Headed off to see the dragons of Komodo National Park and looking for the best Komodo tour package? We just got back a few months ago, and I have to say, you’re in for a real treat. Dragons, rusty-red volcanic hills, coral reefs, pink sand beaches, glassy turquoise waters… yeah, you’ll see why I’m semi-obsessed with this group of islands in Indonesia already.
Everyone visits Komodo National Park in Indonesia to see one thing and one thing only – the dragons. And for good reason – Komodo’s the only spot in the world to meet them! But what many don’t realize is that the Komodo islands are oh so much more than these giant monitor lizards.
In our 3 days on our Komodo island tour, we swam and snorkeled in crystal clear turquoise waters, jumped into the Flores Sea from our two-story boat, watched millions of bats fly overhead at sunset, hiked up ~1,000 steps for the most spectacular sunrise views, and wandered/relaxed around pink sand beaches.
We watched the sunrise and sunset in the same day, woke up to luminous blue waters surrounding our boat, drank fresh fruit juice at every meal, and forever gazed at green volcanic mountains jutting out of the sea.
To say our Komodo trip was nothing short of spectacular is an understatement – heck, we kiiiinda loved Komodo even more than we loved Bali (and we fell head over heels for that place).
There’s just something to be said about waking up to gentle waves, sailing to new islands and sandbars every few hours, witnessing the most dramatic sunset, and sleeping beneath the brilliant stars on comfy bean bags come nightfall. And then doing it alllll over again the next day.
Komodo National Park’s even been selected as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, along with already being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And this diverse location in Indonesia surely deserves all its accolades and then some! It’s downright dreamy.
However, planning a trip to the Komodo islands can be all kinds of confusing. If you follow my advice you’ll be visiting a whole slew of islands in the National Park, not just Komodo (which is the main island and the largest of them all).
After reading this lengthy guide (I know, I know, I’m beyond wordy), I hope it’s the one and only Komodo island blog post you’ll need to plan your trip. Am I missing something? Please let me know down below in the comments! I write these guides for you guys to have the best trip possible!
***Note that the Indonesian government will temporarily close Komodo Island in January 2020 to help preserve/protect the remaining dragons, with no reopening dates announced just yet. HOWEVER, don’t fret, ONLY Komodo Island will close to tourists (and thankfully not the entire National Park, there are numerous other islands).
You can still see Komodo dragons on Rinca Island (where we went), as well as visit all the other islands we visited (including Pink Beach, Padar, Kanawa, etc). We didn’t even go to Komodo Island on our Komodo tour (nope, not even once!). So yes, this means you can still take the same trip I did and see the same exact sights.
Komodo Trip Planning Logistics
Where is Komodo National Park anyways?
If you gave me a world map a few months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you in the slightest bit where Komodo Island could be found. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t even know it was in Indonesia (facepalm; I can’t be the only one).
Now I can thankfully not only give the general vicinity of Komodo, but I can pin-point its exact location as well. How’s that for progress?!
If you haven’t figured this out by now (no judgements), Komodo National Park is part of the Indonesian archipelago.
It’s located between Lombok and Flores, and is a few islands east of everyone’s favorite, Bali. The park is comprised of three main islands: Komodo, Padar, and Rinca (you’ll probably visit all 3 on your Komodo tour), as well as 26 smaller, less frequented ones.
When to Visit Komodo
Komodo essentially has two distinct seasons – the dry season and the rainy season.
This comes as no surprise, but you’ll want to visit Komodo National Park during the area’s dry season, occurring between April and December. The weather is pretty much perfect – not toooo hot, and with very little to no rain whatsoever. If you’re hoping for that lush greenery on the volcanoes, plan a visit between April and June, as you’ll find comfortable temps, cool, fresh air at night, and calm seas.
Do note that it’s technically most crowded in July and August, although we didn’t feel this much (except for our sunrise trek up Padar Island).
A visit during the rainy season (December to March, with February being the peak of monsoon season) will result in rainy, wet days, making walking paths uncomfortably muddy and difficult to trek around. Heavy rainfall, strong wind, and big waves are common, so avoid this time if that doesn’t sound your like idea of fun.
