Written by Jiayi Ng
Co-written by Kristyna Schonova
With the successful return of dinosaurs in blockbuster movie Jurassic World, people all over the world are rekindling their love for these long extinct monstrous beauties.
But wait – are you sure dinosaurs are really extinct? Really?
Photo via: remotelands.com
Tucked away in Flores, Indonesia, is the often-forgotten Komodo island, where our modern day dinos – the Komodo dragons – live. Dinosaur enthusiasts, are you getting excited?
And guess what, giving these man-eating lizards a home visit doesn’t actually reqbuire too much effort – with some tips from travel guru Asoka Remadja, you’ll be able to have the time of your life (and yes, actually return in one piece).
In order to get to Komodo island, you’ll have to first make your way to the coastal town of Labuan Bajo in West Flores, where you can transfer to a boat ride to Komodo island. This town is also a base from which travellers usually book their accommodation and travel out to surrounding islands such as Rinca and Padar.
We know how time-consuming it can be to hunt for the cheapest flights when you’re on a tight budget, so we’ve done most of that homework for you!
Here’s the most cost- and time-efficient ways you can start your dragon-hunting expedition.
1. From Jakarta: Take flight to Bali (about 2 hours) via Lion Air, Sriwijaya or AirAsia for about Rp 1,200,000 (approximately USD $88, return flights)
2. From Bali: Take flight to Labuan Bajo (about 1.5 hours) via Lion Air, Garuda Indonesia for about Rp 1,500,000 (approximately SGD $153, return flights)
Total cost: Rp. 2.7 mil
1. From Singapore: Take flight to Bali (about 2.5 hours) via Lion Air, Tigerair or AirAsia for about SGD 210 (return flights)
2. From Bali: Take flight to Labuan Bajo (about 1.5 hours) via Lion Air, Garuda Indonesia for about Rp 1,500,000 (approximately SGD $153, return flights)
Total cost: SGD 363
Sounds simple enough, right? But wait!
Before you kickstart your adventure, Asoka’s got a few tips for you that will ensure that you won’t end up as a frazzled tourist lost on foreign land. You’ll also get to save some money, so don’t write us off so quickly!
1. Research online and book your tours early.
We know this sounds like a no-brainer, but there are many of us out there who like to take it easy and figure things out after we’ve arrived at our destination. Well, you should always take trips involving dragons seriously.
You can rent your own boat and hire a ranger to bring you around Komodo island, but Asoka recommends that you spend some time doing your research and book a tour online instead, as it could save you a lot of money (and is just much more convenient).
2. Gather a dragon-hunting team of 10 or more.
Hey, no hero ever fights alone, right? As you’ll have to rent and spend three or more days aboard a boat, you’ll definitely feel more comfortable if it’s populated with the people you know.
3. Clear out enough time in your schedule.
A 3D2N boat tour is generally what’s needed in order to get the most out of your trip to the Flores area, so don’t rush!
4. Choose when to go wisely.
According to Asoka, different periods appeal to different people – if you’re interested in tons of greenery, March and April will be your pick. On the other hand, if you don’t want to miss out on interesting festivals such as the Penti festival (New Year’s Eve) in the Wae Rebo village, plan your trip during November (Asoka’s personal favourite)!
Now that we’ve got the basics settled, it’s time to think about what’s probably the most important part of the trip – finding a suitable open trip group or a tour company.
Indonesia has many issues with boat safety, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry! A hero needs good equipment to succeed, and lucky for you, we’ve already done the research that Asoka recommended.
There are a few social media influencers who invite fellow travellers to their open trips. You can even check out this Komodo island open trip we are organising with our friends at Baligasm!
Here are a few tour companies that have good word-of-mouth reputation on the internet (if you’ve had other good experiences, feel free to hit us up):
Rides fit for a dragon-slaying knight
3D2N tour includes Rinca, Komodo and Kanawa islands.
Komodo island tour packages start from US$350 (2 pax).
3D2N tour includes Rinca and Komodo islands.
Komodo island tour packages start from US$395 (per pax).
3D2N tour includes Rinca and Komodo islands.
Prices not available, enquire for details.
We recommend you do thorough checks and research on the tour companies before booking. Some reputable boat tour companies in Indonesia have actually been plagued with shipwrecks and safety issues. You don’t want to be shipwrecked on an island full of man-eating dragons!
Do note that there are vastly different boats available on the market. Cheaper ones will have you sleeping and taking care of your needs mostly on the deck.
