Komodo National Park, home of the Komodo dragon. The largest lizard in the world. Information about the island of Komodo, the monitor lizards and the nearby islands of Rinca and Padar.
Komodo National Park
The largest species of monitor lizard in the world, the Komodo dragon, lives on Komodo. The Komodo National Park was established in 1980, among other things, to protect these gigantic lizards. The island has an area of 171,000 hectares. Komodo National Park does not only consist of Komodo Island.
The island of Rinca where you can find real wild horses and the island of Padar also fall under this national park. There are very beautiful coral reefs around the islands, but unfortunately, like in a large part of Indonesia, these coral reefs are threatened.
Not only due to pollution and anchors that are thrown out without permission, but also due to fishing with dynamite. The coral is definitely going downhill, especially around the island of Labuhan Bajo. The island consists of a combination of forest and a fairly dry landscape.
Komodo Island is 36 km long and 16 km at its widest point. The highest point on the island is 730 meters high. From the gunung Ara you have a beautiful view of the island of Komodo itself and the surrounding islands. It is a special environment with enormous numbers of islands rising from the sea everywhere. It is forbidden to enter the interior of Komodo Island without a guide/ranger. Even if you go out with a guide, it is important to follow his advice. Always keep a safe distance from the monitor lizards because they can attack very quickly. Nowadays there is one house where you can spend the night. The accommodation is very basic. It’s about the idea of sleeping on Komodo because it is certainly not special. Because Komodo is only accessible by boat, most tourists will sleep on the boat in front of the island. Keep in mind that it is scorching hot during the day but that the nights can be cold. A guide/ranger is mandatory when walking on Komodo and for good reason. Make sure you always bring enough water and protect yourself against the bright sun because there is almost no shade on the island.
Komodo Island is the driest island in this region. Many plants and trees cannot survive here. One of the trees that does well on Komodo is the Lontar palm. The leaves of the Lontar palm are used as writing paper and the sap of this palm is wonderfully refreshing and has a sweet taste.
The Komodo dragon
Komodo dragons are found on many islands in the Komodo area. They are mainly found on Komodo, Rinca and West Flores. These monitor lizards are particularly good swimmers and can therefore swim from island to island if necessary. The largest number of Komodo dragons live on Komodo Island itself. The Komodo Dragon, often referred to in English as the Komodo Dragon, only became known in the West in 1911. Before that it was a monstrously large lizard whose existence was actually only known to the residents of Nusa Tenggara. Their number is currently estimated at 5,000 animals. Protection in the form of this national park is therefore not an unnecessary luxury. The biggest threat to the Komodo dragon right now is poachers and dogs left behind by poachers that eat the monitor lizards’ eggs. Very young monitor lizards would do well to stay away from adults because they are also on the menu of adult monitor lizards. Fortunately, these young monitor lizards can climb trees, making them safe for adults who can no longer do this. Adult monitor lizards actually eat everything that crosses their path. On Komodo these are mainly goats, deer and even water buffalo, which can weigh up to 15 times as much as a large monitor lizard. People should also be wary of monitor lizards nearby. A small anecdote follows later in this article. Monitor lizards attack their prey and bite as quickly as possible. Until mid-2009, it was assumed that the beaks of the monitor lizards contained bacteria that entered the body of the prey through the bite wound, after which the animal died of blood poisoning. Australian researchers have dispelled this myth after discovering venom glands in the mouths of monitor lizards. This venom is very similar to the venom of the Gila monster and some snakes. After a monitor lizard bite, the blood flows faster and no longer clots, causing the wound to continue to bleed. In addition, the poison causes stomach cramps, hypothermia and low blood pressure. In Komodo dragons, females are about one-third smaller than males. They are about 1.80 m tall and weigh up to about 55 kilos. The females lay up to 30 eggs, which they bury underground at a depth of about 30 cm. The Komodo dragon’s tongue is forked at the end. With this tongue the monitor lizard can not only taste but also perceive odors. Compare this to other lizards and snakes. Not only is their mouth a dangerous weapon, but the tail is absolutely no less dangerous. With this tail the Komodo dragon can deliver serious blows. It is an important weapon when it comes to self-defense. Monitor lizards are good diggers. Even in the hard, dry soil, they dig a large hole of one meter deep within an hour. These animals are also faster than you would expect. They can reach speeds of just under 20 km/h. On the island of Komodo itself, in addition to the monitor lizards, buffalo, deer, boar, the green-yellow crested cockatoo and the Australian monk bird are found. In addition to the monitor lizards, there is certainly a chance, usually thanks to the guide, that you will see deer. From my own experience I know that if you are lucky you might even see a manta ray from the boat.
A short anecdote. We visited Komodo for the first time in 1991. In a tube of tourists with a guide at the front and back, it was a nice walk to the feeding place of the monitor lizards. A goat was taken on a rope. When they arrived at the place where the monitor lizards would be fed, the tourists could safely view the monitor lizards within a wooden fence. The goat was slaughtered behind a hut and half of it was thrown over the fence by the guides, after which the monitor lizards immediately started their meal. Inside the so-called safe enclosure, tourists started shouting and running. A cloud of dust flew behind it. One of the monitor lizards had managed to get inside the fence and was thinking of a meal other than a goat. Due to the good actions of the guides, the monitor lizard was pulled back out of the safe zone by its tail before there were any casualties. (Most monitor lizards can still be found around this old ‘feeding pit’.)
Residents of Komodo
There is one small village on Komodo called Kampung Komodo. Various stories are told about the origins of the population of this island. According to some, descendants of exiled criminals live there and, according to others, descendants of immigrants who came to Komodo from Sumbawa hundreds of years ago. The population lives from fishing.
On the island of Rinca you can also take a walk accompanied by a guide. If you are lucky you will see monkeys, deer, wild horses, buffalos or monitor lizards. A beautiful island to make a summit.
Padar is a small island between Komodo and Rinca. Komodo dragons were also found here until some time ago, but unfortunately that is no longer the case.
The following doesn’t quite fit into Komodo National Park but is certainly something to take into account when planning a trip. If you visit Komodo by boat, there is a reasonable chance that your boat trip will end in Flores. During this trip it is definitely recommended to lie down at dusk on one of the islands off the coast of Riung. When dusk begins to fall, you hear a huge noise from the mangrove forests, after which some flying dogs take to the air in search of food. It is impossible to describe what happens next. Thousands of flying dogs (giant bats) leave the island. This spectacle continues almost indefinitely. The sky turns black due to the enormous quantities of these animals. It is definitely recommended to take a boat trip of five days (or longer) from Lombok to Flores, for example, where you will visit a number of very beautiful places, including Komodo, Rinca and Riung. At the starting point of the boat, it is wise to check whether too many people are put on the boat for safety reasons. Komodo National Park is home to the Komodo monitor lizards. Here you can make a stop and take a look at prehistoric times.