Guest post by @swissvoyagers
Komodo National Park is known to be one of Indonesia’s most stunning, exciting and untouched places to visit. It is composed by the islands of Padar, Komodo, Rinca and an incredible number of other pieces of lands surrounded by water.
Find out everything you need to know about it in this in-depth Komodo National Park guide.
Komodo National Park: a complete guide
- What is Komodo National Park known for?
- Where and how to start your journey
- Komodo sailing trip – what should you pick?
- Who should go for a private tour
- Who should go for a day trip
- Best time to visit Komodo National Park?
- Top 10 things to see in Komodo National Park
- Best day trip from Labuan Bajo
- Where to sleep in Labuan Bajo
- Where to eat in Labuan Bajo
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What is Komodo National Park known for?
Located in East Nusa Tenggara, most specifically between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores, Komodo National Park currently belongs to the new 7 world natural wonders, and since 1986 is declared both world heritage site and man & biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
The Komodo Dragon
The main goal of establishing this park back in 1980, was to keep the earth’s biggest living lizard, the unique Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) and its habitat safe. Nowadays the entire biodiversity (terrestrial and marine) is under protection.
This is the only place around the globe where you can spot in the wild the famous Komodo dragon.
Do you think it will be the only highlight worth the trip? Not at all.
Diving and snorkeling
In the area you will find some of the nicest beaches you could desire, you can even choose the color of the sand (white, black and pink). What about colorful corals, reefs, sea life including manta rays, rare dugongs, sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, different sort of whales and an infinite number of colorful fishes? Yes, this is the ultimate snorkeling and scuba diving paradise, doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or a pro.
The stunning beaches
Are you instead the kind of traveler that prefers sunbathing, laying on the beach or taking nice pics and enjoying yourself in the low crystal clear water? Fine enough, you will love it. What makes this region incredible are its surroundings.
When you sail to the numerous islands (whose are of volcanic origin) during your adventure you just can’t get enough of their extremely rounded hills (reaching at some points 750meter of height), the savannah style vegetation covering almost all the surfaces and the impressive sizes. They look gigantic, in fact, Komodo national park’s area is around 1’733 km2 big, of which 603 km2 represented by land.
What kind of animals co-exist with the legendary Komodo dragon? The park is called home from Timor deers, water buffalos, wild boars, eagles, flying foxes, snakes and more.
Where and how to start your journey
The nearest and most practical place to the park is Labuan Bajo, a port town located on the island of Flores. There you will arrive by flight, in most of the cases from Bali Denpasar. The duration is relatively short, only 1hour. Our suggestion is to get your tickets as soon as possible because depending on the season, it could be fully booked.
The round trip from Bali searched via the sky scanner app, costed us around 4’000’000 IDR. We had the pleasure to fly with Garuda Airlines and it was definitely worth the money. Please, before flying back to Bali, be careful while checking in your luggage at the Labuan Bajo airport; every single gram will be charged.
To get from the airport to the city/town centre once landed, we would recommend taking a cab/driver. You won’t struggle to find one, trust us (they will find you). Once checked in at your hotel, b&n, you can keep touring via driver or, if you’re on a budget, we would consider renting a scooter. It is cheap, gasoline costs are a joke and it adds that bit of adventure to your stay.
What we write now is something you absolutely need to know before arriving in Labuan Bajo. There is no way to access the park alone. A guided tour is mandatory. So be sure to get your guide/tour.
Komodo Park sailing trip – what should you pick?
The answer is simple, it all depends on the budget and the time at your disposal.
Since it is so big and offers way too many unbelievable things to see/experience, our pick would be the 3 days and 2 nights tour (longer trips of 5 or more days are also available). In our opinion, you will have enough time to discover Komodo National Park in all its beauty.
Don’t forget that tours usually start early in the morning at around 07:00-08:00 and finish at 17:00-18:00 in the evening. We would arrive in Labuan Bajo one day before the adventure takes place and quit the day after.
Who should go for a private tour
People not suffering from sea sickness. You will be on a large vessel for 3 days, cruising sometimes with a rough sea, just be sure you’re ok with that.
It is a true adventure (forget the words fancy and luxurious), back to basics, but think about having a crew all to yourself, think about the benefits: you can decide when to start, where to go, what to see, what to eat (vegetarian, vegan + personalized options available) and more. The guide will be all for you, so you will have both a personal photographer and walking encyclopaedia at your service, which comes handy especially when you are face to face with the Komodo dragon.
