Here Be Dragons

HT Brunch
Written by Sonia Nazareth

Visiting Indonesia’s Komodo National Park is like walking into a Robinson Crusoe fantasy

I was smitten with the idea of visiting Indonesia’s Komodo National Park the minute I learned that it is patrolled by the world’s largest monitor lizard. These, up to three-metres-long dragons, can potentially swallow prey as big as a goat, and intimidate larger animals (including writers). But they defend themselves only when threatened or knocked on the head with a selfie-stick.
Komodo National Park (a cluster of 29 islands) takes some getting to. I take a flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo, then wake the next morning at the crack of dawn for a five-hour journey by boat to Komodo Island. There’s much to love about the experience: the departure from a pier dotted with fishing boats, the sight of a fresh food market waking up, sunrise on the waters, schools of dolphins along the way.

The fact that Komodo National Park has been recently declared one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, and that the dragon is a protected beast, doesn’t adequately prepare you for your first encounter with this Robinson Crusoe fantasy. So a guide must accompany every exploration. Armed with a forked staff, we walk slowly into dragon territory, along a carefully demarcated hiking trail. You can choose a trail depending on your fitness; the longer the trail, the more dragon behaviour you understand.

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