Indonesia is an archipelago comprising over 17,000 islands, the most infamous of which is arguably Komodo. Habitat of the eponymous Dragon, the largest lizard on earth known to man (not counting the Loch Ness Monster); Komodo is a sparsely populated island with just 2,000 inhabitants.
Like many of the islands around Indonesia, Dutch sailors put Komodo Island on the Western maps and returned from their escapades with hard-to-believe tales of meter-long lizards that had the appearance of dragons. The stories were embellished for dramatic effect – something that sailors the world over were often guilty of throughout history – and grew to become tales of fire-breathing animals, some measuring up to seven meters in length by the time the sailors arrived back home.
The stories were so profusely reported that in 1910 Lieutenant Steyn van Hensbroek of the Dutch Colonial Administration on Flores, an island found close to Komodo, banded together a team of soldiers to investigate the small islet and discover the truth of the elaborate stories. Arriving on the island, van Hensbroek and his men encountered and slayed a two-meter-long lizard and returned to Flores to a hero’s welcome.
Subsequent studies by the Director of the Botanical Gardens in Bogor, Java, Indonesia concluded that the ‘dragons’ were certainly not capable of breathing fire, and were in fact relatives of the monitor lizard and named them after the islands they inhabit.
Since then Komodo Dragons have been on the protected species list – perhaps as a way to deter people from hunting the creatures just so they can claim they ‘slayed a dragon’. Reptiles like the Komodo dragon and monitor lizard are commonly found throughout Asia and can still cause a missed heartbeat even today – perhaps to a lesser scale than was experienced by the Dutch sailors, but the sheer size of the lizards is sometimes a shock. But don’t fear, they are all relatively harmless to humans…and to date there are still no reports of any of them breathing fire…
If you’d like to see the magnificent Komodo Dragons in their indigenous habitat, get in touch with our Indonesian-based Travel Specialists who will be delighted to arrange a tailor-made tour to the islands for you!