The one thing I was really stoked about visiting Flores and Komodo Islands was getting to see the famous Komodo Dragons in the wild. It is one of the main reasons people visit the Komodo Islands in the first place. Here’s a bit about my experience finally getting to see these rare beasts in their natural habitat.
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT KOMODO DRAGONS?
- They are DRAGONS, duh of course they are cool. Well, they’re not really dragons, but they are the largest lizard species and can grow up to 3m in length and weigh up to 150kg
- Komodo Dragons are really rare – the only place in the world you can only find them is here in Komodo National Park. There are about 4,000 of them and they are pretty endangered
- Komodo National Park was chosen as one of the new 7 wonders of nature back in 2011. Tick that off your bucket list!
WHERE TO FIND THESE LARGE LIZARDS
There are two spots that you can visit in Komodo National Park to see Komodo Dragons – either Loh Liang on Komodo Island or Loh Buaya on the smaller Rinca Island. Komodo Dragons can swim though so there is a very small chance you might come across them randomly.
YOUR TYPICAL DRAGON HUNTING EXPERIENCE
I went to Loh Liang in Komodo Island where we had several trek options – we took the short trek on a forest pathway shaded by trees. Overall it’s a fairly easy walk, flat though super humid given that you’re in the forest. Spray some mosquito repellent beforehand to keep the bugs away!
Like safaris or any sort of animal watching trek, there is no guarantee you will see the Komodo Dragons – things seemed a little dire at first with no sightings at all in the first half of our walk, not even at the waterhole which they tend to frequent. Turns out, they were all hanging out near the restaurant and retail outlet area.
The touristy thing to do of course is to take the ‘I’m petting the Komodo Dragon’ shot by creeping up to a (safe) distance behind a lazing Komodo dragon and extending your hand forward while relying on your photographer to angle your shot such that it looks like you are touching the Komodo.
For wildlife lovers, look out for other animals in the park – avid birdwatcher David from MalaysiaAsia was very pleased with the birdwatching here, and we spotted other animals like deer and wild boar wandering around, though the latter is put there as food for the Komodos, so I’d be wary of hanging out too close to them!
Our group took about 2 hours from start to end including photo-taking time. You could take the longer treks where you can climb a hill for a viewpoint of the island and its surroundings, and hopefully have more chance to see Komodo Dragons as you venture deeper into the forest.
SAFETY NOTE: DO NOT MESS WITH THESE LIZARDS
More fun facts for you: Komodo dragons are DANGEROUS and they really like meat. They camouflage pretty well and look a lot like fallen logs on the forest floor so you are liable to just overlook them if you aren’t paying close attention. While they look like lazy logs just lying around, those beady eyes are keeping a close eye on you. It’s all a part of their ploy to lull you, their prey, into a false sense of security – their innocuous facade disguises their ability to move really fast over short distances, so before you know it, they have their teeth or claws sunk into you.
And even if you somehow escape their clutches, their saliva is so filthy and bacteria laden that it works like venom – you might still die from blood poisoning. In the wild, Komodo dragons often just wait for their bitten prey to succumb to bite wounds before moving in for the feast.
Komodo National Park is not a zoo – there are no barriers or fences. The only protection you have are your trusty guides with their long sticks who know how to distract Komodo Dragons accordingly, so stick close and listen to them and don’t even think about wandering off on your own. People have died doing just that! And also, if you have any open wounds or are a woman on your period, alert the guides so that they can keep a closer eye on you – Komodo dragons have a keen sense of smell and are always on the scent for blood.
HOW TO ESCAPE A RAMPAGING KOMODO DRAGON
Should a Komodo dragon attack you despite all the efforts of the guides, don’t even try fighting it. Run like hell and try not to get bitten. Here’s hoping you will never have to follow these tips, but here’s what we were told:
- Run in a zigzag pattern – they sprint fast but their bulk means its hard for them to change direction. I think my netball training will really pay off here
- Climb a tree – young Komodo dragons live and hide in trees to escape the cannibalistic older ones who are trying to eat them, so follow their cue and scramble up a tree if you get chased
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST
The easiest way to see the dragons is to join a boat day tour from Labuan Bajo. There are a whole bunch of fees you need to pay for this rare opportunity though, so if you’d rather not worry too much about the nitty gritty:
- National Park Fee: mon-sat – 150,000 IDR/person/day (S$16) or sun – 225,000 IDR/person/day (S$24) – Indonesians pay 5,000 IDR/day
- Area Tax: 50,000 IDR/person/day
- Guide Fee: 80,000 IDR per guide – each group of around 5 people needs at least 1 guide
In short, that works out to 280,000 IDR on a weekday or 335,000 IDR on a Sunday just to enter the park. Note that this doesn’t include any additional tour fees you have to pay if you are going with a day tour – make sure you check with the tour organiser on whether their tours include these fees so you don’t get surprised by additional charges.
Other activities also require an extra fee:
- Diving: 25,000 IDR/person/day
- Snorkeling: 15,000 IDR/person/day
Happy Komodo Dragon hunting! Do share your experience here if you have already seen these magnificent creatures.
Big thanks again to Skyscanner for organising and sponsoring this experience.