5 Facts About Komodo National Park You Need to Know: islands, diving, and Komodo dragons
About one and a half flight hours east of Bali, the region offers something for everyone, and yet it is (almost) still an insider tip.
Because the area is developing quickly and is becoming increasingly popular with individualists, adventurers, and divers. The number of visitors is increasing and more airlines are offering flights to the island of Flores, the starting point for visiting the national park. No wonder, because the Komodo National Park offers so many great excursions for vacationers!
In this article, you will get an overview of the islands, activities, and excursions that are waiting for you, the special features of the national park, and things you should pay attention to if you want to visit Komodo National Park. Tour Tip: You want to organize your tour of Komodo National Park in advance? Then take a look at the Komodo tours from local guides
1) Komodo National Park: The starting point Labuan Bajo
With around one million inhabitants and around 15,000 square kilometers, Flores has three airports : Labuan Bajo, Ende and Maumere. The best place to visit the National Park and the monitor lizards is Labuan Bajo .
Labuan Bajo is located in the far west and therefore the closest to Bali. It is a lively and fast growing place that offers neither beaches nor a lot of rest. And yet it is the home base for most travelers. Why?
The main reason is probably the location: In Labuan Bajo – called ” LB ” by the locals – the excursions and boats start in the Komodo National Park , the easiest way to book tours, and there is a suitable program and suitable accommodation for every taste .
The flair of the place is international, but still sufficiently Indonesian. The locals and dropouts are relaxed and helpful. You feel the community of people and as a guest you quickly feel part of the whole.
2) Komodo National Park: The islands of Komodo
The national park comprises a large number of islands, some of which are uninhabited or at least not (yet) accessible for tourists. The largest three islands are Komodo , Rinca and Padar . The island of Flores does not belong directly to the national park, but is the starting point for the tours there and offers many great excursion destinations.
a) Komodo National Park: Flores – nature experiences & village life
Flores is much more than just the starting point for discovering Komodo Park. The island is still very pristine, has impressive waterfalls , untouched offshore islands, great caves , original villages, cheap accommodation and beautiful diving and snorkeling areas .
If you want to experience the island with its many sights and natural spectacles, you have several options:
On your own with the scooter: You can explore the island of Flores wonderfully on your own with the scooter – not for the faint-hearted, but a memory for life. If you want to get involved in this adventure, you should read our experience report beforehand.
Guided tour by car: If you want to experience Flores from west to east (or vice versa), you can also book a guided tour by car. You don’t have to worry about anything and have a guide with you who can tell you a lot about the culture of Flores.
Sights of Flores
There are several traditional, original villages on the island . The best known is Wae Rebo in the south of the island. The Tololela Cultural Village (probably still very untouristic and “real”) and the Bena Cultural Village should also be nice. In the villages, as a tourist you get an insight into the traditional life of the islanders and can buy some handicrafts.
The east of Flores is known for the Gunung Kelimutu. The volcano has three crater lakes that are close together and shine in different colors. This offers a great natural spectacle . The best way to get there is from the village of Moni – either with a guide or on your own with the scooter. On the mountain there is food and a few souvenir stands from locals.
A tip: If the visibility is clear, a visit at sunrise is worthwhile!
In the area around Labuan Bajo, there are also nice sights and excursion destinations such as the Rangko Cave, where you can swim between stalagmites and stalactites, and the waterfalls Cunca Wulang and Cunca Rami.
b) Pulau Rinca and Pulau Komodo: Visit Komodo dragons and relax on Pink Beach
If you visit Komodo National Park, there is an absolute “must do”: see real dragons ! The Komodo dragons are only found on the islands of Rinca and Komodo, and the dragons live freely there – you can see them in the woods, on the hills and sometimes swimming in the water.
Huge, seemingly sluggish and suddenly lightning fast, they are strange and majestic beings that captivate visitors.
If you want to visit the Komodo dragons, you must do so in a guided tour with a ranger – for your own safety, but also to learn more about the animals.
The male animals are up to three meters long and can also be dangerous for humans. In their lower jaw they have a poison gland that can kill their prey. Even the thick, long tail is not without: A leg can break quickly if the monitor lashes out to strike.
