Komodo Dragons Traveling to komodo national park, indonesia

The trip to see the Komodo Dragon really starts at the town of Labuan Bajo.

A relatively small village, the town is composed of farmers and fisherman, combined with a newly sprouted tourist community offering dive trips, tourist hotels, restaurants, and of course, boat tours to visit Komodo Island. Many beautiful hotels and restaurants line the center of town and the harbor area with lots of construction promising new hotels and new tourist areas.

The Labuan Bajo Airport
The harbor also contained many anchored tall ships, and combined with the colorful rooftops, the view gave one the impression this is how the world looked over 100 years ago.
To visit Komodo National Park, it's easy to find a boat and a tour guide among the many local shops offering to escort people to see the dragons.

The boat trip to Rinca Island is relatively short (2 ½ hours) while the trip from Labuan Bajo to Komodo Island is over 4 hours. You can travel to Rinca Island from Labuan Bajo and back in a single day; however, to truly experience Komodo National Park, it’s best to spend at least one night on a boat allowing you time to patiently view the park, the dragons, and the unspoiled nature.

Upon arrival at Labuan Bajo airport, my guide took me to my boat only 15 minutes away. While the boat accommodations were very basic, my cabin was quite comfortable. Accompanying me was my guide, the captain, the cook and one crew.
The dock at Komodo Island supporting large passenger ships
Although there are multiple islands within Komodo National Park, the two major islands housing the majority of the dragons are Rinca Island and the larger, Komodo Island.

Each island holds approximately 2,400 dragons. I heard many stories about people who traveled to both islands and saw no dragons. Fortunately, I saw dragons everywhere.

In order to the tour the island, one must be accompanied by a ranger. Each ranger carries a wooden stick about 2 metres in length for protection. Although these sticks appear lacking, the dragons respect the sticks and the rangers who use them.

On each island you are given the option of a short, a medium or a long trek taking approximately 30 minutes, 60 minutes and 2 hours respectively. The trekking is moderately straightforward with hills, rocks and sandy trails. While hiking boots would have been best, hiking with sandals wasn’t a problem.

The dragons are reptiles, cold blooded, and their bodies are warmed by the sun.

During the morning trek, I saw many Komodo Dragons sunning their bodies in the morning sun, while on the afternoon trek the few dragons I saw appeared to be sleeping or waiting for prey to walk towards them. The dragons are also amazingly well camouflaged. Their dark sandy brown skin blends extremely well with the loose sand and the dirt of each island, and many times the ranger would point out dragons I would have otherwise missed.

All the ranger huts and lodges are built on stilts; however, even though they are high, dragons can still climb the stairs or find ways into the cabins.

My ranger told a story on how a dragon entered a ranger hut and attacked a ranger who was standing on a table. A second ranger heard the screams coming from inside the hut and ran inside. Grabbing the dragon by the tail, he rescued the first ranger only to be bitten himself. Both rangers wound up in the hospital for 3 weeks, and fortunately both fully recovered.

On each island, multiple dragons were found surrounding the ranger kitchen hut attracted by the smell. All the rangers assured me they did not feed the dragons. At the Rinca Island ranger kitchen, there was one dragon whose two front arms were both broken. This dragon had been injured during a fight for the right to mate many years ago, but amazingly had found a way to survive.

Dragons found on Rinca and Komodo Island

Also on Rinca Island, I observed a female dragon protecting her nest. The female dragon digs multiple holes in order to confuse predators from the true hole containing her eggs. Each hole is almost a meter deep. Typically a dozen or more dragons will hatch, and the baby dragons must quickly find shelter in the surrounding trees and forest or risk being eaten by the adult dragons.

It takes 10 years for a dragon to reach adulthood and they can live for 50 years.
My favorite dragon who slowly stalked me as I continued to take pictures.
I was within 2 meters of a resting dragon. Of course, this was not without risk since dragons are very quick and can travel at speeds up to 50 kilometres per hour. If a dragon wanted to attack me it had the advantage.

The rangers would also get extremely close to the dragons sometimes pulling a tree branch or the brush away from the dragons so I could get better photographs. It was very clear the rangers as well as my guide knew very well what was and wasn’t possible.

When dragons eat, they eat their prey in large chucks rarely chewing their food. With a combination of deadly bacteria and venom, they bite their prey mortally injuring it, and then when the animal is too weak to defend itself, the dragon consumes their target. Dragons are able to smell blood up to 5 kilometers away so when animals are killed, other dragons can be expected to join in the spoils.

The remainder of my travel was spent snorkeling, boating and enjoying wonderful Indonesia cuisine served on the boat. Our crew even caught fish that was served Indonesian style.

Created By
Michael Puldy
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Photos by Michael Puldy

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