The Komodo National Park is made up of a select group of islands and marine area, located off the coast of Flores in Indonesia and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This protected area is is not only precious because the world famous Komodo Dragons lives here, but because of the phenomenal marine life that lives below the surface. The reefs offer bright coloured coral, millions up on millions of fish, turtles, sharks, manta rays and is one of the best places I have been diving/snorkelling on the whole planet! Throughout the Islands you can also see buffalo, monkey, deer, wild bore and snakes along with the Komodo Dragon and you will walk through some really beautiful untouched scenery. The Komodo National Park is an amazing place that is still relatively unique and unexposed to the developed world and true spectacle of the natural world.
Liveaboard Boat - Scuba Diving
Blue Marline offer a hop on hop of liveaboard option so we chose to stay onboard for 3 days, this included all meals, 9 dives and a trekking tour on Rinca Island to see the Komodo Dragon’s. Overall the diving was fantastic, on every single dive we saw thousands and thousands of fish, vibrant coral and turtles and shark. My favourite site was Ba Tu Balong - I have never seen anything like this underwater, it was like an aquarium but better so much colour and so much marine life that I did not want to surface.. Absolutely spectacular. We also did a couple of night dives and saw turtles, stingray and even lion fish feeding, along with more colourful coral! Food was amazing and always filling, there was free soft drink and water, an honestly system for cold beer and hot showers for the evenings. The dive masters and crew on the boat were awesome fun, they had a little tiny where they took people out wakeboarding between dives and also to other islands to watch the sunset - would do it all again in a heartbeat! Prices are around 5,000,000 IDR for 3 days.
After spending a few days on the boat, we arrived back in Labuan Bajo around 5pm and went for a walk to find somewhere to stay for the night. There were a lot of accommodation options available on the main strip but we opted for ‘The Lounge’ which is located right in the heart of town. The Lounge 350,000 IDR per night including breakfast, The Lounge is a bar/restaurant and the rooms are located above it. The accommodation is pretty funky with swinging beds, cool bathroom and nice staff.
Komodo Dragons Tour
From Labuan Bajo you can organise a day trip or overnight tour to see the Komodo Dragon. There are lots of little tour offices, all selling the same tour, all itineraries were similar and you could barter for the price or also request to change the itinerary if you like. Depending on if you want to hire the boat for yourself or share with a couple of random people. We opted to share with a few random people, not to cut cost, but we thought it would be a little more fun.. And it was! Most boats have a cabin that sleeps two, and this was the same for the boat we were on, so one couple took the cabin, others laid on the bench and we slept on the floor. I loved it but to be honest its not for everyone, the sleep was terrible on deck but it was only for one night (I wasn't fazed but the missus wasn't overly impressed) but all in all we had an amazing time.
The tour cost between 500,000 - 1,000,000 IDR per person and begins at 8am at the tour office. We then walked down to the port and jumped on our little boat and took off to the islands. The weather was nice and the waters were calm, I had read reviews that the seas can be a bit rough and ultimately its just comes down to your luck.
When you enter the national park you will need to pay a National Park Fee of 150,000 IDR per person per day plus when you do the hike you will need to pay 8,000 IDR for a guide and 5,000 IDR for something else which they couldn't really explain, but.. Of course, We had to pay it! The boat trip tries to get you to both islands (Komodo and Rinca) on the same day so you only pay the National Park Fees once, then on the second day you will head to a couple of beaches and snorkelling spots.
When we arrived on Rinca and Komodo Islands for a hike, it took a lot of convincing to the guide that we wanted to do the long trek as the guides made up every excuse in the book as to why we should do the short trek - conveniently the short walk goes for 15-20 minutes, there are no hills, its is under cover the entire time and you are taken through the scrub close to the camp. I would suggest the short walk solely if you want to see a dragon and get your photo, but we were more interested in actually exploring the island and eventually we had an agreement and we were off on our long trek. Guided by a little Indonesian man with a stick we saw deer, buffalo and few komodo dragon, the landscape changed from the bushy scrub of the low lands to valleys full of palm trees and at the top of the hills were nice vista of the island.
