Getting close to a Komodo Dragon was Rob’s child dream. I know it sounds weird, but since his mom gave him a National Geographic magazine with an article about the Komodo National Park in Indonesia, he has been dreaming of visiting this part of the world. Took him 20 years, but finally he was going on a trip to Komodo Island, and not only to get close to the Komodo dragons, but also to do a bunch of adventurous activities.
I went on a group trip around Indonesia, and while I was cruising the jungles of Borneo searching for orangutans, and exploring the underwater paradise of Wakatobi, Rob was in Bali doing his best: surfing and blogging. But after 10 days apart [the longest period we have ever stayed far from each other] he joined me, and together we crossed off two items from our Indonesia travel bucket list: a trip to Komodo Island and the spectacular trekking in Padar Island.
This post is all about turning travel dreams to reality. After an amazing trip to Komodo Island we decided to publish this practical and inspiring travel guide to help you to plan your dream trip to the Komodo National Park, and enjoy the nature in all its glory.
Located close to Flores Island in Indonesia, the Komodo National Park is much more than dragons. It’s a place with unique fauna and flora, beautiful from the top of the mountains to the bottom of the sea. So, what are the amazing things to in Komodo Island? How to get to Komodo? Where to stay in the National Park? Can we get close to the Komodo dragons? Is it risky?? The answer for all theses questions and postcard photos will convince you that Komodo Island must be your next holiday destination!
Things to do in Komodo Island – Dragons, Diving and Trekking
The Komodo National Park is formed by three big islands: Komodo Island, Rinca Island and Padar Island, plus a few other islets, a total of 2,321 Km2 of protected land and sea. On 1986, Komodo National Park was declared World Heritage Site and Man and Biosphere Reserve by Unesco, because only in this area we can find the Komodo dragon, the largest species of living lizard in the world. An estimated total of 5,700 dragons that call this stunning part of Indonesia as their home.
The Komodo dragons are the star of the show, but the natural spectacle in Komodo National Park goes beyond those dangerous lizards. All the top things to do in Komodo Islands are related to nature, so be prepared for an overdose of stunning views, crystal clear water, colored corals, curious fishes, giant bats, sun and sweat. The perfect combination for an unforgettable adventure trip. When planning your trip to Komodo Island, don’t miss these top things to do in the Komodo National Park:
> Trekking in Rinca Islands, Searching for Komodo Dragons
Put your trekking boots on, get a hat, a bottle of water and follow the rules. Rinca Island is the second biggest island in the Komodo National Park, and has the second biggest population of Komodo dragons. From Labuan Bajo [the closest tourist town] to Rinca Island took us approximately 2 hours on a speed boat. It’s a long and enjoyable trip, we passed by stunning islets, calm bays and cruised through a beautiful deep blue sea.
At the island we received our first instructions: don’t look directly to the Komodo dragon, keep you head down, walk only in the trail, stay together with your group, one ranger goes in the front the group and the other in the end. Never go to the toilet alone, and girls on their period need extra attention and double security, as the dragons can smell the blood and might attack.
We wanted to get close to a Komodo dragon, but at this point I was pretty sure we should avoid them. And to make the adventure a bit more exciting, our guide [named Komodo Kevin, what I loved] told us that the dragons are venomous. Plus some deadly snakes that are living free in the island.
And you know what was the worst?? After all that frightening talk, Rob’s eyes were shining of excitement. Like a kid, he was ready to trek and find some wild Komodo dragons.
The trekking in Rinca Island was beautiful, the views we got from the top of the hills were stunning and our encounter with the Komodo dragons was more peaceful and gentle than I expected. They were in the mating season, with the females protecting nests, getting ready to lay eggs between August and September.
We spotted two female Komodo dragons guarding the nest, and we found some lazy males sleeping by the ranger’s dormitory and kitchen. The males were quiet because they were still digesting their last dinner, a water buffalo. The trekking in Rinca Island was easy. The terrain was fine, and it wasn’t a long trek, about 1 hour and a half walking in the park. The heat was tough, so don’t forget to bring your sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen.
> Bat Watching & Unforgettable Sunset
Probably you are thinking I’m crazy to tell you that one of the top things to do in Komodo Islands is to go bat watching. To be honest, that was my reaction when our guide mentioned it, especially that I hate bats [and I’m afraid of them]. However I was dead wrong, and I can tell you, don’t skip the bat watching, it’s one of the most amazing sunset experiences you can have.
