The Komodo dragon is the largest lizard in the world. It can easily reach 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) in length and adults can weigh more than 80 kilos (176 pounds). Despite its weight, it can sprint up to 18 kilometers an hour (11 mph) for short periods of time.
The giant animal often feeds on carrion, but larger specimens are capable of killing animals such as deer, boar, goats, and even buffalo. With its strong claws and sharp teeth, unsuspecting prey usually doesn’t stand a chance. If the unfortunate animal does survive the initial attack, the dragon will follow it for miles until its prey collapses as a result of blood poisoning.
Although this endangered animal is named after the island of Komodo, populations also exist on the islands of Rinca, Gili Motang, Nusa Kode and Padar, all part of the Lesser Sunda Islands. In an effort to help protect the lizard’s habitat, the entire group of islands (with the exception of Gili Motang) was declared a National Park in 1980 which now host a stable population of about 3000 – 5000 dragons. Only small parts of the islands are accessible to tourists. Still, there is a good chance to see one in its natural habitat. Komodo dragon territory spans the whole island, and consequently they can be found on hilltops, grasslands and even on the beach. Fossils of nearly 4 million years old have been found in Australia, of a species similar to the Komodo dragon. These large lizards have been able to survive on those few islands in Indonesia because of the absence of other predators, and hence its body size and weight have barely changed over a period of 900,000 years.
A face to face encounter with this giant beauty is something you won’t forget any time soon and it is a short boat trip away from Flores. Dragons aren’t the only reason to visit the Komodo National Park: The surrounding underwater scenery is spectacular and excellent for diving and snorkeling, and the boat ride along the bays, coves and beaches are another reason to bring your camera.