The Wild Cannibals of Komodo.
Wow dramatic title I know, but well deserved – the Komodo Dragons are wild and they’re partial to eating their own children.
Pretty much the sole reason I jumped aboard the rickety ship for 4 days was to check out the Komodo Dragons. Most people knew a fair bit about the beasts from various wildlife programmes but I went in a little blind, just liking the thought of coming face to face with a real life dragon.
The dragons inhabit 4 islands, but only 2 are accessible for tourists – Komodo Island and Rinca. We stopped off on both – double bubble chances of bumping into some dragons. We were met by rangers as we landed on Komodo Island, rangers with big sticks. At that point I felt a tiny bit nervous – big sticks?! Surely a machete of some sort would be more effective, but these guys are born and bred on the island so I trusted them.
Within a few minutes we had walked to a man-made water hole, where a huge crowd of Reindeer and a few wild Boar had gathered. Just a few metres away a dragon lay in wait. Waiting for what I’m not sure as he was surrounded by prey, but his beady eyes were quite menacing and like one of those paintings in 80’s horror films his eyes seemed to follow me. He was about 3 metres long, so not a small chap and definitely an adult so his poisonous bite would guarantee a long and painful death.
People got brave, had a few photos with the dragon and one of the rangers took this opportunity to sneak off and take a leak in the bushes – the rustling excited the dragon and he was up and after the ranger. We were all told to move quickly but not told where we should move to. We shuffled quickly, scattered and then re-grouped – it was a mess basically. The ranger got away and the dragon became lazy again and lost interest. At this point I realised I had absolutely no idea what I should do if a dragon decided it wanted to get me.
So I found out. Please feel free to comment below when my dragon escaping advice helps you:
1. Run – Dragons are as fast as the average human but they are quite lazy so are likely to give up before you do.
2. Zig-Zag – don’t run in a straight line, if you zig-zag it will find it harder to follow you (good luck with remembering to zig-zag).
3. Climb – Young dragons can climb trees but full grown adults can’t. If you really can’t run any more you can climb.
4. Swim – Dragons can swim but they’re cold blooded beasts and they’re no Olympians. Apparently, they can swim up to 200 metres – so if you reckon you can out-swim it this is an option. BUT, if you’re on Rinca Island remember there are crocodiles too.
We were lucky enough to see quite a few dragons across both the islands, both fully grown adults and tiny babies. The rangers talked knowledgeably about them as they’ve grown-up with these modern day dinosaurs.
A few Komodo Dragon facts:
They can live to around 40 years old, with the males reaching around 3m50cm long and females a little shorter at around 3m10cm.
They really are canibals. The baby dragons when hatched have to scramble up the trees to escape their own mother and other hungry dragons.
The babies have tiny wings/webbed arms and can fly/glide for up to 3 metres. Dragons only become poisonous when they’re around 7-8 years old.
Their gestation period is 9 months, just the same as us humans.
Adult dragons kill their prey (water buffalo, goat, deer, boar) with their poisonous bite. It then takes a few days for their dinner to die so they lay in wait and feast on the corpse. It takes around a day for the dragon to eat and digest a boar.
I believe they’ve only killed two humans since the 1970s. One unlucky Swiss tourist (apparently dragons weren’t used to humans then!) and then more recently a local 7 year old boy.