Scott and I took our honeymoon in Indonesia this winter: first stop, the Komodo Islands.
We set out from Labuan Bajo on a liveaboard boat, our home and transport for the next four days.
The first night, we weighed anchor off the shores of Bat Island, the day home of over 100,000 fruit bats. When the sun sets, they swarm out of the mangrove forest to forage throughout the archipelago.
The next morning we arrived at Rincha Island, and ate breakfast while watching the local wildlife forage on the shore.
At the dock, we were greeted by a troupe of long tailed macaques, which leapt aboard and raided our breakfast table!
We also saw our first mudskipper. Our guides were amused at how excited we got over these little fish.
Two stone dragons guard the park entrance.
The first Komodo dragons we spotted were lounging beneath the ranger sleeping quarters.
This fellow was named Jalur Hijau, which translates to “green stripes,” a reference to the three stripes painted on his tail. Like the stamps of a WWI flying ace, these marks boast his confirmed hits (one for each ranger he’s bitten).
Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus.
Komodo dragon hide is speckled with tiny osteoderms (bony armor within the skin).
They walk with an ungainly Godzilla-like lumber.
Komodo dragons are ambush predators that lurk along game trails, waiting for unsuspecting bush pigs, deer, and tourists.
Hiking through the open grasslands, we encountered this monitor looking for a sunning spot.
This dragon isn’t toothless, but it does have large lips and relatively small teeth.
Our ranger was excited to see such a large individual, and borrowed my camera to get a daring closeup.
The shallow waters in the area support numerous coral reefs and great snorkeling.
This football-sized cuttlefish put on a dazzling display.
Komodo Island itself looks like a prehistoric lost world, but as a volcanic island, it and the rest of the archipelago are relatively recent.
Our guide for dragon hunting. This forked stick is his only defense.
Footprints and tail drags in the sand mark a monitor’s recent passing.
A giant nest mound of a megapode. These birds build mounds out of decaying vegetation, which gives off heat as it rots. Komodo dragons will use megapode nests for their own clutches.
Our guide led us to Sulphur Lookout, one of the island’s highest points.
Here, exposed stone offers a good place for dragons to bask and digest…
Dragon dung is filled with the hair and bones of their victims.
Komodo dragons are like sharks in that they constantly shed and grow in new teeth.
Fittingly, the bones led to an ominous den. Monitors dig shallow burrows to shelter in overnight.
Young Komodo dragons are more agile, and are able to climb trees, which is important for avoiding their hungry elders.
Like snakes, they have forked tongues that allow them to smell in “stereo.”
Komodo dragons don’t roar, but they do employ an alarmingly load, rumbling heavy breathing when they face off with other dragons.
Next stop, the rainforests of Borneo!