Tonight I watched the final episode of Game of Thrones Season 5, and having read the books I was prepared for the shocking events but still, the enjoyment of seeing it on screen is never surpassed, even if they do keep changing the stories.Anyhow this series has been all about the dragons, and no I can’t say I have seen a real one… but is a Komodo dragon a tenuous link too far? Maybe?
This one all started as my wife to be (at the time) suggested that for our honeymoon we go a bit off the beaten track, and visit a little known island in Indonesia called Komodo Island. I think the idea really sprung from an old David Attenborough documentary about the largest most deadly lizard in the world. Why not I thought, I mean sit on a beach in the Maldives for 2 weeks or go trekking in Borneo, followed by island hopping in Indonesia. The Indiana Jones in me, just screamed ‘off the beaten track’, ‘off the beaten track’… and so it was, 3 weeks exploring Malaysian Borneo and the Islands of Indonesia.
However booking such a trip to Komodo Island was harder than I thought… You may think that your commercial tourist companies such as TUI or Thomas Cook, or even STA travel or Kuoni may have tours to this island, but you’d be mistaken. Most of them concentrate on Bali or Java, a few on Lombok and Sumatra but trying to fine one for Komodo Island was difficult, unless you chartered a plane! I had to really think outside of the box for this one, and through the beauty of Trip Advisor and some other lesser known review sites, I came across a local tour guide in an island called Flores. I had never even heard of Flores before this trip… and we were slightly putting our lives in our own hands booking locally, and flying an airline banned in Europe but it’s these type of chances which add to the adventure of a trip.
Megan’s face when boarding that TransNusa plane to a place called Labuan Bajo, was like nothing I had ever seen from her, she was generally afraid. This is the girl who flew around the world with me, nearly got kidnapped in a Venezuelan airport, and had faced her fears Great White Cage diving (further stories to share). But there was something about this plane that just threw her off, maybe it was the clanging of the engines or maybe the mould growing on the inside of the window, either way it was not the most pleasurable flight of my life! Phwwww we landed safely nearly 4 hours after take-off, Megan was awake the whole time, but luckily I had remembered that when flying on a mouldy, crusty, falling apart plane it’s always better to be asleep. To my amazement our guide met us at the airport and we continued our Indonesian experience out of the hustle and bustle of the commercialised island of Bali.
We had a few days in Labuan Bajo, before our scheduled boat trip to Komodo National Park 50km away. That day came and we were whisked away in the dead of night (granted it was morning but by who’s standards) onto a local boat, with a captain that honestly could’ve been mistaken for a pirate. The trip on this old traditional boat was actually really good; we saw the sun rise up over the sea, snorkelled off the coast of the islands and shared some great games and stories with our crew and guide. It didn’t surprise me that we were alone on the boat, as we were pretty much the only couple holidaying this far away from commerciality, but honestly I felt safe with our guide. Even with my newly pronounced wife by my side.
These Islands are the true definition of National Park beauty, no roads, very few inhabitants (just locals in cabins), and simply Mother Nature in all her glory. We were told that there is no promise of seeing a dragon up and personal at any point during the tour but if we were lucky then we may ‘bump’ into one. Now how’s this for crazy shit, we were going for a walk through the island – A walk? Not a drive, not a viewing point… an actual walk into the forest of an island named after a killer lizard! Just to see if we could ‘bump into’ a Komodo dragon! And on our honeymoon no less – This is my idea of adventure or maybe stupidity.
Hold on though it gets worse… so the Komodo dragon is a carnivore, killing by biting its prey and injecting venom into the animal’s blood stream, then they wait! Yes the actually wait for the animal to be paralysed or of a lesser threat before they stalk it and eat it alive or dead! On a more positive note there is anti-venom that just happens to be stored in Bali, a good 5 hours plane ride away. But don’t worry you can charter a private plane for around $1000 from Labuan Bajo to Bali, if you make it back that far from the island itself…Enough of the scare stories, we probably weren’t going to see one anyhow. So before walking into the park, we were introduced to our ranger, a very strange Indonesian man whose English was about to prove very limited as he said to me
• ‘Your female, is she menstraightanal’
• ‘Excuse me?’ I responded simply out of the fact I wasn’t sure what he was saying
• ‘Your wife, is she menstraightening’
Now my Indonesian is a bit rusty, is he saying something in English or Indonesian?, and if he is asking what I think he is asking – I am not sure how to react to that… How dare he ask such a personal question of my wife…
My Excuse me got a little louder and hostile in tone, as if he is asking me what I think he is asking me I am going to lose it!
• ‘Your wife is she on the blood’
Oh wow – blunt but very effective… luckily our tour guide saw that the situation was escalating, and stepped in immediately to explain. A few weeks prior they had a lady hiker come into the park and she was actually stalked and chased by a number of dragons. Luckily she made it to the boat, but the ranger had a very near miss when a few dragons coordinated their efforts and ran at her full speed! They didn’t realise until later that day that the woman was on her period, and the Komodo dragons could smell the blood… horrific I know, but that’s the truth…
Luckily the answer was no and we were permitted to trek the islands with no incidents, we saw 7 dragons on the first island and 11 on the second (an Island called Rinca). The majority are docile and usually lay camouflaged in the dirt until something worthy of their movement comes along – be it a deer, wild pig or even human visitor! The first one we saw was lying exactly in front of us and I have to say that if the guide wasn’t there we may have even missed it. We were lucky enough to see one skulking around, and another got a little upset by the closeness of our guide and hissed at him. Doesn’t sound that scary but when the 13 ft. Komodo raised its head and front legs and hissed, it was a warning we all took seriously and backed away immediately. This hiss was loud and something that definitely meant business…
The majority of the Komodo’s on the second island were all seen up against the inhabitant’s houses that are built on stilts. There they lay, drawn in by the smell of whatever the locals are cooking – a simple but very dangerous life for the locals I am sure… What a set of memories though, we had seen this mighty lizard in its natural habitat, seen the babies in trees, nearly taken a ranger on in hand to hand combat, and been subjected to a dramatic warning that would resonate with us both. This journey was just part of our amazing honeymoon to a couple of glorious countries I would definitely suggest you all visit.