Spying on Komodo dragons

Brandishing my kayak paddle ready to defend myself, I am inching towards the forest. Legs trembling and heart pumping, how should I not be intimated when I’m alone on the beach where, a minute earlier, a Komodo dragon was taking a morning stroll before withdrawing to the bush where it came from. I don’t have a clear line of sight because of the small sand dune blocking the view. Has it gone for good or is it waiting for me just behind ready to attack? How risky is it to take one step closer? And another? Brave or insane, I tiptoe past the dune, until I see it. Hidden still in the foliage near a tree trunk, I could easily take it for a dead branch.

And it takes the others, who’ve finally joined me, Thomas and the kids, shortly followed by the Cruising Kiwis, to realise the other brown-greyish shape lying on its side is another smaller Komodo dragon. An early bird that morning, I was doing my series of sun salutes on the deck when I spotted a dark shape moving along the beach (off Rinca, opposite Lehok Uwada Dasami in Nusa Kode in the South, aptly nicknamed Dragon beach) and it wasn’t long before I confirmed my suspicions with the binoculars and warned the entire neighbourhood (composed of our two boats, Obelix and Javelot), screaming on top of my lungs “Dragon! Dragon! Dragon!” while pointing towards the wandering lizard and preparing my kayak at the same time for a solo expedition, eager to get closer and not have to wait for the others to get ready.

The day before we had gone out scouting with Thomas but had only seen clawed paw and dragging tail prints, as well as fresh dung, sign they were not far away…

On arrival some speculate they’ve been interrupted mating. I’m no expert but if that’s the case they have a very meditative, even placid manner to do so. The dominant one (on top of the other) finally leaves, sticking its tongue out at every step, some would say with disgust, while the other smaller dragon rushes further into the forest.

Fortunately for us, the bigger one lingers, allowing us to take a good look at it, and, if we had had batteries left on the camera, a good shot. It has a wrinkled, scaly skin and a goiter under its mouth that swells with each breath. Sometimes it turns its head towards us, taking a defiant look which makes Azur nervous and beg us to retire, insisting that is the morning, the time-of-day dragons are most active and usually look for food. We argue back that nine humans against one dragon we have strength in numbers, and it wouldn’t dare attack us, though we’re not sure of that.

After a few minutes, our dragon ends the debate by retreating nonchalantly into the forest. And the curtain closes on the dragon episode.

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