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 Komodo National Park on a Liveaboard

Whenever people talk about visiting Indonesia, Bali seems to be the main destination. The Indonesian archipelago is composed of more than 17,500 islands, so no need to say that their is a lot more to see outside of the popular island of Bali. Komodo national park is one of Indonesia secret jewel and it is situated between Sulawesi and Flores. I first heard of this place while reading some travel blog and instantly added it to my bucket list. Komodo national park includes 29 islands with amazing landscape and world class diving, but most importantly, it is home to the biggest lizard on earth: the Komodo dragon. Calling Komodo national park a secret might be pushing it a little as the island tours are widely advertise on Bali and the Gili islands. Surprisingly, a lot of tourist still don’t include the Komodo islands in their itinerary probably due to the fareness of the national park from the main tourist island. Thankfully, they are many affordable ways to reach the Komodo islands.

Your first option is to fly in and out of Labuan Bajo, on the island of Flores, from an international airport like Bali or Jakarta. Once in Labuan Bajo, it’s very easy to find some day tour to the national park. Doing it this way gives you more freedom as you can charter your own boat for a day and decide which island you want to visit and stay as long as you want. Although, it is also one of the most expensive option as you’ll have to pay for 2 flights (~200$), accommodation ( ~10-30$/ nights), food and your boat tours (~ 50$ + /day).

Your second option would be to fly in OR out of Labuan Bajo and make your way back on a live aboard boat. Sailing between the island of Lombok and Flores will take you around 4 days considering you’ll stop at many islands on the way for sightseeing and activities. This is a great way to explore the national park if you have a little bit more time and you have a tighter budget. The live aboard tour from Labuan to Lombok are surprisingly cheap and they are running everyday.

On the other hand, if you want to experience sleeping on a sailing boat, but staying on board for 4 days is to much for you, you will also find a lot of company offering 2 days/ 1 night tours of the national park from Labuan Bajo.

For the most adventurous, you can also get there with the public ferry from Lombok to Labuan Bajo, but it will take 24 hours and it’s not an easy journey. The public ferry is a mix of bus rides and small sketchy ferry rides across the island of Lombok, Sulawesi and the Komodo islands. In my personal opinion, this option is not really worth it considering you don’t save much money, the journey is not really pleasant and it takes a lot of time.

After quite a bit of research, we decided that the boat tour from Labuan Bajo to Lombok would be the best way for us to explore the Komodo national park without spending a fortune. I must say, I was kind of puzzled at first on which company to choose. A lot of Trip advisor reviews later, I came to the conclusion that every boat company had a fair amount of bad reviews and that they were all pretty much doing the exact same itinerary. Perama and Kenkana seemed to be the biggest company and consequently, pretty expensive. I finally stop my choice on Wanua adventure that looked to be a fair mix of safe and budget friendly.

All in all, we paid 180$ per person for 4 days/ 3 nights including the food, the transport and most importantly the entrance fees. Make sure that the entrance fees of the national park and the camera fees are included in your price as a lot of people on our tour had to pay and extra 40$ on the first day.

Obviously, since Komodo national park is the only place in the world where you can see Komodo dragons, dragon spotting will be one of the main activity. Although , June, July and august are the worst month to spot dragons in the wild since it’s mating season, we got really lucky and we saw 10 of them on our bush walk. It is highly advise not to venture alone on the trails without a ranger as the dragons are really vicious and will see you as a pray. The bite of dragons are venimous and if you don’t get medical assistance really quickly, it will kill you.

Activities: Like I said earlier, pretty much every tour company in Labuan Bajo offer the same type of itinerary on the way to Lombok from Flores. Your main stop will be Rinca and Komodo island to spot some dragons, Red sand beach and Manta point for some pretty great snorkeling, Moyo island to visit a waterfall and Padar and Kenawa island for some cool hikes.

Most of the island you’ll visit are part of Komodo national park so you’ll notice your first two days on board will be really busy and you’ll spent the last two days mostly sailing and sunbathing on the boat.

The highlight of my trip to the Komodo islands was seeing the wild dragons on Komodo, climbing to the top of Padar island and swim with manta rays. While booking your tours in Labuan Bajo, make sure you go to those places if you don’t book with Wanua adventure.

Food: I must admit I had pretty low expectation towards food after all of the reviews I read on the Komodo boat tours and I was wonderfully surprised. Food served on board was extremely varied, tasty and most importantly, we never got hungry. For breakfast we were served delicious banana pancakes or jam sandwiches. For lunch and diner, we always had a vegetable dish, some proteins ( chicken, fish, egg or tofu), noodles, rice and fresh fruits for desert. No need to say that their was a lot of leftovers and everyone had a full belly after the meals. Everyone was given a 1.5L water bottle per day and tea and coffee was available anytime of the day. All in all, I really didn’t feel like I had to buy more food or drink during the tour.

Accommodation: Like describe on the site,  you have the option between sleeping on the deck (budget option) or having your private cabin for around 100$ more. Honestly, unless you can’t bare sleeping next to other people, I would say paying for a private cabin is a waste of money. The cabins are really small and they are right next to the motor which is quite loud. The deck where we slept was spacious and the light breeze from outside was definitely a plus!

On top of everything, we were lucky enough to have an amazing boat crew!

For anyone that is planning a trip to Indonesia, I highly recommend to include the Komodo islands to your itinerary as it is definitely the highlight of my trip in Indo!


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