The Backpacking Guide to Komodo Islands - What to Do, How to Go & Which Cruises to Pick
The Backpacking Guide to Komodo Islands - What to Do, How to Go & Which Cruises to Pick

The Backpacking Guide to Komodo Islands

What to Do, How to Go & Which Cruises to Pick

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Are you planning a trip to Indonesia and you are wondering which island to go to? It's understandable as there are over 15,000 islands in Indonesia, but if you are looking for a unique experience like seeing the Komodo dragons, swimming with manta rays and sleeping aboard a ship under the stars, there is no better place to go to than the Komodo Island, near Flores, Indonesia.

I spent more than a month backpacking in Flores alone and to my surprise, I enjoyed my time most on the cruise around the Komodo National Park. Within this post, you will find all the information you need to plan an amazing and budget trip to the Komodo Island from getting here to which cruise you should pick and which route is the best.

See more: 10 Days itinerary for Flores, Indonesia.

Komodo Island Itinerary Map

How to Get to Komodo Island

Traveling to Komodo island is a little confusing at first so in order to make things clear, you will not be flying directly to the Komodo Island because the island is in the national park. The island you can fly into is called Flores and the nearest city on Flores with an airport is Labuan Bajo, so that is where you will have to fly into.

If you want to book a flight, try searching on Skyscanner or Momondo for "Bandara Komodo Airport" or "LBJ" which is the airport code for Labuan Bajo. One of the most convenient and affordable way to get to Flores is to fly from Denpasar, Bali to Labuan Bajo via Wings Air, Sriwijaya Air or NAM Air which should cost you around 70 - 80 USD one way.

In order to get to Bali from your home country, you can try browsing for deals on Skyscanner or Momondo or try AirAsia if you are already traveling in Southeast Asia.

If you are on Lombok, you can also get a Komodo cruise from there which should take around 4 days and it should cover all the places I mentioned here. The price varies depending on the boat, the duration, and the route they will take but it will be more expensive than to get a cruise from Labuan Bajo.

When to Go

The best time to visit the Komodo Island is during the dry season which is from April to December where the sea is likely to be calmer, the weather is bearable, and little to no rain. A chance of spotting manta rays may not be as great as in the wet season, but you will be able to spot some at the Manta Point all year round. We spotted 3 at Manta Point in early August.

Where to Stay

Labuan Bajo - Dorme Tree - 8.88 USD/Night (Dorm)

The hostel has a very cozy atmosphere with restaurant, rooftop, and comfy air-conditioned rooms. Very clean and bedbug-free unlike some of the other hostels in Labuan Bajo. Best of all, it is located far enough from the loud and crowded tourist street but close enough so that you can walk there anytime. Within walking distance from the airport.

How to Get Around

Around Labuan Bajo, you can walk to almost all the places worth seeing in town from the airport to the tourist street and the pier but for the Komodo National Park, you will have to take a boat. There are several options to travel around the Komodo National Park, and you can read more under "Which Cruise to Choose" section.

Daily Budget

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This place is quite cheap compare to all the other countries in the world. If you are planning a trip here, you can expect to pay around 25 - 45 USD per day per person and that should include accommodation and 3 meals.

Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.

Internet

Wifi is wildly available in Labuan Bajo so you won't have any problem staying connected in the city. The Cafe In Hit Coffee Shop has the fastest, and to top it up, great locally brewed coffee made with western equipment. A great place to chill out, relax, and meet with people.

If you are on the cruise, the wifi won't be available for you but at a certain place, you might be able to go online if you have a sim card from Telkomsel. Places like the Komodo National Park, Kanawa island and Pink Beach do have some reception so you won't be totally offline with a sim card when you are on a cruise. Read more about data and sim card in Indonesia here.

Travel Insurance

If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Flores, Indonesia, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.

