Komodo Dragons

Rinca Island Travel Blog

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The first Komodo dragon we saw... just before it attacked us... really!

People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Markus (Finland) a lot of Komodo Dragons (Indonesia)

I had long heard about the legendary Komodo Dragons and had been anticipating this trip since the second i set foot in Indonesia. I wasn't too sure what to expect and didn't imagine that it could live up to my high expectations, having watched some wonderful wildlife documentaries in the past. Markus, Julia and I hired a boat for the day, which cost a very reasonable 300,000Rp (approx $33), which would take us to the island of Rinca, situated a little over 2 hours west of Flores.

Mum, Dad and baby Komodo dragon
Originally i had planned on going to the island of Komodo, but heard from both travellers and tour operators that it would cost more money, take more time and there wasn't actually anything different to see.

It was a drag to get out of bed at 6.15am, but thankfully the hotel had some coffee on the boil and a sandwich for us to eat. Just after 7am we were on our way and passing through the pretty archipelago of islands that lie just off shore from Labuanbajo. Our first encounter with wildlife occured almost immediately, as we spotted a group of dolphins jumping out of the water not too far from our boat. On 2 other occasions during our journey, we were lucky enough to spot more dolphins, it was a great start to the trip! The boat was a decent size and as there was room to lie down on the outside deck, we took the opportunity to improve our sun tans.

Baby Komodo dragon

Once we had moored up at Rinca, the captain of our boat took us on to the island and towards the office, where we could hire a guide. As we walked along the path, we caught our first glimpse of a Komodo Dragon, sat in the shade only a couple of paces from the path. I figured they would be like monitor lizards and probably be shy of people, so didn't feel too scared to be standing so close to take a picture. All of a sudden though, the Komodo Dragon hissed, turned and started to chase us! I became even more petrified when i saw our boat drive leading the way and screaming 'RUN, RUN!' After a hundred metres, the 4 of us were completely out of breath, with the sun beating down on us, and at this point felt safe to take a rest as the Komodo Dragon had given up its pursuit of us.

Buffalo skull
Man, that was some introduction to the island!

At the park office i was thrilled to find out that with a student card, entry was only a couple of dollars, as recently the national park office has hiked its prices up massively. This price increase was actually to the dismay of the locals, who said that people would stop coming if they were getting so ripped off. They also claimed that the money wasn't even staying within the country, but going out to foreign backers, a similar situation to what happens at Angkor Wat. After meeting our guide, we were taken to the park office where there were 2 huge Komodo Dragons and a smaller one lingering in the shade of the building. Apparantly they had smelt the food been cooked and were coming to scavenge some.

After taking some photos and observing the 3 Komodo Dragons, the guide explained to us what we would be doing for the next couple of hours and also gave us some information on the Komodo Dragons.

A doomed Buffalo, soon to become lunch
Now lets get this straight, these animals are something that really should be feared, they are killers, who with one bite can kill an animal the size of a buffalo. They manage this by having a bacteria in their saliva, so as once they bite, they also secrete the saliva into an animals (or human) blood stream, and thus it gradually begins to kill them. As the flesh of the bitten animal begins to decompose during its slow and painful death, the stench starts to attract any Komodo Dragon in the vicinity that picks up on the scent. The animal eventually dies, at which point they feed on the carcus.

The talk had done nothing to calm the nerves and Julia was now particularly nervous and asked what would happen if they should attack us and would it be safest to climb up a tree? To her dismay, the guide informed her that baby dragons climb trees, so maybe this wasn't the best move! Instead, he reassured us that his 150cm long stick was ample protection as Komodo Dragons didn't like to be hit on their sensitive noses.

Me and the buffalo
We all assured him that he could stay to fight the Dragon with his twig (stick!?!?) whilst we would be running as fast as our legs would allow us!

The landscape that we crossed was very arid and scattered with the skulls of horses and buffalos, which had been unlucky enough to receive a bite from one of these prehistoric beasts. In total we saw more than a dozen Komodo Dragons, most of which were in shade and avoiding the midday sun. By far the highlight of this trip, but also a major highlight from all my time travelling, came as we approached a muddy stream to see a Komodo Dragon running down a hill towards a buffalo that i thought was cooling off. I was a bit gutted when it didn't sink its teeth into the buffalo, but instead carried on up the other side of the bank and rested in some nearby shade.

