The Komodo Dragons
The Komodo National Park is located between the Indonesian islands of Sumbawa and Flores, on the islands of Rinca, Padar, and Komodo. Here there are just 4000 of the famous Komodo dragons, the largest lizards in the world. Due to the ocean currents, these islands were cut off from the surrounding islands for many centuries. The dragons were discovered in 1912 by P.C. Bouwens. The National Park was established in 1980 and become an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
These massive lizards (which have changed very little over 900 000 years) can live for more than 100 years, grow to more than three meters in length, and get up to 170 kg. Once a year, female komodo dragons lay 15 to 30 eggs in holes in the ground. They watch their nests for a few months and then leave them. It will take eight and half months for these baby lizards to hatch. The dragons will live in trees for the first few years, feeding on insects, birds, and other small mammals. Once they have grown to about a meter in length they will move to the ground to hunt larger pray. Another reason the freshly hatched lizards live in the trees at first is because the larger Komodo dragons will eat them if they try to live on the ground before they are large enough to defend themselves. Komodo dragons are carnivores and their main source of food is Timor Deer but they hunt many of the other animals on the island including water buffalo, wild boar, monkeys, snakes, and geckos. The dragons carefully stalk their prey and then pounce from the thicket. Their venomous bite allows them to take down their target in a single bite. The dragon often follows the animal for days until it dies from the poison, and then he eats it.
In the National Park
Komodo can only be accessed by taking a boat from Sumbawa or Flores, or by taking a small cruise e.g. Bluewater Cruises from the Gili Islands. The water in this area is a deep, radiant blue and you will have a fascinating view of passing islands. The boats moor in a cove and you will then be guided to the park entrance. Since the National Park is not fenced make sure you keep a lookout for the dragons and steer clear of them. The animals are very dangerous and you should keep several meters between you and them. They have been known to attack and kill humans.
At the entrance of the park there is a Visitor Center where you can buy tickets. If you would like to take pictures then you will have to pay an additional 2 euros. Here you will be met by rangers who will tell you more about the Komodo dragons. Then you will take a walk around the island to observe the lizards and other indigenous animals. The rangers have long wooden sticks to keep any overly curious dragons at bay. As you explore, you will see many breathtaking views of the beautiful grasslands which cover the island.
The entire archipelago, including the underwater worlds off the coast, is protected. You may choose to go on a diving or snorkeling excursion and to see the stunning coral reefs, manta rays, seahorses, Barrucadas, nudibranchs, and much more that this spectacular region has to offer.