komodo dragon

Komodo: From dinosaurs & the richest waters on our planet

The Komodo National Park is located in the center of the Indonesian archipelago, between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores. The Park was established in 1980 and its main purpose was to conserve the endemic species of the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis).

However, it is not only the giant lizards, that make this area so interesting and unique – it turns out, that Komodo is located in some of the richest waters on our planet. So, over the years, the goals for the Park have expanded to protecting its entire biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine. In 1986, the Park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Yes, pretty much all reptiles have this dinosaur vibe about them, and this even goes for a little Tokay lizard, you come across quite regularly in Indonesia. Those are the red dotted lizards that make this very distinctive sound and rumors say, if you hear them jelling 9 times in a row, it is good luck and you can send a wish up to the clear, romantic starry skies above the archipelago.

Yet, if the reptilian creature is about 100 times bigger than a little Tokay, your wish might be a little less romantic but more like “don’t eat me”!!!

 

To me, the Komodo dragons are the last remaining dinosaurs on our planet and the largest, still living lizards in the world. Mainly identified by their massive size, flat heads, bowed legs and long, thick tails, and they fot their names from rumors that a dragon-like creature lived on the Indonesian island of Komodo.

It was astonishing to me, to read, that no Western scientists had seen a Komodo dragon until 1912, at least according to the San Diego Zoo. The local people call them “ora,” or “land crocodile.”

With the sheer size of over 3 meters and the incredible weight of almost 170 kg, you would imagine, a Komodo dragon moves quite slowly and mellow. And they usually do – but – the smart ambush hunter can speed up quite a bit: They are capable of running rapidly in brief sprints up to 20 km, dive down to 4.5 m, and climb trees, if they absolutely have to, using their claws.

To catch out-of-reach prey, the Komodo dragon may stand on its hind legs and use its tail as a support.

 

Our last remaining dino’s also have pretty good vision: they could spot you approaching them as far away as around about 300 meters! Good luck with sneaking up on one…

Also they would very likely smell you hiding in the bushes with your camera way in advance, since their sense of smell is their primary food detector. According to the Smithsonian Zoo, Komodo dragons, like snakes, use their forked tongues to sample the air, and then touch the tongue to the roof of their mouth, where special organs analyze the airborne molecules. If the left tongue tip has more concentrated “smell,” the dragon knows that their prey is approaching from the left.

 

Komodo dragons are carnivores and they can eat very large prey, such as large water buffalo, deer, carrion or pigs. They will even eat smaller dragons and can eat up to 80 percent of their body weight in one feeding, picture you had this goal in one single dinner…!

 

The species developed a very unique way of killing its prey: First, it jumps up and knocks the prey over with its huge feet, to then place a powerful bite with their sharp, serrated teeth. After that, they can lean back while observing their prey, that will die within 24 hours of blood poisoning. That is due to the Komodo’s saliva: it contains 50 strains of bacteria! Think twice, before French kissing a dragon…

 

There is even more unique and astonishing facts about these bizarre creatures – so can a female Komodo dragon have a virgin birth, which means that they don’t need a male to fertilize an egg for it to hatch (asexual reproduction). Good to know that Komodo dragons CAN reproduce through both sexual and asexual reproduction.

At birth, the baby dragons are on their own, without any parental care. With only about 30 centimeters of size, they are just about the size of one of those Tokays, I mentioned in the beginning, so they grow up to 100 times their size! For their own protection, they climb up the trees and spend about the first 4 years of their lives up there, to avoid being eaten by their mother or other Komodos. The survivors look forward to a long life, a Komodo dragon can live more than 30 years.

 

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, the Komodo dragon is not endangered, but it is considered vulnerable.

 

It is an experience of a very special kind, to see those giants up close and in their natural habitat out in the wild, which only includes five islands: the Lesser Sunda Islands of Komodo, Rinca, Gili Montang and Gili Dasami — all within the Komodo National Park.

 

After an unforgettable dragon day, get your dive gear ready – to experience some of the best dives our blue planet has to offer…

Within the heart of the coral triangle, experiencing some of the fastest currents on earth, the Komodo area offers lush coral reefs, an abundance of coral, fish, invertebrates and breath taking seascapes…

 

Alexa private cruises is THE perfect vessel to cruise through Komodo National Park and will arrange your private dragon day, bedded in world class diving, excellent dining, spa, romantic beach time – let us know your dreams and we’ll make them come true…

 

Read more about the mind blowing underwater world in Komodo and East Sumbawa, here, next month.

 

Diana Himmelspach