11 Facts About The Komodo Dragon, Indonesia's National Animal

Komodo dragon
Komodo dragon | © Gary Ullah/Flickr
Henry Guyer

Once creatures that inspired myths and folklore, little was actually known about the world’s largest lizards: Indonesia’s Komodo dragons. Endemic to Komodo Island in East Nusa Tenggara, these ancient beasts have always instilled as much fear as they have scientific intrigue. It has only been in the recent past that we have dispelled certain myths and learned the truth about Komodo dragons. And, as it turns out, the truth is often stranger than any fiction we can come up with.

Loved by over 40s

Komodo dragons are actually venomous

While their deadly and unique toxins had erroneously been attributed to their saliva, a 2009 study found that Komodo dragons excrete venom through ducts in their mouth into the wounds they have created in their preys’ flesh. Although their victims might get away, the venom slowly and painfully paralyzes and kills them over a day’s time at most.

The Komodo dragon

Komodos “hunt” using their tongues

Their taste buds are so immaculately evolved that Komodo dragons can taste the air and differentiate between the particles left behind by different animals. While their eyesight and olfactory senses are quite poor, their split, forked tongues can track down their dying victims or carrion over distances of up to 9 km away.

Cannibalism is normal

Not only are they cannibalistic, but Komodos are known for eating their own offspring. After the eggs hatch, baby Komodos instinctively climb high up in any trees to avoid being eaten by their mothers or other nearby Komodos. They can remain up in the trees until they are four years old, when they return to the ground and can then live up to 30 years old.

Komodo dragons

Younger Komodos hide their smell

Another method for escaping cannibalistic adults, younger Komodos have been found to cover themselves in feces and the intestines of dead animals. As Komodos rely on their sense of taste and smell, it is an effective way to avoid being eaten.

Komodos are grave robbers

As avid scavengers, Komodo dragons have been known to dig up human graves and feast on the rotting carcasses. In order to protect the deceased, locals cover the graves of their loved ones with rocks to avoid Komodo tomb raiders.

They can give virgin births

Komodos are parthenogenetic, meaning females are able to conceive without the aid of male sperm. Instead, their egg cells can fertilize each other, as has occurred with Komodo dragons living in captivity. Interestingly, however, Komodos can also reproduce sexually. Whether they choose to reproduce sexually or asexually depends on the conditions of their environment.

Two at once

They swallow goats

With a massive appetite for meat, Komodos are entirely carnivorous and can eat up to 80% of their bodyweight. They have been recorded swallowing entire goats in one sitting, ramming the carcass up against a tree to aid in swallowing their food. Despite their size and appetite, however, the metabolism of Komodo dragons is very slow. This allows them to subsist on as little as 12 meals per year, albeit quite large meals at that.

Komodo dragons have island gigantism

Today, they are the largest lizards still in existence. The largest Komodo ever recorded was over 3 meters (10 feet) long and weighed 166 kg (366 lb). On average, however, these giants measure at around 6 feet (1.8 meters) for females and 8 to 9 feet ( 2.4 to 2.7 meters) for males. Their massive size is attributed to them being the apex predator around the islands in which they inhabit and, therefore, having no predators of their own to contend with.

Visiting Rinca and Komodo

Komodos are avid swimmers

Not only can they climb and run rather fast (almost as fast as humans), Komodos have also added the ability to swim to their predatory repertoire. While in search of food or partners, Komodos can easily swim around the islands of East Nusa Tenggara, mainly those of Komodo, Flores, Rinca, Padar, and Gili Motang.

Komodo dragons are ancient

They have been around a very long time. Though only discovered by Europeans in 1910, Komodos are considered a relict of giant lizards that have existed in Flores for at least 900,000 years. And fossils similar to Komodo dragons have been dated 3.8 million years old.

Komodos can also be playful

In the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C., an adult Komodo known as Kraken began showing signs of playfulness with various objects as well as with its caretakers. Kraken showed clear signs of interest, curiosity, and play without any aggression or motivation for food, playing tug-of-war and with objects such as shoelaces, Frisbees, boxes, and blankets.

Whether it is myth or fact, these ancient beasts have thoroughly deserved their reputation as real-life dragons. With further studies, who knows what else we will learn from the Komodo?

Komodo dragon
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.


Keen to explore the world?

Our passionately curated premium small-group trips are an invitation to connect with like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.