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.
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.”
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
52 thoughts on ““I was attacked by a dragon and survived””
I hadn’t realised they were so dangerous! Sends shivers down your spine.
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!!
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:)!
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.
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!
I know – so brave! I would be straight out of there and off to a job serving cocktails on a beach somewhere!
Crazy story…I will never sit down at my desk without checking underneath again!
Are there many man-eating reptiles in your office? 🙂
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…
Tail – boom tish! 🙂
I wouldn’t be too paranoid… unless you happen to be in Komodo National Park, that is…
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.
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!
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…
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! 🙂
Jeepers – the bit about heading outside to find more dragons circling was probably the worst! They don’t look exactly cuddly…
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!
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!
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!
And they you all were running around between them snapping photos. Damn could have killed off some of the competition!
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…!
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!
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!
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.
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!
Uncanny, I read this story after watching the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, where they had a Komodo dragon scene.
I’ve heard about that! It sounds like a cool scene. I can’t wait to see it!
What a crazy story! Glad he’s ok!
He seems to be doing ok. Although the whole thing clearly still rattles him a bit.
He’s a lucky man, good job help arrived before the rest of the dragons.
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.
But i think komodo dragon is funny !
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!
This is an incredibly well written story, Michael. I could imagine the entire scene in my head while I was reading. Good job!
It must have been terrifying for poor Maen. I hope that came across!
Woow ! You’ve visited many countries including Indonesia ! I am Indonesian and I’m so happy that you wrote about my country ! 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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.
Really great article about a really great place to see – i rate Komodo national park (with dragons, snorkelling with manta rays & basking on the pink beach) as one of the best travel destinations (ever)…
What did they use to cure this komodo bite?
To be honest, I’m not sure. He had a lot of treatment in hospital but am not sure of the exact details, I’m afraid.
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I understand Michael’s fear. I came across a Komodo in one of the Sunda Strait Islands. I was coming back, along with a few friends from a hike on the Krakatoa volcano. We had decided to have lunch on the island when suddenly we saw a 1,5 meters long komodo approaching. It obviouly was attracted by our hamburgers and fruits. We were more frightful by this animal than by the active volcano !
I love animals and I am interested in learning all about different animals hope to learn more. did the Komodo dragon bite hurt?
The Komodo dragon bite hurts A LOT!! But what is even worse than the pain of the bite is the infection that it causes (and would kill you within a couple of days).
It hurts more than you could imagine – their venom contains a component just for that purpose called AVIT, which induces hyperalgesia. Google what that means… https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/17vk7XNSBPgCr026LtFjCzY3KjWzvinzB
Oops, that was a link to my research archive on monitor lizards.. Here’s the relevant article I intended to share. 🙂 https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ELYpzVQG7FS7C2cKVnIy4N6-AtPmYDfO/view?usp=sharing
Hi, there I know how you feel a Copple of years back while my brother Jay was in the Navy with the boot camp training we had his cat Leeroy ,he got out one day and I wanted too look for him, well sadly I got attacked by one ,and if it was not for James my hubby, he found me all scratched -up from the dragon , I hope that I will never re-live that moment ever again.
Did you get komodo dragon antivenom mean? because komodo dragons are venomous.