The land of the Dragons

I have so enjoyed traveling around Indonesia and am quite taken by this beautiful place and the warmth of the people. Onwards from Bali and Lombok to a very special place – Komodo national Park.

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Rincha (14)

This is comprised of two main islands, Komodo and Rindja, both hilly, desolate and beautiful. Situated between Flores and Sumbawa, they are home to the legendary creatures – Komodo Dragons.

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David Attenborough visited this area in 1956 and wrote his book “Zoo Quest for a Dragon” as well as filming a documentary, he has been followed by many since and BBC film crew are regular visitors to this amazing place.

Komodo dragons are actually monitor lizards, with tapered heads, long powerful tails and an even more powerful jaw.

Rincha (212)

Komodo Island (207)

Most of the dragons we saw on Komodo and Rindja were very docile creatures, laying out in the sun to keep warm, this aids their digestion and preventing the food which sits in their stomachs for some considerable time from rotting. I was initially a little disappointed to see the first sitings of them on Komodo, we arrived in the afternoon, and they were splattered out on the ground, seeming unable to move.

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The best time of day to visit them is first thing in the morning, so its useful to be at the ranger station ready to make a visit by 7 in the morning, we did this on our visit to Rindja and saw several dragons on the move, maybe not the best thing I thought when I discovered more about their feeding habits and their capacity to move. If chased by a Komodo, you have to run in a zig zag pattern to outrun them, as they can only run in a straight line, but they have the ability to run twice as fast as even the fittest human.

Komodos eat only once a month, then it is a feast. The seek their prey, be it a goat, wild pig, a deer or indeed a large buffalo which all live side by side.

Wild Pigs roam the islands, fresh meat for the Komodos

Wild Pigs roam the islands, fresh meat for the Komodos

Rincha (201)

When they catch their prey, they inflict a deadly bite, with shark like teeth which interlock and pull out a large piece of flesh.

This poor Buffalo is waiting to die

This poor Buffalo is waiting to die

A wound inflicted by a small Komodo, but the effect is the same, the Dragons are waiting in the area for their next feast

A wound inflicted by a small Komodo, but the effect is the same, the Dragons are waiting in the area for their next feast

Their saliva contains 60 different bacteria including listeria, as well as venom in their teeth which inflicts a lingering death in the animal. They wait nearby waiting for the animal to die, maybe taking 2 to 3 weeks as they wait for their feast, very much in the way a crocodile catches and feeds on its prey.

The dragons will also attack humans, and it requires a course of powerful antibiotics to stop this bite becoming fatal. In February last year a guide on Rindja was bitten, the whole of his calf muscle engorged in the attack, fortunately he survived. The children in the local village grow up knowing this threat, and are always looking out for them as they play, chasing them away by throwing rocks when they are spotted. A local woman wasnt so lucky recently, as she picked leaves from a tree to feed her goat, a dragon attacked her from behind. She was near a local watering hole where local people had gathered to collect their drinking water, and came to her rescue chasing the dragons away. It seems strange to me that they do not store the necessary antibiotics locally, and if there is an attack by a dragon, the drugs needed to prevent a fatality have to be sent to the area via fast speed boat.

The females breed in July and August and lay their eggs in a nest which they guard for 3 months,

A Komodo Nest

A Komodo Nest

they then leave, returning in 6 months time for them to hatch, not to care for their young hatchlings, but ready to feast on them, for Komodos are cannibals. The babies, weighing only 80g seem genetically programmed to flee from the nest, avoiding the appetite of their mother and hide in hollows in nearby trees where they live for 3 years until old enough to defend themselves

No one really knows why the male population of Dragons outnumber the female by 4:1. Certainly the newly hatched males are slightly larger than the females, and we also know that the sex of the new creatures is determined by temperature, with males more likely to be produced when it is warmer, the mating season being in July and August. The males are noticeable by their larger heads and tails and of course the females by their weary look from the demands made on them by their macho suiters!

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The dragons can swim, but only for about 500 meters which means they are isolated only on Komodo and Rindja islands. The human population of Rindja is approximately 1800, outnumbered by the 3000 Komodo dragons there, but their presence ensures a steady income from the many tourists who travel many miles to this area, not just for the splendid diving, but to see these unusual creatures.

