Komodo Island is located close to Flores Island in Indonesia and the city of Labuan Bajo is where your trip begins. Exploring Komodo Islands is an eye-opening trip to take, whether it be solo, as a couple, group or with kids, its stunning natural beauty and amazing sea-life make for a fantastic trip with so much for everyone to enjoy. From hiking, diving, visiting the dragons, laying on the beach, and boat trips, here is our guide to the best way to navigate the island.
Komodo National Park is made up of three big islands: Komodo Island, Rinca Island and Padar Island (where the famous pink beach is), plus a few other islets, a total of 2,321 km² of protected land and sea, it’s also a designated world heritage site and home to an incredible amount of natural beauty.
Accommodation: Seraya Island
You can’t actually stay on Komodo Island itself as it’s a national park (unless you are staying on a boat as a liveaboard), so choosing a resort, lodge or hotel on a neighboring island is the best choice. You can stay on the main island of Labuan Bajo but that means you are further away from Komodo Island and the other must-visit spots as well. We chose to stay at The Seraya, which was a 45 minutes boat ride from Labuan Bajo, consisting of 15 private bungalows and situated on its own 200-meter private beach. It was the perfect mix of barefoot-chic and modern accommodation. The whole island had a relaxed and natural vibe with everything you need. We really liked that the room rates included island transfers, full board, refreshments, and water activity gear. Now that’s hospitality!
We opted for a beachfront bungalow which had stunning water views from our two sun loungers on our own private deck. Sliding doors lead into our air-conditioned bungalow which was made out of bamboo including the floor, roof, and walls. A comfortable large bed, with mosquito netting for the evenings, was very useful. The absence of television or WiFi reception in the rooms really allows you to disconnect but for those not really happy to disconnect, it might be worth investing in a local SIM card in Labuan Bajo before you get to The Seraya. For a true “rainforest experience”, the bathroom is outdoors but worry not as it’s covered, ensuring your privacy and also very spacious. There’s a toilet to the left, large shower in the middle and basin plus mirror to the right with a drying ladder and hairdryer. Outside, under the tamarind trees, you have your own private chairs and umbrella with uninterrupted views of the ocean. While we didn’t get the chance to swim in it, there is also a lovely infinity pool to swim in located next to the Manta Restaurant and it’s a great place to enjoy a sunset drink from.
Depending on where you stay, each property has its own set of activities that you can join or book. At The Seraya, we booked a day trip to neighboring islands, two dives nearby and spent the other days snorkeling off their jetty in the mornings or having a swim when the tide came in. The house reef is really great for snorkeling or kayaking through and if you are into diving, it is really worth a dive. There are tons of gorgeous sea life, coral and they also have a small wreck about 20 meters down.
For a day trip out to Komodo Island itself to see the famed Komodo dragons, we rented and shared a speedboat. We left before 8:00am and our first stop was a hike up Padar Island. The Padar Island hike is somewhat easy and doesn’t take longer than an hour but it is scorching hot out there, so make sure it’s your first stop as the heat was overpowering! Take note that there are almost no trees or cover so make sure to bring hats, sunscreen, and a shirt if you need it. We then went for a snorkel and swim at the famous Pink Beach. Pink Beach is beautiful but much smaller than we imagined it would be. This little piece of paradise gets its pinkish sand due to a mix of white sand and little pieces of red corals that have broken off due to strong currents and then washed ashore.
We then arrived for a walk with the dragons and our packed lunch. The Komodo Island dragon walk is really very hit and miss experience. It really depends on what day you are there, who your guide is and your expectations. On Komodo Island itself, you must use the register guides available, you don’t really have a choice. We unfortunately, had a terrible guide, saw no dragons (except one that seemed drugged up near the main restaurant) and felt really let down by the whole experience. If seeing Komodo dragons is the main reason you traveled all the way there, then going on a liveaboard boat that can get closer to the other side of the island would make more sense and you’ll have more of a chance to see them in their natural habitat. Komodo Island itself is very much set up for tourists and we personally can’t recommend going there.
Komodo National Park is famous for its incredible diving sites and it’s the reason so many make the trip out to this area of the world. On the third day we were there, we privately rented their timber junk Dalliance which can also be a liveaboard and cater to up to eight people. The private rental fee wasn’t too much more and we decided to spend the day diving at our own pace. We set off early in the morning, had breakfast aboard the Dalliance and then prepped for our first dive. We did three dives in total and had lunch as well on board as well. Komodo National Park can cater for all levels of diving and The Seraya Divers know the area very well, we are not very experienced divers but had a great selection of options for dive sites. The amount of fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors was just amazing to see, beautiful pristine coral reefs and so many sharks. The water was clear, the water temperature also wasn’t too cold and it was such an enjoyable diving day. A major highlight for us though was the manta rays. They are the most majestic sea creature, just gliding through the water, it was beautiful to watch them and swim around them.
We stayed on the boat long enough to watch the sunset as we pulled into The Seraya. It was such a serene and peaceful return home. We were so lucky to witness manta rays, reef sharks, turtles, cuttlefish and so much more swimming in their natural habitat. The best thing about booking activities with The Seraya is that you can do as little or as much as you like.
There is an entry fee into Komodo National Park–where Padar Island, Pink Beach and Komodo Island are located–which you pay per person, per day on top of the daily rental fee for the boat. So make you sure you bring enough cash with you as it needs to be paid in cash and as you can imagine, there are no ATMs in the national park area.
As all meals are included during your stay, you don’t really have to worry about what to eat as they take care of it for you. Every third evening, they have a fish barbecue–a communal fresh seafood barbecue where all the guests sit at a long table and dine together. Besides giant fish, there is a selection of salads, vegetables, rice, and some delicious vegan options available as well which was truly delicious. We recommend arriving before dinner time to enjoy the sunset over the restaurant and ocean in the background.
Breakfast is also served at the same restaurant and you have a few different options available depending on the day. There is also an ala carte menu if you would like to order additional items at an extra cost. Honestly speaking though, we were very satisfied with what was offered and always finished our meals with full bellies. During the daytime, the giant manta ray shaped roof made entirely of bamboo is more visible along with the architectural elements and design of the restaurant.
With peaceful views over the gorgeous Komodo National Park islands, this hidden gem was everything we could have asked for. After our trip, we felt fully rested, relaxed and recharged which is precisely how you should feel after spending a week on an island.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are no directs flights to Komodo Island from Hong Kong or Macau. If you are planning to visit Komodo Island, you will need to take a flight first to Denpasar Bali (which has more connecting flights to Labuan Bajo). Labuan Bajo is only a one hour flight from Bali. Get to Hong Kong International Airport by bus via the HKZMB (Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge) and or take a ferry directly to the airport, but do note that there are only three ferries per day.
Also read: Surf’s Up: What to Do in Uluwatu, Bali
Depending on your citizenship, you might need a visa to enter Indonesia. If that’s the case, just follow the instructions on the consulate website and apply at the Visa Application Centre in Hong Kong. If you are a citizen of one of the countries from this list, you can apply for a free e-visa.