MY DATE WITH DRAG­ONS

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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.

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