A Guide to Exploring Komodo National Park

A week well spent in Bali, and it was time to move on. We covered a lot of the island and were pleased with the amount we saw and did. However, no matter where you explore in Bali, it sort of feels like you’re following the crowd. It was time for us to get off the beaten track!

If you’re been following Sun Scribes’ adventures, you’ve probably realised a lot of our antics involve wildlife! Darren and I are both big wildlife and animal lovers and as soon as we picked Indonesia as our next destination, a visit to Komodo Island was top of our list!

If you’ve watched the new Planet Earth II, you’ll know what Komodo Island looks like (and if you haven’t, stop reading and go watch it right now!!). These islands are the only place on Earth that inhabit the ferocious komodo dragons and we were dying to see them.

How to get there

From Ubud, we drove back to Denpasar Airport and booked a flight to Flores Island. A return flight costs roughly $92. Once you arrive in Flores airport, be mindful of the locals offering taxis to your hotel. They flock you, all shouting at once, trying take your bags into their cars. It can be intimidating when you’ve no idea where you’re going. Look for a taxi desk inside the airport. They’ll arrange a car for you for about $5-6, more pricey but worth avoiding the mayhem outside.

Booking a Tour

The komodos are the main attraction, but there’s still so much more to see on these islands. There are tours to suit everyone’s needs: day tours, three day/two night tours where you sleep on the boat, and overnight tours where you camp on the islands.

Wait until you get to the island and barter a price. The pricing differs greatly depending on what you want. For the big fancier boats, you could be looking at a price tag of up to 3 million rupiah (roughly $300) for a two-day tour. These are the more professional groups who speak English. They cater to tourists and provide snacks, teas & coffees, meals and snorkelling equipment. If you’re looking for a cheaper price, barter with the local chaps and you’ll get a good price.

The Morning of Our Tour

We got a day on the boat for under AUD70 each, but find out after we could have bargained even more. Our tour included a hike on Padar Island, a snorkel at Pink Beach, a trek around Komodo Island in search of dragons, and a snorkel with manta rays. Our “guides” spoke no English but it was kind of funny and added to the whole authentic experience!

We set off just after 6am. We were meant to meet our guide outside our accommodation at 5am, but 45 minutes later and still no sign. You’ll find this a lot in Bali and Indonesia: boats, private drivers, tour guides, etc., will all rock up a good hour late, with no apology or explanation, you just have to roll with it! It happened so frequently to us we nicknamed it “island time”.

Our group on our Komodo Tour!

We made our own way to the boat and clambered on. They supplied us with a snorkel, but no fins, a very mediocre lunch (some chicken and rice) and a bottle of water. With absolutely no safety talk and no explanation of where we were going or the plan for the day, we set off across the sea toward the surrounding islands. There were a handful of other travellers on the boat, but the conversation was minimal. Partly because of the early hour, and partly because everyone was nearly deaf from the roar of the boat’s engine! It wasn’t the safest or newest boat, but all was forgotten once we pulled up to our first destination.

Padar Island

After about two hours on the deafening boat, we arrived at our first stop, Padar Island. It’s worth noting that the more expensive tours operate with newer and faster boats, meaning less time traveling there and more time doing activities.

We hopped off the boat (no dock or decking, just jump off the boat and wade the rest of the way to shore!), and onto the glorious white sand. One quick look around and I knew we were somewhere special. It looked like a scene out of my favourite movie Jurrasic Park! Exotic green hills overlooking a crystal clear bay of water, with lizards at our feet and eagles circling above!

Darren and I on top of the world!

Unfortunately our guide (I use that term lightly, he was really just an old local guy who owned the boat) spoke no English. There were a few Balinese girls on our boat and he spoke to them at length about the area as we began our trek. I had no idea what he was talking about and was so jealous I couldn’t understand him! He showed great interest in the wealthy Bali ladies and completely ignored us, which we found hilarious!

Once we made it to the top, the view was phenomenal. Three stunning bays glistened below, with silhouettes of turtles bobbing to the surface. Be sure to wear proper footwear for this trek and leave the flip flops at home. It’s steep with loose rock and if you fall, there’s no sign of a phone, first-aid kit, or walkie-talkie in sight! This may be another reason to pick a more “official” tour if you want some comforts.

Pink Beach

Next stop was a snorkel at Pink Beach. The travel time in between each stop is significant, if you have the time, I would 100% recommend doing the two-day tour. We arrived at the beach, which as I presumed, wasn’t “pink pink”. It has hints of red, but it’s only when you get into higher ground and view down, that you see the tinge of pink. Depending on the tide, some days can be more pink than others. Nevertheless, the red coral mixed with the white sand gives a gorgeous pink hue, and the snorkel here was phenomenal. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef, the coral here has been virtually untouched and is full of nutrients. The colours of the reef and diverse fish are reason enough alone to get to Flores!

Komodo Island

From Pink Beach, we headed to the main event, Komodo Island! Darren and I had been obsessed with this place and made it our mission to get here! Of the 17,000 islands of Indonesia, nothing caught our attention more than this volcanic island, home to the ferocious three-metre long Komodo dragon.

The island is a UNESCO-protected park and has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. At present, less than 10% of the park is actually open to the public to protect the dragons. The Komodo dragon is the largest species of lizard in the world, weighing up to 90kg. It wasn’t until we spotted a fully grown male dragon that I fully appreciated the size and ferocity of this animal.

Komodo National Park is a New Seven Wonder of the World.

After paying our park fee of 250,000rph (a price that is growing each year with more tourism), we were given a brief safety talk, and set off with our park ranger. Again, here is where I stress to do the longer two/three-day tours. If you limit yourself to the day trips, you will get roughly one hour on the island to “trek” the island is search of dragons. Really, the shorter trek is just a glorified nature walk. There is a pretence of searching for the dragons, but you’re really just led to the watering hole where all the dragons laze about after their feed of dear and boar.

We kept a clear distance from the dragons when we came upon them, I wouldn’t fancy getting too close to these prehistoric giants!

Other than watching the dragons from afar at their regular resting area, it’s pretty hard to spot them on the island. We were pottering along the trail when we heard the rustle of a young dragon beside us. She quickly scampered off when she saw/smelled us. When researching the island, we’d read reviews of people stalking the dragons and following them while on a hunt, but I think these occurrences are rare. While you’re almost gauranteed to see dragons on the island, don’t expect to see too much. During the day, the dragon hide from heat and digest their big meals. It’s still a sight to behold, these huge dragons, so appreciate them but don’t get too comfortable, they’re extremely dangerous and should be treated with extreme caution!

If you’re considering putting Flores Island and the Komodo Natinal Park on your list while in Indonesia, do it! If you’re restricted with time, I say sacrifice a few each day’s at the beach in Bali, grab and flight over and get yourself to these stunning islands! Komodo Island islet ting more popular by the day, get here before the crowds do and see this real-life Jurrasic Park!

Here’s a few more pictures from the trip to get you inspired:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Keelin Riley

Keelin is an Irish travel writer with a degree in journalism and a background in the Irish media. Based in Sydney, Australia she loves to blog about all things travel-related specialising in budget travel, ethical travel and off-the-beaten-track itineraries!

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