After the trekking in Rinca Island our boat cruised to the Pulau Kalong island where we stopped in the middle of the sea. I hate bats, but I love sunsets, so I decided to seat on the top of the boat and grab a cold beer. With a premier view, I witnessed the sky become orange, the sun disappeared in the ocean and suddenly hundreds of giant bats started flying from the island in front of us. It was magical! It was spectacular to see those huge bats [also called flying foxes or fruit bats] flying graciously and in a deep silence. We could see those dark wings contrasting with the orange sky, a scene I never thought I would see.
> Trekking in Padar Island, One of The Best Views in Indonesia
The first day of our trip to the Komodo Island was all about dragons and wildlife. The second day was all about my travel dreams, so early morning we jumped on a boat and cruised to Padar Island. Our two hours boat trip from Labuan Bajo to Padar Island was filled with sunbathing, dolphins swimming along the boat and some water splashes. During my adventure trip in Indonesia I think I have spent more time on boats than on land and loved it!
When we anchored in Padar Island, the hills seemed to be way higher than I expected. I read it was supposed to be an easy trekking, but it looked way steeper than I imagined. Shoes on and let’s do it. I was there for the view, and I wouldn’t leave without my dream photo.
To reach the summit we walked almost one hour. The terrain was tough, sandy and with some loose rocks, you need strength and balance to keep moving up. But for every step, every meter you go up, the view you get from the island and the beaches around gives you the power to keep moving. You gonna sweat, you gonna be tired, and you gonna be in ecstasy when you arrive at the top. So far, one of the most rewarding trekking trails I have ever done. Checked! Padar Island hills you are mine now!
After all that exercise, it was time to rush down for a well deserved and cooling sea dip. The second day of our trip to Komodo Island was only beginning.
> Visit the Komodo Island, Home of Over 3 Thousand Komodo Dragons
Ready for more dragons? The Komodo Island is the biggest island in the National Park and has the biggest population of dragons. What means that Rob was excited again. Our guide reinforced all the rules we learned during our trekking in Rinca Island and we were ready to go.
We got off from the boat and followed the rangers, a quick stop to snap a photo with an old dragon. While we were taking photos our group split. Suddenly it was Rob, me, Valerie, the old dragon sleeping by our side, and a young dragon turning some trash cans about 20 meters from us.
We saw our group far away, walking towards the beach. OMG, we were left behind, and without a ranger!!! Our reaction was to walk in line, Rob looking in the front, Valerie and I looking to sides and to the back. The adrenaline rush made us walk fast, and in a few minutes we reached the group, just in time to witness a huge Komodo dragon walking on the beach and eating fish. SCARYYYYYY!!!!
> Pink Beach, Snorkeling and Scuba Diving in Komodo National Park
As I said before, a trip to Komodo Island is packed with adventure and natural beauty, and Pink Beach is the perfect combination of both. This little piece of paradise is famous for the pinkish sand, a mix of white sand and little pieces of red corals brought by the waves. A surreal scenery, with a transparent warm sea, and an immense amount of colored fishes and preserved coral.
The trees by the beach make it the perfect spot for relaxing and sunbathing, but if you are still seeking for more adventure, Pink Beach won’t disappoint you. It’s time to discover the underwater biodiversity of Komodo National Park. In Pink Beach or close by your can do snorkeling and scuba diving, pick your favorite and enjoy hours of fun.
Some friends went diving in Komodo National Park and loved it. They dived in the Manta Alley point searching for Manta Rays. Unfortunately, they didn’t see the Mantas, but ended up swimming with sea turtles and even a shark came to say hello.
As I’m not a diver, I stayed at Pink Beach for some serious snorkeling. Hours swimming with fishes, beautiful corals and with great visibility. I couldn’t believe how rich and preserved the corals are and only a few meters from the shore. A happy surprise that kept Rob and I busy for the whole afternoon. The Komodo dragons are the main attraction of the National Park, but snorkeling and diving in Komodo Island come in second place, attracting many travelers every year.
How to Plan a Trip to Komodo Island in Indonesia?
To start planning your trip to Komodo Island you first need to think about time. The best time to visit the Komodo National Park is during the dry season, from April to December. You can trek in the park and see the Komodo dragons all year around, although between July to August and September to November the dragons are less active due to the mating and nesting seasons. I was there in July, the weather was perfect, hot, sunny, and we got to see some dragons, overall it was a great experience even being during a quiet month.