Photo via: onetwodream
While more expensive packages will provide you with cabins, modern toilets and even air conditioning.
Photo via: nomadicnotes.com,-perjuanganboat
If you’re willing to pay IDR$9,000,000 (approximately US$614.60) per night to live out a luxurious life in a yacht, then why not? But if you’re on a really small budget, just know that you’ll have to give up on some of the modern comforts that we’re so used to.
Photo via: luxury-insider
We’re not going to lie – it’s probably not a good idea to go to Komodo island if you are a slob who hasn’t stepped out of your house for the past decade.
Photo via: mayasoekandar
There are two things that you’re absolutely going to need to conquer this island of the dragons. It’s not a sword or a shield, but your good shoes and stamina. A mid-length trek on the island can easily go up to 1 hour and 45 minutes, while long treks may even exceed two hours. There are not going to be any buses or bikes available for you, so a good pair of walking shoes is key.
Photo via: ayu.yanuandari
Furthermore, if your tour extends to the other islands in the area (which are all beautiful, by the way), you’ll most likely have to go on more hikes and treks. You really don’t want to be caught dead in uncomfortable shoes when a komodo dragon crawling right behind you.
The Komodo National Park probably isn’t going to be like any other places you’ve been to, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be fun.
We would vouch for the opposite, actually – the sheer beauty that these islands possess is already worth going more than once, and that’s even without keeping all these exciting activities in mind.
Don’t return home without completing these quests!
4-1. Beware of dragons: Komodo dragon watching at Komodo and Rinca islands
We just know this is something you’re not going to miss (since it’s the reason you’re on this page in the first place)!
Photo via: ady_beder
The Komodo and Rinca islands are well-known as the home to some of the most ferocious lizards in the world – the Komodo dragons. These carnivorous creatures can grow up to 2.6 metres in length, and can run at speeds of up to 20km/h! That’s why it’s so important to be very careful when you’re on the islands.
Photo via: searching4sam
If well-fed Komodo dragons don’t tickle your fancy, then challenge yourself by heading to the neighbouring Rinca island. It’s often said that it’s easier to spot the dragons there, as the island is smaller.
Photo via: airheads
However, the dragon inhabitants of Rinca island are also rumoured to be more ferocious; apparently, they were relocated there because they killed too many people on Komodo island.
4-2. Portal to another world: Snorkelling and diving at Pink Sand Beach
Have you ever seen pink sand? It may sound unbelievable, but they truly do exist; at a different side (literally) of Komodo island.
Photo via: ninoyap
In fact, the crystal clear waters of the sea and baby pink shade of the beach make the Pink Beach seem as though it belongs in another place altogether, but this little beach on Komodo island is where tons of snorkelling fanatics stream to in a bid to catch sight of the wonderful underwater life available – from dolphins and turtles to manta rays, it almost feels like another world!
Photo via: eatinguntildiee
The Pink Beach also features one of the most recommended diving spots in Komodo National Park. A great diversity of wildlife can be found here, such as Leaf Scorpionfish and Crocodile fish.
Photo via: marshallsastra,-nyamangroup
Other celebrated diving spots include Batu Bolong and the Tatawa islands, where you can even find white tip sharks and gorgeous coral gardens.
Photo via: komododivecenter,-duniabaruadventures
4-3. Don’t bat your eyes: Bat-spotting in Kalong island waters
If you want to see thousands of bats, you can stay overnight in a motorboat on Kalong Island waters (near Rinca Island).
Photo via: tesyaskinderen.com
Komodo National Park isn’t just home to the Komodo dragons – if you’re lucky, you’ll even get the meet the bats that reside in Kalong (Flying Foxes) island. These tiny inhabitants come out of their homes in a flood during sunset, making for a majestic picture.
4-4. Top of the world: Gili Lawa
Gili Lawa, an island located northeast of Komodo island, is renowned for its beautiful coral reefs. Its hilly terrain means that you’ll have to make some effort hiking to the top to get to the view, but it’s definitely worth it.
Photo via: Instagram-byyolandasaskia
The hill is steeper than it looks though, so don’t let the gorgeous coastline distract you from your climb!
Photo via: UntungSihombing
4-5. Nature’s wonder: Padar Island
If you now think that Gili Lawa’s view has to be the best that the area has to offer, it’s up for debate, as the Komodo National Park is chock full of nothing but great views.
