Appeasing the Dragon

Between the shamelessly ‘touristy’ chapters of our holiday in Bali, Ms and I took a detour to a more remote part of Indonesia.

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A one and half hour flight found us on the island of Flores – the gateway to the largest and oldest lizard on the planet – the Komodo Dragon.

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The dragon is endangered, its population numbering less than 4,000 and increasingly threatened by habitat loss due to tourism and a rapidly increasing human population.

Unaware that we were part of the problem, and keen to catch a glimpse of the mythic creature, we chartered an Indonesian boat and headed for an overnight tour of the islands of Rinca and Komodo.

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View nearby Golo Hilltop Hotel

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Our first surprise was finding the boat manned by two boys young enough to be in high school.

Captain Ajib, age seventeen…

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And his First Mate, Parman, age fourteen.

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While the rest of us, including our own personal tour guide, Lexy, sat back and – well, sat back – Parman hopped quietly about the boat, forever engaged in some duty or the other.

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His most important role was food preparation.

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A tasty menu of stir fried noodles, seafood and tempeh, sautéd vegetables, battered eggplant, potato fries, rice and banana pancakes – all came from a kitchen the size of a cupboard.

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His skills, picked up from his mother, frankly, put both of us women to shame. I will never again complain about my kitchen.

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Thanks to Parman, we had the energy we needed for our ‘moderate’ treks through the tropical jungle and savannah in search of the dragon.

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Our tour guide, Lexy, with the National Park Ranger.

We learned the dragon has over 50 types of bacteria in its saliva that will slowly poison the blood supply of anything it bites.

Wild buffalo (as well as the elusive wild boar)…

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Deer (as well as dogs, goats and anything smaller).

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The dragon also eats its own young, who are forced to take refuge in trees from the moment they hatch until about four years old.

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This one was about 3 months old.

We saw the whole family of dragons – the frisky teenager…

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Tired Mama (yep, another ‘Kodak Moment’)…

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Exhibitionist Papa…

And even the Grumpy Old Grandpa, whose been hanging around camp ever since he broke his leg in a fight with another male dragon.

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We were told the dragons often come to the camp, because they can smell food. But the connection between the dragons and humans goes way back…

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According to local legend, Princess Naga, the spiritual ancestor of the Ata Modo people, once gave birth to twins – a human child and a Komodo Dragon.

For this reason, the local people never kill the dragon, and would traditionally leave a deer or goat on the outskirts of the village, as an offering.

But since the islands became a National Park in 1980, this practice has no longer been allowed.

In 2007, for the first time in 33 years, a local 8 year old boy was killed by a dragon. Attacked on the outskirts of the village.

Then again, in 2009, two dragons mauled to death a fruit picker who fell out of a tree.

I wonder.  What happens when local customs are outlawed? Does the dragon magically forget its god given right to be appeased?

Or is this story symbolic of a wider imbalance between the needs of nature and the needs of humans?

Perhaps there’s no easy answer. But I know one thing – I wouldn’t want to mess with this fella…

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Have you ever seen an endangered species in the wild? Do you think they have a right to be appeased?

Comments

  1. says

    No contest – appease a dragon !!!!
    Amazing post, Alarna…
    What an amazing little boy took knocking up a feast like that… hope they get paid plenty !!!

    • says

      That’s the thing, Valerie! They don’t get paid well at all… it’s appalling. I’m not sure what the boy got paid, but a driver / tour guide told us that for an eight hour day he got paid 40,000 rupiah, which is equivalent $4AUD. And I’m pretty sure Parman wasn’t getting anything near that…

  2. says

    This is simply amazing. I have only seen dragons in zoos, so I can only imagine the thrill of seeing one up close and personal like that. I am so sad that they are endangered–I feel sad for all endangered species.

    Yes, let’s appease the dragon. I’d love to see what good fortune will fall upon it.

    • says

      There’s nothing like seeing them in their natural habitat. And they seemed pretty chilled to me, but I wouldn’t want to test that :) I hope good fortune comes to them, I really do…

      • says

        I think it is easier to do in a wealthy country…I have built a number of our family holidays around a single whale watching trip. Rules have been set up to protect the whales from whale-watching tours; distance parameters although they are not always followed. But that is easier to accomplish in a country that has labour laws, welfare programs, and mandatory school programs.

