When it comes to Indonesia and holiday, most people would think of Bali. Too common? Lombok, then! Well, think slightly further… Two islands further, to be specific and you have the majestic Komodo Islands.
I mean.. I’ve heard of this place but only know it for the komodo dragons. Then later, I heard about its magnificent dive sites. THEN, I saw a photo of the unreal, Jurassic-looking Padar Island, and it has captured me since!!! I am sold! TAKE ME TO THIS PLACE, STAT!!!!
So, a quick introduction to the booming destination Komodo National Park. It consists of the three main islands – Komodo Island, Padar Island and Rinca Island. These are all accessible by boat from a port town called Labuan Bajo, which belongs to a group of islands called Flores. It has been named one of the Seven New Wonders of Nature, which probably must’ve brought a steady stream of tourists like me into the region. This mini guide I’ve written only covers this part of Flores, since I have not explored the rest of Flores (it is so big!!!).
Getting there from Singapore
First, you fly to Bali (Denpasar) from Singapore. Then, you take a domestic flight out to Labuan Bajo from Bali. There are several flights to LBJ daily. It takes about an hour. This is the fastest, easiest and most comfortable option.
If you want to get to LBJ ASAP, you must take flights no later than 9am-ish in order to make the flight connection (so that means Jetstar’s 5am flight, or TigerAir’s 7am flight, etc.). The last flight out to LBJ from Bali is at 02:00pm by NamAir. Allow ample time as the walking time from Bali’s international terminal to domestic terminal takes about 15-20 mins.
Some people fly to Bali, then take a few days cruise to LBJ, whilst stopping along all the tourist spots in Komodo Islands. There is also a public ferry which takes about 3 days, which is an inexpensive but longer and less comfortable way to get there.
What to see around the Komodo Islands
There are plenty of things to see and do around this massive national park, except most of them would have to be accessed by a boat, and preferably with a tour group (to be safe). Most of the tours start as early as 5.30am and usually will be back by the harbour by 5pm. So, what are the top things to see around the Komodo Islands?
– Komodo dragons themselves, of course.
The stars of Komodo National Park are of course, these meat-eating bad boys which can grow up to 3m in length. That’s massive. They can be viewed on Komodo Island and Rinca Island itself. It’s highly recommended to go with a tour group, as the guides know where to stand, what to do, and how to keep you safe from the komodo dragons.
– Padar Island, the most photogenic scenic spot ever
This hike is one of my favourites because the rewarding view you get in exchange of a mere half an hour hike is very, very sweet. Most of the tours will make it the first stop, when the sun is hanging low and gives you dramatic shadows on the hills. So beautiful. Remember to wear covered shoes or sandals, as the hike can get steep and sandy. The trouble for me was going down, because it was just so slippery. Be careful. A hat would help you fend off the blazing heat too.
Read about my Padar Island hike here.
– Scuba Diving around the National Park
Some say that Komodo offers one of the ‘best scuba diving experience in the world’ and is like ‘a dream come true’. Well, my experience was quite wonderful. Lots and lots of shark encounters, wonderful visibility, beautiful corals and manta ray sightings have made it one of my favourite diving spots in Southeast Asia. The currents were pretty strong, but we were well taken care of. It’s best to experience the diving on a Liveaboard. I regretted not having done so.
– Snorkelling at Manta Point
This activity is usually included as part of the day tour package after Padar Island trek and komodo dragon viewing. Manta rays are such gentle giants. I love them! Our boat took us to a popular manta cleaning station site called ‘Manta Point’ and we looked for the mantas from the surface. Once spotted, we hopped into the water with our snorkel gear and swam with them! At one point, there were 3 manta rays just swimming around below us. Amazing experience!
– Pink Beach
Komodo has a special and famous beach that has PINK SAND. It is one of the seven pink beaches on the planet, which makes it super special because they have it right here! It’s so pretty! But the pink is probably more obvious from a higher point of view. You can snorkel here in its crystal clear waters! The pink beach is most probably will be part of the day tour package. We had our lunch here.
– Kanawa Island
Kanawa Island is a private island with a resort on it, and it’s one of the nearer islands to Labuan Bajo. There’s not that much to do here, but it’s super photogenic and pleasant to swim in. The waters are crystal clear. I saw some people snorkel here, but I prefer to lounge on the daybeds they have out here and take a refreshing dip under the hot afternoon sun.
