Dragon Spotting on Indonesia’s Komodo Island

Komodo Dragon's can be fearsome.
Komodos are the largest lizards in the world. Photo by Matt Scott

As I crouch down, the plastic bag in my pocket crinkles loudly. The five creatures I am observing suddenly wake from their slumber and several pairs of eager eyes look in my direction, each one apparently questioning: Are you food? I am in little danger, but I stay perfectly still, shocked at such an impressionable first view of these ancient creatures.

About 25 feet (8 m) away lie five Komodo dragons; while they do not breathe fire, they are the largest lizards in the world, and are every bit as fearsome as their mythical namesakes: fierce, inch-long (2.5 cm) claws curled into the dirt, sharp eyes, a long, stocky body with a whip-like tail and a long, forked yellow tongue in a ferocious mouth, dripping saliva.

While four quickly return to sleep, realizing dinner is not on the menu, one stirs. It pushes up its long, scaly body with its squat, muscular limbs and takes short, lumbering steps toward me. Its leathery skin hangs in folds under its neck and limbs, peeling in large gray flakes.

Its tail sways in turn with its head, as if it is slowly scanning the area; its forked tongue laps the air. Black eyes, ringed by a hint of yellow scales, seem to stare straight through me.

Continued on next page