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Komodo - Island Of Dragons

Ben Hall

We’re standing at the start of the walking track in Komodo National Park, and our local guide, Marsel, is telling us sightings of the island’s famous dragons are not always guaranteed. A few of us in the tour group point behind him as a Komodo dragon lumbers straight towards us, but Marsel thinks we’re just making fun of him. Eventually he turns his head, spots the reptile, and ushers us off the track into the forest at the side. “Give him some room and don’t make any sudden movements,” we’re warned in a hushed voice. The dragon is huge, nearly three metres long, and in somewhat of a hurry, and it growls as its moves past and onto the bridge ahead. The guides get to know most of the Komodo dragons, and this one is apparently a 25-year old male called Warren; and fortunately, he’s also one of the more even tempered animals on Komodo Island. “We can’t get that close to some of the other ones,” Marsel warns. “They will lash you with their tail and they will bite. On of the guides got bitten a few weeks back and had to be flown to Bali for hospital with a bad infection.”

Indonesia’s Komodo Island, famous for massive dragons, was a port of call for us on a luxury cruise on Seabourn Odyssey from Sydney to Hong Kong. The Komodo National Park and its three islands – Komodo, Rinca and Padar – is also a world heritage site. Its scenic landscape of hilly savannahs are as beautiful as its beautiful reefs under its calm waves, making it one of eastern Indonesia’s diving Meccas as well as the only place to go dragon spotting. Earlier that morning our ship had anchored in Slawi Bay, which is adjacent to Komodo National Park, and almost instantly Komodo’s little kids paddled out from the island in their canoes to check out one of the most modern, sophisticated and opulent cruise ships in the world - and to say hello. The tour we were taking on the island, however, was organised on ship. It was a one and half hour hike through the park, with the aim of seeing the world’s biggest lizard which only exists on this island. If you’re not on a cruise, however, there are plenty of ways to reach Komodo to go dragon spotting, depending on where you start out. From Bali, for example, you can travel by sea or by air, and do it all on a long day trip. 

Our tour from the ship departs early in the morning, which is apparently the best time to see these famous reptiles in their tropical savanna and scrubland habitat. Before setting out, our guides Marsel and Tamlan, give us a briefing on how to react if we get lucky enough to see a dragon. The message is simple: move out of the way quickly, give them their space and don’t make any sudden movements. After our unexpected encounter with Warren we’re happy, but further up the track another one emerges from the forest behind us and we’re all rounded up and moved into the bushes again. This one’s even bigger and meaner we’re told so we keep a respectful distance. All up, during the course of our tour, we spot about 12 Komodo dragons, making it one of those days you never forget, as well as something to tick off the bucket list. And the little monitor lizards we have at home back in Australia just don’t look as big, or as threatening anymore.

Largest Lizard on Earth | The Komodo Dragon | Deadly 60 | Indonesia | Series 3 | BBC 04:02

Steve Backshall travels to Indonesia in search of reptiles to add to his list of 60 deadly predators. He and his crew have a nerve-racking close encounter with three metre long Komodo dragons, the world's largest venomous lizards! Subscribe to BBC Earth: Earth YouTube Channel: BBC Earth Facebook (ex-UK only) BBC Earth Twitter Visit for all the latest animal news and wildlife videos This is a commercial channel from BBC Studios. Service & Feedback

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