Seeing Dragons IRL in Komodo National Park

A note from Blondie:

Komodo dragons. We’ve all heard of them. Terrifying beasts seemingly ripped from the pages of our childhood dinosaur books. While widely known throughout the world, they can only be found in the wild on five little islands in southeastern Indonesia. 

We left Bali and flew to Labuan Bajo for the chance to encounter these beastly creatures ourselves. Unfortunately, a matter of hours after we arrived in the little town, it was very clear the illness I thought was all behind me reared its hideous, monstrous head yet again. All I managed to achieve in our two and half days there was to walk up and down the main drag with J to decide which boat to go on to see the dragons. We made the booking then I crawled into bed and basically stayed there, only venturing out to the hospital to get more meds. 

As rehashing this awful illness is unnecessary and grossly inappropriate, I will leave you here. I was a saintly martyr and gave J my permission to go have an awesome wildlife experience while I was writhing in pain in possibly the worst hotel I’ve ever experienced. On his way to see the closest thing to a dinosaur living today (on land, anyway), he began to write down his thoughts on his phone. Please enjoy the following post from Beardo.


I am sitting in a ramshackle boat or what I would could call a giant 80’s massage chair. In case you couldn’t guess… tha vibrations!  Pop culture references are what you’re gonna get here. A passion (?) I share with my (insert insanely embarrassing term of endearment) who I wish was here with me now. One day, we will come back to do this together. I owe her one for letting me go by myself to get these shots. I promised to get wicked ones.

Longboat Labuan Bajo

Usually, I express myself through images, but I will try this once to do so with, ya know, words (and also pictures).

This boat is 30ft in length and is as old as my Dad… so, pretty old (sorry Dad). Normally this would not be that bad, but the combination of the wooden frame plus the low-grade dual engine caused a fierce and continuous rattle. Not exactly a pleasure cruise. It is a pleasant series of pastels with a worn look. This boat is definitely something you would want use as a movie prop… but then couldn’t because it would not be able to pass the US Coast Guard safety inspection.

Longboat Labuan Bajo

My guide, Eric, assured me that he is working on his English, but is pretty quiet.  Maybe my beard (and the fact that I am easily two times the size of the average Balinese man) intimidates him? 

Longboat Labuan Bajo

Where are my dragons!!!!!!!?!?!?!?!?!?

Komodo Dragon

Sooo….Indonesian lessons? Nailed it!

Selmat pagi. Good morning.

Terimakasi. Thank you.

Sama-sama. You’re welcome.

Apa kabar? How are you?

Baik. Good.

The lessons are difficult. I can’t stress enough how loud the motor is… and the damn vibrations. But, thanks to Eric for his effort!

Where are my dragons!!!!!!!?!?!?!?!?! 

(Need to learn this in Indonesian.)

Komodo Dragon

I am pretty excited and anxious to see them. Hoping to see more than one, but trying not to build up the already great expectations in my head. This is the first big predator I am photographing in the wild and excitement doesn’t begin to cover my feelings.

This beast is one of the creatures I saw as a child on TV and made me think… “How cool would it be to see them in the wild”. The only thing that is missing right now is my better half. She has been sick for a couple of weeks and can’t shake it. It sucks cause I want more than anything to make her better and to be sitting next to me getting a massage from this engine. I promise if she were here instead of me the writing would be far superior than mine. I can only hope she can fix this to sound better than it does.

Where are my dragons!!!!!!?!?!?!

The engine slowly shudders to a halt as we drift into a sheltered cove with a dock. Our boat easily slides in between two others. We are greeted by park Rangers and monkeys. Rangers are required in Komodo National Park for the visitors’ safety. The Ranger takes us to the office where we pay the park fee…welcome to Jurassic Park rings in my head as we head out into the unknown.

Longboat Labuan Bajo

WHERE ARE MY DRAG….oh, there they are!

Komodo Dragon

We are walking through a village and are met by several large males basking in the sun. I could have watched them for hours. One gets a bit too close to another and they start growling at each other. I have watched documentaries on them but the sound doesn’t do it justice as it does in the wild. A couple of dragons start really growling and one smacks the other with a tense tail blow. After getting several shots we wander on to try and find females building their nests.

Komodo Dragon

Females build multiple nests but only lay eggs in one. The other nests act as decoys to protect from predators, like monkeys, pigs or other dragons. We finally come across a female digging one of her many nests. It is hard to watch some animals dig because at least 50% or more of the dirt goes back in the hole with each shovel.

Komodo Dragon

We finally conclude our journey and head back to the boat.  As the boat rattles back up I still can’t believe these dinosaurs exist. It just makes me realize further how we need to protect such amazing creatures.  No I am not talking about zoos. I believe if we truly want to protect something we should protect its natural habitat and visit those magical creatures in their place… not ours.

Komodo Dragon

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Komodo Dragon

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Komodo Dragon

 


 

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