To see a Komodo dragon in the wild, you have to go to Indonesia. Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the center of the Indonesian archipelago, is home to more than 5,000 of the world’s largest living lizards, the Varanus komodoensis.
The park is made up of three main islands -- Komodo, Rinca and Padar. Many outriggers run single and multi-day trips from Labuan Bajo on the larger island of Flores. Guides are necessary as the dragons are dangerous. The areas around the islands are also suitable for scuba diving.
The park is the only remaining habitat on earth of these giant carnivorous lizards. In the wild they look pretty tame. But never be misled, as they can run very fast when chasing their prey, and a pack can devour an entire water buffalo. Their most potent power lies in the saliva, which is lethal. The Komodo knows that it needs only one bite to kill its prey, then waits patiently until its victim succumbs to poisoning.
An up-close view of the Komodo for visitors is possible and pretty safe, provided that they are accompanied by experienced rangers. Do not be taken aback by the fact that the rangers’ only weapon is a long wooden stick with a V-shaped end. They know all too well the behaviour of these dangerous animals.
The Komodo National Park is also an attractive place for cruise ships to anchor. Russian groups regularly visit the park to see the dragons and enjoy diving. The seas around Komodo and Rinca islands are pristine, and divers can easily swim with dolphins and turtles, and watch in awe as a group of giant manta rays swim majestically overhead.
The park’s latest “discovery” is the Pink Beach, which glows beautifully in sunlight.
To get to the park you must fly to Komodo Airport at the town of Labuan Bajo on the west side of the island of Flores. Garuda Indonesia also flies regularly from Bali to Labuan Bajo, as does Wings Air. At Labuan Bajo you can hire speedboats to the islands.
Both internationally-rated and budget hotels are available on Labuan Bajo. – Text and photos from the official website of Indonesia.Travel.