View from Rinca Island of the blue waters around the Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park – Island Hopping & Tips

This post was last updated on June 2nd, 2020 at 05:06 pm

The Komodo Islands (or the Komodo National Park) in Indonesia are so incredibly beautiful that we don’t even want to write about them. This is a place that you would prefer to keep secret and certainly not want to share with the rest of the world. On the other hand, we are all about spreading joy in traveling and we highly recommended visiting this beautiful place.


Komodo National Park is a group of islands that you may know because of the Komodo Dragons that you can see in nature documentaries such as Planet Earth II. These giants sometimes grow up to 3 meters long and only live in this region. What hardly anyone knows is that the Komodo Islands have much more to offer. There are tropical white and pink beaches, a rich underwater world, and bizarre landscapes. We went on a unique four-day boat trip along the most beautiful places and we want to share all our tips with you. It’s truly one of the best travel experiences of our lives.


Will the Komodo Islands close in 2020?

There is a lot of confusion among travelers because news websites have not been completely clear. There’s the “Komodo Islands” and one of those islands is called “Komodo Island”. There was a plan to close Komodo Island to tourism for two years to protect the Komodo dragons. The plan to close Komodo Island is canceled. You will not have to miss anything!


White beach and blue ocean at Padar Island
View of Padar Island in the Komodo National Park


Island Hopping with Le Pirate Explorer

There are numerous providers for tours around the Komodo Islands. From very cheap boats, stuffed with tourists, to luxury sailing boats. If you have been following us for a while, you know that we love adventure and unique experiences, but we also love a little comfort. As far as we are concerned, Le Pirate Explorer is the best option with the best value for money. With the 4 or 5 day tour, you can see the highlights of the Komodo islands and sleep on a fantastically beautiful boat. You sleep on top of the boat in a simple cabin from where you have the most amazing views. From your bed, you can see the milky way at night and the sunrise in the morning.


On the sides of the boat, there are large hammocks, and there are some comfortable beanbags on the boat. Of course, there is also a sitting area to play a game or eat. There is always a nice playlist on, but you can also connect your own phone. It is absolutely amazing that they roll out the silver screen in the evening and use a beamer to transform the boat into a floating cinema. The largest boat has 5 cabins, so you never have to share with more than 10 people. Le Pirate Explorer is not only about seeing the Komodo islands, but the journey itself is also very tranquil.


TIP – If you want to see as much as possible, it is advisable to book the five-day tour.


Most Beautiful Places in Komodo National Park

You can book tours to the Komodo National Park and visit this beautiful area from anywhere. Not only the islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar are beautiful, the surroundings are also breathtaking. The countless uninhabited islands, the beautiful beaches, and nature on the islands are stunning! A striking phenomenon around the Komodo islands is the pink beaches that are created by an abundance of red coral off the coast.


The island of Komodo is the largest island and the most accessible for travelers. You will hardly find villages here. Few people live on the island. The fishing village of Kampung Komodo is an hour’s walk from Loh Liang where most people arrive.


During a trip through the Komodo islands, you will fall from one surprise to another. When you choose the 4 or 5-day tour, you will actually visit all the highlights. The route always depends on the weather conditions, so don’t worry if you miss something, you will get another beautiful experience in return. You can expect to see the following unique experiences and places.


Komodo Dragons on Komodo, Rinca & Flores Island

The Komodo National Park revolves around much more than just the Komodo dragon, for example, beautiful coral surrounds these islands, which is a true paradise for snorkelers and divers. Unfortunately, this area is threatened by dynamite fishing. Research has shown that of the underwater fauna, 900 species are threatened with extinction.


The name Komodo National Park is derived from the Komodo dragon that lives on the islands. This prehistoric monster can grow up to 3 meters long and lives on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, and West Flores.


Komodo Dragon on a beach on Komodo Island with blue ocean in the background


In total there are about 5,000 Komodo dragons. Until 1911, the Western world was not aware of the existence of this special animal.


Adult Komodo dragons eat everything they come across (incl. People). They eat deer, goats, and even buffalo. It is not so much the force with which they attack but the bacteria of the bite that kills their prey.


In addition to these animals, people have also been killed by the Komodo dragon. They can smell blood from up to five kilometers. Although it looks slow, a Komodo dragon can reach 8 to 18 km per hour.


