The Komodo National Park is comprised of three major islands – Komodo Island, Rinca Island, Padar Island and 26 smaller islands. Seeing the komodo dragons with your very own eyes is undoubtedly the top activity at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But the Komodo National Park has so much more to offer – pristine beaches, snorkeling/diving, hiking,
and island-hopping; you’ll need a good 4 days 3 nights to fully enjoy the park. Here is a brief itinerary to help you plan your trip to Komodo National Park. I’ve arranged the itinerary for two activities per day, taking into consideration that you might want to enjoy leisure breakfasts/ lunches and that the national park is huge, getting from island to island will take you at least one hour (or more) by boat. But, if you start early in the day (say, leaving the hotel by 8 am), you should be able to do three activities in a day. It’s a good idea to arrange your transport beforehand because you will definitely need a boat to go around the islands. You may get in touch with Travel Sparks (run by a friend of mine), which specializes in tours in Komodo National Park / Flores and they can also customize the itinerary to your requirements. Proceeds of Travel Sparks go to funding libraries on Eastern Indonesia. If you are more of a spontaneous person, there are a few tour agencies in town that you can talk to on the day of your arrival.
Arrival at Labuan Bajo. Labuan Bajo on Flores Island is your closest gateway to Komodo National Park. Daily flights depart from Bali; and daily ferries depart from Lombok to Labuan Bajo. Check out Komodo National Park’s Official Website for more travel information.
Visit Melo Village and volunteer at Taman Baccan Pelangi (Rainbow Reading Gardens).
At Melo Village, we experienced the warmth and simplicity of the Manggarai culture. We were greeted with hand made scarfs and palm liquor as welcome drinks.
The traditional Manggarai Caci Dance is performed with two men combating each other, armed with bamboo shields and bamboo whips. Amazingly, there is a philosophy hidden behind this dance. The aggressor’s whip represents the father, the yang and the phallic symbol; while the defender’s shield represents the mother, the ying and the womb. The two men take leaps, jumping as high as possible, using the whip to attack each other, or defending themselves with the shield. The clashing of the shield and the whip symbolizes the amalgamation of the ying and the yang; the sexual unity of man and woman that gives rise to new lives.
Other dances we saw were the Harvest Dance and the Bamboo Dance (more like bamboo game actually).
Make sure you don’t miss the meal provided by the Melo Village because that’s where I had one of the best beef rendangs ever !
If you still have some time, volunteer at Taman Bacaan Pelangi, or Rainbow Reading Gardens, a foundation dedicated to setting up libraries in Eastern Indonesia. We spent about 2 hours there, telling the children about ourselves, where we’re from and just having fun with them. The children were a little shy at first, but they went all out when asked to pose ! You’ll need to contact the foundation prior to visiting. The foundation also accepts long term volunteering (1 month and more).
Visit Rinca Island and Padar Island.
Few tracking routes are available, short, medium and long. We did a one hour short trek on Rinca Island. Within 5 minutes of walking into the park, we spotted our very first komodo dragon, walking towards us like a boss, nonchalant and used to all the limelight it was getting.
The komodo dragons were surprisingly docile, just minding their own business and most of the time they just seemed to be enjoying life under the sun. It’s tempting to get close to them to take a selfie or a nice shot, but do stay alert at all time because you’ll never know when these seemingly gentle lizards might suddenly snap and decide to charge at you. If they do, run! Don’t run in a straight line but in a ziagzag pattern to make it harder for the komodo dragons to catch up with you. Do bear in mind that their bites are toxic, you’ll need medical treatment within 24 hours if bitten.
A ranger will be assigned to every group, so follow him closely and do what he tells you! If you need to go to the toilet, tell him too because you’ll never know where the komodo dragons are as they are freely roaming around the park. A special note to ladies, if you happen to be having your period, do let the rangers know because two rangers will be assigned to the group as komodo dragons can smell blood.
Our hike was a short hike, we didn’t get to the highest point on Rinca Island, but it was enough to take our breath away and marvel at the gorgeous scenery.
After the hike, grab a quick lunch at the small canteen located at the small pavilions at the foot of the hill and head to Padar Island.
Padar Island is absolutely wonderful in terms of its landscape. There was not one single moment of dullness when we took the hike up, eventually getting high enough to get a bird’s eyev view of the island.
The panoramic view was simply phenomenal with rolling hills that form the outline of three bays. Plan to arrive the island by boat by around 3.30 or 4 pm or so to give you time to hike up the hills leisurely and catch the sunset. It’s a fairly easy climb but if you want to go all the way to the top, it gets a bit tougher with a steeper gradient and smaller obstructed paths. Do bring a good pair of hiking shoes because it gets slippery on the way down.
Head over to Komodo Island to see komodo dragons and visit the Pink Beach that’s also on the same island for snorkeling / diving.
The landscapes of Komodo and Rinca Island are different. Komodo Island is flatter while Rinca Island is more hilly. You do see this difference reflected on the dragons because the ones on Kmonodo Island are fatter as they don’t have to use as much energy to look for food. If you only have time to visit just one island to see the komodo dragons, either one would be fine, but Rinca would be ideal because it is closer to Labuan Bajo; it is also smaller so easier to spot the komodo dragons.
The Pink Beach on Komodo Island gets it rare color from the degradation of red corals, giving it a stunning pink hue. There’s also a small hill next to the beach where you could take a hike up to see the panoramic view of the beach.
The waters are pristine and it’s the perfect place for snorkeling or diving.
Depart Labuan Bajo.
If you are staying longer in Flores Island, here are a few other places to visit / things to do out on the Island
**With many thanks to the Ministry of Tourism Indonesia for organizing this trip.
For more information on travel in Indonesia, visit Tourism Indonesia’s Official Page.
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