There’s no doubt that these man-eating Komodo Dragons on Indonesia’s Komodo Island, with their slimy mouths and stealthy habits, are scary as hell. So why did I want to meet one?  Well, it wasn’t shaking hands and exchanging friendly greetings that I was planning, but rather observation from a safe distance.  The lizards, however, had other things in mind.

What happens when you go dragon hunting

I’m going dragon hunting, but my only armour is sunscreen and insect repellent. I’ve no intention of catching a dragon, my goal is to make sure a dragon doesn’t catch me because they eat people, you know. It’s pretty simple really.   What am I doing, I mutter to myself as we walk in steaming heat down a tree-lined bath with crushed white coral crunching under our feet. 


They like their meat rare

We are looking for Komodo monitors, known as Komodo dragons. This is the largest living species of lizard, growing up to three metres in length and weighing up to 70kg. They are a member of the monitor lizard family and once lived all across Indonesia and Australia. Their bite is reputed to be vicious, and their mouth is full of foul bacteria and an anticoagulant.

Did I mention they like their meat rare and preferably moving?

Rules for dragon hunting

  1. No smoking – that’s the cigarette kind
  2. Stick together- they might just pick off the stragglers, just sayin’!
  3. Be quiet – we don’t want to let the dragons know we are coming.
  4. Make sure you have no blood on you.
  5. If chased by a dragon run in a zig-zag pattern because they can’t.
  6. Stay close to the man with the forked stick because that’s the best protection you have (an Ed+bK original tip).

We are taking the short walk, about 40 minutes, because of the heat, and we are hoping to see dragons at the first water hole.  Although there’s a daily queue of visitors here, there is some danger as about four years ago a seven-year-old local boy was eaten by a dragon. He made the sad mistake of forgetting to wash his hands after gutting fish.

Luck is on our side, and at the muddy water hole we see one dragon and then another and then another. In the end, the grand total is seven dragons.

Don’t be fooled by their sleepy appearance

They look sleepy sitting in the sun and move slowly around, but the drool coming from their mouths talks of other things. And then there’s that long, pale forked tongue flicking in the air and almost touching the ground. We keep our distance, but then one starts walking towards us. I’m trying to film it while walking backwards, but I suddenly feel that maybe dragons can actually move much faster. Our guide thinks so because he starts pointing the forked stick in front of the dragon and tells me to move back. He doesn’t need to say it twice.

When it was time to move on I was reluctant to turn my back on these creatures, partly because I wanted to see more and partly because I just didn’t trust them. The rest of the walk was an uneventful circuit back to the dock and the sailing ship we arrived on.

This was a long day. The trip started at 4 am from Labuan Bajo, and it took at least four hours of sailing time to reach the island.  The day continued after the dragon experience with snorkelling amongst coral and a quick visit to a pink coral beach.  I didn’t know that dragon-hunting was on my bucket list until I did it.  It was one of my most memorable travel experiences and definitely worth the effort of travelling to the island.  Recommended.

How do you get there?

Fly from Denpasar in Bali to Labuan Bajo in Flores and take the boat from there.  We sailed from Labuan Bajo to Komodo Island and back with Plantaran Komodo Phinisi Vessels For more information on the area visit Flores Tourism.

Disclaimer: Ed+bK travelled as a guest of Garuda.

More Indonesia

Back to Bali in the 1970s