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The Ko­modo Dragon is so pop­u­lar and renowned through­out the world that the Flo­res Tourism depart­ment has adopted the crea­ture as its very own am­bas­sador. The local gov­ern­ment even re­named the Labuan Bajo air­port in its hon­our. Unique to the is­land of Ko­modo and Rinca, which are part of the Ko­modo Na­tional Park lo­cated min­utes away from Labuan Bajo within the district of West Mang­garai, th­ese gi­ant lizards at­tract thou­sands of tourists to its habi­tat ev­ery year.

The heav­i­est lizards on earth, the Ko­modo Dragon weighs 300 pounds and reaches 3 me­tres in length with dis­tinct long, flat heads with rounded snouts, scaly skin, bowed legs, and huge, mus­cu­lar tails. A dom­i­nant preda­tor, the dragon eats any­thing in its path in­clud­ing deer, pigs, water buf­faloes, chick­ens and even hu­mans. Cur­rently there are about 3,000 to 5,000 drag­ons on the two is­lands.

When vis­it­ing the Ko­modo Drag­ons, it is com­pul­sory to be ac­com­pa­nied by a guide. The drag­ons may look docile and lazy, but can in fact move at the speed of light (up to 11 miles an hour in short bursts) and at­tack when pro­voked.

Aside to the drag­ons, wildlife on land in Flo­res are quite sim­i­lar to neigh­bour­ing trop­i­cal is­lands where you will most likely come face-to-face with mon­keys, wild pigs, wild deer, bats, lizards and snakes. Flo­res is also home to some en­demic species of birds in­clud­ing the Hang­ing Par­rot, the Flo­res Scops Owl. Hik­ing across Flo­res’ pris­tine forests, you may just come across an orches­tra of singing birds perched among groves of tow­er­ing indige­nous trees, adding a mys­ti­cal touch to your ad­ven­ture in the east.

Flo­res’ un­der­wa­ter worlds and the sur­round­ing is­lands are filled with rich and colour­ful ma­rine life, which you’ll be able to ob­serve just by snorke­l­ing. The calm un­der­wa­ter cur­rent near the shore­line helps pro­vide for good vis­i­bil­ity and you’ll get to come close to sea tur­tles, stingrays, reef sharks, lob­sters and all kind of big and small fish. The ma­rine area around Ko­modo Na­tional Park is a world-

fa­mous dive site and is home to over 1000 species of fish and more than 350 reef build­ing cor­rals.

The Leg­end of the Ko­modo Dragon

Long, long ago, a myth­i­cal princess lived on Ko­modo Is­land whom peo­ple called Putri Naga or the Dragon Princess. The princess mar­ried a man named Majo and bore him twins; one was a boy and the other a baby dragon. Her son she named Si Gerong and raised him amongst men. The dragon she called Orah and raised her in the for­est. Nei­ther knew any­thing of the other.

Years later, Si Gerong shot a deer while hunt­ing in the for­est. As he stepped for­ward to take his prey, a gi­ant lizard ap­peared from the bushes and seized it hun­grily. Si Gerong tried to chase the beast away but failed, as it stood over the prey and barred its teeth. Si Gerong raised his spear to kill the gi­ant lizard when sud­denly a ra­di­ant woman ap­peared; it was the Dragon Princess who said to Si Gerong, “Do not kill this an­i­mal, she is your sis­ter Orah. Con­sider her your equal be­cause you are twins.”

From then on, the in­hab­i­tants of the is­land treated the Ko­modo drag­ons with kind­ness. The an­i­mals roam freely in the forests, feed­ing them­selves on wild pigs, deer and other an­i­mals. Ko­mo­dos who are no longer able to fend for them­selves are fed by their hu­man brothers.

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