Exploring the waters and wildlife of Indonesia's Komodo National Park
The big male Komodo dragon has turned its back on the half-stripped deer carcass that hangs invitingly from a tree. Now he has eyes only for me. My fellow travellers show signs of amusement but, as he swaggers my way and guides shepherding small tourist groups edge back, nervously deploying their crooks, I’ve an inkling the threat might be all too real.
Growing up to three metres in length, Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizards and have been known to knock down pigs and deer with a swish of the tail, but it’s the other end that worries me: jaws said variously to contain venomous glands and a noxious concoction of bacteria that will bring down a water buffalo.
The name Komodo conjures images of a lost jungle-cloaked island kingdom and Fay Wray in the clutches of a great ape as he battles a fearsome reptile, and it was indeed W Douglas Burden’s 1926 expedition to Komodo Island that provided inspiration for the 1933 movie sensation King Kong. The Bugis people believe these fabled beasts are descended from a female lizard born of a human mother.
This dragon, perhaps calculating the distance between us and sensing the proximity of the park guides’ potent crooks, lifts his chin high in the air, pumps up his chest, and with a disdainful flick of the tongue, turns back to the kill. The moment and the opportunity to collect the ultimate trophy in my selfie cabinet passed.
MYSTERY ISLAND Komodo National Park, which lies within Indonesia’s Sunda islands, is a World Heritage site and home to the Komodo dragon