I never knew that there was a Komodo National Park until I started doing research for an Indonesia trip. As a wildlife and nature
nut enthusiast, I had been salivating to see a Komodo dragon for years. I was delighted to find out that this area of Indonesia was a nature lover’s wet dream and that visiting Komodo island was only one of many amazing things to do in Komodo National Park.
First of all, let’s review my favorite subject, geography. Indonesia is comprised of over 17,000 islands. To visit Komodo National park, fly to Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. This is in the region of East Nusa Tenggara, and a one hour flight from Denpasar, Bali. An alternative is to take a boat trip from either Bali or Lombok. These tours stop at several of the sights I am about to describe. It’s great to have options, ain’t it?
There are many hotels and hostels in Labuan Bajo, but I can recommend Le Pirate. It is in a great location, right on the main road, Jl. Soekarno Hatta. You can literally walk across the street and book tours, plus there are diving shops up and down the main street. They have movie night on the roof deck twice a week. The rooms are tiny but you don’t need to be there often! The deck has a great sunset views of the harbor, a little plunge pool, a bar and is a great place to chill and use the sometimes good wifi. The food was pretty good as well (shamelessly, I ate nachos here…and loved them). I was not sponsored, FYI, just really liked it!
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (13,300 IDR = 1 USD)
ATMs are easy to find on the main street in Labuan Bajo. Very few places, if any, take credit card. Be prepared to pay cash for snorkeling tours, diving and food. The hotels may take cash but best to clarify before hand. You can also get cash at the airport. There are exchange places in Labuan Bajo and I found the rates very fair and no commissions.
Dresscode: Indonesia is an Islamic country. Therefore you will notice the locals dressed modestly. Tourists are not expected to be dressed like a local, but it is best not to attract too much attention. Walking around in a bikini will definitely garner attention you don’t want. It’s best to wear shorts, t-shirt, sundress or bathing suit cover up when outside of your hotel.
This island was one of my favorite places on my entire Indonesia trip. It is an island within the national park and you can hike to the top for some of the best views in the world. Seriously. The hike is not very long but is very steep and at times rocky. You don’t have to have hiking shoes per se, but flip-flops are not the best idea. I suggest sturdy hiking sandals or trainers/trekking shoes. Once you reach the top, there is a view of three beaches: black sand, white sand and pink sand. The soft green color of the island is striking as well.
The tour I did was with Perama Tours. I chose the more expensive fast boat because the distance from Labuan Bajo to the first stop is only two hours vs four hours on the slow boat. My tour was approximately 1,200,000 IDRs which is approximately $90 USD.
I thought they did a good job. The guide was very sweet. I didn’t get a chance to eat breakfast and he let me have my afternoon snack early so I wasn’t starved before the hike. They provide snorkel gear, lunch, water and a snack. If you require vegetarian, make sure to specify when you book. Also…ask your hotel to give you an early breakfast or buy something for yourself the previous evening. Don’t be stupid like me. (If you follow my snapchat or IG stories you will understand how I always figure things out way too late…but at least I can share with you so you can do better!)
Keep in mind that Indonesian safety standards are not the same as in western countries. Do some research anytime you get on a boat, whether it be a ferry or a tour. Not to scare you, but boats in Indonesia don’t have great safety record. Inquiring about life jackets, and maximum number of people on the boat is a good place to start!
This was also part of the tour that I did. Komodo Island is very far from Labuan Bajo and one of reasons to use a fast boat. You have to pay a national park fee in cash that isn’t included in the tour price. It is the equivalent of a few dollars, but I forget the exact amount.
Komodo Island is one of two islands in the world (the other one being Rinca Island) that have these infamous lizards. There are roughly 4000 lizards on the island and about 200o inhabitants. (Yes people actually live there!)
Usually one ranger is assigned to three people. That means when you walk, one ranger is in the front of the group and one is in the back. They carry long sticks cut to have a “v” shape in the front, which serves to “redirect” a dragon away from you!
Watch out Khaleesi…
Before you go freaking out about how close I am to a deadly animal or that I’m touching it, don’t worry. This photo was taken by a ranger who knew how to get a dramatic shot. I’m just holding my hand in the air, nowhere close to touching it. This is the reality:
Yep, I’m ready to run at any sign of movement on this bad boy’s part. Not that it would help, he would probably outrun me!! In all seriousness, these are deadly animals with poisonous saliva that will kill you slowly over a few days. Not really how I wanna go out! However, these close photo sessions are strictly monitored by rangers and it is safe as long as you follow their rules. There was even a couple with a toddler and infant there!
Another stop on the amazing tour (not sponsored…just loved it!), was the pink beach. Not only do you get to see a beautiful pink beach, but the snorkeling there was divine. I saw Nemo, Dory and all their friends just a few meters from the shore. I was impressed to find so many fish and colorful corals with so little effort. The sand is pink because of tiny bits of red coral. Sadly, it gets less pink over time secondary to erosion and tourists taking it home, so leave the sand there please!!!
Have you ever felt your heart sing? I hadn’t, until I saw Manta Rays underwater. This sounds cheesier than an enchilada, but for real, that’s how I felt. I cannot recommend this activity enough. If you are not scuba certified, you can snorkel with these elegant creatures. Check out the video:
The dive company I chose was recommended to me by other tourists I met in Yogyakarta. They are called Manta Rhei. They typically do a day trip with 3 dives. Every now and then they have their “Jurassic Park Day”, which is a regular dive, a manta dive and a trip to Rinca Island, to see Komodo dragons. Of course I chose this one. I wanted to see the dragons on both islands.
This company has a top notch dive boat, provides breakfast with coffee, tea, juice, water. A delicious home cooked lunch is served followed by the best snack I’ve ever had after diving…Belgian waffles. (The company is Belgian). They offer live aboard diving if you are a major diving enthusiast!
You are not guaranteed to see manta rays, as nature is not predictable. However, you will always have a beautiful dive since the fish and corals here are stunning. Literally the best diving I’ve ever experienced. Most tourists I spoke with saw mantas. My group saw too many to count as well as several sea turtles!
I couldn’t get enough of these terrifying creatures so I chose to go see Rinca Island. Some people opted for a 3rd dive. I found the amount of dragons seen to be similar on Rinca and Komodo Island. However, Rinca Island was prettier to hike around with beautiful views.
I didn’t like the way he was looking at me. Surely the person standing next to me looked tastier!
I was exhausted after both these day trips because the days start really early. I really enjoyed chilling on the rooftop deck at my hotel after! Even if you don’t stay at Le Pirate, come have a meal or drink or to watch a movie. It’s such a great spot!
Do you like wildlife? Would you visit Komodo Dragons and swim with Manta Rays? Answer in the comments!