Dragon Tales

Ex­plor­ing the waters and wildlife of In­done­sia's Ko­modo Na­tional Park

Philippine Tatler Traveller - - Contents -

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

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