“IN leather armor, shielded by robust meshed scales: Knight of the island.”
This short poem by Raul Moreno paints an epic image of the infamous Komodo dragons of Indonesia’s Komodo Island. The 70kg lizards have been known to reach the length of 10m, making them the island’s de facto ruler, keeping the rest of the island’s residents on their toes.
“Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizard, they are very agile when active. They climb trees and even swim,” said Marga Restu, 27, a traveler who recently visited the island.
While it’s true humans are below these powerful reptiles in the island’s food chain, the invention of the selfie stick means you can take a prize-winning snapshot with a dragon without fear of losing your sunglasses, or an ear.
Komodo lies between the East and West islands of Nusa Tenggara, among one of the 17,508 islands that make up the Indonesian republic. Situated in the middle of 29 other islands that form the Unesco World Heritage site and National Park, the island is instrumental in the conservation of Komodo dragons.
The prehistoric reptiles may rule the island, but the human poaching of deer (the dragon’s favorite nibble) has resulted in a small decline in their population – something the Indonesian government and travel board are working tirelessly to change.
However, Komodo hasn’t been a long-standing tourist destination by any means. In fact, the national park that sits on the island was only founded in 1980, although its carnivorous, lounging residents have resided on the lush green pastures for over four million years.
And why wouldn’t they? With its pink sandy beaches, kissed by year-round sunlight, coral reefs that dazzle beneath crystal clear waters, and mysterious and indigenous wildlife, it’s not just a haven for the dragons, but also a holiday destination for everyone.
They’re usually run by tour operators and host a plethora of guests, from 20-something-tequila-loving travelers to entire families keen on splitting their vacation hours between exploring the shores and sunbathing on the decks.
For the well-heeled, there are luxury hotels on the island, but don’t expect the Four Seasons. These are priced a little higher than the others, but they offer better services and facilities.
The versatility and richness of the island’s landscape are mind-boggling. There are volcano walks, forest trekking, some of the best scuba diving spots in the world, as-well as local cuisine that ranges from sumptuous seafood to the freshest of fruits.
But perhaps best of all is the midnight Milky Way star-gazing. No light pollution, distracting flight paths, nor chilly breezes that make you miserable. Just you, the stars, and maybe a beer.
Frequent traveler Ayub Ardiyono, 24, insists the island’s charm and beauty make each visit more enchanting:
“There are never-ending sunrises and sunsets, blue skies and shallow waters. Every time I go, I have every single happiness.”
The main airport that brings in tourists to the island only recently expanded its capacity from 400,000 travelers to 1.5 million, a move likely to put the island well and truly on the global traveler’s map.