The World is a great book … they who never stir from home read only a page. – St. Augustine
To-day we did the much anticipated Komodo Dragon tour. It was just awesome. The temperature is a cool 35C :-). It’s a dry heat and it was actually lovely. We were taken by tender to Komodo Island, Indonesia.
Aside from its most famous residents, the Komodo Dragons, the 2000 people of this island are mostly descendants of former convicts exiled to the island and who mixed with the indigenous Bugis from Sulawasi. The religion here is primarily Muslim, but Christianity and Hinduism are also practised.
Komodo is only one of the 17,508 islands that make up the republic of Indonesia, it is part of the "Lesser Sunda" chain of islands and forms part of the Komodo National Park. And, because it is a National Park it relies heavily on tourism to support the island and some of its people. We found (thankfully not to our cost) that if you were not part of a tour or had previously set up and paid for a ranger and guards you are not allowed on the island.
The Komodo Dragon, a type of monitor lizard, is the worlds largest and roams the island freely. It makes its home on some of the surrounding islands. Interestingly, they tend to live in "Communes" in the valleys of the island. The island is rocky on the hills with deep lush vegetation in the valleys. One of the trees here is Tamarind which interested Gert to no end as he uses Tamarind in his cooking. Another tree "Jarek" produces a fruit similar to the size of a plum; this fruit is being manufactured into a form of Bio-fuel.
Back to the dragons/lizards. They grow to an average of between 6- 12 feet and weigh in around 150-200lbs. Its diet consists mainly of carrion, but they will hunt and ambush birds, invertebrates and mammals. They are very patient animals and will lay in wait for days waiting for "dinner" to walk by. They then bite the prey, forcing its saliva into the blood system – then wait. The prey die very slowly in about 2 days of blood poisoning and the Komodo eats every part of the prey (and I mean every part – fur, teeth, hair, bone).
Once on the island we were taken by one of the Park Rangers and 2 security guards, each with a stick shaped somewhat like a large "Y" to an area where they earlier had coaxed 4 very large males into 1 area. This area was cordoned off with ropes (they were enticed by pieces of meat). They looked very mean and had obviously a lot of strength. At one point, one of the large males got up (with blood saliva dripping from its mouth) and started to approach me, I couldn’t believe how quickly the guards got to where I stood. It didn’t actually come to close but I got a healthy dose of respect for the guards who accompanied our group.
On our way back to the beach a female dragon, one of two in that valley or commune just walked onto our path, goodness but I got a fright. The guards immediately ensured our safety by holding their "Y" sticks at the ready (it holds the lizards head up which prevents the dragon from biting). We were safe but I totally understood all the precautions taken for our safety. Over the past year 18 people have been killed. Only recently a fisherman looking for fruit ventured unaccompanied onto the island and was killed. The only thing left of him was his glasses. Another precaution is that all women who are having a period are forbidden to come ashore as the Komodo has an extremely great sense of smell and detect the smell of blood from up to 10 kilometres.
During our tour we had a typical burst of rain, it was actually refreshing to get soaked to the skin. It was just an awesome tour.