TIP – Women who are on their period should report this to their guide.


Flying Bats at Kalong Island

This was by far the most magical moment of our trip. Just after sunset, tens of thousands of flying bats depart from a mangrove island to the mainland for food. These large bats sleep during the day and mainly eat fruits hanging in the trees at night. About ten minutes after the sun has set, you will see the first bats flying above the mangrove. More and more quickly follow, until the entire air is finally filled with bats. This, combined with the sky still red from the sunset, is breathtakingly beautiful.


Mega Bats flying in the air during a sunset on Kalong Island


Snorkel at Night with Luminous Plankton

In the water around the Komodo islands, there is a special kind of plankton that gives light when moving. This is something you can see in more places, but in the water around the Komodo islands, there is a very high concentration of this type of plankton. When you move your hands or feet through the water at night, you will see hundreds of small points of light appear. Grab your snorkel and jump into the water to see this special natural phenomenon even better.


During one of our nights on the water, some streaks of green light also entered the water. They were kind of like small jellyfish-like things that left a bright trail of light. To date, we have not yet figured out exactly what it was and whether it is more common here. The night photo below shows both the plankton and the streaks of light. The plankton can be seen here at least all year round. However, it is more or less in some periods and is best visible when you have little moonlight.


Plankton shining in the water in the evening


Viewpoints on Gili Laba and Padar Island

During the trip, you will also visit two awesome viewpoints; Gili Laba and Padar. The landscape of Padar island is unbelievably beautiful with strange rock formations and large bays. You probably know this place from the photos, but when you are here it is surprisingly much larger than expected and even more impressive. Gili Laba is also a very nice place to watch the sunset and make a nice climb. At both viewpoints, it is about half an hour hiking upwards for a brilliant view.


View of the surrounding islands from the Gili Laba Viewpoint


Snorkeling at Batu Bolong

The Komodo Islands are at number 2 on the list of the world’s best snorkeling spots according to CNN. The underwater world is crazy. If you are a diver then you definitely want to stay a little longer to make some more dives here. Batu Bolong is the most beautiful place for snorkeling within the Komodo National Park. It is a tiny island with very strong currents on the sides. The current brings a lot of food for the fish, so that ensures that you see hundreds of colored fish and corals here. Behind the island, you can snorkel quietly without being bothered by the current. We can write a lot about it, but the picture says it all.


Colorful Gorgonian Coral at Batu Bolong in the Komodo National Park


Pink Beach

When we heard that we also went to “Pink Beach”, we had our doubts. We have been to a “Pink Beach” on Lombok more often and that was very disappointing because it was not pink at all. From the boat, it looked indeed far from pink, but once on the beach, the surf was really all pink. In the sand, there are very small pieces of red coral which makes it pink. Sometimes this appears to be more visible than other times so it is a matter of luck or bad luck, but it is always pink.


Pink Beach with clear blue water on Komodo Island (Komodo National Park)


Komodo Dragon Hiking Trail at Rinca Island

Of course, you also want to see the Komodo dragons. You can see them on the island of Rinca where you can choose from several hiking trails with a guide. For us, this was the only setback of the entire Komodo adventure. The chance that you will spot Komodo dragons while walking is minuscule. Of course, it is great to learn more about these dangerous animals from the guide. You certainly see them in the beginning at a hut but it seems that they feed the animals here. The guide says they don’t do this and that they get the smell of the kitchen but it’s not very exciting to see them like this.


A Komodo Dragon Walking around on Rinca Island


Swimming with Mantas at Karang Makassar Reef

Another highlight of the Komodo islands is snorkeling with the giant manta rays. These giants are, on average, 2 to 3 meters wide. The chance of seeing manta rays here is almost 100%. From December to February it is manta ray season where you can even spot groups of up to 30 manta rays, but even outside the season, they can always be found somewhere at the Karang Makassar reef. A very special experience!


Manta Ray in blue water at Karang Makassar Reef


Paradise Islands

Of course, you can also count on some nice stops at paradise islands with white beaches. These islands are surrounded by very clear blue water and often beautiful coral reefs. This is the perfect place to take beautiful photos.


