Sunrise Over Komodo:  Expedition Leader Lucho Verdesoto perfectly timed our arrival to coincide with the peak activity level of fabled Komodo Dragons. Motoring ashore in the cool of the morning, we were greeted on the beach by the armored welcome committee. Dragging their tails through the sand and licking at the air with a forked tongue, the dragons are the lords of their domain. Searching for tidal delectables, the muscular lizards strutted through the intertidal zone, keeping a close eye on the awestruck spectators.

We’re led through the forest by well-trained park rangers, each of whom wielded a forked stick to fend off aggressive dragons. Like knights of old, these brave guardians remain alert to every sight and sound in the forest. Commotion in the dry brush signaled the arrival of an adult male dragon eager to quench his thirst at an ephemeral spring. Lesser dragons and spectators cleared the way for this 180lb beast. After slaking his thirst, the dragon raised his head to inspect the surrounding onlookers, each of whom took a few cautious steps back. Instinctively if not overcautiously, we all looked up to the trees, wondering how quickly we could clamber up the branches to stay just out of reach of the world’s largest lizard.