“I was attacked by a dragon and survived”

komodo dragon, attack, are komodo dragons dangerous, can they kill humans

“I was attacked by a dragon and survived”

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This is the website of travel writer, Michael Turtle. After working in broadcast journalism for a decade in Australia, Michael left Sydney to travel the world indefinitely and write about his discoveries.

Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Maen still has nightmares about that morning. About those few minutes in which he almost died. About the time he was attacked by a man-eating reptile and had to fight it off to save his life.

“I don’t like to tell more my story because when I tell again, when I’m sitting alone, I remember,” he says, softly and humbly. “I would like to try to forget this story.”

But Maen, the quiet-spoken middle-aged Indonesian, has agreed to tell me his tale so I can share it. He thinks it’s important for people to understand the dangers of the Komodo dragons.

komodo dragon, attack, are komodo dragons dangerous, can they kill humans

It was 2009 and Maen had been working here on Rinca Island in Komodo National Park as a ranger for about a year when he went into the office that morning. The small wooden building in the main camp looked the same as usual and he went in and sat at the desk. It was then he looked down.

“I saw the dragon under this table and my leg was here like this”, Maen tells me as he demonstrates how his leg was near the drawers under the desk.

“I don’t use the shoes – just sandals. So after I saw the dragon I think ‘what do I do?’. But in my feeling, I have to pull my leg away.”

komodo dragon, attack, are komodo dragons dangerous, can they kill humans

At the time he wasn’t thinking about how the animal had ended up inside. As it later turned out, a cleaner had left the door open and the Komodo dragon had come in overnight looking for food. Clearly it had now found what it was looking for.

“I think that if I not pull my leg, the dragon will bite and swallow”, Maen goes on.

“So I tried to pull my leg but the dragon follow and I look and see a tail moving over there. And I think this is a problem for me. And I pull my leg too fast and it got trapped in the table and then the dragon bite.”

The dragon didn’t let go. With its mouth clenched shut, teeth ripping into his flesh, Maen had to think fast. He put his other foot onto the neck of the dragon, pinning it down slightly. Then using his hands, he grabbed the animal’s mouth and pulled it open. He managed to pull his leg free from its jaws – but one of his hands got bitten in the struggle.

komodo dragon, attack, are komodo dragons dangerous, can they kill humans

During all of this he had managed to shout out for help. The camp the rangers live in is quite small but most of them were in the kitchen and couldn’t hear him. Only one person, in the cafeteria, was close enough.

“I shouted and he came to help me but he didn’t like to come up because the dragon was still moving around”, Maen explains.

“Then he saw the blood on the floor and he got everyone from the kitchen. All the people come running here, but other dragons follow along as well.”

komodo dragon, attack, are komodo dragons dangerous, can they kill humans

Komodo dragons have a remarkable ability to smell blood – sometimes even kilometres away – and so they had been drawn by Maen’s injuries. While some rangers tried to control these new arrivals, two others ran into the office to rescue their injured friend and hold off the dragon inside.

“So then they carry me down but there were lots of dragons down here”, he recalls.

“There were about seven dragons, all bigger, waiting there. One other friend pushed away all the dragons with a stick. Then they took me to a jetty and go to Flores Island and get medicine in the hospital.”

komodo dragon, attack, are komodo dragons dangerous, can they kill humans

Maen was taken to hospital at Flores Island, a short boat journey away, before being flown to Bali where he had six hours of emergency treatment. He stayed in hospital there for seven days and then was flown back to Flores Island where he had six months of recovery.

Now, just a couple of years later, he’s still working on Rinca Island in the middle of the Komodo National Park. An island with thousands of Komodo dragons living in the wild.

“My boss said ‘what about you? do you want to work here or another place?’ and I say ‘no problem’”

But it’s not really ‘no problem’. Maen only works inside now so he doesn’t have to deal with the animals directly. He can’t write for too long, though, because his hand still gets so sore from the injuries.

komodo dragon, attack, are komodo dragons dangerous, can they kill humans

He has a respect for the dragon, telling me, “the dragon – he’s an animal but he’s thinking like people.” And he knows it is still out there somewhere, potentially circling the camp on any day.

“The dragon, I can’t remember which one, he’s still alive”, Maen says,” but I think now he’ll be bigger. If he had a bigger neck then, I couldn’t have hold it open.”

And that could have been the difference between life and death. Let’s hope they never come face to face again.

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

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43 Comments
  • Linda McCormick | Oct 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I hadn’t realised they were so dangerous! Sends shivers down your spine.
    Linda McCormick recently posted..Watching a Stairway to the Moon Appear in BroomeMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      Oh my, they are certainly dangerous! They would probably prefer to eat a deer or a buffalo – but they’re happy with a human if that’s what is around!!