Fast facts about Komodo dragons in Komodo National Park
- Komodo dragons are the world’s largest living lizards (up to 3m long and 70 kg heavy)
- Komodo dragons are also called Oras by locals
- Nevertheless, Komodo dragons are very good swimmers, as this video shows
- There are currently just over 3000 living Komodo dragons (the number has been relatively stable in recent years)
- Komodo dragons can eat up to 80% of their body weight in one meal
- There are some cases where female Komodo dragons have produced offspring without mating
- Komodo dragons have a poison gland in their lower jaw that can kill their prey.
Depending on the time of day, the beach may not always look really pink; photos are often used to help with a photo program. Nevertheless, the beautiful beach is worth a visit.
Apparently, the negative sides of tourism are already showing here : According to information from the locals, there are now probably party trips to Pink Beach, which include an overnight stay on the beach.
The residents of the national park are very angry because the guests and organizers probably leave their rubbish and endanger nature and animals.
Komodo National Park: directions, excursion packages and overnight stay
1. Group excursion to Komodo National Park by boat
Day trips in a group usually include a combination package: a visit to the Komodo dragons, a stop at Pink Beach, a hike to the viewpoint on Padar Island and a snorkel stop at Manta Point are almost always on the program.
2. Private trip to Komodo National Park by charter boat
If you’d rather book a private trip, the best way to organize it is through your accommodation or at one of the many stands on the main street in LB.
The advantages: You have more flexibility when choosing your excursion destinations, and you can take the trip on a speedboat – this quickly saves you two hours of driving time and you can enjoy the great places in the national park for longer.
→ Take a look at the Komodo tours from our trip
3. A variant for divers: trip with dives and shore excursion
The many diving centers in Labuan Bajo offer a combination of two dives and a kite tour several times a week.
4. By boat from Lombok to Flores
There is also the option of making several stops in Komodo National Park when arriving by boat from Lombok.
Good experiences were made especially with the provider Wanua Adventures (see Tripadvisor ).
5. Important for planning the trip
There is not a single group tour boat on Muslim holidays, because all captains are free on these days.
If you are lucky, you will find a captain for a private excursion, or you can combine the trip with two dives because the diving boats are still on the way.
c) Pulau Padar: the best foresight
Wow – what a view! If you are traveling in Komodo, you cannot miss this spot. The ascent to the hill of the island of Padar is exhausting, especially in the midday heat, but absolutely worth it ! Anyone standing on top will take their breath away not only because of the scrambling.
Most boat trips that lead to Komodo National Park include a stop at Padar.
Diving boats do not always stop here – the best thing to do is to inquire at the diving centers beforehand.
d) Pulau Kanawa: relaxed island life
Kanawa Island has a beautiful beach, offshore coral reef and accommodations at Kanawa Island Resort. A visit to the island as a stopover or a stop in front of the coral reef for snorkeling and swimming is on the program with some excursion packages.
If you want, you can also spend one or more nights at the resort and have Labuan Bajo pick you up with the transfer boat. According to various reports, the quality of the accommodation has deteriorated significantly. It is best to ask Google about the latest reviews before booking or talk to the instructor in Labuan Bajo – they usually know what to do where and when or not.
e) Pulau Seraya Kecil and Pulau Hatamin: dream beaches in paradise
The island of Seraya Kecil is a wonderful, calm, and relaxed place. Just a short boat trip from Labuan Bajo, it offers the perfect conditions for total relaxation: crystal clear water, a beautiful sunset point, a nice Indonesian fishing village, and a pretty coral reef.
In summer 2017, a new resort called “The Seraya” opened its doors, which is perfect for a break .
- Baby sharks between the mangroves in the shallow water
- a pool with a sea view
- a long jetty with hammocks
- Stand-up paddles and kayaks
- nice bungalows with comfortable beds
- and the coolest restaurant ever: the entire restaurant wing is built sustainably, offers sea views, and the roof is shaped like a manta ray
The Seraya offers both comfortable bungalows for two people and beautiful four-bed dorms for little money . Soon the owner Will wants to build bamboo bungalows on the beach.
Half-board and transfer are included in the overnight price, and you can have a little lunch in the restaurant.
And the highlight: there is practically no cell phone reception – relaxation is guaranteed!