And thankfully, no matter when you visit, you can see Komodo dragons. Do note that July and August is the height of Komodo mating season, meaning you may witness a male dragon fighting to get attention from a female. We actually saw two dragons mating, although they were doing their thang in private under a large structure, so we couldn’t really see much of the action. :p
Another dragon was guarding her eggs, although I don’t really know why they do so since they’re known to eat some of their young anyways!
How Long to Stay in Komodo
Many travelers opt to spend a few nights on a Komodo tour. We slept two nights on a liveaboard boat, and another two nights in Labuan Bajo (1 night before the Komodo island tour and one night afterwards), making our total trip 3 days (5 if you include arrival and departure days) and 4 nights.
And trust me – 3 days in Komodo is the perfect amount of time to witness the sunrise and sunset from the deck of the boat, numerous times. However, we could have stayed an extra few nights, it was that comfortable!
With all that being said, I think spending 2 and a half days will suffice, especially if you booked yourself on a fully equipped Komodo tour package which takes you to the best spots in the National Park (like we did). We were thankful we had a ½ day to relax at our resort (the oh so beautiful Ayana Komodo) after trekking around in the hot hot sun for a few days.
And if you’re a serious diver, you’ll probably want to spend an extra day or so doing your thing, as Komodo is a haven for all kinds of underwater life. We unfortunately don’t our scuba certs, so I can’t report much on all things diving for ya.
How to Get to the Komodo Islands
Note that if the Komodo Islands are your final destination and you aren’t interested in spending a few days (or more) in Bali, you’ll first need to get yourself to Bali anyways.
Komodo National Park is roughly an hour flight plus a 2 hour boat ride away from Bali, and although it’s kiiiinda a pain to get to, it’s 1000% worth it, and then some. Keep reading, you’ll see.
Coming from Bali → By Far The Best Option
If you’re headed to the Komodo Islands from Bali like we were, it’s easiest to hop on a quick 1 hour, 15 minute flight over. You’ll need to get yourself to Labuan Bajo on Flores Island, the main gateway to Komodo National Park.
Thankfully, there’s heaps of daily, nonstop flights available from Bali (DPS) to Labuan Bajo Airport (LBJ) on Flores Island. We ended up on a flight with NAM airlines for about $100 roundtrip, but note that there are also direct flights on Wings Air and Garuda Indonesia as well.
And trust me – that flight over to the Komodo Islands will be one of the most scenic you’ll ever experience (atolls and reefs every step of the way, especially once you get closer to the National Park). Don’t give up your window seat for just anyone — I had my eyes peeled to the glass the whole time!
Once you’re on Flores situated in Labuan Bajo, the Komodo Islands are just a quick-ish boat ride away.
For visual learners like myself: Bali airport (DPS) → flight to Labuan Bajo (LBJ) on Flores Island → taxi into town → boat to Komodo Islands
Psst: you can actually take a ferry over to Flores from Bali, but a 36 hour trip through treacherous waters doesn’t sound very appealing to me.
Coming from Lombok → Possible, but not the best choice
If you’re coming from Lombok, you’ll also find flights as well, although many make a stop in Bali (kinda silly, but that’s airlines for ya). After doing a bit of research, it looks like there’s ONE direct flight on Wings Air per day, so snatch that up if you’re able to (check LOP → LBJ).
If you really prefer not to head back to Bali and can’t catch a nonstop flight, you can also take a 24 hour bus/ferry combo (ouch), or a 4 day/4 night snorkeling boat trip (with conditions which I heard aren’t all that great). Just come from Bali if you can. 🙂
How to Get Around Komodo National Park
*Psst: There are only a handful of hotels on the Komodo Islands (which get booked up quite far in advance), and you’re only allowed to visit Komodo Island with an official guide and park ranger.
Meaning you’ll absolutely 100% NEED to book a tour (this isn’t a DIY type of trip, although there are Komodo tours for all price points). There are plenty of options for staying in Labuan Bajo, don’tchu worry.
You’ve basically got two options when it comes to touring around Komodo National Park. And no, since Komodo National Park is an archipelago (a group of islands), you cannot drive around yourself (ha!).
