Komodo Dragons, Big Sticks and Menstruation
Komodo dragons. They are scary buggers. Just read this news story, or this one. Or this bizarre story involving Sharon Stone and a Komodo dragon. These prehistoric-like creatures draw crowds to the Western shores of Flores where boats depart from the town of Labuan Bajo and head out to sea to Rinca Island and Komodo Island where the lizards do dwell. Tourists from around the world come to visit the dragons, found nowhere else in the wild, and snorkel and dive in the amazingly clear waters. It was one of those places I knew I had to see while living in Indonesia.
When I told friends and colleagues back in Jakarta I was going to visit Komodo National Park, several of the women I told paused and giggled. I knew they wanted to tell me something, so I prodded them. “Well just make sure you don’t have your period,” one woman finally told me. I was confused. “They can smell the blood and will attack you.” I left the office that day terrified that I would be attacked by dragons. So I did what any person would do and went home and Googled. I decided this was probably somewhat of an urban myth and that I would be fine.
On the day of my arrival in Labuan Bajo everything was fine in the lady department, but the journalist side got the better of me and I decided I would ask my new guide, an Indonesian male, all about this whole situation. I had even had a male friend in Jakarta mention it to me, so this was either one big urban legend or there was some truth to it.
As we sailed away from Labuan Bajo, surrounded by beautiful blue seas, I said, “I have a question about the dragons and women.” I was afraid I was asking a delicate question that might embarrass my guide, but the opposite proved to be true. I had noticed many small huts along the shores of islands we passed on the way out to Rinca Island. My guide informed me that Komodo dragons have an amazing sense of smell and definitely pick up blood. The women who live on Rinca and Komodo must be very careful when they get their period. My guide told me women tend to stay inside for about a week and carefully burn all waste so the dragons don’t pick up a scent and come running. It is also the reason why no women can be park rangers on Rinca or Komodo Island.
When we landed on Rinca Island, we were immediately handed large sticks. If a dragon got too close, we were supposed to hit them in a sensitive spot: their nose.
Komodo dragons really are impressive creatures. Our first stop of the day was the ranger station. A ranger would walk with us on the island: the more sticks the better I say. When the rangers found out I spoke some Indonesian, they immediately started joking with me and lamenting how much they miss women because they have to work only with men. Then they started telling me horror stories (exactly what I wanted to hear before going to look for the blood thirsty creatures).
The dragons enjoy hanging around the ranger station because there is a kitchen. The young ranger told me about how a dragon came into their station through the swinging door (why do they have swinging doors? And not bolts and locks?) and the one ranger in the office was so deep into paperwork he didn’t notice. Unfortunately, he was bitten and immediately had to be airlifted to Bali to start all the needed antibiotics. These dragons have so much bacteria in their mouths, their bites are known to be deadly, especially if not treated very soon after the bite.
As we walked the island, our ranger pointed out the remains of Komodo dinners past:
While I visited in July it was mating season. This female was sitting by a nest where she may have laid some eggs come September:
After a tense hour of hiking around and clutching my anti-Komodo stick, we sailed back towards Labuan Bajo. I enjoyed sugary jasmine tea and mango slices while I watched the sky turn the most beautiful shades:
The next day we’d head out to Komodo Island…