The Komodo National Park is full of wilderness. It is here that you get to see the world’s largest prehistoric lizard – the Komodo Dragon. While seeing the Komodo Dragon is the most popular activity to do in the region, don’t forget about island hopping, snorkelling, and getting acquainted with the locals ! Having visited this region twice with the Ministry of Tourism Indonesia, I’ve discovered lots about this island and here is my guide to 15 Things to Do in Komodo National Park & Western Flores Island. Attractions from Labuan Bajo and Western Flores Island are also included in the list because these would be your arrival points before you start your visit in the park.
Some Basics About the National Park & Getting There :
The National Park: The park is located in the East Nusa Tenggara Province of Indonesia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising of 3 main islands – Komodo, Rinca, Padar and 26 other smaller islands. There used to be komodo dragons on all three islands, but the komodo dragons are now completely extinct on Padar Island. The park together with western Flores is collectively known as the Manggarai Barat District.
Image Credit : FloresTourism.com
Getting There : Labuan Bajo on Western Flores Island is your closest gateway to the Komodo National Park. There are daily flights from Bali to Labuan Bajo; the flight time is 1 hr 15 mins. If you are visiting Bali, it’s a good idea to add in the park on the same trip. Boat rides are also available from Lombok to Labuan Bajo. Plan for a minimum of 4 days 3 nights in Labuan Bajo / Komodo National Park because the boat rides to the various islands can be time consuming. An example of 4 Days 3 Nights Itinerary is here.
Getting Around Labuan Bajo & the Komodo National Park : Two of my friends – Aria from Menuju Timur and Nila from Travel Sparks organize land & sea transportation in the vicinity; you may get in touch with them and enquire about the rate. Alternatively, there are also other local tour operators with offices in the harbour area of Labuan Bajo which you may get your tour packages from.
**on a side note, the Ministry of Tourism Indonesia is giving away FREE TRIPS TO BALI FOR 2 (inclusive of flight, hotel and allowance) all you need to do is answer 10 simple questions on the TRIP OF WONDERS QUIZ to be one of the winners ! Have fun and good luck ! **
1. See the Komodo Dragons on Komodo Island
There are two islands to see these awesome creatures – Komodo Island and Rinca Island; both offer short, medium and long trekking routes. A ranger will be assigned to every group of visitors. Komodo Island has 1377 komodo dragons while Rinca Island has 1533 komodo dragons (figures provided by ranger Jahidin).
Komodo Island is bigger with flatter landscapes and has less komodo dragons than hilly Rinca Island, so you tend to see less komodo dragons on Komodo Island. But when you do see them, the ones on Komodo Island are bigger (fatter too !) in size because they use less energy to hunt for food due to the flat landscape !
Komodo National Park Official Website
2. See the Komodo Dragons on Rinca Island
I’ve visited both Komod and Rinca Island myself. Here are two reasons that one might opt for Rinca Island instead of Komodo Island :
a. It is closer to Flores Island geographically and hence easier to get to and
b. There are more (but smaller) dragons to see.
But of course there is nothing stopping you from visiting both islands if you are up for it. The photos below were taken on Rinca Island.
Komodo National Park Official Website
3. Hike Padar Island and See the Specular Sunset.
Padar Island’s landscape is breathtaking. The hills are carpeted with lush greens and as you reach the top of the hill, you’ll be able to see four crescent-shaped beaches. Start hiking at about 4 pm when the rays are golden and the heat at comfortable levels. The hike should take about 40 minutes to 1 hour. (It took me 40 minutes to climb 3/4 of the hill, where I saw three complete beaches and a little bit of the fourth one.) Good hiking shoes are recommended because the paths are slippery especially on the way down.
4. Soak Up the Sun at the Pink Beach on Komodo Island.
The pink beach is a pristine stretch of beach with fabulous clear waters that’s perfect for snorkelling and diving. The beach is pink due to the degradation of red corals. Scoop up a handful of sand and witness the magical moment of pink sand flowing through your hand.
5. See the Magical Sunset with Bats at Kalong Island
Yes you read it correct – sunset with BATS. Don’t worry, the bats are harmless; they were just doing what bats do – circling around in the sky, getting ready to
party hunt food and couldn’t care less about us humans. The best part about this was that we were pretty much right at where the sun set and we were bathed in golden glows, orange rays and purple hues.
6. Snorkel at Kanawa Island
When we arrived at Kanawa Island in the morning, it was low tide with the waters at mid-calf level . We were just stunned by the clarity of the water and how rich the marine life is. I didn’t even have to go too far out to see them because I could see corals, fish, star fish, sea urchins and seagrass from right above the water ! You won’t be disappointed if you come here for snorkelling for sure !
7. Visit Mesa Island
The people of Mesa Island are the descendants of sea gypsies. Here, you get to catch a glimpse of the islanders’ daily lives – drying sea cucumbers, manning a sundry shop, processing shell fish or children frolicking. The kids on the island are mostly curious at outsiders and are always eager to make new friends. Don’t be startled if a bunch of kids come and follow you by your side while you walk around the island. Interestingly, “mesa” means “itchy” and the island was named so due to the itchy sand !
