Komodo National Park is a group of islands located in the East Nusa Tenggara Province in Indonesia within the Lesser Sunda Islands. The three main islands include Komodo, Padar and Rinca, as well as 26 smaller islands. The area is most famous for being the home to the Komodo Dragon, the largest living lizard on earth!
During your visit to the Komodo Islands you will experience unique landscapes, pink sandy beaches, the Komodo dragon and some of the most biodiverse marine life in the world!
Explore the Komodo Islands by Boat
One of the best and only ways to explore Komodo National Park is by boat. Most visitors will embark on their adventure with either a one or multi-day boat tour departing out of Labuan Bajo.
From the harbour you will board a small speedboat which will take you to your sail boat for the duration of your trip!
The boat will depart around 11AM and you will begin our adventures and exploration around one of Indonesias most beautiful places!
After departing from the harbor in Labuan Bajo the first stop of the day is to Kelor Island. This small, uninhabited island is surrounded by turquoise water and has a prominent grass covered hill.
To get to the island you will take a small speedboat and arrive on the beach. From here you can hike about 20 minutes up to the top of the hill.
There are no stairs to reach the top, just some rocks that you can use as stepping stones. Be careful though as the sandy areas can be a bit slippery. Therefore, make sure to take it slow as you ascend up and down the hill.
The view from the top is spectacular, with sweeping views of the surrounding landscapes and crystal clear water.
Visit Rinca Island to See the Komodo Dragon
The second stop is to Rinca Island to get up close with the dinosaur-like Komodo dragon. This ancient lizard, whose scientific name is Varanus komodoensis, can only be found on a few islands including Komodo, Rinca and a few others.
They are the world’s largest lizard reaching up to 300 pounds with an extremely venomous bite! Their saliva contains about 54 different species of bacteria and just ONE of those strains can kill you!
Once you arrive at the National Park your group will first check in at the ranger station. It is necessary and required to walk around the park with a Ranger who has a deeper understanding of the behaviors of the Komodo dragons.
The Rangers will carry a long stick in the rare case that a dragon will get too close and they need to provide protection for the guests.
There are 3 different paths in the park: short, medium and long. I believe that we took the short trail since we arrived a little bit late to the park. During our walk we saw about 10 different Komodo Dragons and passed by the nesting grounds where the females lay their eggs.
Kalong Rinca to See the Bats at Sunset
Your last stop of day one will be to Kalong Rinca where you will get to witness thousands of bats flying out of their cave at sunset. This lasts for about one hour and is an incredible spectacle to watch from your boat.
Visit Padar Island for Sunrise
Your boat crew will wake you up early around 4:30 AM once you dock at Padar Island. The small speedboat will take you to shore and you will begin the 30-45 minute climb to the top for sunrise. Here there are stairs for the majority of the trek until you get near the top when you will have to do a bit of rock climbing again.
One thing we didn’t expect was how many people were actually here at the same time. Due to the mass amounts of people you may have to wait for awhile to get a decent photo here. Also, be careful when passing people during your climb up and down the hill as there are some slippery spots and narrow paths.
The view from the top is absolutely stunning. Look to the right and you will see the white sandy beach where all the boats dock. Take your eyes to the left and see first the black sand beach and then just beyond that is the pink sandy beach.
Padar Island is the 3rd largest island in Komodo National Park and used to be home to the Komodo Dragon. However, due to lack of food the dragons eventually moved out and now the island is one of the most popular hiking spots within the National Park.
» Photography Tip 📷 Climb up a little bit after the spot where the stairs have ended and you will find some large rocks. Here you can stand on top of the rocks and use some strategic angles to get this photo without all of the people.
Visit the Pink Beach
It really is pink! We were truly blown away by the color of this beach as we honestly didn’t expect it to be this pink in reality! The color of the sand is formed from the combination of the white sand mixed with the red coral that gets broken up from the crashing waves.
Once you arrive to the beach you will be amazed by the contrast of the pink sand with the bright, turquoise water and surrounding mountain views. It really is a magnificent sight!
Once you’ve finished admiring the beach, grab your snorkel and mask and take to the water for some snorkeling. The marine life in the Komodo islands is flourishing and spectacular!