Option #1. Basing yourself in the town of Labuan Bajo (the main gateway for the park) and taking day trips to the different islands of Komodo.
If you’re choosing this option I’d highly recommend finding tours ahead of time and getting yourself on those. I mean, how often are you gonna be visiting Komodo National Park? Might as well get on the exact ones you want, right?
If you’re more of a last-minute planner (I most definitely am not), you can show up in Labuan Bajo and book tours directly in the town itself once you arrive, but there’s no guarantee your preferred dates will be available. My advice? Just book tours ahead of time for some peace of mind.
Tours to check out beforehand:
- Best of Komodo Island Hopping: You’ll 100% want to do a full day Best of Komodo tour (like this one or this one), as they go to a bunch of the hot spots, including Padar Island, Pink Beach, Kanawa Island, Taka Makassar, and of course, Komodo Island. If you only have time to do one tour during your time in Komodo, make it this one.
- Sunset tour at Kalong Island: Watching the flying foxes/bats (by the millions I might add) fly overhead at sunset is just one of those “must do” things in Komodo. Don’t miss it (book here).
- Komodo Diving: And if you’re a driver, definitely check this out. The underwater life in Komodo is just teeming with excitement – it’s a known hotspot for divers!
- Cave Tour on Flores Island: If we had extra time I would have definitely wanted to take this cave tour on Flores Island near Labuan Bajo. There’s always a next time for us, but you can check it out now! And be sure to report back and lemme know how it is!
Option #2. Finding a Komodo island tour, inclusive of meals, island hopping, snorkeling equipment, and of course, accommodation on the boat.
This is essentially a complete Komodo tour package (meaning you don’t have to worry about a thing once you get yourself to Labuan Bajo). Most of these Komodo tours are 3 days and 2 nights, but you can easily find one for 1 or 3 nights instead, depending on your interests and time availability. Komodo island tours vary in price, with the average being approximately $100 or so per day.
Psst – As you could have guessed after reading about me gushing about the boat so much, we chose the second option and absolutely loooooved it. I can’t imagine staying in Labuan Bajo and missing out on boat life! For reference, we chose a 2-day/3-night liveaboard, and felt like it was the perfect amount of time.
And now for some not-so-fun-yet-highly-necessary stuff:
Malaria pills: Unlike Bali and other parts of Indonesia, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about taking malaria pills if you’re planning a trip to the Komodo Islands, as malaria is quite common in these parts of the country. Key words: talk to your doctor (I ain’t a doc and I don’t pretend to be one).
We both chose to take malaria pills – we figure, better to be safe than sorry (and plus, I typically get eaten alive, although I only managed to get a handful of mosquito bites on our trip #notcomplaining).
Vaccinations: The CDC states that all travelers to Indonesia should be up to date on routine vaccines (MMR, tetanus, chickenpox, pollo, flu shot).
In addition, it’s also wise to get the Hep A, Hep B, and typhoid vaccination as well (some of these are good for years, so if you plan to do a lot of traveling to other undeveloped countries, you’ll probably need them there – might as well get them now and keep yourself protected always). As always, talk to your doctor.
Water: Do note that you absolutely cannot drink the water in Labuan Bajo or the Komodo area in general; you’ll find that all hotels/restaurants and Komodo tours provide fresh drinking water (either bottled or from large treated water jugs).
Because of the unsafe water, Bali belly is quite common – which is just a fancy name for food poisoning. We had no problem while in Labuan Bajo or with the food on our liveaboard. You may want to ask your doctor for a prescription of Ciprofloxacin for serious travelers diarrhea in case you find yourself with any disturbing stomach issues. We always pack immodium as well, just in case.
Travel insurance: Yes, you need this. I always recommend purchasing travel insurance before your trip. You never know what might happen (flight delays, lost baggage, illness), and travel insurance definitely helps with all of those unfortunate unexpectancies.
I highly recommend the company SafetyWing. I’ve recently been buying coverage with SafetyWing since they cover pandemic-related costs (which most travel insurance companies do not do).
