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Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Home to the World's Biggest and Deadliest Lizards

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Young Komodo Dragon feeding

Young Komodo Dragon feeding at a water buffalo corpse on Rinca Island

© Mats Stafseng Einarsen

The Komodo National Park is home to some of the world's largest lizards - the Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis). These lizards are superlative in many ways - lengths of up to ten feet, up to 300 pounds in weight, and bad attitudes to match their deadly nature.

Komodo dragons are, in fact, higher up on the food chain than you, and are not to be messed with. These lizards can run as fast as most dogs, climb trees, swim, and stand upright for brief periods.

Their tails can deliver a mighty knockout swing, and their sharp teeth can inject a venom that kills in as little as eight hours.

Dragon Refuge

You may wonder why an animal this thoroughly nasty might need protection, but it does - it's a unique species, a product of a biodiversity hotbed now under threat from human encroachment. In 1980, the Indonesian government set up the Komodo National Park to protect about 2,500 specimens of Komodo dragon within its borders.

Other animals protected by the park include Sunda deer (Cervus timorensis), wild buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), wild boar (Sus scrofa), macaque monkey (Macaca fascicularis), and over 150 species of birds.

The park employs 70 rangers to stop poaching in the park; poachers can be sent to jail for up to ten years. They also safeguard the dragons, who have been electronically tagged for easier record-keeping. Finally, they safeguard the tourists, who are discouraged from touching the Komodo dragons. Good thing, too, as an intimate encounter with a Komodo dragon is not one you walk away from in one piece!

In 1991 the national park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Getting There

The Komodo National Park is located 200 miles away from Bali, near the Lesser Sunda Islands, bordering the provinces of East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara. The park covers the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Padar, Nusa Kode, Motang, and the Wae Wuul sanctuary on Flores Island.

Denpasar in Bali is the jump-off point to the park, via the cities of Bima on the island of Sumbawa, or Labuan Bajo on the western side of Flores. Labuan Bajo hosts the park's visitor offices.

Air: Both Bima and Labuan Bajo may be reached by air from Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali.

Bus: Overland buses travel between Denpasar and Labuan Bajo or Bima.

Ferry: Ferries travel between Denpasar and Labuan Bajo or Bima. Total travel time is 36 hours. The Indonesia Sea Transportation Company (PELNI) offers ferry services - they are located at Jalan Raya Kuta No. 299, Tuban, Bali Call +361-763 963 to book a seat.

Live-aboard: Komodo National Park can be reached via live-aboard boats servicing divers.

Once you arrive at Bima or Labuan Bajo, you can arrange for a boat ride to the Park. To save effort, you can have your hotel arrange the ride for you.

Getting In and Around

Entrance in Komodo National Park costs $15 for up to 3 days' stay; visitors planning to stay for more than 16 days will pay $45. Visitors younger than 16 years old get a 50% discount.

The Loh Liang ranger station at Slawi Bay on Komodo Island is the park's largest facility. The station includes visitor bungalows, ranger accommodations, a compressor and diving equipment for divers, and a restaurant. Visitors can hike from here to the Banugulung lizard viewing area. Both ranger stations at Rinca and Komodo Island require you to bring a ranger with you when going off on their trails.

The further away you go, the more you may need to arrange overnight accommodation at the ranger points throughout the park. All facilities at the park are basic, from the beds to the communal toilets. Advance booking for accommodation is not feasible. Visitors not looking to "rough it" are advised to get hotel rooms in Labuan Bajo instead.

Park rangers stage a daily feeding for the visitors' benefit. It's a gory sight - you'll see a whole goat fed to the creatures, among other things.

Diving around the Komodos

The Komodo National Park's waters are known for their high marine biodiversity, making it an ideal destination for adventurous divers. Whale sharks, manta rays, clown frogfish, nudibranch, and coral proliferate in the area.

The marine ecosystem around the park's islands are actually two separate habitats, quite close to one another.

The southern parts are fed by deep sea currents that bring cold water from Antarctica through the Indian Ocean. That portion of the park supports an amazing and colourful profusion of temperate zone marine life.

A few miles to the north, the tropical waters nurture over 1,000 species of warm water fish and marine mammals, including at least fifteen different varieties of whales and dolphins.

For more information, you contact the Komodo National Park at the following addresses and numbers:

Bali Office
Jl. Pengembak No. 2 Sanur, Bali, Indonesia 80228
Telephone: +62 (0) 780 2408
Fax: +62 (0) 747 4398

Komodo Office
Gg. Mesjid, Kampung Cempa, Labuan Bajo
Manggarai Barat, Nusa Tenggara, Timur, Indonesia 86554
Telephone: +62 (0) 385 41448
Telephone: +62 (0) 385 41225

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