Snorkel with Manta Rays at Manta Point
After enjoying a few hours at the pink beach you will head to the spot where Manta Rays are known to be swimming and feeding. Within minutes of arriving to the area we spotted two giant mantas gracefully circling in the water.
We immediately donned our masks and snorkels and jumped into the water to swim side by side with these underwater ballerinas.
The manta rays are filter feeders meaning they only eat plankton or small jellyfish that they can filter through their wide mouths. They are completely harmless and safes to swim with but please do not try to touch them.
During our time at Manta Point we jumped in the water 4 times and swam with about 10 total manta rays. The best spot to swim with them is at the “cleaning station.” This is a place where small fish will consume dead skin or parasites off of the manta rays body.
This was the only area that we swam that didn’t have a ton of jellyfish in the water. The jellyfish are quite prevalent in this area and generally won’t sting, however, there is definitely a chance they can so be careful.
Takka Makassar Sand Bank
Your fourth stop of the day will be to the super popular Takka Makassar sand bank. This tiny, pink sandy island is surrounded by crystal clear water and is another great snorkeling spot.
If you arrive here early in the morning you can beat the crowds. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived there were already a ton of people there. Luckily it is still a gorgeous spot despite the crowds!
Siaba Island to Snorkel with Turtles
After the sand bank you will head to your final spot of the day! Siaba Island is known for having a large population of sea turtles and some of the best reefs in the area. Your sail boat will park a safe distance from the reef and you will be taken closer by the small speedboat.
We saw 2 large turtles from our sailboat but none while we were snorkeling. The reef here is one of the best we have seen! There are many species of colorful coral, marine life and sea plants. You will truly be amazed by the underwater world here!
Luckily, the clarity of the water is crystal clear so you will have no trouble seeing tons of marine life even at deeper depths!
After the snorkeling you will head back on the boat for the evening and enjoy another sunset out at sea!
Visit Kanawa Island in Komodo Island
Your last morning in on the Komodo Islands tour is all about relaxation! You will arrive at Kanawa Island early in the morning with the option of sun bathing or snorkeling. We chose to relax in the shade and take a short walk along the white sandy beach.
The island is pretty large and has a very photogenic dock where you will arrive from your boat.
After spending a few hours on the island your sail boat will head back to the Labuan Bajo harbor where your trip will end. The tour company will either drop you off at your hotel or the airport!
National Park Entry Fees in Komodo Island National Park
In order to enter the Komodo Island National Park you have to pay an additional 550K IDR ($40 USD) per person. The fee is less expensive for locals at a price of 150K IDR ($11 USD) per person.
There is also a new fee that was implemented as a snorkeling retribution fee of 100K IDR ($7.15 USD) per person if you want to swim and snorkel. The fee for locals is 50K IDR ($3.60 USD).
There is also a 1 million IDR ($72 USD) fee if you want to fly your drone on Padar Island. It isn’t clear on who you pay. There also didn’t seem to be anyone at the beach when you arrive that was collecting money.
Ultimately, we chose not to spend the money to fly the drone here. It would be best to discuss this fee with your tour company should you choose to fly your drone at this particular spot.
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How to Choose the Right Boat Company in the Komodo Island
With so many tour companies to choose from it can be a bit overwhelming to select the right trip. There will be a few factors that will affect your decision with the majority being time and money.
Additionally, some of the different options that you can choose between will be a private tour or shared accommodation, single day or multi-day and diving or snorkeling.
If you don’t book a company prior to your arrival it is best to have a general idea of what you are hoping to see before heading out on the street to ask around.
On average many of the tour companies were quoting around 3.5 to 4 million IDR (~$285 USD) per person for a private tour which did not include the additional park entry fees.
For our trip, we choose a company called Flip My Trip and selected the 3 day & 2 night journey in order to maximize our time and see as much as we could within that time.
The trip cost 2.3 million IDR ($165 USD) per person and included all meals, unlimited water, the crew, shared accommodations and pick up/drop off to our hotel.
What to Expect on a Shared Accommodation
One of the first questions I get about this trip is about the shared accommodation. In all honesty we were a bit concerned as well. However, as soon as we boarded the boat and met the other passengers all our worries completely subsided.
Now this could be completely different depending on who you end up on the boat with so I can only speak for our experience.
On the sail boat there were 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms. The rooms were divided up in this way: 1 room with bunkbeds that can sleep up to 8 people, 1 room with bunkbeds for 2 different couples and one private room.
