Most of us have heard of the iconic Komodo Dragons and Komodo Islands in Indonesia. Komodo National Park (usually referred to as Komodo Islands) is the only place in the world you can find these gigantic beasts that resemble living dinosaurs. But did you know that the Komodo Islands have much more to offer than just colossal lizards?
The Komodo Islands offers one of the ultimate holidays for adventurers who love exploring both oceans and mountains! To help you make the best out of your trip, we have rounded up 8 of the best activities you can experience there!
But first. . .
Where is Komodo National Park and how do we get there?
Credit: Google Maps
Komodo Island is one of the three major islands nested in the vast Komodo National Park near Flores, located in East Nusa Tenggara province. The other two islands are Rinca Island and Padar Island. The national park is usually referred to as “Komodo Islands” because of their infamous Komodo Dragons. The park has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1986. Besides the Komodo dragons, the ecosystem there is home to tons and tons of wildlife, on land and in the water.
If you’re flying in, the closest airport is in Labuan Bajo – located on the main island, Flores. The two flight routes into Labuan Bajo are via Jakarta (2.5 hours) or Bali (one hour). An alternative would be via a 4-day boat trip from Lombok (located near Bali). And if you’re dropping by Bali, Jakarta, or Lombok; we’ve got you covered for that too!
Before you fly off to the Komodo tropics, you need to plan the means of traveling within the national park. Usually travellers prefer a liveaboard experience, where the boat sails from island to island, with tour guides. These could range from normal tour boats that provide the customary hiking and snorkelling guides, or specialized tours for scuba divers.
Credit: Wikipedia Commons
Check out LiveAboard.com for detailed information of available liveaboard accommodations. Do note that some are scuba diving boats, and some are non-diving (snorkelling only) boats!
The recommended minimum duration is usually 3D2N to cover the main attractions, but there are longer alternatives. Many tour guides also offer photography services (including drone videos) throughout the entire trip so you don’t have to worry about taking your own photos!
Do note that the food served onboard may differ depending on other guests too! (I.e., If there are other guests onboard who consume alcohol, do note that there may be alcohol served onboard; or if there are vegetarians the food served may be more vegetable-based instead)
Travellers usually stay overnight in Labuan Bajo and board the boat the next day because of flight schedules. There are a few Muslim-friendly hotels that provide halal food upon request. We have checked with the hotel Sunset Hill Hotel (they have an amazing sunset view!) and boat operator TravastaID directly to confirm but we recommend that you contact them again before booking.
Sunset view at Sunset Hill Hotel
ATMs and international banks are hard to come by in Labuan Bajo. We recommend that you bring enough cash (USD or Indonesian rupiah) for all expenses throughout the trip.
Expenses may include accommodation, food in Labuan Bajo, and national park entrance fees (starts at USD 15 but varies depending on length of stay, and activities). A more detailed information on the national park prices can be found here.
Muslim-friendly food and amenities? Not a problem
One of the great things about traveling around Labuan Bajo is that halal food is easy to source. Although Flores (the main island) is a predominantly Christian part of Indonesia, Labuan Bajo (the main travel hub in Flores) is predominantly Muslim. Most eateries are halal because of the large Muslim population. But many are not halal-certified, because they are small local eateries.
#HHWT tip: We recommend that you ask the staff about the restaurant’s halal status beforehand as there are a few western restaurants operated by non-locals that do serve pork.
There are also a few mosques in town for those who would like to do Friday prayers or prayers with the locals before or after embarking the boat. One of the popular mosques for travellers there is Masjid Agung Nurul Falaq because of its proximity to the main jetty.
Credit: @manovanzar64 on Instagram
Once you’ve boarded the boat from Labuan Bajo, you will sail for a few hours towards the main islands – Komodo, Padar, and Rinca. The national park fees are usually paid to the tour guides so there is no need to purchase tickets yourself.
The tour guide will explain the boat’s amenities, safety features, and a general itinerary of the trip. The itinerary may change depending on the weather and water current. But fret not, you will definitely visit all the necessary locations! Just be prepared for some minor changes, if necessary.
So, what are the 8 reasons Komodo Islands is for the adventurous soul?
1. Visit gigantic Komodo Dragons!
You can’t visit Komodo without seeing the Komodo Dragons! Komodo dragons are fierce carnivores that grow up to 3 metres in length and weigh up to 70 kilograms. The islands have approximately 2,500 of these oversized monitor lizards!
Credit: Adhi Rachdian on Flickr
The Komodo Dragon tour is at Rincah Island. Your guides will give a short safety brief before you start your mini trek. They can also help you take photos with the dragons throughout the trail (from a distance, of course!).
In case you didn’t know, one bite from a dragon can kill you (their saliva is venomous). But don’t worry, there have been very few attack cases and the guides will ensure that you and the dragons are kept a safe distance apart.
The island itself is a dry and arid environment, well-suited to the dragons. Look out for dragons basking under the sun or leisurely walking around throughout most of the trek. The trek will also pass by their nesting area so you might see nesting female dragons!
#HHWT Tip: Their sense of smell is sensitive to blood so women who are menstruating must let the island guides know. Usually, they will bring extra guides as a precaution.
