As I write this we’re sitting in a little cafe in Labuan Bajo, it’s less than 24 hours since we finished our Komodo Island trip and we still can’t believe how incredible our time here has been. In the last three days we’ve trekked on remote islands in pursuit of Komodo dragons, snorkelled with giant Manta Rays and have just generally had three of the most perfect days of our travels so far.
It was an unbelievably brilliant trip! I mean, we expected it to be a pretty cool place but our expectations were surpassed in every way possible.
We had decided to take a tour of the Komodo islands in part to celebrate Rob’s 30th birthday and in part because our wildlife adventures always tend to be the standout experiences on our travels. When we came across the three day two night tour run by Flores XP that allowed us to spend three full days sailing around exploring various beautiful islands we decided it would be the perfect way to see everything this part of Indonesia has to offer.
Getting To The Komodo Islands from Bali
A very quick overview of the two main options for getting to the Komodo Islands by Bali as you basically have two choices – boat or plane!
Option 1: Boat
The first, and more adventurous, choice is to take a boat. I think these mostly go via Lombok and it’s normally a 4D/3N trip on a fairly basic wooden boat to Labuan Bajo or even directly to Komodo Island. Conditions are pretty rough with most people camping out on deck and safety is hit and miss. But it does look like a pretty fun way to reach the eastern islands and everyone we met who took that route seemed to enjoy it.
Option 2: Plane
By far the easiest way to start your Komodo island trip from Bali is to fly from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo (around a 1 hour flight), and to sort out a trip once you’re there or meet with your pre arranged tour. We paid just under GBP100 each for return flights and airlines including Wings Air, Nam Air and Air Indonesia fly this route so there’s lots of choice of flight times.
Our Komodo Island Trip Itinerary – 3D/2N
Jumping straight into our itinerary, we got to spend an amazing three full days exploring plenty of the local islands, including Komodo Island itself. It’s not like some tours where a day means being out and about from perhaps 9am til 3/4pm – it’s full on adventures from 7am to 7pm every day with Flores XP, making it well worth the money. Be prepared to be exhausted by the end of the three days!
Our first day started early with a couple of hours sailing from the port at Labuan Bajo to Kanawa Island, a picture perfect spot in the middle of the Indonesian ocean. We snorkelled, swam and took a million photos of the amazingly clear waters, quite frankly if they’d left us there for the day I think we’d have been pretty happy.
Next up was more sailing and another snorkelling spot at Mini Wall – a great place for underwater adventures where we managed to spot a stingray and thousands of other tropical fish.
Finally, we ended the first day of our Komodo island trip by heading to our camp and enjoyed a sunset hike, grilled fish dinner and a couple of beers before getting an early night.
This is where the excitement started as we headed to Komodo Island itself for an early morning hike in search of the elusive dragons. After paying the National Park fee (IDR250k / GBP15), we picked our hiking route with the help of our guide and went on our way. We were rewarded with our first dragon sighting about two minutes later!
Up close these animals are something else. They are so much bigger and more intimidating than we’d expected and we were allowed to get pretty close to pose for pictures!
Komodo dragons are listed as a vulnerable species and only exist on 5 islands in Indonesia. They are known for being venomous and for their large size – and have been responsible for several attacks on humans over years. Although Komodo Island is home to over 1300 dragons, we visited as mating season has started when they tend to hide away and were lucky to spot several on our hike around the island.
After our first encounters with the dragons we made our way back to the boat and spent a couple of hours sunbathing and snorkelling on Pink Beach – so called due to the pink sand resulting from red coral being washed ashore. Our final stop for the day was another snorkelling adventure at Siaba Island, where sadly it was a little too cold and with too many jellyfish lurking in the waters for us to fully enjoy our time here. I’m sure you’ll be luckier than we were as it’s supposed to be a great snorkel and dive location, and is a must see on any Komodo islands trip itinerary.
Our final day presented us with a half hour lie until 6.30am before our last breakfast on the beach and a sad goodbye to camp. The team based on the island worked so hard to make sure everyone was comfortable and staying metres from the ocean was awesome.