Whenever we travel, we always buy a short term plan (depending on how many days/weeks we’ll be away) before leaving for any trip! Even if you don’t end up using it, peace of mind is 100% worth it in my opinion. Find plan options and pricing here (and at only a few bucks a day, there’s no excuse not to!) I always say, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford your trip. It’s that easy.
Dragons: I can’t have a safety section and not mention the dragons. I mean, they’re called dragons for a reason.
However, fear not; visiting them on Komodo Island isn’t as scary as I initially perceived it to be – we casually strolled around (with an official park ranger of course) and saw the dragons lazing on the grounds, caring about us humans for less than .2 seconds. It was actually a bit anticlimactic to tell you the truth (yet still terrifying at the same time).
Their diet mostly consists of deer (and other large-ish mammals like the water buffalo – yup!); however, Komodo dragons also occasionally attack humans, which is why it’s oh soooo very important to do EXACTLY WHAT YOUR GUIDE SAYS. With shark-like teeth and poisonous venom, a bite from a Komodo dragon can kill a person within hours.
I don’t say this to scare you (or deter you from visiting), I just want you to understand the significance of not following directions. Just stay with your guide at all times and you’ll be golden. 🙂
A Note for the Ladies: You may wanna plan your trip around your cycle/period/menstruation (whatever you wanna call it). The dragons can smell blood from miles away, and are more prone to attack. If you can’t alter your plans to fit around this time of the month, be sure to ask your guide/park ranger the best course of action.
It’s possible they may advise to skip a visit to see the dragons. This may seem silly, but it’s no joke! Komodo dragons occasionally attack humans, although this is relatively uncommon (and guides will use all precautions to keep visitors safe). I’m pretty sure one girl on our trip was on her period (I overheard her talking to our guide), and she said it was ok to come along.
While no one will be checking of course, I’d highly advise you to disclose this information to your guide just in case.
An Extra Note on the Komodo Dragons
Can’t visit Komodo National Park without hanging out with a few dragons, right?! These dinosaur-esque looking creatures are endemic to the Komodo Islands and are a very rare species, meaning you can’t see them anywhere else in the world! There are about 5,700 dragons left in the wild, and they’re all over here in this stunning part of Indonesia.
Being the largest and most lethal lizard on Earth, they can weigh as much as 300 pounds, with some growing as long as 10 feet! The dragons are not only carnivorous, but cannibalistic as well! Since the dragons are known to eat their young, not many survive, which is a prime reason for their endangeredness.
As noted earlier, Komodo Dragons are dangerous creatures, so be sure to stay with your guide (always) and follow all their safety instructions. Below are clear instructions we were given:
- Never look a Komodo dragon directly in the eye
- Keep your head down
- Stay together with your group (at all times)
- One ranger leads the group while another is at the back end
- Walk only on the specified trail
- Never go to the bathroom alone
Where to Stay on Labuan Bajo
If you’re planning to book a liveaboard Komodo tour like we did (sleeping on the boat and all that jazz), you’ll need to sleep in Labuan Bajo the night before. You don’t really have a choice, as flights don’t arrive early enough and you definitely won’t make it there by ferry in time. Since the Komodo tours start pretttyyyy early in the morning, getting to Flores island and Labuan Bajo in particular the night beforehand is a must. Don’t wanna miss your boat!
We decided to check out two different spots on Labuan Bajo → one before our Komodo tour package started (Le Pirate), and one once the Komodo island tour was finished (Ayana Komodo).
I planned it quite strategically, staying at the less expensive option the first night (since we were planned to arrive in Labuan Bajo around sunset and were getting picked up early the next morning – meaning not much actual time to enjoy the hotel) and a much more lux spot the last night (when we knew we would have much more time to actually enjoy the amenities).
Le Pirate Labuan Bajo: That first night before the Komodo tour started we stayed at the simple Le Pirate Labuan Bajo, which turned out to be a-okay, especially considering it cost about $60 a night and had a rooftop bar and pool (we saved our pennies for the resort afterwards).
It was that first night we witnessed our first Komodo sunset – and it was absolutely surreal. SO. MUCH. COLOR. All from the roof of our little hotel. There are dorm style rooms and private rooms to choose from.
