. Thanks for the story, I didn’t
    know. We are actually walking next to these guys. We were less than
    5 feet away when the female was digging for the eggs, it was a
    great moment. I highly recommend going there if you travel in
    Indonesia.

  6. Julien says:

    Très Sympa votre blog! Je suis allé a Komodo l’an dernier, j’avais
    vraiment adoré, ca fait plaisir de partager votre expérience!
    J’avais vraiment été impressionné par les dragons de Komodo. Voici
    un bon site Internet sur ces lézards géants! Les vidéos sont
    vraiment impressionnantes! http://dragon-komodo.com/ Bonne
    continuation et bon voyage! Julien

  7. daneerys says:

    bravo pour cet article qui donne infiniment envie de suivre vos
    traces ! peut on savoir avec quel appareil tu as pris ces photos
    (magnifiques) ? bonne continuation

  8. Boris says:

    Merci daneerys. J’utilise un Canon T2i (550D in Europe) et les
    photos sont prises avec cet objectif:
    http://www.meandfrenchie.com/fr/2011/01/nouvel-objectif-tamron-sp-70-300mm-f4-5-6-di-vc-usd

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