Komodo National Park - Aerial view of Paradise Islands with white beaches


Le Pirate Island

The last night you can sleep in a cute hut on the beach of Le Pirate Island, a gorgeous place and the perfect location for a pleasant evening. Here, you can enjoy yourself with snorkeling, table tennis, beach volleyball, kayaking, or drinking cocktails in your hammock.


How to Get to the Komodo National Park

The starting point for this tour is the port town of Labuan Bajo on Flores, which is an hour’s flight from Bali. This is not necessarily a very nice place but simply a gateway to the Komodo islands. You can also arrange your own transport from Sape in Sumbawa, but these boats are not very reliable.


A return ticket from Bali will cost you around US$110 if you book in advance. Of course, you can also fly to Labuan Bajo from other places in Indonesia.


A four-day trip from Labuan Bajo costs between 1,500,000 (~ US$104) and 3,000,000 IDR (~ US$208), depending on the boat and options. This price includes lunch, snorkel gear, and a stop on Rinca Island. The same goes for the tours you book from Lombok.


Yellow grasslands on Rinca island
Hiking on Rinca Island


Best Time to Visit the Komodo National Park

The best time to visit the Komodo Islands is from April to December. This is the dry season which, on average, provides sunshine all day long. Ideal for snorkeling, diving, hiking, and of course island hopping. The rainy season is from January to March and these months are far from ideal for a trip like this. July and August are the busiest months because many people will have a holiday. If you have the choice, it is best to go somewhere from September to December or from April to June.


Booking Tours and Costs

If you want more information about the trip we took, you can take a look at the website of Le Pirate Explorer. They offer different tours and have several boats. They are often fully booked a few months in advance, so if you want to come, you must book on time. The 4-day trip costs around US$600 per cabin (1 or 2 persons) and the 5-day trip costs US$660 per cabin.


What to Bring

Since the boat trip through the Komodo National Park starts at Flores and ends at Lombok, you just take all your luggage on the boat. In any case, make sure you have enough (swimming) clothes and sunscreen.


An action camera can also be fun if you like to capture the beautiful underwater world of the Komodo National Park.


In addition, we advise taking preventive malaria pills. Because we already had to take them during our tour of Flores, we just swallowed them during the connecting boat trip.


Do you sometimes get carsick or seasick? Then don’t forget to bring medicine.


It certainly does not hurt to stock up on a large number of snacks, because you can not get them on board. Soft drinks and beer are also recommended to buy in advance. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are sufficient, but after swimming for a while, we often felt like eating a snack.


Clear blue water at Padar Island in the Komodo National Park
Padar Island is a gorgeous place for a swim


Where to Stay in Labuan Bajo?

The flights in Indonesia are not always reliable, so it is smart to stay overnight in Labuan Bajo first, so as not to risk missing the boat. Even when you return from the boat trip, it is nice to relax in a hotel. Do you want to sleep in a cozy hostel? Then La Boheme Bajo is definitely the place for you. This is a great hostel in a good location with both double rooms and dormitories. You can easily get in contact with other travelers here because there is a bar, a nice courtyard with plenty of seating areas, and a pool table.


If you’re looking for a little more luxury, La Cecile Hotel & Cafe is a good choice. What makes this hotel so unique is that there is a roof terrace with a swimming pool and a cozy bar. You can eat here while you have an amazing view of the ocean, especially during the sunset. Both are very nice places to stay in Labuan Bajo!


History of Komodo National Park

All islands in this region were created by the same volcanic activities, where Java, Bali, and Sumatra, for example, also surfaced. Two continental plates collided here, the Sahul and Sunda. With the island of Komodo in the center. The friction between the two pushed up the earth’s crust here.


There are no active volcanoes to be found today, but vibrations in the soil are common here. Scholars say the western part of Komodo first rose above sea level. This was 130 million years ago. The eastern part of the island and the islands of Rinca and Padar “only” appeared on the horizon 49 million years ago. Which is relatively young in the history of the earth.


After the eruptions, a landscape of savanna, forest, and grasslands gradually emerged. A rugged area, where nature partly went its own way. Komodo dragons are among the oldest living lizards and resemble extinct dinosaurs. According to scientists, their origin is not entirely clear.


They can be descendants from a larger ancestor in Java as well as an ancestor from Australia, who walked around there 30,000 years ago. The fact is that it is one of the few living remains from a distant past. Another is an animal that lives in a special symbiosis with a bird, the red wood grouse.


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