MY DATE WITH DRAGONS
Rinca island is known for one thing and one thing only — and that’s made abundantly clear as I pass under an arch that’s held up by two 7-foot statues of Komodo dragons. The Jurassic Park theme plays in my head as I hope our experience differs from the movie.
Outside that display, Rinca doesn’t boast much in the form of infrastructure, but our first sighting comes by a small wooden building.
Lying in the sun just along the main path are two small Komodo dragons — despite their modest length at about 5 feet, our group is still on edge. The dragons’ deadly reputation surely has something to do with it, and the problem is compounded by the fact that a wooden stick is the only thing standing between us and them.
The park rangers accompanying those who hike through Rinca island are armed with 5- to 6-foot-long sticks that have a forked end. Komodo dragons tend to concede to what they believe is the tongue of a much larger, more impressive creature. I trust our ranger as he leads our 30-minute hike up a hill that overlooks beautiful Loh Buaya — Bay of Dragons — but that doesn’t totally ease the fear of everyone in our group. We skittishly snap photos of the dragons, chattering about this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and repeat the process again when we see a larger female resting in the shade about five minutes later. But the best photo op comes at the top of the hill overlooking the emerald bay.
It’s the end of mating season, so most of the lizards are off the main path with their nests, says our guide. We see three lizards that day, but it’s enough to check this off the bucket list.