We were placed in the shared room with one other couple. We chose the bottom bunk and they had the top. The sleeping arrangements were actually very comfortable and each room had enough space for your belongings.
The shared bathrooms were also completely fine with a toilet, shower and toiletries. You will need to bring your own towel. We didn’t have one so we had to purchase one at the local supermarket in Labuan Bajo.
I understand that safety of your belongings is probably a big concern. At no point during our trip did we feel concerned about our stuff, including all of my expensive camera gear or our wallets. Everyone on the ship is there for the same reason as you, to enjoy the beauty of the Komodo Islands and doesn’t seem concerned with your belongings!
Overall we actually really enjoyed the shared accommodations and sharing these experiences with our new friends! If you choose a shared boat, have an open mind and maybe you will leave with some new friends!
How to Get to the Komodo Islands
There are a few different ways to reach the Komodo Islands but the easiest and quickest would be to fly to Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. Here there is a small airport located right in the center of town making it easy to move around and reach the harbor where you will leave on your boat trip.
You can catch inexpensive flights from Bali with a few different airlines. For our flight to Labuan Bajo we flew with Wings Air from Lombok since we were coming from Gili Air.
If you also want to visit the Gili Islands before or after your trip you can easily do so. To get to from the Gili’s to Flores you can take a public ferry to Lombok and then fly out of the Lombok Airport.
You can also do it in reverse by flying from Labuan Bajo to Lombok and then taking the ferry from the Bangsal harbor in Lombok to the Gili Islands.
How to Get Around Labuan Bajo and the Island of Flores
If you are staying in a hotel nearby the harbor it is very easy to walk around the city center of Labuan Bajo. However, if you want to explore or head to the surrounding areas for sunset viewpoints then you will need to either rent a motorbike or use a tour company.
There were many tour companies in the center of town that were offering single day or multi-day overland trips to see more of the island of Flores.
Some of the most popular sights to see during the overland trips would be the Wae Rabo Village, the Cunca Wulang waterfall and the Kelimutu twin lakes. We ended up finding a relatively unknown waterfall and were the only ones there!
If you are adventurous and know how to drive a motorbike you can rent them either from your hotel or in town. We rented one from our hotel for 75K IDR ($5.40 USD) per day. You may have to request a helmet if they don’t automatically give one to you.
How to Get Around the Komodo Islands
The only option to visit the Komodo Islands is to take a boat tour. You can choose a single day tour or a multi-day tour. The most popular trip is the 3 day & 2 night tour which is the one that we did.
Many companies offer longer tours that usually go up to 5 nights. If you have the time and extra money I would highly recommend the longer tour!
There are also many dive shops where you can join a live aboard. On these trips you’ll do multiple dives per day which we imagine would also be pretty amazing.
What to Pack for Your Komodo Island Trip
A bathing suit is essential for your trip to the Komodo Islands. You’ll definitely want to swim in those turquoise waters, experience the underwater world and get close to the manta rays!
The boat company that we used did not provide towels so we ended up purchasing one for cheap at the local supermarket in Labuan Bajo.
Make sure you bring closed toed shoes for some of the treks like Kelor Island, Padar Island and to see the Komodo dragons at Rinca Island. However, if you’re like us and only have flip flops you’ll also be just fine. My flip flop even broke at Padar Island so I had to hike the whole way barefoot!
Most likely your boat will provide you with enough food that you’ll actually never be hungry. However, it is wise to pack a few snacks just in case. Be sure to stop into the local supermarket in Labuan Bajo before your boat trip to pick up a few things. Your boat will most likely have water so you shouldn’t have to bring a bunch of bottles. However, it’s best to double check before you leave.
The sun is strong in the Komodo Islands so make sure to pack sunscreen. Since you’ll be doing some snorkeling around the coral reefs it is important to use reef safe sunscreen. My favorite is a brand called Sun Bum. Luckily, there are many companies out there now producing sunscreen that won’t harm the reefs.
Due to the strong sun you’ll also want to pack your favorite sunglasses and hat! Be sure to cover up as much as possible so you don’t get sunburnt!
As always, pack your camera gear and all corresponding chargers. They have plenty of outlets on the boat so you’ll be sure to have fully charged batteries!