Note: Rooms at The Seraya can only be booked via Airbnb – however, there are rooms in the neighboring resort via other homepages, which is very similar but is significantly more expensive.
f) Pirate Island: Disconnect to Reconnect
The tiny island of Sabola has recently been accessible to a few tourists for the first time (August 2018). The pirate island invites you to day trips and overnight stays on the beach.
Although the term “island” may be an exaggeration: it is actually a snow-white sandbar with an attached rocky hill, on which there are only seven huts from ” Le Pirate “. The huts are two-story and more tent than house.
What is lacking in internet reception is balanced with other activities. If you don’t want to read or listen to music in one of the many hammocks, you can borrow snorkels, kayaks or volleyballs for free.
All travelers who are looking for Leonardo Di Caprio’s “The Beach” experience: here they come pretty close to the dream.
3) Diving in the Komodo National Park
Pristine coral reefs, incredible fish diversity, bright colors and sometimes very demanding currents make Komodo a mecca for divers . There are now 30 diving schools in Labuan Bajo, and the number continues to grow every month.
They all offer different packages: day trips with two or three dives, various diving courses, liveaboard tours or trips with two dives and a trip to the kite or to the viewpoint of Pulau Padar.
Usually, the dive guides let you talk if you have a specific request – just go and ask.
Komodo is famous for the dive sites in the north with often crazy and extreme currents, which can also challenge experienced divers during the new and full moon.
But divers know: where there is a lot of movement in the water, there are also many fish to see!
Big sharks , majestic manta rays , but also great little sea creatures like Pigmy Seahorses are almost guaranteed to be seen here.
With a lot of luck you can spot a manatee (dugong) or a whale shark .
1. 5 popular diving spots in Komodo National Park
1) Batu Bolong
You must not miss this spot! One of the most fish-rich and colorful dive sites: From large to tiny everything is there – sea snakes, sharks, turtles, critters, nudibranchs and sometimes a manta. A dive to enjoy!
2) The Cauldron
Incredibly cool spot that can also be challenging. In the cauldron (English Cauldron) sharks and other big fish frolic – and if you have seen enough, you can let the current shoot out of the cauldron. Sounds crazy? It is!
3) Siaba Besar
A paradise for muck lovers! Here you can find all the little things you need to know: Ghost Pipefish, Painted Frogfish, Nudibranchs and much more. A corner further on, the turtles in their corals are waiting for you. A great, varied spot!
4) Castle Rock
The most legendary spot in Komodo North: Unpredictable currents, especially with new and full moon, and nothing works without reef hooks. Anyone who can handle current is rewarded with all kinds of large fish.
5) Makassar or Manta Point The manta rays
rule here! Whether reef or oceanic mantas, or sometimes an eagle ray – when the tide begins, there are great opportunities for the majestic animals. And with a lot of luck you can see a dugong.
2. Diving centers in Labuan Bajo
All diving centers that have joined the organization DOCK (“Dive Operators Community Komodo”) are committed to the highest safety standards, fair wages, and working conditions and support the environmental protection organizations Trash Hero .
Some of them include:
- Divine diving
- Komodo Dive Center
- Neren diving Komodo
- Flores Diving Center
- Dive Komodo
- Manta Rhei
- Wicked diving
- Scuba junkie Komodo
- Flores XP
- About Scuba
- Dragon Dive Komodo
3. Liveaboards in Labuan Bajo
If you are interested in the liveaboard adventure, read our liveaboard in the Komodo National Park. There we describe everyday life on a liveaboard, which requirements have to be fulfilled, what you should have onboard and the most famous diving spots that are controlled.
4) Dangers for the country and people in Komodo National Park: the downside of the coin
Although the Komodo National Park is still an insider tip , the region has rapidly growing visitor numbers . This is particularly evident in Labuan Bajo: hundreds of boats in the harbor, many construction sites and heavy traffic on the streets.
If you are looking for peace and quiet, you are wrong here. If you like entertainment, good food and bars with live music, you will feel at home here.
And the place has the perfect location for exploring the area. The location is even so good that the Indonesian Tourism Board is making bizarre plans for the expansion of Labuan Bajo : A new runway for the airport is to be built, the first hills have already been cleared.
A huge, modern marina is to be built at the port of Labuan Bajo – at horrific costs. In addition, the traditional fish market has to give way, which ensures an income for many local families.