Besides the stunning infinity pool overlooking the exquisite Waecicu Beach, the design was exceptional, the cuisine superior, and the service unparalleled (everyone here’s so warm and friendly). And it’s basically brand new – it first opened its doors in September of 2018.
Again, that sunset view! I swear we witnessed more golden sunsets in Komodo and Labuan Bajo than elsewhere in the world. If you’re looking for top notch (in terms of amenities and location), check out the Ayana Komodo, as it’s the only 5 star resort in Labuan Bajo. We loooooved it, and I don’t say that lightly (plus, I’m always keepin’ it real over here so you can be sure you’ve got our honest opinions).
Just beware – if you do decide to spend a night or two at the Ayana, don’t book any of their tours – they are ridiculously overpriced (FYI).
Other accommodations options in Labuan Bajo include Bintang Flores Hotel, Plataran Komodo Beach Resort, and The Jayakarta Suites Komodo Flores, but in all reality, I think we chose the best two (and trust me, I did tons and tons of research, like I always do before any big bucket-list trip).
What to Bring on any Komodo Tour
Thankfully, if you book a Komodo liveaboard tour like we did, you won’t need to pack any camping gear, cookware, or other heavy nonsense. The boat provides all that and more. Do be sure to ask your specific tour operator what specifically is needed, as I’m sure all don’t provide the luxuries we had on board. However, there’s a few things you will most definitely want to bring/be aware of when packing before visiting the Komodo islands!
First of all, you’ll want to pack on the lighter side. The planes to Labuan Bajo (for Komodo) are quite small, with a lighter luggage allowance than most other flights. With that being said, you can always pay for extra baggage, which is what we had to do since my husband brought along a full-size suitcase (he’s not as swift at packing for 2 weeks in a carryon like I am).
If I remember correctly, the prices were more reasonable than other times we needed to upgrade baggage. The bigger bag was fine on the boat, but I wouldn’t suggest bringing more than one suitcase per person. Most people on our liveaboard brought backpacking backpacks.
A few recommended items: a strong mosquito repellent, high SPF reef-safe sunscreen (to protect the fishies and coral of course), medicine for seasickness (we don’t suffer from seasickness, but if it’s your first time sleeping on a small-ish boat you may want to bring some dramamine just in case – we did), bathing suits, hiking shoes/sneakers for trekking (we both brought Tevas), and high-quality camera gear (photo spots alllll around, you’ll see).
Things to do in Komodo National Park
It’s hard to get bored in Komodo. There’s stunning beaches, colorful coral reefs, and exotic wildlife every corner you turn. Below are the most popular things to do in Komodo National Park, and exactly what we did on our few days in the area! Don’t miss any of them (I’d be hard pressed if I had to eliminate one or two).
Hike up Kelor Island, take in the views, then go swimming
Kelor is kinda the perfect island – there’s hiking, crystal clear water, sandy beaches, and coral underneath the surface.
Kelor Island was our first stop on our Komodo tour, and we trekked up the hill right away! To be honest, it was much more difficult than I had initially thought (read: steep), although others were breezing right by me. And plus, I get a tad nervous (okay, I’m scared shit) when hiking down on loose gravel/sand, so I did the crab walk for the better portion of the way back (ha, ha, ha).
BUT the views more than made up for my dirty bum. Just look! And we didn’t even make it to the very tippy top (although the rest of our group who hiked did – some stayed at the surface enjoying a bit of extra beach time)!
If you’re gonna trek up, I highly advise you do so in proper shoes with a good grip (my husband and I wore tevas); others in our group wore sandals but they obviously had much more hiking experience than us.
You can also go snorkeling here, but our guide noted that there was much better snorkeling nearby which we’d be doing soon anyways. After the quickish hike, I searched for seashells and swam in the shallow waters near the shore.
Meet the Dragons (on Rinca Island and/or Komodo Island)
Imagine standing next to a Komodo dragon. In the wild. Yup, it’s a terrifying and utterly fascinating experience all at the same time. I was petrified (just like I was of the monkeys in Bali). But you absolutely cannot visit this group of Indonesian islands and not hang with the largest lizard in the world (fun fact)!