Things to Know Before You Book Anything

There are many offerings on the island and you can explore which options fit best for your trip but there are some techniques I learned that may help you with the negotiation:

  • Do not book the trip abroad. Come to Labuan Bajo and book them here as they tend to overcharge you 3 times the price than booking from an agency in Labuan Bajo.
  • Do not book the trip from the Labuan Bajo airport. There are many better and cheaper options on the tourist street so don't feel pressured by the salespeople waiting for you at the airport exit.
  • Always negotiate. I have listed the latest price (2018) for the boat tours so you can use that as a guideline.
  • Try to avoid visiting the national park on national holidays or Sundays as the entrance fee will be more expensive.
  • Bring sturdy shoes and lots of sunscreen for the hikes you will be doing on Padar island. You don't need a hiking shoe, anything better than a flip-flop will do.
  • Arrive a day before you plan to go on the boat and spare at least 4 days in Labuan Bajo if you can. One day for looking around for tours to compare the price, and 2 - 3 days for the cruises you wish to pick.
  • Most of the inexpensive boat tours do not include the national park entrance fee which is around 150,000 IDR for one day and this is required when you enter the Rinca and the Komodo island. When booking a boat tour, be sure to check the itinerary whether they have Rinca and Komodo island on the same day or not because if not, you will have to pay the fee twice which is not ideal. Go for the tour with Rinca and Komodo islands on the same day.
  • Make sure the price includes snorkeling gear and flippers. Also, make sure you receive one before you get on the boat because a friend of mine was promised that there will be one available but there was none on the boat so make sure they have one for you in the morning you depart.
  • Padar Island is best seen in the early morning at sunrise as the sun is not too hot to hike up and the shadows give more depth to one of the most beautiful sceneries in the world so be sure your tour has the Padar island as the first destination of the day.
  • Make sure safety of the boat you take meet your standard. The cruises around the Komodo national park don't have a good track record when it comes to safety. In fact, a small boat capsized near our boat due to overcapacity and apparently, everyone was standing on the roof watching the sunset when it happened. If your boat is small, make sure there are not over capacitated. We had a big boat and was able to handle around 20 people max so if you are on one of the big ones, be sure it doesn't exceed that.
  • Do not take all your belongings with you on the boat. Leave it at the hostel/hotel you stay in Labuan Bajo. In case of emergency, you won't lose everything like some people on that boat that capsized near my boat. They had their entire backpacks with them on the boat and they lost everything.

Which Cruise to Choose

One Day Speedboat

This is a great option if you have limited time. With a speedboat, you should be able to see few of the main attractions in the national park in one day like the Komodo island, Padar Island, the Pink Beach and the Manta Point. Some tours might offer more but you will be rushing through each attraction so look at the offered itinerary carefully.

The trip usually begins at around as 5 - 6 AM and comes back around 6 PM and should cost no more than 1,200,000 IDR and it should include all lunch and snorkeling gears and flippers.

If you are offered a much lower price, say 400,000 IDR, your boat is probably a slow boat and your itinerary will reflect that. In my opinion, the speedboat option is the only one that is worth doing if you have one day. You won't be able to go as far and see as much with a slow boat.

2 Days, 1 Night Shared Slow Boat (Recommended)

This is the best option in my opinion and the one I had experienced on. With 2 days, 1 night, you will be able to see all the attractions listed here such as Rinca island, Komodo national park, the Pink beach, Padar Island, Manta Point and Kanawa island.

The pace of the tour maybe rushed on the first day as you have to travel quite far from Labuan Bajo but the second day, it will be a very relaxed day with plenty of time to hike, snorkel and swim with manta rays.

You will also be able to see the Padar island at the best time of the day, during sunrise. The Padar island is nothing short of breathtaking and you would want to see it at its best time when it is not too hot and the shadows giving depth to one of the most beautiful sceneries in the world.

You also have the option to sleep on the deck of the boat, under millions of stars and away from the crowdedness of Labuan Bajo which is something you can't do every day.

The 2-days, 1-night boat trip starts at 7:30 AM on the first day and ended at 6 PM on the second day. The boat trip should cost no more than 800,000 IDR excluding the national park entrance fee so be sure to negotiate.

3 Days, 2 Nights Shared Slow Boat

For 3 days, 2 nights, you will be able to see more than if you choose the other tours as you will be visiting more island while having one extra day to relax on the beach. Usually, the itinerary is the same as the 2 days, 1-night tour but with Kelor, Kalong and Sebayur Island added to the mix. The pace will be much more relaxed and you will get to have more time in each place than if you choose the other ones. If you can spare the time, this is a good option for you.

The price for a 3 days, 2 nights boat trip should be no more than 1,200,000 IDR so be sure to negotiate.