The day was literally jam packed with adventure. Three snorkelling spots, followed by another hike with dragons and another surprise wildlife encounter that we hoped to see at sunset.
Today’s snorkel highlight was a visit to Manta Point and Mawan Island, where we were in search of Manta Rays. Soon after arriving we were all scouring the sea for telltale fins breaking the surface and eventually lucked out on what looked like a good site to try. Sliding in from the back of the boat as silently as possible we spotted our first manta – an utterly incredible sight. We hopped on and off the boat making a total of four stops, and were able to swim with at least eight rays.
Watching these enormous creatures gliding around, mouths wide, feeding on plankton was breathtaking. The largest one we saw was around 4 metres wide and was cruising around just below us in a group with two other manta rays. Honestly, I’ve written before about how I can be a little prone to panic underwater and how I haven’t found the love of snorkelling I had hoped for, but I’ve never been so calm swimming around and just soaking in the experience of seeing these animals in their natural habitat. It was an all time highlight of our trip and perhaps even more impressive than the Komodo as we just weren’t prepared for how awesome it would be.
Once our guides finally managed to persuade us out of the water we made our way to Rinca Island, home to over 1500 Komodo dragons based on the latest estimated and enjoyed a very muddy hike in the hills. Luckily we managed to see another three Komodo dragons, including a simply enormous male, who we were informed looked very hungry, as well as a juvenile dragon.
The last stop of our Komodo island trip was further around the coast of Rinca island, where every evening at sunset thousands of flying foxes make their way out of the mangrove forest to the farms of Flores for a night of feasting on fruit. If they stayed on Flores island they would be shot by people protecting their crops, so over the years they’ve made their home in the protected national park and just make a nightly excursion to the main land for food – much to the dismay of the farmers!
Watching thousands of these massive bats emerge out of nowhere and fly across the ocean was a last spectacle that just made our trip that little bit more amazing and we were so glad we made it in time to see them.
All in all our Komodo island trip was just exceptional – easily up there with our adventures in the Galápagos Islands and Borneo and somewhere we’d love to visit again in the future.
I would 100% recommend a full tour rather than day trips to get the ultimate adventure experience and as much time as possible exploring what the area has to offer. The team on our tour looked after us so well – endless cups of tea, tasty food and an absolutely brilliant itinerary – make sure to ask for Paul & Max if you end up going on the tour, they’re the best!
Between this tour and our time in Bali, it’s fair to say we’ve fallen head over heels for Indonesia and can’t wait to come back!
Choosing A Sustainable Komodo Islands Tour
Another attraction when we agreed our tour was the fact that these guys are a certified WWF Blue tour agency, and work really hard to make sure their trips are environmentally friendly as possible, an important consideration when visiting national parks and planning wildlife encounters.
This certification basically means that the team at Flores XP work extremely hard to limit any negative effects caused by tourism in and around this chain of islands – both to flora and fauna of the area.
Just some of the great work that’s done to keep their Komodo island trips sustainable includes:
- Using renewable resources – such as the solar panels used to provide power at the camp
- Minimum consumption of fuel and oil, as well as recycling boat oil to generate a combustible which can be added to diesel, reducing the consumption of the actual diesel
- Using compost to keep the island green even in dry season
- Providing detailed briefings to guests about how to snorkel/dive without disrupting the flora and fauna
- The crew take regular courses with WWF, Mega fauna foundation, Manta watch etc…
- Collaborations with Trash hero for trash recycling, beach cleaning and ocean cleaning
- Supporting various social initiatives by providing clothes, books and other utilities to villages in the park
- Sourcing sustainable food, for example using only trusted fisherman, where the team know they will not fish or cause any other damage in the park
Overall, we had a great tour with these guys and were happy to have found a responsible tour operator with a great itinerary, well trained and knowledgeable staff and an emphasis on adventure – meaning we had an awesome time throughout!
Check out more of our wildlife encounters
*Full Disclosure: In the interests of full disclosure we were lucky enough to receive a free spot on this tour from Flores XP, but all opinions are our own, as always*