Friday 8th September 2017
Wow! What an experience!
We were ashore at 0700 as planned, ahead of the crowds, bought our tickets and set off with our guide on the long walk around the island. He explained that it was a good time of day to see them, but that there were no guarantees as they lived wild on the island. Well, it was clearly our lucky day, because in the three or four hours we were there, we saw over a dozen dragons, and had one of the most gruesome but at the same time fascinating experiences of our lives.
The first dragons we saw were lumbering along the path, or through the trees, and our guide made sure we kept well out of their way but got a good view. These enormous lizards can kill and eat a human easily. If you manage to get away with just a bite, there is still very little chance of survival as the bacteria from their mouths cause such infection that within a day or two you would be dead. This was proved earlier in the year when a tourist got too close to a dragon which bit, and he died a couple of days later in hospital.
Our first sight of a Komodo Dragon – a big, powerful animal that apparently can run much faster than a human...
It smells its prey by flicking out its long tongue. Their sight is not so great. Best stay downwind, methinks.
Looking back over the island to the anchorage. S-F lying quietly at anchor.
Buffalo also live on the island. The guide seemed more nervous of these than the dragons!
That long tongue. Ever alert.
A younger dragon. Tough skin with many folds.
Happy to have seen several dragons already, as we walked parallel to a small river, we heard dogs barking and an animal screaming – maybe a monkey? The guide made us stop as he listened with a puzzled look. It was definitely dogs barking, and he made us retrace our steps 50 metres or so to minimise the chance of meeting wild dogs. Another group caught us up, and their guide picked up a stone to deal with the dogs and went ahead. Now the screaming was getting worse, but the barking had stopped. Then he called us on. The dogs had run off, and there in the stream was a deer with a Komodo dragon’s mouth firmly clamped to its neck. It was the deer that was screaming, and the scene that unfolded in front of our eyes was quite horrific and not a little upsetting. It was nature in the raw as the deer became the dragon’s breakfast. It did not give up easily, and its distress was hard to witness. The guides told us we were lucky to see it, as the dragons apparently only feed like this once a month. Somehow I didn’t feel lucky, and the deer certainly was not.
Wimp that I am, I averted my eyes most of the time, but for some reason couldn’t resist a quick glimpse every now and again to see what was happening. Other dragons arrived to join in the meal, and I concentrated on watching out in case any came too close to our group on the riverbank. Our guide seemed to be too preoccupied with the dragons in the stream to keep a lookout any more.
The deer put up a good fight but was no match for the dragon and eventually it succumbed.
A bloody grin as he looks up from his meal.
Eventually there were five or six dragons feeding on the deer’s carcase, and before long there was little left of it. A graphic example of the cycle of life. We walked back to the Rangers’ station a little dazed by what we had seen. We had set out hoping to catch a glimpse of the powerful creatures from a distance, and had ended up very close spectators as they demonstrated that they are definitely not tame pets. Perhaps a little too much reality for me, but certainly a once in a lifetime experience, never to be forgotten.
This tourist snapshot, taken by the guide as we posed a good 10 metres
behind a very well-fed and lazy Komodo Dragon laying outside the Rangers
camp kitchen, gives away little of our actual experience.