– Gili Lawa viewpoint
I haven’t been here but this looks like yet another scenic hiking spot to get your Instagram game on! This is located at Komodo Islands. This was also one of the dive sites I visited.
Labuan Bajo belongs to a massive island called Flores, and there are more adventures beyond it. I never got to explore this side of the island due to time constraint. However, I heard about these two famous spots you might consider if you’ve got time.
– Kelimutu Volcano
The famous Kelimutu Volcano features tri-colored lakes, which is a natural occuring phenomenon. Apparently, the lakes also change colours dramatically from blue or green, to red or black – which seems quite cool and crazy at the same time.
– Todo Village
A traditional village of the Manggarai hill people – a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in their traditional culture as the facilities here are frozen in time. Witness these ceremonial houses perched on top of a hill. It looks like quite a scenic sight.
My Trip Summary
Bali (DPS) to Labuan Bajo (LBJ)
NamAir 02:00pm to 02:55pm
Cost: SGD67 one way
Labuan Bajo (LBJ) back to Bali (DPS)
WingsAir 08:40am to 10:00am
Cost: SGD76 one way
By the sea: A good way to explore and island hop is to go on a few days cruise. That way, you don’t have to keep making the slow and long boat trips out to the islands. For divers, it’s so much better to do a liveaboard because the nearest dive site was a 2-hour boat ride away. I wish I did LOB instead, because going from land felt very tiring.
Staying on land: I stayed at Le Pirate, a hipster boutique hotel chain in Indonesia (other locations being Bali and Gili). Stayed a total of 4 nights, SGD250 total. Works out to be SGD32 per pax, per night.
Le Pirate seems to be the best choice if you’re willing to pay a little more (but not too much) for a very modern accommodation. I was very pleased with the cleanliness of the hotel and the facilities. Nice rooftop deck and restaurant, clean rooms with working air-conditioner. ALSO, the nice hot showers with strong water pressure. That’s the best! Unfortunately, the rooms were very, VERY small and the wifi did not work in the rooms. This was something I’ve already read online and anticipated, so I was ok.
I dived with UberScuba, since they are famous and I’d prefer a company that I can trust. It was just an easy 1 minute walk from our hotel, too. They were great, fast and professional. Nice people, knowledgable divemasters. I have no complaints.
Cost: 1,500,000 IDR (~SGD160)
What’s included: day trip + 3 dives + full equipment + food and drink
Not included: National park fees (175,000 IDR per day), tips, etc.
Island Package/Private Tour
I forgot to take down the name of the tour company, and they don’t have an online presence either. It is directly opposite Le Pirate hotel though. Oops! Anyway, I wanted to spend more time on Padar Island and did not want to see any Komodo dragons (I know, but I am just not interested, sorry haha!) so I wanted to customise my trip, and not get rushed by a big tour group.
The tour company was charging ~SGD70 (negotiable) per pax for a tour package, and a typical tour goes like this:
5:30am meet, head to Padar Island for trekking, then to Komodo National Park for komodo dragons, then to Pink Beach for snorkelling and lunch, then to Manta Point for snorkelling with manta rays, then back to Labuan Bajo port by 5pm.
However, we paid SGD150 per pax for a private boat and fully customisable trip. We were in the shop just looking at the map and planning our own trip instead. So in the end, our island day tour looked like this:
5:30am meet, head to Padar Island for trekking, then to Pink Beach for snorkelling and lunch, then to Manta Point for snorkelling with manta rays, then to Kanawa Island, then back to Labuan Bajo port by 5pm.
An upside to not sticking to the schedule is that you can avoid the big crowds. The Pink Beach was almost empty when we were there because everyone else is still watching the komodo dragons. However, if you’re keen to check out the very cool and huge komodo dragon, the normal tours are perfectly fine and cheaper, of course. You get a lot done in a day, which is awesome.
Hope this mini guide gives you an idea of what to do or see in the Komodo Islands. It’s an amazing Indonesian destination and definitely one of my favourites. The Komodo Islands look like it’s about to become ridiculously popular, as it is voted the New 7 Wonders of the World – so hurry and visit before it becomes TOO touristy!