      • says

        You’re absolutely right about that. I also wonder where the responsibility lies in these less wealthy countries, especially when much of the tourism is run by foreign interests. It’s very complicated, that’s for sure.

  3. says

    Parman can cook. Some good traveling. Have seem/met up close (sometimes too close) many Australian animals in the wild (if you are able to tell Alarna, yes, I’ve not venture from these shore yet), most protected, not sure about endangered. Of the reptiles, the estuarine crocodile came in as one to steer clear of, only seen a few of those while doing land surveys. But others like some various uncommon snakes (not the nice kind, some okay), rare wallabies, and many others.

    A right to be appeased, traditions and customs, and cultural connections to various aspects of nature, are something modern society with all its rules, do not always understand of the natural world, for mostly it (modern society) is urban centric, and geared to protect such populations. When food is in short supply in lean season for animals like the dragons, cultural sensibilities would indicate appeasement and sharing (even in good seasons) would be a logical choice for cohabitation in close proximity to one another. In doing it away from their homes and families, they do not present an invitation to the dragon to enter the villiage/s either. Which also makes sense for amicable cohabitation together. Looks like it was an interesting holiday with plenty to experience as a traveler ( I prefer the concept of traveler, rather than tourist, which is how I think you experienced your time, I maybe wrong, but its just about the way your write about the experiences).

    • says

      Thank you, Sean. Traveler. Yes… that is how I prefer to approach it, and one of the reasons I haven’t done much of it… Being a traveller takes more time and care, I think. And I like to linger.

      There’s no shame in having not been overseas. This was only my second time – the first was to NZ. In fact, I’m ashamed that I never did complete my dream to see Australia first. There’s so much to see, including the rare and amazing animals we have…I’d love to see those crocs in the wild ;) And the desert, too!!

      Amicable cohabitation. I like that. And I feel certain you are one of those amicable travellers, too :)

      • says

        Lingering’s good, conversations, food, a little drink.

        I’ve another brother in Spain, and one in Canada too, or have I already said that, oh well.. Yes, my sister went solo around Australia 08-09, well worth it she says.
        Yes :)

  4. says

    hello, again, Alarna… hah, you communed with the dragons as well. you had a nice trip. :) those Komodos are loitering in the park, no? did you shriek a lot, haha.

    btw, we also have a tourist spot similar to that. it’s in Coron, Palawan, southern Philippines. but there, it’s the crocodiles who reign, ahaha. same there, they’re loitering by the hundreds and could be dining with the tourists… the place is also known for its wondrous seascape and mountains made of limestones (El Nido, Palawan). it’s a lovely place, am going there a few months from now… pardon me for my pitch about the Phils., ahaha. ;)

    oh, i wish that when you’ve the time, you’ll do a post comparing Aussie landscapes to East Asia (or the tropics). that’d be a post worth looking forward to… :) keep well…

    • says

      Hi San! You give the Philippines are great plug – I’d love to see your corner of the world someday. I’m starting out on my travels a bit later in life than I expected, but there’s still time! ;)

      The Komodos were indeed loitering, but they weren’t at all as scary as their reputation. No shrieking, no – hehe.

      The topic you suggest would be fascinating… I’ll have to give that one some thought. Might be an excuse to take another trip to East Asia, no?? :D

      • says

        hello, Alarna… hehe, did you notice? dang! yes, please include Phils in your trip list someday. Boracay beach and Palawan come high on the list (though, they’re a bit pricey, hehe). i haven’t done much travelling myself. i should have more money, ahaha and time, dangit… ;)

        aww, it’s the dragons in the fantasy books and movies, i guess. they made them so large in our imaginations. they’re simply adorable, scaly reptiles, lol. :)

        yes, do travel more. i would suggest Thailand, aside from the Phils. i did a post about the former, in a series – Kinder and Gentler, ahaha. do the comparative discussion post, come on… ;) am excited already… :)

  5. says

    Wow! I’ve seen American bald eagles in the wild–they were once considered endangered. It’s always a strange thing, us humans communing with animals in the wild…
    but I love your boat pics…and the food. I’m SO hungry now!

    • says

      The bald eagle – that would be incredible to see. A creature to be respected, for sure.

      Believe me, we were hungry when we saw the food, too! And it was damn fine boat food :)

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