For most people if you mention Komodo they automatically think of the Komodo Dragons. And rightly so. They are world-famous and can only be found on 5 islands inside the Komodo National Park, close to Flores. And Flores is one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, a bit further east than Bali.
We wanted to see the Komodo Dragons so we booked a flight to Labuan Bajo, a lovely little relaxed town on the west coast of Flores. We spent quite a few days there, enjoying the ability to just walk everywhere, have amazing breakfasts at the new local café called Mimaora and fantastic fresh fish dinners from the local market stalls at night. Jude also indulged in some hour-long massages that cost a tenth of what you pay in Australia, and we spent several hours (4!) in the post office sending two small boxes back to Australia with our cold weather gear we no longer needed (down jackets, gloves, woolen hats etc).
To see the dragons you must join a boat trip. But instead of doing a day trip we decided to book a liveaboard. Liveaboards are boats where you literally live on board the boat, the term is used mostly to describe a diving trip on a boat for several days (or weeks) and we had found a 4-day trip that would allow us to do 13 dives, snorkel and go to see the dragons. Perfect.
The dives were amazing, with probably some of the best, healthy coral in the world that we have seen. We were even lucky enough to see several manta rays including a very large one (at least 4m wingspan), and Jude was spoilt as one choose to swim right next to her for quite some time and on another dive (where they normally don’t ever see mantas) she had 2 of them join her out of the deep blue!
One of the night dives, a muck dive, was just incredible with the number of interesting things we saw, Yuven (our dive master with an amazing knack to spot even the tiniest nudibranch and even a seahorse) kept hitting his tank to alert everyone to yet another find. Jude struggled to keep up with taking photos of everything. Jude even saw quite a few orangutans on her dives too. But these are not apes, they are crabs, but they look equally cute!
After returning from 4 days on the diving liveaboard, we joined another boat, shared with 15 others, sleeping dorm style with 14 people in one area on deck. We literally started with a private vessel to see the orangutans, then a shared liveaboard with private cabin, and finally this shared boat with no privacy whatsoever (only in the toilet, showers were outdoors and shared too).
This vessel would take us from Flores all the way to Lombok, a journey that would keep us another 4 days at sea. With this boat we visited several snorkeling spots, Padar island to walk to a very pretty (but busy) viewpoint for sunrise, we watched the Sunda flying foxes (acerodon mackloti) leave the mangroves of Koaba Island en masse for their daily trek to Flores to find food, and we visited a famous Tiktok / Instagram pink beach we thought was totally underwhelming… (but at least the snorkeling was ok).
And yes, we saw dragons! Despite the fact it was mating season when we were there and they can be hard to find during this time (we heard several stories of people not seeing any on their visit), we saw quite a few of them. During our time on the diving liveaboard we visited Rinca island. Despite locals being very much against it, they built a boardwalk here so you can see the dragons from above. A bit of a Jurassic Park experience. It’s not very nice, but we did see them. But we were lucky we saw a large male when we went for a normal walk through the forest after the boardwalk, it made for a more interesting sighting.
Then, on the boat from Flores to Lombok, we stopped in at Komodo island, the biggest island in the Komodo NP. As we arrived at the large jetty we walked straight to the shade on the island. On our approach a lady pointed out there was a dragon on the beach! So we quickly walked over and enjoyed some time with this dragon before we did our hike in the forest with a guide. We saw several more dragons on our hike, in total on both islands we probably saw about a dozen.
We’ll leave you with a small selection of under water photos from the 13 dives, mostly from a few of the many nudibranchs, but some other critters too. Enjoy!
Komodo NP entry fee
There have been a lot of news articles on the BBC, CN travel and other news outlets about the increase of fees for Komodo NP, some even suggesting the government will raise the entrance fee to USD1000 per person to visit the dragons on Komodo Island and possibly a different price for visiting some of the other islands where you can see dragons as well. Many articles suggest the increase would take affect from 1 Jan 2023. We weren’t charged these prices, but still paid the ‘old’ price of 150,000Rp per person (about USD10).
If you have always wanted to see the Komodo dragons we suggest you go sooner rather than later to avoid any potentially dramatic price increases they have been talking about for the past 4 years.