And another sight you have to catch at least once is found on Padar island, the third largest island in the park. It’s right between Komodo and Rinca island, so you’ll have to pass by it during your tour.
Photo via: Asoka Remadja
The island is far more untouched than the Komodo and Rinca islands, and when you manage to reach the looking point atop one of the hills, the view of calm seas and sandy beach is nothing short of breathtaking. Hey, people even take their wedding photos here!
Photo via: Diktatphotography
4-6. Special mention: Experience the Penti Festival & stargaze at Wae Rebo village
Wae Rebo is one of West Flores, Manggarai’s oldest traditional villages, most well-known for its exquisite cone-shaped housing. The village is located on an idyllic mountain, and requires a some stamina to arrive at – don’t scoff at a three-hour hike.
Photo via: menujutimur.com
But once you’re there, you’ll get to interact with the indigenous Wae Rebo people, and even stay overnight in one of the traditional thatched houses!
According to Asoka, arriving during the Penti Festival (the Wae Rebo people’s New Year’s Eve) in November will give you a special chance to understand more about this ancient culture.
Photo via: campatour,-khiri.
And after you spent 3 hours hiking up a hill and panting your way to the village – surely you’re not just going to catch a good night’s sleep and leave, right? Especially not when you’re at a great vantage point; perfect for some late night stargazing.
Photo via: byrubenkristianto
Asoka himself testifies to the unearthly beauty of the Milky Way as seen from the hilltop, and we agree. We don’t think there could be any dream that could unseat this view from its throne of beauty.
Just sacrifice a few hours of your sleep. You won’t have any complaints (at least until the next day), trust us.
(Tip: It is recommended that you bring your own water supply to the village though, as your body may not be used to the water sources that the locals drink from.)
While boat tour patrons will likely spend most of their trip on the boat, day trips are also available for you if you’re not comfortable with sleeping on a rocking boat for the entire night.
For all of you out there who may wish to extend your stay in Flores, no worries, Labuan Bajo has plenty of accommodation options that will have you feeling right at home!
5-1. All-in-one: Komodo Resort (from US$252.32 per night)
The Komodo Resort is a great choice for people who just don’t want the hassle of booking everything separately – this resort is popular because it doesn’t just provides superior accommodation, it also organises the boat trips to Komodo island, so you’ll only have to book once to have everything settled.
It also helps that the resort’s traditional teak wood bungalows are so pretty and spacious, you might not even want to get up for your tour.
5-2. Go eco: Kanawa islands resort (from US$37.40 per night)
Besides making your base at Labuan Bajo, you can also choose to rest your feet at the neighbouring island Kanawa, another quiet tropical paradise.
Photo via: Urs-Dreyer, tezzasthaiinfo.blogspot.com
This is where you truly isolate yourself from society and connect with nature. The environmentally friendly resort is the only housing available on this island, and houses no more than 36 guests each night, guaranteeing you a private and rejuvenating experience.
5-3. At the edge of the world: Villa Seirama Alam in Labuan Bajo (from US$35 per night)
Villa Seirama Alam may be light on your pocket, but this cozy villa sure provides far more than its rates suggest.
With an advantageous position at the coastline, your room itself is the perfect place to catch the sunset, and the open-air dining area provides soothing atmosphere and great views all around.
You’ll wake up to the sun’s warm rays, and a gorgeous view you’ll wish is home.
5-4. Backpacker’s dorm overlooking the Flores sea: Ciao Hostel
If you are on a budget, this funky hostel offers an amazing view of the Flores sea at very affordable rates.
You have to hike up a little hill, but it’s all worth it. This hostel is filled with good vibes and adventurous travellers.
Wherever you go, you’ll be able to enjoy the stunning view. It’s the first thing you see in the morning when you get up of bed, and you can enjoy it while having a delicious lunch in the Italian restaurant on the second floor or while planning your next trip in the lobby.
You can also enjoy a movie screening every night, with a glass of Bintang beer as you chill on the colourful beanbags.
Staying in hostels is a great opportunity to meet new people who will even become your travel companions. And you get to save money too!
Don’t forget to leave your handprint on the funky entrance wall!
5-5. Only if you dare: On Komodo island itself?!
Yes, your eyes didn’t deceive you.
It is possible for you to spend the night in one of the local housing on Komodo island itself, but that would mean giving up on a lot of modern comforts, such as electricity.
