Travel: Into the lair of a dragon turned lounge lizard: Geoff Pope went to Komodo to watch the monsters feeding. He found something altogether more domesticated
Saturday 25 July 1992
Unfortunately, this popularity has now not only removed the element of chance from seeing these creatures but also has turned them into little more than circus attractions.
For a number of years it was common practice for visitors to Komodo to bring a goat with them; this would be killed by the wildlife wardens and used as bait to attract the dragons. As the popularity of Komodo increased, a feeding area became established and the lizards stopped doing what should have come naturally. Instead of hunting wild boar and spotted deer they preferred to hang around a dry river bed awaiting tourists bearing caprine gifts.
With the dragons becoming increasingly lazy, it was eventually decided to end the practice of having one goat for every group and instead to have regular twice-weekly feedings. So now on Wednesdays and Sundays a flotilla of small boats chartered from the neighbouring island of Flores, descends on Komodo to discharge a large, camera-toting human cargo. They walk past giant bush turkey nests, past the sounds of boar and deer scurrying through the undergrowth and past the helicopter landing pad built for President Suharto of Indonesia's visit in 1988.
Once at the dry river bed the 100 or so tourists are crammed into a wooden stand overlooking nature's arena, where the ever-obliging dragons devour the sacrificial goat.
When I first saw the dragons last year I managed to avoid feeding time at Komodo. Instead my first view was obscured by a Japanese television crew. Ideal fodder for documentary makers and tourists alike, the Komodo dragons have become a permanent, lethargic feature in the dry river bed.
With a guaranteed twice-weekly feed (more often if a wealthy tour party arrives willing to pay for a private viewing), the world's largest lizards have been encouraged to abandon their role in the food chain so that tourists can watch them eat.
Afterwards, the visitors drift back to their boats and the presidents to their helicopters, having watched these magnificent creatures in the same way as a long-ago visitor to Tiberius's villa would have seen the emperor throwing scraps of meat to his caged pet.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas
Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new
Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'
- 2 Ebola outbreak: What is bushmeat – and is it to blame for the disease that has killed thousands?
- 4 Meet Thea, Norway's 12-year-old child bride
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
£30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...
£13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...