Flores Island and Komodo National Park
Flores Island is the key entry point to Komodo National Park, home of the scary looking komodo dragons. The best part of our voyage to see the komodo dragons was getting there. We went by boat, snorkeling at numerous stupendous coral reefs, and camping on a beautiful little private island at night. Our six fellow travelers were all delightful and interesting. We had a fascinating debate about drug policy because one couple was from Singapore, which has the worlds most draconian drug policy and another was from Amsterdam which is renown for its liberal drug policies.
You may have seen videos about komodo dragons on the National Geographic or other documentary programs. They are as creepy as they look on the videos! They resemble super large crocodiles, they can grow up to 3 meters long, and they weigh up to 200 pounds. They really are dangerous, as they have been known to eat humans (children).
On Komodo Island they mostly eat deer, and occasionally water buffalo. The hunting
technique of this carnivore is to lie very quietly, and then bite the calf of their victim extremely quickly when they pass by. In addition to their lethal bite, their saliva carries 80 different bacteria that will weaken or kill the victim over the course of several days. They just take a bite, and then follow their victim while the bacteria do their work. When the victim dies, they get their full meal. At one meal they eat 80% of their body weight, but then they don’t eat again for a month or two. When they eat, they eat everything, bones, hair, muscle. We could see remainders of all these things in the komodo poop.
As a result of all this, two rangers accompanied us everywhere we went, on in front and one behind. They carry forked sticks. If a komodo approaches too close, they put the forked stick against the komodo’s neck to hold him back. One ranger told Dan they need to do this every day or so.
Komodo dragons have an unusual way of raising their young. The mama komodo lays her 15-30 eggs in a 4 foot high mound of dirt that is actually the nesting ground of a particular bird. Then she guards the eggs day and night to keep other komodos, and other animals, from eating them. Finally the eggs hatch, but it seems that mama’s mood changes immediately. She suddenly does her best to eat the hatchlings she was just protecting, along with everyone else. The babies make a bee line for the closest tree and climb up as quickly as possible. They then spend about 3 months living in the tree eating newts and whatever else they can find. Eventually they grow so big their arms are unable to hold them up in the tree, so they move down to terra firma.
People travel from all over the world to see komodo dragons. We’re fascinated by creatures that can eat us. Actually mosquitoes are much more dangerous. Around here they may carry Japanese Encephalitis, Malaria, or Dengue fever. But we see few tourists traveling to see the mosquitoes.
We also visited a Muslim fishing village, remarkable in its evident poverty and self sufficiency. The Muslim fishing communities in the area subsist on islands with no fresh water and no government services. They make a living solely by fishing and selling the fish in markets in the larger towns in the islands. The living standard is poor, with no medical service or utilities in sight. But the people are friendly to tourists, knowing perhaps they are a potential source of income. We bought a small komodo dragon carved by a local man.
A slideshow of this colorful village is below.
A few other photos from this trip are below, and a remarkable sound we heard one night is here. We think it is frogs.