In the evening we docked in a bay next to a lot of mangroves with a lot of other boats, all on the same journey. I can remember thinking ‘I would love a beer right now’ when a little old man and his son paddled out from a nearby island in a canoe with an eski full of cold beer, so I bought a large Bintang and was happy as baby with a bottle. We were lucky enough to have a full moon shining bright in the sky and as the sun set we all sat on the roof and watched thousands of flying foxes fly out of the trees and into the night to forage for food, it was amazing!
In the morning we sat back on the roof and watched the sunrise as all of the flying foxes returned from their overnight adventurers which was even better than the sunset. Breakfast was then served and we were on our way to the Pink Beach on Komodo Islands for a swim and snorkel. Our second stop was at Kanawa Island Resort which has a restaurant, a dive/snorkelling shop, and about 20 little bungalows on the beach. The accommodation is very basic and a little run down but the feel of the islands is very relaxed if you wanted to get away from everything. Rooms cost between 550,000-700,000 IDR per night with free transfers from Labuan Bajo.
After we finished relaxing on the Islands we set sail for Manta Point. As the name suggests there are lots of Manta Rays in this location. There were lots of boats and people in the water when we arrived but also lots of big Manta Rays which was cool! If you want to have a swim, I would suggest getting dropped at one end of the current and floating through to the other side so you have a relatively easy swim, as we were dropped all over the site, everyone was tired relatively quickly plus we all got stung by jelly-fish (it was kind of like a few little bee stings and burnt for a little bit but nothing unbearable). Overall the encounter was awesome and the captain of our boat got some really cool photos!
For our last night in Labuan Bajo we were also recommended to stay at a nice, modern Hotel called L Bajo as the rooms were clean, there were hot showers and fast wifi. The Hotel was a bit of a walk out of town but one of the most westernised complex’s we had come across in town. The rooms were 300,000 IDR a night for a double with views of the port.
In town we ate at; The lounge & Treehouse - cool/funky set up with billiard table reasonable food/drinks for average prices. Made in Italy - a little more expensive but high quality proper Italian food and Blue Marlin - Amazing Mexican food! There are also lots of other restaurants along the main strip with prices ranging from 30,000-40,000 IDR for a Nasi Goreng or Mei Goreng up to 100,000 -150,000 IDR for quality western food.
Flights are about $80AUD from Bali, inclusive 10kg check in luggage with Wings or Lion Air and there were awesome views of all of the Islands in the Komodo National Park from the window seats on Right Hand Side upon landing and Left Hand Side upon depurate - unfortunately we missed both!
There are also other options instead of flying, which is to get boats or ferries to/from your next destination. There is a Perama boat from Komodo to Lombok or visa versa, which I was pretty keen on, however my girlfriend said there was absolutely no chance. It is basically a 3/4 day trip stopping off at a few islands around northern Sumbawa, some waterfalls, then Komodo and Rinca and onto Labuan Bajo, however you sleep on the deck with up to 20/30 other passengers and there are some horror stories of boats crashing and sinking, with minimal safety standards and poor quality boats, some people even being found floating at sea up to 48 hours later. The cost is around 2,400,000 IDR ($200USD) and all meals and activities are included, you just need to bring your own alcohol. There are also larger liveaboard dive boats and chartered tours which leave between Lombok and Flores for around ($1,000-2,000USD) along with infrequent ferry connections from Bali to Flores and daily connections from Sumbawa.
The bus from the Town centre to the Airport costs 15,000 IDR each or private taxi is 50,000 IDR. The Airport is only 5 minutes drive or 20 minutes walk from town and has been recently renovated to try and help with the growing number of tourists to the area, however there are no shops to purchase food or drinks, and unfortunately no wifi :(