Komodo Island, Nusa Tenggara
Komodo Island is the Park to conserve the unique Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) and its habitat.
The island which covers an area of 390km² is part of Komodo National Park and is especially known for its native Komodo Dragon – the world’s largest living lizard.
Komodo National Park
Komodo National Park lies in the Wallacea Region of Indonesia, identified by WWF and Conservation International as a global conservation priority area. The Park is located between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores at the border of the Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) and Nusa Tenggara Barat (NTB) provinces. It includes three major islands, Komodo, Rinca and Padar, and numerous smaller islands together totaling 603 km2 of land. The total size of Komodo National Park is presently 1,817 km2. Proposed extensions of 25 km2 of land (Banta Island) and 479 km2 of marine waters would bring the total surface area up to 2,321 km2
In 1986, the Park was declared a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, both indications of the Park’s biological importance.
The park was initially established to conserve the unique Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), first discovered by the scientific world in 1911 by J.K.H. Van Steyn. Since then conservation goals have expanded to protecting its entire biodiversity, both marine and terrestrial.
The majority of the people in and around the Park are fishermen originally from Bima (Sumbawa), Manggarai, South Flores, and South Sulawesi. Those from South Sulawesi are from the Suku Bajau or Bugis ethnic groups. The Suku Bajau were originally nomadic and moved from location to location in the region of Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara and Maluku, to make their livelihoods. Descendents of the original people of Komodo, the Ata Modo, still live in Komodo, but there are no pure blood people left and their culture and language is slowly being integrated with the recent migrants.
Little is known of the early history of the Komodo islanders. They were subjects of the Sultanate of Bima, although the island’s remoteness from Bima meant its affairs were probably little troubled by the Sultanate other than by occasional demand for tribute.
The Komodo Dragon
The Komodo dragon, as befits any creature evoking a mythological beast, has many names. It is also the Komodo monitor, being a member of the monitor lizard family, Varanidae, which today has one genus, Varanus. Residents of the island of Komodo call it the ora. Among some on Komodo and the islands of Rinca and Flores, it is buaya darat (land crocodile), a name that is descriptive but inaccurate; monitors are not crocodilians. Others call it biawak raksasa (giant monitor), which is quite correct; it ranks as the largest of the monitor lizards, a necessary logical consequence of its standing as the largest lizard of any kind now living on the earth…. Within the scientific community, the dragon is Varanus komodoensis. And most everyone calls it simply the Komodo.” Claudio Ciofi
The Komodo dragon is an ancient species whose ancestors date back over 100 million years. The varanid genus originated between 25 and 40 million years ago in Asia. The Komodo descended from this species and evolved to its present form over four million years ago.
The Komodo is long lived (as are most of the larger reptilian species) with an estimated life expectancy of over 50 years in the wild. In keeping with its longevity, the Komodo matures late in life, becoming sexually viable at five to seven years, and achieving maximum body density in fifteen years. Komodos are sexually dimorphous, which means males are bigger than females. The largest recorded specimen was 3.13 meters in length and was undoubtedly a male. Females rarely exceed 2.5 meters in length. What is perhaps more important, is that the characteristic bulk is achieved by older dominant males in clearly delineated territorial areas. As an adult Komodo can consume up to 80% of its body weight in one gorging, weight is a highly variable factor, and is largely dependent on the most recent feeding. A typical weight for an adult Komodo in the wild is 70 kilograms.
Komodo dragons are first and foremost opportunistic carnivores, and predators second. Although the Komodo can sprint briefly at 20 kilometers an hour, it does not chase down game as do the larger mammalian predators. The Komodo is a stealth predator, which lies motionless and camoflouged alongside game trails for the unwary, which tend to be the very young, the old and the infirm. In an attack, the Komodo lunges at its victim with blinding speed and clasps it with the serrated teeth of the jaw. Prey are rarely downed in the initial attack unless the neck is broken or caratoid artery severed. The more likely outcome is escape, followed by death a few hours or days later from septicemia introduced by the virulent strains of bacteria found in the saliva of the Komodo dragon (the Komodo survive primarily on carrion and ingest the bacteria when feeding).
Dive Sites Around Komodo Island
Castle Rock (North Komodo, Gilli Lawa Laut)
Curious batfish as well as schooling barracuda, trevally and mackerels swim at 30- 40m depth. At approximately 20m depth there is excellent soft coral growth and numerous seafans that host pygmy seahorses. The top of the rock is a good, calm place to explore during safety stops. This site usually has excellent visibility but is prone to strong currents. The current usually flows eastwards and is much stronger at the surface than in the deeper water. However, the top of the rock, which is approximately 3 to 4m deep, also offers shelter from the current; hence the name “Castle Rock”.Recommended dive entry point is in blue water approximately 50m up-current from the shallowest point of the reef.
Crystal Rock (North Komodo, Gilli Lawa Laut)
A very colorful dive with excellent soft coral coverage. Clouds of anthias and schools of yellow-ribbon sweetlips are always encountered while frogfish, moray eels and scorpionfish are commonly seen. There is a small mound northwest of the rock where different species of fish school seasonally, including tuna and mackerel. An excellent dive usually worth doing twice. This name of this site is from the very clear water surrounding it. The top of the site is exposed at low tide. This site is prone to currents, which usually flow eastwards. Best time to dive is during slacktide.
Tatawa Kecil (Northeast Komodo)
Rocks, caves and beautiful coral gardens grace the reef on the western side of the islet. Many coral reef fishes including large groupers, snappers, sweetlips, trevally and sharks can be seen. Amazing numbers of anthias swim amongst colorful fields of branching corals. Dugongs have been spotted here and manta rays are often seen on the southern side of the island. This small rocky islet southwest of Tatawa Besar Island is an egret nesting site and a fantastic snorkel and dive site when the current is not too fast. Large or inexperienced groups should only attempt this site around slack tide.
Tatawa Besar (Northeast Komodo)
Good reef fish life and an endless field of orange soft corals. Mantas are often seen in this area. A good drift dive starts at the northwest tip of the island and runs along the western side in about 15- 20 m of water. A similar drift dive is also possible along the north coast of the Tatawa Besar from the same entry point. This site is a good dive option if the current is too strong at Tatawa Kecil or Batu Bolong.