Komodo Island National Park is the only spot on planet Earth where Komodo dragons call home (all 5,700 of them). And once you make it the area, you’ve got a few islands to choose from, particularly Komodo Island and Rinca Island. Yes, it’s a little confusing, but Komodo is also the name of a specific island as well (although when many say they’re headed to Komodo Island they mean the area in general).
So which one to visit? Well, you can always visit both, but we just visited Rinca and found our experience to be satisfying enough (hey, more time for the beach, right?).
While you can easily spot dragons on both islands (with a guide, of course), there are a few main differences.
1) The amount of time it takes to get there – Komodo Island is reachable in about 4 hours from the mainland of Flores (originating from Labuan Bajo), whereas Rinca is significantly closer, taking roughly only 2 hours.
2) The number of dragons on the island (with the largest population existing on Komodo Island with roughly 1,700, with Rinca coming in as a close second with approximately 1,300).
If I had to choose just one, I’d pick Rinca.
Since Rinca is less impacted from tourism, you’re much more likely to spot the dragons in their natural habitat (a reason why Komodo Island is shutting its doors to visitors soon). The island is completely undeveloped, making it the perfect home for exotic and dangerous wildlife (hence the dragons).
On Rinca there are 3 main trekking paths to choose from; we chose the shortest trek (roughly 20-30 minutes) and saw a dozen or so of these 300ish pound monsters along with a spectacular view out to sea. And with Rinca’s extreme heat, I doubt you’ll be able to handle a much longer trek (we were dripping).
Regardless of which island you end up visiting, you’ll be walking through the bush in search of the Komodo dragons with a guide (always!) and armed only with a stick. We also saw a water buffalo lurking behind some trees, which was quite shocking to say the least! Do note that venomous snakes frequent the area, so be sure to stay on the path and always watch your step.
Snorkel with sea turtles
If there’s one thing I make sure of on any tropical trip, it’s including some time to snorkel with the sea turtles! And thankfully, not only did our Komodo tour include some great snorkelling spots, but green turtles and hawksbill turtles are quite plentiful in coral reefs in Komodo! Your guide/tour will know great spots to jump outta the boat for a good snorkel, so fingers crossed you see a few of these beauties yourself!
If you’ve never swam with a sea turtle before, you’re in for a real treat. There’s just something so majestic about these (larger-than-you-realize but) graceful creatures swimming below the surface.
And please oh please – do not attempt to chase/feed/pet/play with a sea turtle. Our touch is dangerous to their sensitive turtle shells, potentially causing disease and other harm.
Pro tip for spotting the sea turtles: While seeing animals in the wild is never guaranteed, there’s a few tricks you can use to increase your chances. First things first, you’ll wanna swim to where the edge of the reef meets the open ocean. Turtles seem to congregate over in these parts, and you’ll have a much higher chance of seeing them over here!
And just remember, turtles need to come to the surface for air every so often, so keep your eyes peeled all around you! You can see them resting on the sea bed, swimming up for a breath, and just casually hanging around. Patience!
Witness millions of bats overhead at Kalong Island
What’s more insane than watching a swarm of thousands upon thousands of the world’s largest bats fly overhead at sunset? People actually call them flying foxes they’re so big! It’s a pretty surreal experience, despite sounding extra odd (haha).
Our guide anchored our boat some distance from the island, and we just couldn’t peel our eyes away from the sky full of bats! I mean, just look at these photos! Absolutely spectacular!
Where do the bats come from anyway (yes, I wondered about this too)? Kalong Island is covered with mangrove plantations which is where hundreds of thousands/millions of these bats live. Once dusk arrives each and every day, the bats leave their roost (where they rest during the day) and head for their feeding grounds on the mainland.
It’s really a magnificent spectacle. Be sure to book a Komodo tour package which includes this experience, it’s just like being in the pages of National Geographic.
Fun tidbit: Kalong actually means bat in the local language, which makes perfect sense all things considered!