Photo via: eyeamthesea
However, you also get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with the locals and understand their way of life.
Ensure that your accommodation is safe enough though, so you don’t wake up to Komodo dragons sniffing at you for their breakfast!
How to: Speak to your local tour provider about liaising with the locals.
5-6. Special mention: Glamp in nature and luxury: Amanwana (from US$750 per night)
Maybe you’re rich. Or maybe you’re just bone tired from living out at sea for so many days, and just want a better-than-good bed to rest in for a couple of days. Sometimes, in life, we just want to enjoy the best of the best.
Photo via: puppyrazzi, internationaltravellermag
In that case, why not get a luxurious experience at the Amanwana Resort on Moyo island? Don’t worry about giving up the “islander life” that you are going for during this trip – the resort offers high-end living in tents (in other words, glamping), where you can be one with nature and your cushions at the same time.
Yes, if you’re going on that boat trip, you’ll probably have most of your meals provided for on the boat itself, but don’t miss out on the great choices available in Labuan Bajo. Especially if you’re a food lover – a little overeating won’t kill us, right?
6-1. When in Rome: Tree Top
Traditional Indonesian food is always one of the musts when you’re in the country. Not only is the food exotic and a defining part of the culture, we know from experience that it can be really delicious – especially when paired with a great view.
Photo via fahmianhar, komodostillalive
The Tree Top is a hip cafe located along the coastline, with sprawling views of the sea from its third floor. It also serves a wide variety of seafood and local dishes, with some of the most popular ones being the black pepper squid, grilled fish and Nasi Goreng.
6-2. Sunset on a hill: Paradise Bar
We’re always out on the hunt for the next best place to enjoy our food and watch the sunset from. In Labuan Bajo, Paradise Bar doesn’t disappoint.
Located at the top of a hill, it may require a bit of effort to get to this bar, but the sunset views from its spacious deck are more than worth it.
Photo via: graciajuliaf, thekomododiaries, resaariesca, ericowenkalinggo
It also offers nightly live music, along with with a barbecue on Wednesdays as the perfect bookend to your day.
6-3. Best in Flores: MadeInItaly
MadeInItaly is an Italian restaurant that specialises in pizza. Apparently, their pizza is so good that it’s often lauded as the best in the whole of Flores, so how could you now give it a try?
In addition to the great munchies, MadeInItaly also offers great views across the harbour with its high thatched roof. But we don’t think you’ll be paying too much attention – our eyes would definitely be glued to the pizza. Apart from that, be sure to try out the seafood starters too.
Photo via: timothykho,-rezaramadan14
‘Nuff said. Thank us when you’re back! For those who are fancy for exquisite fine dining, try dining on The Boat!
6-4. Happy surprise: Happy Banana
Who would expect to find sushi in Flores? And who would expect Happy Banana to not sell bananas?
But there you have it – Happy Banana, a well-loved Japanese restaurant in Labuan Bajo.
Many tourists have expressed their surprise at the freshness and quality of the ingredients used, and the restaurant’s funky decorations will definitely turn you into a happy ‘banana’.
Now you may think that after reading this guide, you know all there is to know about Flores now, but it’s always good to know more!
Here are some mini-tips that we’ve collected from Asoka and our own research, specially designed to keep your head intact:
Komodo Island Cheat Codes
1. Always, always stay within the sight of your ranger and your tour group.
2. It’s okay to bring children onto the island, but do you really want to? (In some freak accidents, young children have been reported to be eaten or attacked by the Komodo dragons)
3. Don’t attempt to go near the Komodo dragons (unless you want to try out the medical facilities in Indonesia).
4. Don’t make loud noises.
5. Bring lots of water – it’s important to stay hydrated during the long hikes!
6. Ladies, stay away from the island if you are having your period; the Komodo dragons can smell you and will think you are their food (the smell of blood hunting instincts). If you think this is a stupid rule that you don’t need to follow, just wait till you’re suffering from severe cramps and still have to run away from a giant lizard that runs at 20km/h.
7. When a Komodo dragon is after you, don’t play dead! Run in a zigzag pattern and run for your life.
8. Don’t make the trip during rainy season, it increases the risk of shipwrecks.
And that’s all! You’re now fully equipped to go on this adventure – send our regards to the dragons when you see them!
Remember – don’t go too close, we still want you to be around with us when we explore new exotic places!
If you have any other tips on travelling to Komodo island/ Flores (or on how to stay alive), do share with us!