March 5, 2012 – Komodo Island, Indonesia
Komodo Island is the home of the Komodo Dragon which lives on this island and a couple other small nearby islands.
This island is an Indonesian National Park and is the home of some 1200 Komodo Dragons, which run free on the island. These are the largest of the monitor lizards and this is the only place in the world they are found. Unlike other ports we visit, passengers are not allowed on shore here, unless they are part of a tour which includes an Indonesian Park Ranger.
The Komodo Dragons are extremely dangerous animals. They range up to seven or eight feet in length and can weigh up to 300 lbs. They prefer carrion as food, but if none is available they hunt live prey including deer, pigs, horses, water buffalo and unfortunately, occasionally, humans. There is an Indonesian village on the island which suffers from an occasional attack. The dragons have a combination of an extremely toxic saliva and a venom, which cause infection and eventual death from their bites. They will bite their prey and wait patiently for a few days for the prey to die. They can smell carrion from up to 3 miles away.
This park is most unusual in that the dragons were running free and the tourists trekked along amidst them. The Indonesian Rangers each carried long forked sticks which they used to reroute the dragons away from the tourists. After following a trail, along which we skirted a dragon, we reached a clearing near a water hole where there were 7 or 8 of the dragons. The guides had their hands full keeping them away from the tourists.