We sail through calm waters and anchor off the shores of Komodo Island. The tiny island is sandwiched between Sumbawa and Flores in Indonesia. The humidity is high and low clouds are hanging over the top of the mountains. The foliage is lush green with palm trees and the accompanying undergrowth of grass and bushes. It is quiet and calm here. There is only one small fishing village on the island as this is a national park and home to a fierce and rare species of reptile that looks like a dinosaur. It is called a Komodo Dragon but it is not even remotely related to either a dinosaur or a dragon. Instead, the Komodo Dragon is the remnant of a once widespread ancient order of monitor lizard that survives on only a handful of the 17,508 islands that make up Indonesia. Known locally as ora, the Komodo Dragon grows to an average of between 6 and nearly 10 feet long and weighs an average of 150 pounds. It “monitors” the air for a possible meal by using its tongue which recognizes both taste and scent.
Most of us have only one mission today --- to see a Komodo Dragon. They roam freely on the island so the only passengers who can tender over must be on a shore excursion. Each tour group is made up of about 25 passengers and we are led into the jungle by two park rangers. It has recently rained so the trail is muddy. Small butterflies dart around but never seem to settle on any bushes for a picture. Birds hawk high in the trees. The lead ranger whispers his dialog so not to scare away our objective.
As we start to leave our first stop, we come face-to-face with a Komodo Dragon just sauntering down the trail. The park rangers quickly move between the lizard and the tour group. At their request, we move to the left to give the lizard the right-of-way. But the dragon decides he likes that side of the trail also. “Move to the right” yells the ranger. We obey slowly as we fight to take pictures. The park rangers prod the lizard with a long forked walking stick to direct it away from the tour group. Typically, the dragon’s diet consists of carrion (rotting goat, deer and wild pig carcasses) but they will hunt and ambush birds, invertebrates and mammals (wonder if cruisers are tasty???). We continue our walk deeper into the jungle until we arrive at a clearing called “the watering hole”. It must be a favorite spot of the dragons because six of them are just lying around.