One of the nice things about going to Komodo National Park sailing from Bali to Komodo with Adelaar Cruises is that there are so many different land excursions available (not to mention more Indonesian underwater reef scenes).

Whether you want to catch a breathtaking view of the sunset after a short climb to the top of Padar Island, or take a tour in the local pearl farm, there are activities for everyone onboard!

However, most guests’ favorite land excursion is the trip to Komodo Island to see Varanus Komodoensis. The largest lizard in the world, also known as the Komodo dragon.

This near-mythical beast, which almost certainly originated in Australia approximately 3.8 million years ago, has remained virtually unchanged since then. A rare example of an animal that did not need further evolution to continue being successful even as major extinctions of other megafauna occurred during the same period. While the largest verified specimen was an astonishing 3.13 meters (10.3 feet) long and weighed 166 kg (366 pounds) they more typically max out at 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) and 86 kg (190 pounds). Either way, it is crazy big reptile.

Arriving Komodo

On a recent cruise, we arrived at Komodo Island by a tender boat and went to the ranger station where we met our guides. We were given a short introduction to the park and the rules for the “dragon walk”. Then we were told that there had been a kill recently and there was a dragon feeding on a Timor deer not far away.

Having been on a number of these walks on both Komodo and Rinca Islands but never before having seen a dragon eating. I was as excited as the guests as we made our way to the kill site. When we arrived we were greeted by a 2+ meter male dragon in the process of tearing one of the hind legs (the other having already been devoured) off the deer.

After a bit of effort, he succeeded in separating it from the rest of the carcass and proceeded to swallow it hoof, bone, hide and all in one big piece. Watching the dragon choke this impossibly big morsel down; you could actually see the hoof pressing against the inside of the throat as it slid its way down to the stomach, is not something any of us will soon forget.

The treck

From there we walked to the watering hole and along the way the guides pointed out deer, wild pigs, monkeys and birds, all delectable dishes on the dragons’ menu. They also gave us information about the life cycle of the dragons and answered people’s questions. The local guides are well trained both in dragon facts and in providing a safe experience, a skill they displayed admirably at the waterhole where they kept a female dragon that looked as if she was interested in getting to know us a little better at a safe distance.

After that, we continued up to a scenic overlook where a panoramic view of Komodo Bay, with Adelaar resting at anchor, was laid out before us. A short trek down the hill and stroll of the beach took us back to the ranger station where it all began a short hour and a half before.

Looking for Souvenirs

If you are a collector of souvenirs take a quick stroll to the local Pasar (local market). If you are good at haggling you can get a good deal on pearl necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. I’ve found the pearls to be real, but low quality. By low quality I mean the nacre (or “”pearlish”” coating) is thin and their misshaped. To test a pearl give it the tooth test, simply rub it on your teeth, if it feels like fine sandpaper it’s real (this cannot be faked). Komodo National Parks Pasar’s stalls are stuffed with kitsch, from the wood carved Komodo dragons in dive fins and tank to the tribal masks painted with sparkles.

You won’t find any antique items here. The sellers start at a very high price, so don’t be afraid to haggle or ask Adelaar’s Cruise Director to help you get a fair price for your souvenir Komodo pearls or T-shirts you.

By now you’ll be ready to return to the dock to meet up with our tender boat. You’ll rejoin Adelaar for full breakfast and the first dive of the day. We all knew that our foray into the realm of the Komodo dragon was an experience that would be with us for the rest of our lives.