On my travels through Indonesia, the most dangerous location I visited was Komodo Island, home of the Komodo dragon, the largest lizard on earth. The dragons on this island aren’t in a zoo or animal park, they are roaming free in the jungle, along with the deer, pigs, and water buffalos (which they eat) and the tourists who come to see them (which they hopefully don’t eat.) Before I was allowed to go on the island, I attended a lecture to learn about the do’s and don’ts of walking amongst the dragons. I learned that the dragons use their long tongues to sniff blood (up to 10 miles away) and will attack if they smell it. That meant that if a tourist had a scab, a cut, or (God Forbid) their period, they should not go on the island! I learned that sudden movements or loud voices would startle them and perhaps incite them to attack. I learned that if they bit me, the poison in the bite would likely kill me before I was able to get help of any kind. Specifically, inhibition of blood clotting, lowering of blood pressure, muscle paralysis, and the induction of hypothermia, leading to shock and loss of consciousness. OK, let’s go!
After attending the same lecture, Scott decided that bringing “weapons” on the island would be a prudent move, so he brought along two pointy umbrellas from our room. He said he’d protect me….but I was sure that once we met up with our guide (who I assumed would have a gun,) I would be fine. When our guide arrived carrying a stick (as his weapon) and I noticed that he was about my size, I realized that this was going to be an “every man for himself” adventure.
We began walking through the jungle behind our guide (with his mighty stick.) We looked to the right, we looked to the left, no dragons in sight. The rain started to fall. I began to wish that the lecture had included a section on “wardrobe.” Dare I use one of the “weapons” for rain coverage? I spotted a deer and realized it was “dragon food” and also about the same size as me. Fear was setting in. We hiked up jungle hills, through streams, down muddy paths.
We were soggy, tired, scared, and disappointed, and nearly about to give up. Suddenly we approached a clearing by a watering hole, and like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, we came upon a group of dragons! My first thought was not that I was in danger, but instead, “Scott, quick, get a photo of me!!!!” Here it is:
Watching these glorious creatures move, with their darting tongues and razor sharp teeth, was exhilarating. As I took their photos, I moved in a sort of slow motion dance so as not to disturb their mojo. Our guide said we were lucky, as not everyone is able to spot a Komodo on their island trek. Considering that the only casualty was my new neon green nikes (which will never be fully clean again), I’d say I was lucky indeed.