Komodo dragon tasting my scent
The guide was also pretty excited as together we spotted 6 Dragons all in a really short area. The buffalo was frothing at the mouth and the guide told us that it had already been bitten and all the Komodo Dragons were gathering as it was in its final throws of life. I couldn't believe that we had walked upon such a moment, surely something thats only witnessed by David Attenborough or Animal Planet! We all watched in awe, before the guide said that we really had to make a move and head back to the park entrance. I would have loved to have stayed to see what happened, but there was no telling how long the buffalo would have held out. I'm sure that the next tourists to walk to this point will have just seen yet another buffalo skull sitting there!

On our walk back, we came across another buffalo that appeared to be healthy but at its wits end and also some very cautious macaques.

Me with a Komodo dragon
Clearly this island was one where inhabitants had to tread very carefully to be able to survive each day to its end. We met up with our boat captain who walked us back to the jetty, only to find that a Komodo Dragon was sat on the path, with a rock face to one side and thick shrub to the other. As there was no way around, the captain decided that he would pick up some rocks and throw them, as this would supposedly scare the Komodo Dragon away. What he had not bet on, would be that the Komodo Dragon would not only not be scared, but rather be completely pissed off! With one great hiss, it stood up and began bounding after us. Once again, the drivers outright fear and speed of an olympic sprinter made us all even more terrified. Julia scrambled so far up a cliff face that she was unable to get down, whilst the boat driver kept turning whilst running, to launch stones, one of which eventually connected with the Komodo Dragons nose, so as it went off into the scrub and let us pass.
Julia, Markus and our guide walking across Rinca Island
My heart was racing and although i'd loved every single second of the experience, i just wanted to get the hell off the island with no bites!

To break up the journey back to Labuanbajo, we stopped off at a small island to do some snorkelling, which proved to be excellent. In 30 minutes i spotted 3 types of stingray, countless types of fish and even a turtle. This proved to be the perfect ending to an absolutely perfect trip. Back in Labuanbajo, we met up with Hannes again and exchanged stories of our adventures over the last few days, whilst enjoying an ice cold Bintang beer. Days like this make life worth living!

Deats says:
Yes, you can do it as a day trip.
Posted on: Apr 27, 2015
ana_pt says:
Hi Markus and Julia. If I understand you went there and returned the same day right? Thanks for sharing. I'm planning that trip as well.
Posted on: Apr 26, 2015
Deats says:
Yes, they are really quick! You must be very careful, because if they bite you, you will die! Still, it's an amazing experience :)
Posted on: Sep 11, 2014
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The first Komodo dragon we saw... …
The first Komodo dragon we saw...…
Mum, Dad and baby Komodo dragon
Mum, Dad and baby Komodo dragon
Baby Komodo dragon
Baby Komodo dragon
Buffalo skull
Buffalo skull
A doomed Buffalo, soon to become l…
A doomed Buffalo, soon to become …
Me and the buffalo
Me and the buffalo
Komodo dragon tasting my scent
Komodo dragon tasting my scent
Me with a Komodo dragon
Me with a Komodo dragon
Julia, Markus and our guide walkin…
Julia, Markus and our guide walki…
One of the islands we passed on th…
One of the islands we passed on t…
Markus does his Kate Winslet impre…
Markus does his Kate Winslet impr…
An island with turqiouse water and…
An island with turqiouse water an…
2 Komodo dragons near the ranger s…
2 Komodo dragons near the ranger …
Male Komodo dragon
Male Komodo dragon
Male Komodo dragon
Male Komodo dragon
Mum, Dad and baby Komodo dragon
Mum, Dad and baby Komodo dragon
Komodo dragon nests
Komodo dragon nests
Horse skull in the tree
Horse skull in the tree
Remains of a kill
Remains of a kill
Komodo dragon
Komodo dragon
Komodo dragon
Komodo dragon
Komodo dragon passes the buffalo..…
Komodo dragon passes the buffalo.…
Komodo dragon
Komodo dragon
Julia with a Komodo dragon
Julia with a Komodo dragon
Komodo dragon and the last buffalo…
Komodo dragon and the last buffal…
Me and Buffalo MC
Me and Buffalo MC
Komodo dragon tasting the air
Komodo dragon tasting the air
Komodo dragon
Komodo dragon
Buffalo soldier, dreadlocked rasta…
Buffalo soldier, dreadlocked rast…
Strange tree
Strange tree
Buffalo and Macaque protecting eac…
Buffalo and Macaque protecting ea…
Beauty and the beast... sorry Mark…
Beauty and the beast... sorry Mar…
Island we stopped to snorkel at
Island we stopped to snorkel at
Rinca Island
photo by: yuness