The aim of the tourism association is to create a “second Bali” . A project that causes indignation and cold showers all over the back. The rapid growth harbors the danger of overrun the region.
Tourism, on the one hand, is flourishing in a positive way , and on the other , there are many dangers . For people , but also for nature. Because more and more boats pollute the waters , some anchoring in the middle of the coral reefs . Most dive centers are very careful about these things – but others don’t care about nature. That is why it is important to use active DOCK members when choosing your dive center (see above).
A few NGOs are regularly on site, get an overview of the situation and speak to the Indonesian government. The French NGO Coral Guardian, for example, is taking action: With volunteers, they train local fishermen so that they can create artificial coral reefs and protect their own future by protecting the reefs.
What you can do as a traveler:
When booking, pay attention to sustainability aspects, observe how tour and dive providers deal with nature and, if necessary, write a review or speak to the bosses. Safe drinking water and avoid waste or dispose of it accordingly.
If you feel like it, take part in the regular Trash Hero Beach Clean-ups that the local companies/diving schools offer, or help the non-profit organizations – they are always happy to receive interns and volunteers.
The Marine Megafauna Foundation e.g. B. is often looking for support with the digital recording of resident manta rays or with the training of divers. There are also weekly Manta and Coral Talks at the Molas Café in Labuan Bajo. You can learn a lot about animals and nature. If you buy another T-shirt from the Foundation, you will help the organization even more.
Yes, of course – all these things do not save the whole world or the national park – but what is it called? Constant dripping wears away the stone.
If you want to do more, you can volunteer with NGOs and organizations such as the Garbage Bank Maumere of the Marine Megafauna Foundation or Coral Guardian .
5) Arrival, travel time, ATMs: Organizational matters to the Komodo National Park
a) Arrival Komodo National Park
The easiest way to get to Labuan Bajo is by plane. There are direct flights from Denpasar in Bali and Jakarta in Java with Lion Air, Wings Air, NAM Air, Batik Air, or the more expensive Garuda Indonesia. Try to book a window seat, the view over the Indonesian islands is fantastic! With tiket.com and traveloka.com you can find cheap flights easily. Both websites and apps are absolutely reliable and often show more and better connections than international booking websites.
The second option for arrival is a ferry boat from Lombok or Sulawesi .
Many locals and travelers advise against this variant. Many have already feared for their lives in storms, and safety on the boats is often not taken seriously.
b) Travel time Komodo National Park
The monsoon determines the climate of the Komodo National Park. The best time to travel is from mid-April to November .
During the rainy season from December to March there is a high risk of dengue fever.
The popular manta rays can be found all year round in the national park. The peak season here is from October to April – sightings of huge groups are then common.
c) ATMs and payment Komodo National Park
There are many ATMs in Labuan Bajo, most of which also work reliably. Every now and then the machines at the pivotal points along the main street are empty or malfunction. There is always talk of fraud – so pay attention to any readers, count the money after withdrawing and keep the receipts.
You can pay by credit card in the dive shops, hotels, restaurants and some shops . Nevertheless, it is advisable to always have enough cash in your pocket.
d) Accommodation in Komodo National Park
Hotels and hostels are generally more expensive than in some other regions of Indonesia. You can also find cheap stays. Reservations via the relevant booking websites ( e.g. booking.com ) – especially in Labuan Bajo – are usually overpriced. There is a charge of 70 euros per night for a double room, although the rooms are not particularly clean, quiet, or pretty.
It’s best to ask on the main street for good and cheap homestays or bungalows. You can live for a month for the same price that you would otherwise pay for three nights – and you have more contact with the locals who will be happy to help you with any questions.
Accommodation on the smaller islands in the Komodo National Park is difficult to find online. You saw two of them earlier in the article – but we cannot name all of them here. Too often the owners change, new resorts are created or facilities are closed. In addition, quality is constantly changing, so it is difficult to make recommendations. It is best to use the latest reviews on booking.com or Airbnb as a guide.
Or ask on-site or ask one of the diving schools before arrival if you are in contact with them.
Caution : A tour of Ficko is not recommended! The boat returns to the port almost every night to pick up or pick up someone. The program is also seldom adhered to because the constant return trips to the port in Labuan Bajo mean that there is no overnight stay “at sea” to see the “Flying Fox” excursion.