Why I Didn’t Get Eaten by a Komodo Dragon While I was in Komodo National Park!
Komodo Dragons have a fearsome reputation and stories of their ferocity and venomous bite are legend. Komodo Dragons look extremely formidable, I can attest to that! My trip to Komodo National Park gave me a close up look at the largest of lizards, now vulnerable to extinction.
I recently visited Komodo on a dive liveaboard, The Arenui. One of our scheduled stops, and a very popular one, was stopping on Rinca Island, one of the few places left on earth where Komodo Dragons live. I decided to check them out, and I left with all of the other divers to do a walk through Loh Buaya on Rinca Island, one of the few places left where humans can see Komodo Dragons. No worries, they said. Oh, it’s a little hilly, especially coming down. Hilly? More like a slide straight down into a dragon’s mouth!
Like the African Massai warriors, the guides who are protecting you from the dragons carry only sticks. What is a stick going to do against a hungry lion or a dragon? I guess they must do something since no other weapon is present. At least, you hope they do something.
I don’t know what I expected, really, but the “viewing area” was accessed by concrete walks that were elevated from the ground by maybe a foot. As lions know that the vehicles on the savannah are not food, so do the dragons know that humans on these walkways are not food. We were told that Komodo Dragons only have to eat every 3 months or so. Most of their time is spent basking in the sun, and they are especially sluggish in the morning hours.
A couple of them raised up to take a look, but they weren’t extremely close to us so we weren’t concerned, just fascinated by the animals.
Now, even though we took the “short trek”, there was “a bit of a hill” to climb in 100% humidity in unbelievable heat. A hill? It was more like a mountain. I don’t climb very well since I have 4 Titanium rods and 8 titanium pedicle screws in my lower spine, and I can tell you, I had a tough time. Steep? Oh yes, it was f^&^&*g steep all right! I did my best to put one foot in front of the other and breathe. The top of the mountain had incredible views. The bad news was the way down was even steeper. And rockier. Remember, we still have guides because there are no fences or enclosures, a dragon could be anywhere.
I was dehydrated, shaky, and trying desperately not to fall on the way down. Ha! Anyone who knows me knows that a fall would be absolutely typical of me, and yes, of course I took a tumble. Needless to say, I was a long way behind the others, but I did have my own guide with a stick. I took off my shoes so I could feel the ground (and the damned rocks) on my feet and be less likely to fall again. So, one foot in front of the other.
Finally, we were down, and still significantly behind the others. We arrived on the concrete walkway, and began approaching the others who were a fairly long way off. The dragons in the area were of the large variety, but they were lying down in the dust and were immobile.
It may have been because there were only a couple of us instead of a large group, but one of the large dragons raised his head and looked our way. Then he pushed up, then up on all fours and moving. Toward us. His (I have no idea if it was male, but it seemed like a male) tongue started flicking out. Dragons have white and pink forked tongues, and they are long. Very long.
So why didn’t I get eaten? The stick maybe?