Komodo Dragons is a blog post from the Miscellaneous category.

Komodo Dragons

Posted by Will on

I recently spent three days traveling around the Indonesian islands of Komodo and Rinca, photographing the legendary Komodo dragons.

Preparation for the trip commenced several weeks earlier, as I attempted to devise an effective and safe way of getting wide-angle, close-up shots of these notoriously dangerous creatures. I would not have time to set-up camera traps, and I didn’t have enough room to take BeetleCam, so I came up with something a little more basic!

I mounted my camera on top of two wheels (generously donated by my computer chair) and then attached this to a monopod so that I could push the rig up to the dragons. I figured this would give me a 2 meter head-start if one of them decided I looked like lunch! I named my new contraption “KomodoCam”!

KomodoCam reporting for duty!

Reaching Komodo Island was an epic undertaking… I had to fly to Singapore, then Bali, then the island of Flores, before taking a boat to Komodo Island and Rinca Island. Komodo dragons only live on a few isolated islands in this part of Indonesia.

It is hard to describe the excitement and trepidation I felt as the foreboding volcanic peaks of Komodo Island loomed up in front of me. The island was shrouded in ominous dark clouds and even the sea seemed to have turned black. It really felt like a land lost in time.

Approaching Komodo Island

My first sighting of a Komodo dragon came shortly after venturing off the boat. I was taken aback by the size of the beast! Komodo dragons can grow up to 3 metres in length and can weigh well over 70kg! This individual was lying in the shade. Being cold-blooded, the dragons are caught in a constant thermal juggling act; in the mornings they must find sunlight in order to warm up, but later in the day they must retreat to the shade before their bodies heat up too much.

Slumbering Dragon - notice the butterfly on its claw!

Despite their size, the dragons are surprisingly well camouflaged… in fact, they often rely on their camouflage to ambush prey such as wild pigs (below left), deer (below right) and water buffalo. When suitable prey approaches, the dragon will suddenly charge, sometimes at speeds in excess of 20km per hour, and lunge at the throat or underside of the animal. For larger prey such as buffalo, the dragon will deliver a bite that is not aimed to kill immediately. Instead, the saliva of the dragon is like a petri dish of virulent bacteria which rapidly infects the animal, resulting in a protracted and painful death.

Wild Pig
Timor Deer

Like a snake, the Komodo dragon uses its long, forked tongue to taste the air. Its keen sense of smell allows it to detect a dead or dying animal up to 9km away.

Komodo Dragon tasting the air.

Towards the end of the second day of my trip, an opportunity to use KomodoCam at last presented itself; I came across a large dragon in a flat, open clearing in the forest. I nervously set up the rig and pushed it towards the dragon. The dragon treated the camera with curiosity and obligingly flicked its tongue in and out to investigate the unfamiliar object. To my relief, the beast decided that there was nothing edible and I was spared seeing a Komodo dragon eat my Canon 1Ds mkIII!

A Komodo Dragon eyes KomodoCam menacingly!
A large Komodo Dragon approaching KomodoCam!
A Komodo Dragon investigates KomodoCam!

In the evening of our last day, thousands of raucous flying foxes emerged from the mangrove swamps and flew overhead, towards the interior of the island. They resembled pterodactyls which seemed like a fitting end to my time in this prehistoric land.

Flying Foxes heading towards Komodo Island at dusk.

For more pictures of Komodo Dragons (including ones taken by KomodoCam), please look at our Komodo & Rinca gallery. To receive notification when we post pictures from future wildlife photography projects, please sign up to our free newsletter, you can either subscribe by email or via RSS.

Free Desktop Background!

To thank you for your support, we have decided to make one of our favourite Komodo dragon images (taken by KomodoCam) available as a FREE high-resolution desktop background! To get your new wallpaper now, all you have to do is join our Facebook community by “liking” our page and then click here to access the image download link. Enjoy!

21 Comments

  1. rushh said: June 27, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Awesome shots and cool camera setup . i like the 3rd from top. keep up brothers.

  2. I Wayan Mawa said: June 27, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Beautiful creature, I love the dragon!

  3. John Doyle said: June 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    More great stuff………..Well done again.Regards John

  4. Eleen Lee said: June 27, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Yikes. Those critters are really scary. I was afraid to go see them when I was in Indonesia. I did not want to bring a goat (for bait) and I read that they are very fast and have been known to kill humans. Thank you for posting your extraordinary photos. Do you ever do video?

  5. Benedikt said: June 27, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    great shots :D
    the KomodoCam ist Really Nice :D

  6. Scott Wyden Kivowitz said: June 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Komodo Dragons are my favorite animals. Thank you for sharing these awesome images!

  7. Gene Bowker said: June 27, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I can see a market for that “komodo cam”.

    Great shots!

  8. Simon thackray said: June 27, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Great photos and story. So inspirational, thanks very much.

  9. mahendra sheth said: June 27, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    thanx to burrard lucas for sending knowledgable mails,-the idea & adventures of photographers r also great-great…

  10. Anna said: July 14, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Your photos are absolutely totaly stunning … I love the sunset, that is awesome.. :-)

  11. Photo TipMan said: July 20, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I agree with Gene Bowker’s comments. You could market that “Komodo Cam.” Or at least share the plans on how you built it. You guys are having a blast, following your passion and are quite talented.

    thanks for the inspiration.

  12. CalTek said: July 26, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Amazing shots and a very unique (and clever) way to get them. Thanks for sharing.

  13. zakton said: August 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Awesome shot! I thought you risked yourself from getting licked by the komodo.

  14. Matt said: August 8, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Love the photos, great idea. I’m going to try this.

  15. Kandace Heimer said: August 24, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    The Komodo Dragon shots are superb! I wish I had that Komodo cam when I encountered an eight foot diamondback rattler while shooting migatory birds in South Texas.

    I just heard about you from the Australian Underwater Photographic Society.

  16. Jeffry Oonk said: September 6, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Great shot of the Komodo dragons.
    I love the way you prepared for this photographic journey.

    Back in 1995 I lived in Indonesia, doing research on wild orangutans. Luckily I did visit the Komodos as well.

    I managed to get similar shots but using a slightly more dangerous approach: I lay down on my belly and slowly crawled towards the dragons till I was right underneath the dragons, using a wide-angle lens. I used this photographic position with several individuals without any problem.

    But this technic is not for the faint hearted!

    Thx for posting on this blog

    Jef
    Wild Earth Exclusive Photo Safaris

  17. Akshay Chauhan said: March 7, 2012 at 6:56 am

    It really seems like a Lost World.

  18. komodo said: March 12, 2012 at 9:02 am

    the best animal in INDONESIA..

    i like it…

  19. Hayagreev Oppili said: November 30, 2012 at 3:53 am

    Sir, Your pictures are just fabulous…
    It takes me ten minutes to go to the next picture….
    a humble request, please try to give the information of the picture like F stop, Shutter Speed, ISO, etc.
    it would help me and other young budding photographers.. :) :)
    Thank You!!

  20. Heath Holden. said: July 28, 2013 at 2:59 am

    Love the inventions Will, I’m working on a Tasmanian devil project and have built a couple of camera traps. It’s going well. Keep up the great work!

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