  • Vera | Oct 30, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Oh man, they look so cuddly, these little dinosaurs – I could have imagined that they would attack humans when they feel threatened, but not that they regard them as potential food source. Well, this teaches once again to keep your distance – a precaution of which the meaning has been kinda lost to our society after all the Disney movies;) Animals think and react differently to us – and rightfully so. I remember that story of a kid in Australia being killed by a croc, and when it was found (the croc), the child’s parents spoke out against killing it, because it just did what’s in its’ nature. It didn’t think: “Today I’m gonna destroy a family”, it just looked for something to eat and found it. I think people often humanize animals too much which only leads to, sorry, crap. I’m still really impressed with the parents; I think that was very big of them. Anyway, I’m glad Maen is okay – I really love this sort of article where you ‘meet’ real people from all over the world and get a feel for who they are by listening to a story out of their life! Thank you, Michael, great post:)!
    Vera recently posted..Home away from home: another tale of tea and toiletsMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      I’m sure they are cuddly. And I’m sure you could go and give one a little hug if you wanted. You might want to then get yourself quickly to hospital so you didn’t die from the bacteria in their saliva. I’m sure Maen could give you some advice.

  • Jennifer | Oct 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    I guess I didn’t realize that komodo dragons see people as a source of food and would just attack. What a brave man to continue working on the island after an experience like that. Thanks for sharing his story!
    Jennifer recently posted..Parco Natura Viva: Verona Wild Animal ParkMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 31, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      I know – so brave! I would be straight out of there and off to a job serving cocktails on a beach somewhere!

  • D.J. - The World of Deej | Oct 30, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Crazy story…I will never sit down at my desk without checking underneath again!
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..The Tree-to-Tree Adventure at Tallahassee MuseumMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 31, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      Are there many man-eating reptiles in your office? :)

  • Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey | Oct 31, 2012 at 4:12 am

    Great. Now I’m paranoid about what’s lurking under the plastic table I’m calling my “desk” today…Great lede. Scary story but probably a necessary cautionary tail. I mean tale. Apparently you’re not the only one who’s got a few bad jokes in them…
    Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey recently posted..Supermodels and Surf – Malpais & Santa Teresa, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa RicaMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Tail – boom tish! :)
      I wouldn’t be too paranoid… unless you happen to be in Komodo National Park, that is…

  • Cathy Sweeney | Oct 31, 2012 at 4:57 am

    Wow, what an interesting story Maen has to tell. I really got goose bumps reading about the other dragons being attracted by the smell of blood. Scary.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Scary in SpainMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Yeah, that’s one of the scariest bits. If the other rangers hadn’t been there then he could’ve had seven or eight of the things attacking him at once. You would not stand a chance!

  • Matthew Karsten | Oct 31, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Yeah, 7 dragons closing in for the kill? That would give me nightmares later too. Especially knowing that “the one” is still out there somewhere…

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 31, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      If I was Maen, I would be looking each of them closely in the eye trying to work out which one it was. I feel like this feud is not over yet! :)

  • Laurence | Oct 31, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Jeepers – the bit about heading outside to find more dragons circling was probably the worst! They don’t look exactly cuddly…
    Laurence recently posted..Home away from home: another tale of tea and toiletsMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      No, cuddly is certainly not how I would describe them. Just when you’ve fought off one of them, it would be terrifying to then be faced with another whole group of dragons!

  • The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) | Nov 1, 2012 at 2:37 am

    This is absolutely horrifying. The poor guy — but glad he was willing to share his story. I can’t believe they could smell the blood like that and that so many came and so quickly!
    The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) recently posted..The time we got a medical exam in China and there was a hole in my pee cupMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      That’s how the Komodo dragons stalk their prey. Often they will just bite another animal and then follow it (by smelling its blood) until it dies. Creepy!

  • Cole @ FourJandals.com | Nov 1, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    And they you all were running around between them snapping photos. Damn could have killed off some of the competition!
    Cole @ FourJandals.com recently posted..Travellers Guide to an All You Can Eat BuffetMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 2, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      You joke – but it was a bit scary. I would be concentrating on taking a shot and then look up to see a dragon had come up behind me. Thankfully the rangers were there and wouldn’t let them get close. But you never know…!

  • Raymond @ Man On The Lam | Nov 3, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Poor chap! I think a lot of people have the impression that komodos are like over-sized geckos, but really they can maim and kill if pushed to it. Great writing!
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..5 Quirky Things to Do in Cancun, MexicoMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 4, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      Once you’ve come this close to them, you’ll never call one a gecko again. When they rush suddenly, and you’re just a couple of metres away, it really gets the adrenaline pumping!