Think about extras in advance
Be aware that on board there aren’t alcohol, cigarettes or other items you would usually have with you. That’s why going to groceries for some tour shopping is highly recommended. Because the only shops you will see in 3 days are on Rinca/Komodo islands and yes, you are probably thinking about it. It is a legalized rip off, so think about it in advance.
If you’re looking for taking unforgettable shots or recording breathtaking videos this is your tour (if you don’t own cameras, gopros, drones, etc search for rentals, there are plenty in town).
Cruising as a private gives you the opportunity to manage the time in the best way possible, all at your advantage. Nobody saying you have to leave after 10 minutes, forget about that. It’s all about the experience, the sea, the wildlife, the food and what about meeting a new couture? Indonesian locals are one of the friendliest folks ever met around the globe. You will surely have a great time.
Make sure you have a spare little boat
This is important guys: while booking your private trip be 150% sure that you will have a spare little boat to use during hopping on islands; why this? Because otherwise you will be forced to swim from the vessel to various beaches; and if you’re carrying cameras, phones and other electronic devices? You will have to take them with you, at your own risk.
Now something interesting, we’re talking about the price. For a 3 days / 2 nights Komodo National Park tour calculate around 13’000’000 IDR ($920 USD) for two people, all included. We highly recommend getting in touch with a good number of agencies, in order to have an idea of the prices for similar activities/excursions.
Who should go for a one day trip
Suitable for those having limited time and money. If you lightly suffer from seasickness you should survive a day like this. A speedboat will be your hub for the day and it goes really fast. So fast that permits you to visit all the main attractions of the park in around 10-12 hours, including Padar, Rinca and Komodo Islands.
The low price doesn’t mean bad service, however, be prepared because you will be part of a group, with all the pros and cons. The price tag is without any doubt good news and, depending on the activities, can reach up to 700’000 IDR ($51 USD) per person.
What is the best time of the year to visit Komodo national park?
The following months are the best if you plan to visit this worldwide unique area: April, May, June – September, October and November. The first three months you will find the islands to look incredibly green and shiny. Of course, they are, the rainy season just finished, vegetation looks just superb and wildlife is active. It also represents the period before mating time, so you still have good chances to spot some Dragons in their natural environment.
In July, due to the mating season, it is rather difficult to encounter the globe’s biggest living lizard. But who knows, maybe you could spot two males fighting against each other, trying to conquer a female Komodo dragon. This said, if from one side it is tourism’s peak season, meaning overall stellar prices, boats running everywhere, people hiking, snorkeling in all sights non stop, to the other one it is even worse considering that isn’t mantas, whale sharks and whales season, so a lack of gorgeous animal species.
What about the weather? Hot and humid, not the best if you could choose. If your goal is to spend an affordable price for a great tour, which will enable you to discover the magnificent park and all its beauties at their best, including all the most awaited species such as Komodo dragons, mantas, whale sharks and sea turtles, then you definitely have to come during the period of September, October or November.
October, to be honest, is the one to go, no regrets about it.
Top 10 things to see in Komodo National Park
Padar Island: once hiked the main hill to the top, you will enjoy one of the best views of your life; from there you can easily spot three different sandy beaches, white, black and pink. Pure magic.
Pantai Merah: the pink beach close to Padar Island; on the top of our “favorite beaches” personal list. The sand color is incredibly intense, the uncontaminated transparent waters are so rich of marine life that you just can’t resist to it, it represents the ultimate snorkeling paradise. We spent hours swimming here, can’t wait to come back one day.
Rinca Island: is the best island where to experience a face to face in the wild with the impressive Komodo dragon; on this piece of earth are estimated to live around 1’300 exemplars. A ranger will escort you through a path of your choice (short, medium, long) searching for these prehistorical looking creatures.
Flying Foxes Island
Flying foxes island at sunset; after a bunch of physical activities done during the day, finally something relaxing. You will witness an enormous number of fruit bats (from several hundred thousands to more than a million) flying from their home island to another close one, a show of nature to see at least once in a lifetime.
Kelor Island: once left the port of Labuan Bajo it is usually the first stop in the morning. Once you climb the rugged hill to the top you will be delighted by a 360° view over the surrounding area. Once down, white sanded beaches are waiting for you, here the snorkeling is top class, featuring beautiful colorful corals and fishes and also some baby sharks.