Second important question: how long should be your trip to Komodo Island? We spent two days and a half in the park and it was enough to enjoy the top attractions of Komodo National Park. I would say to do at least a two days trip from Labuan Bajo to the Komodo Islands, then one more day to relax. If you are going to the National Park for some serious diving, I suggest staying a bit longer.
> How to get to Komodo Islands?
The closest town to the Komodo National Park is Labuan Bajo, a tiny fisherman village that is also a growing hub for tourists. There are daily flights from Jakarta and Bali to Labuan Bajo, and I would suggest you to book an early morning trip so you can arrive in Komodo Airport before midday and still enjoy the park.
You can search and book your flight to Labuan Bajo via Skyscanner, they have many Indonesian local airlines listed, you can compare prices and choose the best for you. Skyscanner is also a good option for booking your tickets in and out Indonesia. Another great tool is Kiwi.com very visual to find nearby airports.
Once you arrive in Labuan Bajo airport you can take a taxi to town, or be smart and ask your hotel to pick you up.
> How to choose the best Komodo Tour from Labuan Bajo to Rinca & Padar Island?
You can only visit the Komodo National Park with an official guide and a park ranger. So you need to book a tour operator that will organize the boat trip between the islands, the guide, and also to handle the park fees. There are many tour companies in Labuan Bajo, you can arrive there and browse around till you find one that suits your travel plans and budget. Or you can book everything in advance and start your trip to Komodo island saving time and energy, here you can find a list of the best tours from Labuan Bajo to Komodo Islands.
To plan the costs of your trip to Komodo Island keep in mind that a speed boat tour is more expensive than the wooden boat. And if you want to cut the expenses, a tour on a shared boat can be a good option. The Komodo Tours from Labuan Bajo can cost around 750 usd for a private speedboat or 100 usd for group tour [prices including meals and snacks]. On top of that, you need to add the Komodo National Park entrance fee [11usd weekdays and 17 usd on weekends]. Depending on the activities you want to do in the park you also need to pay additional fees, nothing major, for scuba diving, the most expensive one, the fee costs about 2 usd per person.
Where to stay in Komodo National Park – Labuan Bajo?
Labuan Bajo is a tiny town, and it’s the best place to stay in the Komodo National Park. The accommodation in Labuan Bajo varies a lot, from hostel to resorts, with some middle range options too. The best websites to search and book a hotel in Komodo Island are Booking and Agoda. Before booking your hotel in Labuan Bajo read the reviews carefully to check the location and what is included. As you will be exploring the park during the whole day I suggest you to book a room with breakfast so you won’t spend time looking for a place to eat before boarding on the tour.
We stayed at Laprima Hotel in Labuan Bajo and we had great nights. The room was spacious, clean, with our own balcony and a fantastic sunset view. If you want to spend some time in the hotel, you can enjoy the pool, the garden and the beach front. Breakfast was good and the staff helpful. It’s a great value for money, all you need for an adventure trip without spending a lot!
More Travel Tip to Komodo Islands:
- Pack light, the aircrafts flying to Komodo Island are small, and the luggage allowance is smaller than international flights.
- If you suffer from seasickness bring some medicines. You gonna spend at least half of the day cruising between the islands.
- A strong mosquito repellent sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are a must. Remember to bring everything with you on the boat.
- You don’t need to bring proper trekking clothes to your trip to Komodo Island. Swimsuit, shorts and t-shirts are fine but a pair of running shoes or trekking boots are essential. You must protect your feet, especially when trekking in Padar Island and Rinca island.
- Bring your camera gear! A good zoom lenses can help to capture a close-up shot from the dragons, and the fisheye lenses are perfect for those landscape photos on the top of the hills. Don’t forget the underwater camera, we used our GoPro Hero4 and took stunning pictures.
- Now the most important advice: always follow the park rules and the rangers instructions. And never forget, respect the animals and protect nature!!
Do you like the post?! Pin it for Later!!!
Are you ready for this ultimate adventure? Now it’s you time to plan a trip to Komodo Island! Choose your travel dates, book the flights, the hotel and the tour. If you still have doubts about how to travel to Komodo National Park ask us in the comments below. Also share your Komodo travel experiences, we love to hear great stories!!
Need more Indonesia Travel Tips? Check out our blog posts and adventures in this wonderful country:
> Cruising & Trekking in the Borneo Jungle: Tanjung Puting National Park and the Wild Orangutans
PS: This trip was organized by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. As usual, doesn’t matter who pays the bill, you receive my honest opinion and impression.