4 Days, 3 Nights Shared Slow Boat from Lombok

If you are already on Lombok and do not want to go back to Bali to fly into Flores, you can take a 4-days, 3-nights "Liveaboard" boat from Senggigi, Lombok to Labuan Bajo through the Komodo National Park. The boat trip will likely stop at the main attractions like the Komodo island, Rinca island, Padar island and the Pink Beach with the additional attraction nearer to Lombok like Gili Bola, Moyo Island, Santonda Island and Gili Laba.

The price should be no more than 1,900,000 IDR. If you want to pick this option, I would recommend finding more information from Backpacker: Southeast Asia website.

What to Do in the Komodo National Park

See the Komodo Dragons on Rinca Island

Ironically, you are more likely to spot the Komodo dragons on this island than an island called "Komodo island". It is also closer to Labuan Bajo than the Komodo island so if you have never seen one before and would like to spot one in the wild, Rinca island is your best bet.

With most boat trips, it will usually include an hour of hiking around the Rinca island with a guide as he/she explains the nature of the animal, why it is only on these islands, and how it behaves around the humans.

Walk around the Komodo Island

This island got the most tourists but as mentioned before, it is not the easiest place to spot the Komodo dragons as they live mostly in remote parts of the island, away from the hiking trails. It was an interesting trail to walk nevertheless as you might stumble upon a big one like we did on the island. How big? Here is a human for scale:

Snorkel at Pink Beach

This beach in the Komodo National Park is one of eight pink beaches in the world. The Pink Beach has its colors because of the mixture of white sand and red sand that was formed from pieces of Foraminifera.

The Pink Beach is also one of the best places to go snorkeling. I have never seen the coral reefs this colorful and the water this clear before. Just off the beach, even in the shallow area, you will see hundreds of fish swimming around the most colorful coral reefs you will ever see. You will most likely lose track of time when you are snorkeling at the Pink Beach so be sure to come out before the sunset and watch the pink sand shifted colors vividly.

If you decided to choose the 2-days, 1-night boat trip, you are likely to be spending your night on the boat by the pink beach so be sure to come out at night and witness the Milky Way.

Hike the Padar Island in the Morning

This was the highlight of the trip for me as it is one of the most beautiful island here and the most photogenic. If you choose an overnight boat trip with a visit to the Padar island in the morning, you are in for quite a treat. You will arrive at the beach around 6 AM and you can begin the hike immediately.

The hike should take you no more than 30 minutes to climb but make sure to take a bottle of water with you because it can get hot really fast, even in the morning. Once you are up at the top, you will be reward with one of the best views you can get of Komodo national park.

The island is best appreciated either in the morning or in the evening where the lights and shadows are at its best. The depth of the Padar island landscape you see above cannot be seen during midday, only during sunrise/sunset.

Swim with Manta Rays at Manta Point

The next highlight of the trip to the Komodo island is to swim with the curious and intelligent manta rays at the Manta Point. The Manta Point is a spot in the ocean where Manta Rays like to hang out. Due to the amount of fish circling around that spot, the Manta Point acts as a somewhat like a carwash for the manta rays to come and clean themselves.

The captain will slowly cruise around the area while the crew tries to spot the manta rays from the deck. With a combination of its gigantic size, dark colored skin and the clear water around the Komodo national park, it won't take long until the crews spot them and tell you to jump off the boat.

They often stay by the seabed but sometimes, they might come up to the surface and swim with you. There is nothing more satisfying than swimming with these beautiful creatures of the ocean.

Relax at the Kanawa Island

Last but not least, a visit to the Kanawa island is a must before heading back to Labuan Bajo especially after a long day of adventure from hiking the Padar island to swimming with manta rays. The Kanawa island is a small island that is surrounded by white sand beaches where you can relax in the sun, have fruit smoothies at the only restaurant on the island, or you can go get some more snorkeling action. Either way, this is the perfect place to end an amazing trip like this one.

Here is all the wonderful friends I made on this boat trip. Do not hesitate to go on a shared boat trip. Who know, you might ended up with 20+ new friends afterward.

And there you have it, everything you need to know to plan a trip of your life to the Komodo Island. I hope I have provided you with enough information so that you can plan a trip of your own. If you have any questions or suggestion, please let me know in the comments below.

The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Learn more.


Categories: destinations indonesia flores asia itinerary labuan bajo komodo padar


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