In the age of instagram, there are few places which keeps popping up on the screen very frequently and undoubtedly the view from top of Padar island in Komodo National Park is one of them. This amazing destination is becoming a hotspot and expected to be the next Bali in Indonesia. If you love landscapes, wild animals, stunning beaches, snorkelling and awesome scuba diving, then this has to be your destination.
When we used so many adjectives for a destination, it has to be great. The place really lives up to the adjectives. Here is your complete planning guide to Komodo National Park.
Where is Komodo National Park?
Komodo National Park lies in the Indian Ocean east of the famous island of Bali. The location is south of Sulawesi and north of Australia. This is a small area of the many islands that form a country called Indonesia. Labuan Bajo is the gateway town to the national park. Komodo is the bigger of the islands and lies towards west while Rinca island lies between Komodo and East Nusa Tenggara. This is part of Flores in Indonesia.
The whole region was designated a national park in 1980 and since then this has become a bio diversity hotspot for scuba divers. This is part of the coral triangle which is considered the best place in the world for scuba diving. Also the few islands of the national park are the only places where you can encounter the endangered Komodo dragons.
How to get to Komodo National Park?
The gateway to Komodo is Labuan Bajo. The airport code is LBJ. To reach this first you have to reach Bali Denpasar. There are numerous daily flights from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo. You can try Garuda which is the costly one but reliable. Other cheaper options include Nam Air, Wings Air and Lion Air. Flight times are only 1hr to 1.5 hrs depending on the aeroplane type. A propeller type plane takes 1.5 hrs to reach Labuan Bajo.
There are other options to reach Labuan Bajo and it involves ferry travel from Bali to Lombok and onwards to Labuan Bajo. You can choose live boards trips also.
The flight from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo is scenic flight with views of Gunung Rinjani in Lombok and the small islands of Komodo National Park.
VISA and Permits
Indians do not need VISA for a month travel in Indonesia. Just travel with your tickets. If you are planning more than a month, then you need to apply for tourist VISA in advance.
To enter the Komodo national park, you need permits. This can be paid once you reach the islands on a boat trip form Labuan Bajo or at the Bajo Park Office for scuba dive trips. The tour operator from Bajo generally takes care of this.
It is approximately IDR 250,000 per head for a park visit fees while IDR 175,000 for a day dive trip in the park.
Where to stay?
Labuan Bajo has been off the grid for long time and there are options but not like the popular places like Bali. Slowly the place is gaining importance and expect more options in few years.
Hostels – The Le Pirate Hostel is located exactly on the main street and is a famous one here. It has a in-house restaurant and is quite busy most of the times.
Hotels – We stayed at Le Cecile Hotel and Cafe which is a brand new hotel in L Bajo. This is an awesome place to stay. We also visited La Prima Hotel which is a little drive south of the market and looked decent. There are several options near the main market but better to avoid in case you hate loud noise and too much hustle and bustle. We strongly recommend Le Cecile Hotel and Cafe. This property cost around Rs 4000 per night inclusive of breakfast.
Live Aboards – The other option is to get a live aboard and stay in the park itself and have a totally different experience. Manta Rhei Dive runs live aboard trips form Labuan Bajo.
What is the best time to visit?
The best time to visit Komodo National Park is between April and December during the dry season. The weatheris very nice, not too hot with very little to no rain. The rainy season sometimes starts early in December, so if you don’t like getting wet plan your trip before. You can spot the Komodo dragon all year round.
June to September are the busy months and expect a busy scene around. Book the flights and hotels in advance to avoid high price and limited options.
In most cases you will not need private transpiration for the trips or dives. The transportation by boats are included in the trips. For local transportation, you can walk the market if you are staying nearby or have a free hotel shuttle.
Motorbikes are available for rent from most hotels and hostels. This will help you to explore at leisure the mainland around Bajo.
Best things to do?
The best thing to do is undoubtedly Scuba Diving. The region is known for amazing life under water. Coral gardens are vast while big fishes like sharks, manta rays and turtles are very common here. The cold current from south mixes with the warm waters of north and makes this a hotspot for aquatic life. The north and south of the park are having very strong currents while central komodo has medium to strong currents. Diving with current is a normal here.
These currents are the reason for the life under water and learn to use the current to spot the life. Never try to overcome the current as it is not possible. If you have no experience to dive in currents, talk to your dive shop and get a briefing on it.
There are several dive operations in the main market of Labuan Bajo. We dived with Manta Rhei Dive Shop. This is run by a Belgian family. Other great options include Uber Scuba, Divine Diving and Blue Marlin Dive. These popular operators runs daily trips and has experienced and reliable team and equipments. 3 Dive trips a day cost IDR 165,000 per head. Park fees are extra.
Komodo Dragon Safari is another popular thing to do in the park. A visit to Rinca or Komodo island for this is a must thing if you are visiting Labuan Bajo. The huge reptiles can be as long as 15 ft and they are cannibals (the mothers eat the babies when they hatch). Also you can spot wild deer, buffaloes, birds and snakes if lucky.
There are so many operators in the main market and they will catch you for a tour. We however took the tour through Alba Cruise which runs speed boat trip. A speed boat trips saves lot of time and provides more points in a day tour. A day tour cost IDR 120,000 per head. Half day tour will cost IDR 70,000 per head.Park fees are extra.
A hike to top of Padar island for the iconic view is on the top of the list for many. This instaram worthy spot is famous for the stunning landscape. Carry enough water while on the hike as it is quite hot and humid. Have sports shoes while you visit Padar island.
Snorkelling is a great thing to do if you are not into diving. You can experience great views although not like diving. The famous points are Manta point, Menjerite, Kanawa Island and many others. Expect to see manta rays, turtles, lots of fishes, many types of rays and millions of corals.
Island hopping to Komodo, Rinca, Kanawa and Kelor will provide different views from the top of the islands.
- Telkomsel mobile network works best here. You get network even in the sea.
- There are ATM and money changers in the main market. Most places accept MasterCard and VISA.
- There is a hospital in Labuan Bajo.
- Diving is awesome but currents are strong. AOW is preferred or atlases 20+ dives will be better.