The Beginner’s Guide To Planning A Trip To Komodo National Park
Komodo dragons – the largest lizard species in the world, and one of the most fascinating animals to watch in the wild. In fact, considering how special it is to see them in their natural habitat, Komodo National Park, it’s surprising how easy it is to get there.
Though the infamous dragons are its main attraction, the park also boasts teeming underwater life and stunning scenery. If you’ve had even the slightest urge to visit, go now.
With the first five-star resort planned to open near the park later this year, and awareness of the area growing by the minute – thanks in big part to Instagram – it’s only going to get busier and pricier.
To help you plan your trip there, we’ve put together this handy guide. Read on to find out everything you should know about Komodo National Park.
What Exactly Is It?
The park is made up of three big islands, Komodo, Rinca and Padar, along with 26 smaller ones. In 1986, the region was declared a World Heritage site after it was found to be the only place on the planet still home to free-roaming Komodo dragons. Visitors can see them on Komodo and Rinca.
How To Get There
The gateway to the park is Labuan Bajo. A harbour town on the western most tip of the Indonesian island of Flores, it’s only a 90-minute flight away from Bali’s Denpasar or 2.5 hours from Jakarta. Flights are frequent and inexpensive – expect to pay about $100 return from Bali and $300 – $400 from Jakarta.
From Labuan Bajo’s airport, it’s only a 10-minute taxi ride to the town’s main strip. Cabs are fixed price, and usually cost around $5.
What To Expect
The dragons are only a small part of everything the park has to offer. It has one of only seven pink sand beaches in the world; a hike view overlooking more beaches and bays than you can count; and rich marine life including manta rays, sharks and giant turtles.
Where To Stay
From budget backpackers to sprawling resorts, there are plenty of places to stay on Labuan Bajo. On the cheaper end are Le Pirate Hotel Labuan Bajo and Boatel. Both are wildly chic with décor that can best be described as nautical minimalist.
The mainland hotel offers private, family and shared rooms, a rooftop bar and a restaurant. From Movie Mondays to Sunday Sunset Sessions, there’s a social activity on every night of the week. A single bed in a bunkroom starts at around $19 a night. Double rooms will set you back about $57.
A 10-minute boat ride from Labuan Bajo’s main harbour, The Boatel is an anchored barge with 10 double rooms. Each has its own deck, hammock and swim ladder straight into the sea. On the upper deck is a restaurant and bar with beanbags and lawn chairs. Curl into one with a cocktail at the end of an adventurous day as you take in a sunset. Double rooms are about $56 a night.
If you have a little more cash to splash, consider Seraya Hotel and Resort. On a scrap of an island called Little Seraya, reached only by a 45-minute wooden boat ride from Labuan Bajo, the 25-room resort couldn’t be more isolated. Bungalows here start at around $500 – not too exxy keeping in mind the whole staying on a private island thing.
The last option is to stay on a liveaboard. It’s an easy way to see most of the area. Plus, if you’re a diver, it’ll guarantee you the most remote, untouched diving spots.
How To Choose A Tour
Deciding which liveaboard or day tour to take can be tricky as the options vary greatly. Some are no-frills with only basic mattresses to sleep on; others are swanky with air-conditioning and ensuites; and then there’s everything in between.
Once you’ve picked what type of boat you’re comfortable with, there are the included activities and the trip’s route to take into account. If you’re keen to see dragons, Komodo or Rinca should of course feature on the itinerary. Want to take in the park’s most spectacular view? Add Padar Island too. If you’ve never seen pink sand, Pink Beach is a must. Though it sounds like a lot, seeing all those sights and more can be done on a two-day, one-night trip.
Research the options online beforehand, or visit the dozen or so tour operators’ offices lining the main strip.
How To Get There
(Lead image: Island of Flores, Komodo National Park via Christopher Harriot / Flickr)