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I felt much more frightened of the local Macaques  who preyed on the tourists!

I felt much more frightened of the local Macaques who preyed on the tourists!

Our guide, Vidhel Castro was a local man, born and raised in the local village.

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His English was excellent, from the 5 years he had spent leading tourists through the area spotting wildlife. He was extremely informative, and I soaked up his facts and figures along the way as I enjoyed listening to is tales.

Vidhel is paid 40,000 Rupiah (about £2 or 3.6AUD) for each tour he leads, in the high season, July and August, and Fidel leads approximately 3 tours a day, and for the other 10 months there are many days with no tours at all.

I really enjoyed listening to Videl, our lovely guide

I really enjoyed listening to Videl, our lovely guide

When it is quiet, he returns to his village, a 5 hour walk from the park HQ to his family and spends his time fishing. We took time later to visit his village and found his home and were warmly welcomed by his family, I will write about this is another blog as I want to spend time talking about the Indonesian people, Indonesia is certainly inspiring me to write, I hope you are enjoying reading!

Daryl explained to him that I was a Welsh Dragon, and that I needed controlling..... (cheers Daryl!)

Daryl explained to him that I was a Welsh Dragon, and that I needed controlling….. (cheers Daryl!)

About Jill Beckett

I hope you enjoy reading this blog, it is written purely for entertainment value! Its just a way of keeping a journal for myself as well as staying in touch with family and friends around the world. I try to "live life to the full", "think out of the box" and any other cliches for making the best of it that you can think of! I started writing this blog in 2011 when I gave up my job in the UK as a midwife ("The Baby Catcher"!) and began circumnavigating Britain in a 45ft yacht and trained as a skipper prior to going to Australia to live for a year. I then returned to the UK for 17 months where my feet became itchy once more and I moved to Bali to take my scuba diving to a professional level ("Jilly Fish") and trained as a Dive Master, then a Dive Instructor. I then sailed from Malaysia, through Indonesia diving along the way eventually making it to Townsville, Queensland, in October 2014, a 4000+mile trip, on a 50ft Catamaran! Following this I spent a wonderful year living in Australia, working on a casual basis as a baby catcher (midwife), and as "Jillyfish (dive Instructor) on the Great Barrier Reef as well as sailing as much as I can on a beautiful 44.7 Beneteau called Shazam. My newest chapter finds me back in the UK, living on the South West Coast in gorgeous Devon! Drop me a message, I would love to hear from you and what you think of my blog! Mwah x
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5 Responses to The land of the Dragons

  1. Chelsea says:

    What an amazing experience Jill – fascinating read, thank you.

  2. Sandra says:

    Thank you for this post Jill. Kim and I were so close to the dragons in 2012/13, and almost went. I was admittedly a little anxious after hearing the scary stories, so it’s good to see how magnificent they are! Love the fascinating facts too – rather distasteful to us midwives to have parents who not only do not nurture during pregnancy, but given a chance eat their young! Crikey!

    • Jill Beckett says:

      Hello again Sandra! Oh, you and Kim missed out on such an opportunity! Komodo is well worth a visit, the dragons were an amazing sight. they can be dangerous creatures, and you have to respect that. When I dive, I love to see sharks, delighted when I catch a glimpse of one, but I always try to ensure my behaviour doesnt provoke an attack. It is distasteful to us midwives (and mothers) that parents will eat their young. However, far more interesting to me was the instinct of the young to flee their nest as soon as they hatched and run and hide in the hollows of a nearby tree to escape being gobbled up by their mother, nd stay there for 5 years feeding on insects, thats instinct rather than learned behaviour! Fascinating!

  3. Anita says:

    Amazing Jill, your adventures are inspiring , need more updates though, find nothing more exciting that settling down with a cuppa reading your adventures ! Hope there’s a book to follow xxx

    • Jill Beckett says:

      Thanks Anita!

      More updates to come, dont want to blog too often, dont want to bore my readers too much! Lack of internet determines my writing too, as does the sea state, hard to type away effectively when the boat is bouncing along. A book has been suggested to me by others Anita….gulp….deep breath…..maybe!
      Hope you are well lovely lady x

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