A hike with dragons on dragon land

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Komodo, Indonesia

For outdoor adventurists with love of hiking it would be a good idea to hike in the Komodo National Park, the home to the komodo dragons.

For the real outdoor adventurists this is the place to hike, because hiking on this South-East Asian islands gives a surreal feeling, of being alive and one with nature, bush on either side of the hiking trail and large dragon lizards lurking somewhere in the thickets. The national park, which is easily accessible from the Labuan Bajo on the western tip of Flores island of Indonesia, is home to about 2,500 komodo dragons, the only ones left on earth, and hence the park has been a United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (Unesco)World Heritage Site since 1991.

The endangered dragons are really large lizards – an Indonesian colleague felt the description of large is not flattering enough – but this is a lizard that when it is an adult can grow at an average length of up three metres with an average weight of nearly 100 kilogrammes. That really is some large lizard. Yet, what heighten the hiking pleasure is the mythical legend of the dragon, its poisonous saliva, its acute sense of smell – the guide says it can smell blood from a couple of kilometres away. Hence the day before embarking for the national park the guide had dully asked if any one in the travelling party has fresh wounds or bleeding cuts. Women on menstrual cycles were discouraged from going on the island, much to the bemusement of the women folk in the group who found the public announcement too blunt.

An hour boat ride to the island later revealed the national park with its groves. After a short safety briefing, two guides with long fork sticks for our protection, escorted us on the hiking, with warnings not to wander off on our own. The rangers were to use the stick to shove off the lizard should they charge.

The island is also home to deer, wild pigs and other wildlife –which is food to the dragon. The manner in which the dragon walk is authoritative and majestic, almost in the same manner the lion take in its strides. We found several dragons laying in shades, including a hatchling dragon, on its own with no mother trailing it behind.

The guide warned us not to be fooled by the lazy demeanours for they are very deceptive and cannot be trusted. The dragon are said to be agile too, with the ability to sprint at a speed of 18 kilometres an hour for a short distance. The island is also home to people who have lived there for generations, and once hunted the wildlife. There is an inscription at the entrance of the park of how a queen of the island gave birth to both the dragon and a son – and hence both have co-existed as natives of the island.

It is a place worth seeing. Komodo National Park, located between Sumbawa and Flores, and is easily accessed from Labuan Bajo on the western tip of Flores island of Indonesia.

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