Where to Komodo dragons live? Next time you’re thinking of booking a trip to Bali, consider extending your holiday to Flores. With lush mountains, waterfalls and islands, some Komodo Island looks like it’s straight out of a Jurassic Park movie. And there’s a bonus. You’ll get to come face to face with a Komodo dragon or two.
Komodo Island Wildlife
Indonesia is famous for islands and Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis), prehistoric lizards that have evolved through hunting 300-kilogram dwarf stegadons or pygmy elephants.
The locals call them komodos but I think it’s much more romantic to refer to them as dragons.
From Denpasar, it’s a short domestic flight to Labuan Bajo, the gateway to the islands where the dragons live.
There are around 5000 dragons left on earth. Most are on Komodo Island but they also populate the islands of Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Padar, which are located off the western tip of Flores in eastern Indonesia.
Sailing to Komodo Island
From Labuan Bajo, you can either take a multi-day sailing trip around the islands or visit Komodo Island in a day.
I’d like to tell you our day trip is a swashbuckling dragon hunting adventure on the high seas but it’s actually much more sedate.
It’s really a relaxing cruise with plenty of time to watch the scenery float past or to snooze on a day bed.
The 25-metre Bugis schooner or phinisi, Plataran Felicia, is a beautiful vessel. A phinisi is a traditional two-masted Indonesia sailing ship built from teak.
If you’re travelling in a group, booking the entire vessel is a great option for a multi-day vacation on the water. It comes with crew and catering so all you have to do is sit back, relax and let yourself drift towards Komodo Island.
The trip to World Heritage-listed Komodo National Park, which was voted as one of our planet’s “Seven New Wonders of Nature”, takes around three hours.
Dragon Hunting on Komodo Island
At Komodo Island, there are four walking tracks to choose from, a short one to the water hole, a medium one, which has a few small hills, a long track and a rougher adventure track.
As it’s a steamy day, we’re hoping to see Komodo dragons while on Komodo Island’s short track. Fortunately, we’re in luck. There are six dragons lazing around the water hole.
We’re cautioned to stay in a group as the dragons look deceptively slothful but they can run fast when they are motivated, up to 20km an hour, and are capable of eating small children.
Several years ago, a young village boy who wandered off a jungle path died from a dragon bite and a Swiss tourist who became separated from a cruise ship excursion in 1974 vanished, presumably devoured by a dragon. Only his sunglasses and camera was found.
The dragons do look rather frightening as they are quite large (about the size of crocodiles).
One dragon takes a fancy to my friend Sue and follows her around the waterhole. Another makes a bee-line for Kerry, who trips over the root of a tree, and squeals with fright.
After leaving the dragons, we motor to Pink Beach, famous for its pink sand, which is a mixture of sand from white calcium carbonate and organ pipe corals.
The water looks inviting is invitingly refreshing and snorkelling over coral gardens is a chance to spot colourful fish and turtles.
The “wow factor” arrives at dusk as the setting sun polishes the glassy water with a golden glow. It’s a sight that touches my soul.
I wish I could say that the lovely sunset is a beautiful end to a wonderful day. But unfortunately, this time, my day ends with a gashed knee.
I slip while coming down the ship’s steps and blood streams from the gash. I moan in pain and my knee swells up. The fast-thinking staff whisk me off to a local clinic, which is packed with patients.
I hobble past the row of homeless sleeping on the front veranda into a room where I lay on a clean stretcher bed.
My wound is attended to by a woman in a white uniform with a scarf around her head. She cleans my wound and picks at the torn skin with surgical scissors while I listen to frantic moaning sounds coming from the next room.
It’s an unexpected end to my Komodo Island adventure that will always stick in my mind, along with the experience of getting up close to the Komodo dragons.
Christina Pfeiffer was a guest of Garuda Indonesia
Discover Komodo Island
Garuda Indonesia’s Explore fleet of ATR72-600 aircraft flies to lesser-known regions in eastern Indonesia.
On the trip, we fly from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo, cruise aboard a Bugis schooner to Pulau Komodo, fly from Labuan Bajo to Ende and back to Denpasar.
Looking for unique accommodation in Bali? Check out this review.