  • Jeremy Branham | Nov 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Not a situation I would want to be in. I’ve been stung by a jellyfish but not quite the same. Komodo dragons are fascinating creatures and that element of death makes them intriguing. Glad Maen didn’t die but not sure I would still want to work there.
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Get off the phone! My plea to society and travelersMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      I think you would have to be a certain type of person to work there in the first place – probably the kind of person who would go back after an attack!

  • Elmer Cruz | Nov 9, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Uncanny, I read this story after watching the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, where they had a Komodo dragon scene.
    Elmer Cruz recently posted..Tangled Up in Blue – A Visit to Crater LakeMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 11, 2012 at 9:24 pm

      I’ve heard about that! It sounds like a cool scene. I can’t wait to see it!

  • Mary@Green Global Travel | Nov 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    What a crazy story! Glad he’s ok!
    Mary@Green Global Travel recently posted..ECO NEWS: NY Aquarium Needs Help After Sandy’s DevastationMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      He seems to be doing ok. Although the whole thing clearly still rattles him a bit.

  • BlogDaz | Nov 21, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    He’s a lucky man, good job help arrived before the rest of the dragons.
    BlogDaz recently posted..Thailand Land Of FaceMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm

      I would hate to think about what would happen if nobody else was around. They have a rule in the camp that people aren’t allowed to sleep outside in case the dragons are about. I guess everyone is watching out for each other to a certain extent.

  • Meeting the Dragons at Komodo Island and Swimming at Pink Beach | Nov 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    [...] looking after an environment and an animal that perhaps does not have his best interests at heart. [Michael recounts his story far better than I could.] It’s a harsh place. On a hot day in a spot without shade the sun can make you stroke out before [...]

  • John @ Vietnam tours | Jan 21, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    But i think komodo dragon is funny !

    • Michael Turtle | Feb 6, 2013 at 12:31 am

      I don’t think it would be so funny when one of them is racing towards you trying to take a bite out of your leg!

  • The Most Infamous Komodo Dragon Attacks of the Past 10 Years | Surprising Science | Jan 25, 2013 at 7:52 am

    [...] he came to help me but he didn’t like to come up because the dragon was still moving around,” Maen explained to travel writer Michael Turtle, of Time Travel Turtle. “Then he saw the blood on the floor and he got everyone from the kitchen. All the people come [...]

  • A Montrealer Abroad (@amontrealer) | Feb 8, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    This is an incredibly well written story, Michael. I could imagine the entire scene in my head while I was reading. Good job!
    A Montrealer Abroad (@amontrealer) recently posted..The 16 Most Inspiring Travel QuotesMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Feb 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      It must have been terrifying for poor Maen. I hope that came across!

  • 7 Brutal Animal Attacks People Somehow Survived | Mar 2, 2013 at 7:28 am

    [...] the world’s largest (living) reptile on a regular basis. But in 2009, a ranger known as Maen encountered a Komodo dragon in a rather unlikely place – the small space under his office desk. Maen reacted as any [...]

  • Andrea Amanda | Jun 23, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Woow ! You’ve visited many countries including Indonesia ! I am Indonesian and I’m so happy that you wrote about my country ! :)

    • Michael Turtle | Jun 23, 2013 at 10:41 pm

      I loved Indonesia. Such a beautiful country with such a variety of things to offer! I can’t wait to go back and explore more of it as soon as possible.

  • Viola | Nov 25, 2013 at 2:11 am

    Hello! I am Viola from Philippines. It is a nice article, I saw your blog also about your visit to Komodo Island. I am planning a trip there because its in my bucket list to see up close this timeless creatures. Any advise? what to wear during the trip and what to bring? and how much did it cost the trip there =) thank you for sharing!

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 29, 2013 at 12:41 am

      Hi Viola. You’ll love Komodo – and it’s not really too far for you to get there either, which is very lucky!
      In terms of what to wear, good sturdy shoes are important but beyond that just whatever you are comfortable in. You’ll probably want some sunscreen too and some insect repellent in case. The trip prices can vary depending on exactly how you want to do it. I would recommend at least two days – and there are lots of trips leaving from Flores that can offer that. The best thing is to have a look online a some Komodo packages leaving from Flores and find something that suits your style.

  • Narre | Jan 13, 2014 at 6:47 am

    I can’t believe that guy still went back after that horrific experience. Knowing how dangerous those dragons are, i myself wouldnt even dare to visit Komodo Island.

  • Brutal Animal Encounters | Apr 8, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    […] the world’s largest (living) reptile on a regular basis. But in 2009, a ranger known as Maen encountered a Komodo dragon in a rather unlikely place – the small space under his office desk. Maen reacted as any […]

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