Hike up Padar Island for Sunrise
Set your alarm clock, because we’re waking up early (as in 4am or so)! If there’s one thing you can’t miss on your Komodo tour, it’s the spectacular sunrise trekking on Padar Island. The views are by-far outta this world insane. BUT it comes at a grueling price – about 1,000 steps or so straight up the mountain!
It’s quite a steep hike, and was quite challenging to reach the top, but not impossible by any means.
I even wore sandals (with a strap on the back though, which really helped)! Just so you’re aware, the first few sets of wooden and then stone steps are safe, but then, near the top, they’re pretty crumbled and/or non-existent. You may want to grab your hiking shoes instead, which I probably should have done. Also a wise idea to come equipped with a water bottle and sunscreen!
However, WHEN you climb to the summit makes a huge difference. Since there’s little shade on the entire trek, come as early as possible (before sunrise) to not only avoid the crowd, but the intense heat. Yes, it was still blistering hot on our way down, but I can’t imagine trekking up with that scorching sun shining down on us nonstop.
I’m guessing it took us roughly 25-30 minutes to reach the top, including a few photo breaks. (Heading back down was way easier despite the heat).
Once you reach the top, you’ll get a grew view of this island dreamscape below – a full panoramic view of all of Padar. Those photos you see on IG are real – 3 turquoise bays, each with different colored sand (a rare combo of sparkling white, charcoal black, and baby pink sand beaches). We then watched the sun rise above the horizon, making the ground a soft golden hue, before taking about a million and 5 photos.
Do note if you visit just after the rainy season (visiting between April to June), the mountains will be much more lush and green. We visited in July and the land was dry and brown, albeit beautiful, to say the least.
Relax at Pink Beach
Striking pink sands. Clear turquoise waters. Endless blue skies. Rolling green hills. I can go on and on. This idyllic spot has got to be one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever been. In my life. Yeah, yeah, I already deemed San Blas and the Zapatillas worthy of that title, but after visiting Pink Beach (and Komodo in general), I think they’ve been booted of the #1 spot.
And yes, my pink-obsessed friends, Pink Beach does in fact have pink sand; why else would it be called that?! The unique color is formed by crushed shells of microscopic single-cell sea creatures (called Foraminifera – whoaaa science). When you combine these small flecks of red shell with fine white reef sand, you get a soft pink tink! And trust me, you’ll notice the rosy hue even before getting off the boat, as it’s visible from the water.
There are actually quite a few different pink sand beaches in Komodo National Park, but any experienced guide will know the best spots to take you for that fine, fine pink tinted stuff. What to do once you get there? You can either relax, swim, and play in the waters like we did, and/or go snorkeling (the reefs here are booming with sea life).
Be sure to take some photos of this natural phenomenon – it’s not everyday you find yourself digging your toes into pink sand! We definitely took our fair share…
Go swimming with Manta Rays at Manta Point
Imagine crossing paths with a giant Manta Ray; what a magical, remarkable, mind-blowing experience. And no, you don’t even need to go diving to see them as these gentle giants play right on the surface! Definitely bring along your GoPro!
Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate during our Komodo trip (it was a bit windy making the tide too rough), so fingers crossed you’ll get better conditions! Of course safety is the number one priority on any Komodo tour package (as it should be), but to say I was bummed we missed out on this is a complete understatement! Next time!
Wander/Swim around Taka Makassar
Absolute perfection. This tiny blip of white sand in the Middle of Nowhere, Indonesia will surely help live out all your beachy postcard dreams. The sand and sea of Taka Makassar is surely on par with the blues of Bora Bora (can’t believe I’m admitting that), and I kinda wished we had brought along a few Bintangs or some fresh watermelon juice to shore!
Yes, this banana-shaped sand bar is small – you can walk from end to end in about 5 minutes or so! There’s a bunch of coral lining the sand and water, so be careful! Tons of photo ops here, so don’t forget your camera.
Sunset at Sebayur Island
Can there ever be enough sunset hikes during a Komodo island-hopping trip? Nope! Thankfully there’s a bit of shade of here, so you hopefully won’t be heading up in the heat!
And just so there’s no confusion, there’s actually two Sebayur Islands, differentiated by their size. I’m honestly not sure which one we hit up, but it was either Sebayur Kecil (small) or Sebayur Besar (big).
