Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Carnivorous Lizard



Imagine what it is like to come face-to-face with the 300 pound lizard that is not only carnivorous but which has been known to actually eat a human being! Well that is the experience that Lisa and I had yesterday on the Indonesian island of Komodo.

Komodo Island, Indonesia

Komodo is roughly 300 miles east of Bali. It is a large volcanic island, which until the discovery of the Dragon, was largely ignored. Indeed the existence of these ancient creatures was only a myth until in the 1900s pearl fishermen actually discovered the giant lizards inhabiting Komodo Island. Today the island has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a Biosphere Reserve. Even though it is relatively inaccessible, thousands of visitors a year flock to see these strange and exotic creatures.

Komodo Island, Indonesia

As we prepared to exit the ship, the Captain announced that the temperature outside was already 104°F at 9 AM in the morning, and that the humidity was hovering around 90%. Clearly everyone needed to take care. Our journey to the island on the tender took roughly 30 minutes, and it took almost another 30 minutes to organize ourselves into groups and to pay the fee which permitted us to use our cameras – eight dollars per camera. In other words, before the tour even started we had been in the heat almost an hour and a half. We then set out on a 90 minute walk along a very uneven trail.Komodo Island, Indonesia Basically all that there was to see was low scrub growth and some trees. Occasionally through the dense underbrush you could catch a glimpse of herds of deer which seemed to be everywhere. As it turns out, the deer is what the Komodo Dragons love to feast on.

We came to a large mound of dirt along the trail, which had an opening at the top, much like a volcano. No one had the courage to climb the hill and look into the hole, because this was a Komodo dragon nest, and in all likelihood, there was at least one if not more females incubating within the mound.Komodo Island, Indonesia When the young lizards are born, their first instinct is to escape from their mothers as quickly as possible and to climb high into the surrounding trees where they cannot be reached. This is necessitated by the fact that the mothers will actually eat their young if given the chance.

We finally came to a clearing where there were perhaps 10 dragons for us to see. These lizards seemed to be slow moving and resting in the heat, but it was very obvious from the nervous nature of the Park Rangers who were with us, that these animals could be dangerous at any moment.Komodo Island, Indonesia To our surprise, these lizards can, for short durations, reach speeds of over 18 mph. The way that they attack their prey is by attempting to bite the animal on the neck. In their saliva is a bacteria that once injected, into a deer for example, will cause the deer to die in about two days, at which point it becomes a feast for a herd of Komodo dragons. Apparently inside the park there have been incidents where tourist would wander away from the group, get lost, and whose bodies would then be found days later having been ravaged by the giant beast. You can bet that our guides were most cautious to see that everyone stayed together and that everyone was accounted for.

I hope you will take a chance to look at my pictures of these creatures, and imagine staring into the eye of the giant animal which is only feet away, and which has been known to attack and eat human beings.

Our walk through the park continued for over an hour and a half. It was very obvious that everyone in the group was starting to suffer from the extreme heat and humidity. Komodo Island, IndonesiaUpon reaching the end of the trail, the group could have made a left turn, walked across a short bridge, and proceeded down a good pathway to the waiting tender. Indeed, everyone in the group wanted to head that way, but the park rangers insisted that instead we had to turn to the right for some reason which no one could understand at that point. After what seemed to be an interminable walk, we stopped for a minute for them to explain something about a leaf, and then they said we could now all return to the ship's tender. When they said that they pointed towards the right and there was a pathway which was lined with souvenir shops and vendors that probably stretched for almost 500 yards. Everyone was so dead tired with heat they could not believe that we were being forced to take the long way around just so we could be sold a souvenir. The worst part of the experience was that at the end of this walkway we were then forced to walk across a very rough sand and gravel beach to reach the tender. Poor Lisa with her titanium knees got herself into trouble, and today she is experiencing a great deal of pain from the experience. By the time that we returned to the ship, we had been in the heat almost 4 hours. Almost everyone who went to shore came back suffering greatly from the heat, and many people did not make dinner because of that.

Imagine when we got back to the ship and were talking to our room steward to learn that he along with many other members of the crew had also gone ashore to see the dragons. Instead of having to do an hour and a half walk in the heat, they were shown a short trail of about 15 minutes to reach the Dragon den. Afterwards, a short 15 minute walk took them back to the tender, and they were done with the experience. I wish we could have gone ashore with the crew!

Okay, I can say that I've been there and I've seen that – but you can check Komodo Island off my list of places that I want to visit again!

Today our ship is sailing across the Timor Sea as we are heading South to the Australian city of Darwin. Even though Lisa and I have been to Australia before, we have never visited this northern part of Australia, and so were looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.

I did manage to get all of our pictures uploaded to our Picasa website, and I also was able to upload the blog to the I am having quite a bit of difficulty learning how to take pictures with this camera using only one arm, and I apologize that, but at least you do get to see and experience these strange parts of the world.


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