2. Hiking and Trekking
What better way to start your morning with a scenic sunrise workout? Hiking and trekking start as early as 5.30am, to reach the peak in time for sunrise. The views from peaks of Padar Island and Gili Lawa Sunrise Point are worth the hike itself.
The trail can take around 45 minutes to an hour depending on your pace. At some trekking locations, you might even see other wildlife such as monkeys, deer, and birds too!
Credit: @chi2min on Instagram
Just be sure to ask your guide about the hiking challenges beforehand. The trails range from easy-peasy beginner levels to intermediate levels. And if you’re not too keen on hiking, the sunrise view from the boat may be a different perspective but it is just as spectacular!
3. Pink Beaches and Sandy White Beaches!
Komodo’s Pink Beach is only one of seven in the world! The sand appears pink because of its striking mixture of white and red sand. Pick up a handful of the sand and you’ll be able to see the red and white grains!
Credit: @cassandra_eska on Instagram
If you have a drone (or if you’re using the tour guide’s drone services), the pink beach is one of the best place to use it! The aerial view shows the amazing contrast between the pink beach and the ocean blues. Perfect for an aerial group shot!
Credit: @pantaiasia on Instagram
4. Scuba Diving and Snorkelling
Because of its dynamic and diverse marine life, Komodo National Park is a world-class scuba diving and snorkelling location! The wide biodiversity is a haven for divers and photographers. And at some locations, the water is crystal clear so you can see tropical fish and corals from the boat (which is fantastic for those who don’t want to get wet).
Credit: andy.schmid on Instagram
For snorkelers, there are many beautiful coral-filled snorkelling locations such as Pink Beach, Pasir Timbul Taka Makassar, Manta Point, Kanawa Island, and Kelor Island. The waters are usually just a few metres deep and you will be able to see a colourful assortment of coral and fish. If you’re lucky, you will get to see sea turtles, manta rays, reef sharks, dolphins and even dugongs!
Credit: @luichingyee on Instagram
For divers, Komodo is one of the best diving locations in the world, but it is for intermediate to experienced divers. The currents can be strong so make sure you have adequate experience beforehand and engage with reputable diving operators. Depths range from 5 to 40 metres. There are at least 100 dive sites, but the top-rated ones are Batubalong, Taka Makassar, Manta Alley, 3 sisters, and Gili Lawa (for night dives)! Indonesia is a haven for scuba divers! Another must-visit Indonesia location is Raja Ampat (we’ve also got you covered here!).
Just remember not to touch any marine life! This is to ensure no harm upon both humans and creatures. Some creatures can be venomous, and we can also harm them with our bacteria.
5. Sunsets and Bats
Batman fans, where are you?!
Ask your tour guide if they could dock around Kalong Island for sunset. During sunset, thousands of giant flying fox bats emerge from their caves creating a surreal scene.
Enjoy the bat-filled sunset as the colour changes from reddish-orange, to purplish-pink, until it fully sets into the night sky. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the Milky Way in all its glory or a full moon illuminating the waters!
6. Swim with Manta Rays
Manta Point is the hangout joint for Manta rays there! They can be found all year round, but the best time for sightings are between December and February. These large triangular creatures can grow up to 4 metres in length and seem to love doing backflips!
Manta rays are filter feeders (feed on krill, plankton, shrimp) so you don’t have to worry when you see them open their wide mouths!
7. Le Pirates Boatel
That chic, ultra-instagammable hotel you need on your social media feed? This is it! Le Pirates Boatel is just what it is – a boat hotel. Rather than sailing back to straight Labuan Bajo, one suggestion is to end the trip with one or two nights at Le Pirates Boatel. Most tour operators are fine with dropping passengers off there. It is only 10 minutes away from Labuan Bajo, and they provide multiple boat shuttles daily.
The boatel is anchored in one place, but it moves with the current, so every few minutes you have a different view. Each room opens up to the view of the sea with a private deck, hammock, and swim ladder. If you need privacy, the curtains can be drawn down.
Credit: Le Pirate
Enjoy and relax in a hammock or by the deck, or sign up for activities provided like canoeing, rock fishing, paddle boarding, or more snorkelling! They even provide board and card games to enjoy while relaxing there. What better way to end an adventure?
Credit: Le Pirate
Check out their official video to see the boatel in all its glory!
We have checked with Le Pirates Boatel directly to confirm that they provide halal food but we recommend that you contact them again before booking.
8. Explore Labuan Bajo!
Since there is usually a one-day wait before embarking the boat, why not explore Labuan Bajo? This authentic Indonesian village has its own little charm!
Some of the many things you could do are indulge in the local cuisine, explore villages, visit Cunca Rami Waterfall, swim in the underground lake at Rangko Cave, or go caving at Batu Cermin! Take your time to enjoy Labuan Bajo. We could make a whole other list of things to do just for Labuan Bajo!
Fantasy-like pink beaches, picturesque sunsets, diverse marine life, fabulous mountain views, and legendary Komodo dragons? You are sure to fall in love with Komodo!
This exotic up and coming destination is sure to satisfy adventurers of all kinds!