8. Hike the Gili Lawa Island (a.k.a. Gili Laba)
The Gili Lawa Island is located just north of Komodo Island. Once you reach the top of the island, the view of deep-blue waters and finger-like tips of two islands are ultimately fascinating.
9. Travel in Style on a Traditional Phinisi Boat
Sailing on the phinis boat was an unforgettable experience for me. We lived aboard, sailing to different islands. During the day, we spent time chatting, eating snacks, or dozing on the windy deck; while at night we stargazed and were lullabied to sleep by the sound of waves. All the meals were provided onboard with a dedicated chef and a few crews so you can imagine it was really like a home on the sea. The phinisi boats come in different sizes – our boat was the Ambasi Phinisi from Plantaran with 4 rooms (each with a small toilets attached) which accommodates 8 people; if you have more people in the group, sleeping on the deck is an option with blankets provided. Some of my friends had their stays with Grand Komodo , you may check that out too to see which one suites you better.
10. Star Gazing (in Labuan Bajo or on Islands if you are Living Aboard)
You don’t have to go far on Labuan Bajo to see a gorgeous star-lit sky above you; the band of milky way is impossible to miss on a clear day. All you need to do is move away from the busy harbour area where many hotels and stores are located, and you should be able to see millions of twinkles in the sky. Or, if you happen to be staying overnight on a phinisi boat, just look up and be amazed.
Star gazing on Padar Island at the Komodo National Park . #Indonesia #TripOfWonders #WonderfulIndonesia . @indtravel giving away 4D3N BALI TRIPS to 10 lucky winners. Just answer 10 simple questions on their website to win (link in Bio), Good Luck !!
A photo posted by KJ Malaysia x (@atravelicious) on
11. Visit the Melo Village and Experience the Manggarai Culture (on Western Flores Island)
The Manggarai people is the ethnic group that occupy the Melo village. The villagers are warm, friendly, and they welcome visitors to the village with open arms. The welcoming ceremony typically involves a parade of music, an offering of fermented alcoholic palm drink, and an exchange of a small amount of money.
We spent an afternoon at the village, eating traditional lunch prepared by them and seeing them weave the traditional ikat-fabric . From their smiles and sometimes inquisitive eyes, they were proud to be showing us their culture.
The highlight of the visit was definitely the “Caci Dance” (or whip dance) accompanied by chants and traditional music ensembles. The dance is performed by two men, each armed with a whip and a shield. The two men prance around each other to get ready for a jump, sometimes playfully and sometimes in a somewhat comical way. When one does attack, the defender puts up a fight, protecting himself with the shield. The whipping act is then repeated many times. As war-like as it may seem, the dance is a dance that celebrate new lives, where the clashing of the whip on the shield is a symbol of unity, and an amalgamation of the ying and the yang.
12. Volunteer at Taman Baccan Pelangi (Rainbow Reading Gardens, on Western Flores Island)
Taman Baccan Pelangi is an NGO that’s dedicated to improving children’s literacy at remote parts of Eastern Indonesia. The NGO is active in book drives, setting up libraries and currently has 37 libraries. Flores Island is among one of the places which has a library set up. It is a place where you could volunteer, inspire, motivate, and travel deeper while giving back to the local community.
13. Eat Seafood (in Labuan Bajo, Western Flores Island)
At Labuan Bajo’s harbour area (Kampung Ujang), there are plenty of food stalls at night that provide the freshest seafood possible. These stalls serve groupers, mackerels and more at affordable prices.
14. Dine with Ambiance (in Labuan Bajo)
Labuan Bajo has its share of atmospheric restaurants, many of them are right by the beach with decent food. Here are a few places to note :
Atlantis Beach Club – if you did not have a chance to travel on a Phinisi boat, Atlantis Beach Club has converted a phinisi boat into a dining space; there’s also a pool to jump in !
Paradise Bar – one of the best places on Labuan Bajo to enjoy magnificent sunset with a mojito in hand.
Tree top – unique two-storey building built with wood that also has excellent views of the harbour and sunset.
15. Visit the Manggarai District (Which is Adjacent to Manggarai Barat District)
The above 14 activities should keep you busy during your visit to the Komodo National Park and Labuan Bajo. To learn more about Flores, move over to the adjacent district of Manggarai. You’ll need a few more days here because the drive from Labuan Bajo to Ruteng (in Manggarai) takes 6 hours. Places that are typically visited in the district include Wae Rebo Village, Todo Village and spider-web rice fields. Flores Tourism’s Website has excellent resource on visiting the Manggarai district and also on Flores Island.
Jika akan berkunjung ke Taman Nasional Komodo, kamu juga bisa sekaligus merencanakan untuk mengunjungi Wae Rebo, salah satu Desa Tradisional di dekat kota Ruteng ini. #PesonaIndonesia — If you going to visit the Komodo National Park, you can also plan to visit Wae Rebo, a traditional village near the town of Ruteng. #WonderfulIndonesia
A photo posted by Indonesia.Travel (@indtravel) on
**With many thanks to the Ministry of Tourism Indonesia for organising this trip.
For more information on travel in Indonesia, visit Tourism Indonesia’s Official Page.