When I first registered the existence of Komodo dragons, I was 8 years old, reading on my bed. It was a simple moment, but it made an impact. Here was a real monster. It was huge, quick, and its bite was deadly. I was just beginning to understand the concept of a mile, so the idea that a Komodo smells blood from 2.5 miles away felt otherworldly.
Backpacking in 2005, I made it my mission to see one of these dragons in the wild. It wasn’t easy; I had to hop a string of buses, taxis, and ferries before hitching a ride on a charter boat to the island of Rinca, Indonesia. Once there, I had two choices: Take an hour-long tour or stay until the next boat arrived five days later. I stayed.