Taka Makassar Island
Taka Makassar: imagine a tongue of white/pink sand in the middle of the ocean, this is what it is. We truly believe this is probably the most Instagrammable sight on the list. To get the best shot we recommend to have a drone with you. Be sure that your tour vessel features a spare boat in order to hop directly by foot on the island; large boats can’t stop too close so they have to keep a certain distance (making a swim to the beach of the dreams a real nightmare, here currents are pretty strong).
Manta point near Taka Makassar; in September, October and November it is manta rays season, which means that you have the rare chance to spot these amazing creatures in important numbers and you can join them for one of the most exciting baths ever. Don’t forget to bring all the necessary gears with you to have a memory of it in the future (gopros, cameras, etc.).
Komodo Island is our second choice if looking for dragons; an estimation reports 1’700 exemplars living on the island (watch out that from January 2020 the island will be closed, however other islands will remain open to the public)
Kanawa Island: here you’re looking at a white sanded beach with crystal bright waters, an ideal place for swimming, snorkeling or just chilling under the sun.
Turtle point: unfortunately due to a lack of time and a problem with our boat’s engine we had to skip this awaited activity. Even though we couldn’t see it in person, a lot of people described it as an absolute must to see if doing a Komodo national park tour; so guys, what to say, don’t miss it.
The perfect day trip from Labuan Bajo
Looking for some rest? A day trip that we personally suggest, especially if you arrive one day before your Komodo tour starts, is represented by going on a private island taking a boat from Labuan Bajo and staying there from 10:00 am to 04:00 pm.
It is called “Le Pirate Island”; once you arrive you’ll be greeted by the crew and a fresh drink will be offered. Once finished the welcome speech you can take a place on the beach (open-air bungalows with sea view are only for hotel customers, just to let you know) and either starting chilling out, relaxing, sunbathing or trying some included activities, such as snorkeling (equipment included), kayaking, ping pong, beach volleyball and so on.
At 12:00am will be served a barbecue with sides buffet. The price of 650’000 IDR per person includes round trip transfer by boat from Labuan Bajo, barbecue lunch, activities and equipment rental. Alcoholic drinks and à la carte lunch are not included so you have to pay extra for them.
If you are interested in sleeping there, check out the hotel’s page: Le Pirate island
Where to sleep in Labuan Bajo
We usually book our overnight stays via Airbnb while traveling around the world; it is cheap, well organized and you end up meeting locals, discovering new cultures, foods and so on.
DISCOUNT CODE: Save $38 USD off your first trip with Airbnb!
If you are a backpacker, here is a list of the best hostels in Labuan Bajo:
|Seasta Komodo Hostel||Luxury hostel||9.5/10||from $16||Book now|
|Ciao Hostel||Amazing rooftop||8.5/10||from $11||Book now|
|La Boheme Bajo||Budget hostel||8.3/10||from $6||Book now|
Also in this little town, we went for it and found a b&b named “Danke”. It cost us around 150’000 IDR for one night, two people, included a delicious yet simple breakfast.
What we found mega is that they offer an unlimited shuttle service from/to airport/city centre. What you need to do is just texting the driver and he will arrive at the soonest possible.
Check-in procedure was fast and easy, the guy on duty very gentle and welcoming. Just be aware that (especially for taking showers), as in every other place on this island, there is no hot water. They can exceptionally boil water for you and bring a bucket in your room. We asked for it and everything went well. We highly recommend this structure.
A more central option would be the “Pirate hotel”, looking very minimal and stylish. To know more about the prices you have to contact directly the structure.
Where to eat in Labuan Bajo
If you’re looking for something typical and local, we warmly suggest going to the fish market, an absolute must. We met a lot of travelers coming back after lunch/dinner and they all were super satisfied.
As in every touristic destination, there are a lot of dining options. Martina and I, after nearly 3 weeks of Indonesian food, wanted to get a good hamburger. What a piece of luck, surfing on TripAdvisor we found a perfectly rated restaurant offering what we desired.
The name is “Burger Time” and it says all. What a blast! We tried this kind of food almost everywhere in the world during our trips but didn’t expect to eat one of the best ever here in Indonesia.
All the ingredients were super fresh, the meat perfectly grilled and what about the service, everybody smiling at you and being attentive in every single detail. The price was very good, considering the location and the costs for similar meals. For two hamburgers with French fries, a large Bintang beer and a homemade iced tea we paid around 350’000 IDR.