Psst: we didn’t actually make it up. We didn’t even make an attempt. It was a last minute decision and we were all waaaaay too tired, so we watched the sunset from the boat, and it was perfection. My husband hiked up the next morning for sunrise and he said it only took about 5 minutes, so there ya go, shouldn’t be too hard.
Snorkel and relax at Kanawa Island
Before we headed back to Labuan Bajo, we made a pit stop at the fairytale island of Kanawa. Being only 15km or so from Labuan Bajo in Flores, it’s a great first or last place to hit up on any Komodo island tour itinerary.
We lounged and played in the water while others snorkeled. You’ll see – the water is soooo crystal clear you can even see the fish from above water! And if you’re lucky, you may see a few starfish in the shallow water near the jetty. There are apparently some sea urchin so be careful when walking in the water!
Our Komodo Trip
Our Komodo trip was an overdose to the senses: think crystal clear waters, giant bats flying overhead, stunning views everywhere we looked, and brightly colored corals beneath the surface.
I’ve decided to give you an overview of our entire Komodo tour package so you get an accurate representation of all you can see and do within a short time period. As noted earlier, we chose a 2 night/3 day Komodo island tour, and felt this was the perfect amount of time to explore the islands and take advantage of the boat.
Do note that we slept in Labuan Bajo the night before the tour, and the night after the tour, making our time in the area 4 nights (2 nights in hotels, 2 nights on the boat).
Here’s how our entire Komodo trip went down:
Our Komodo Island/Labuan Bajo Itinerary:
Day 1: We arrived to Labuan Bajo in late afternoon, took a quick taxi ride to town and checked into Le Pirate right before sunset. Not wanting to miss our first Flores sunset, we headed up to the rooftop bar straight away for some dinner and much-needed drinks.
Day 2: We got picked up by Travass Life the next morning around 9, transferred to the boat, had some welcome snacks and fresh fruit juice on board, and set sail! First activity: a hike to the top of Kelor island for our first Komodo National Park views and some relaxation time on the beach/go in water/look for shells.
Rinca island was next, for a short trekking loop to see Komodo dragons (!!!), then we anchored the boat near Kalong Island to watch the bats overhead at sunset.
Day 3: Today was a super early day, as we did the sunrise hike at Padar Island. After the trek we spent a fair bit of time at Pink Beach and Taka Makkasar, then spent the rest of the afternoon jumping off our boat and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Komodo.
Day 4: On our last full day in Komodo, we relaxed at Kanawa Beach, enjoying the bath-like waters and searching for seashells. After one last liveaboard lunch, we arrived back in Labuan Bajo around 2pm, making our way to Ayana Komodo around check-in time (3pm).
Since we were utterly exhausted from the last few days of Komodo adventures, we hung at the pool and relaxed, before witnessing one of the best sunsets of our lives.
Day 5: We woke up early to take full advantage of the stunning Ayana Komodo, before making our way back to Bali in the early afternoon. PHEW, what a few days!
The Boat and our Full Komodo Island Tour Package
After doing an insane amount of research (as I always do), we ultimately decided to book our Komodo tour package with Travass Life. The itinerary included everything on my Komodo bucket list and then some, and promised delicious sounding Indonesian hot meals, fresh fruit juices multiple times per day, and a personal photographer with a DRONE.
We were shocked that meals consisted of freshly caught fish, juicy watermelon and dragonfruit (among other exotic fruits), healthy veggies, and enough variety so we never got bored of boat food, as well as snacks throughout the day; and nope, we never went hungry.
We were lucky that the company’s spankin’ new boat was juuuuust finished right before our trip, and we got to sail on the fully-equipped Papiton (which was an absolute dream).
Our boat consisted of 12 passengers and a handful of crew members, all sharing a few rooms and 3 bathrooms. My husband and I opted for a private room with a comfy full-size bed, and I was in awe of our space on the boat. The deck area was large enough to fit all of us comfortably, with bean bag chairs and chaise lounges for relaxing during our island hopping adventures.
Are you planning a trip to the Komodo Islands any time soon?! What are you most excited for?