Flipping through a hostel’s Lonely Planet of Indonesia, my attention was drawn by human-eating dragons. They are such impressive and slightly scary reptiles. Komodo dragons can follow their prey, sometimes as big as a buffalo, for up two weeks and would even eat their own children if they could. What? Does this even exist? I set out to find out how to see these crazy dragons on Komodo Island.
The Komodo dragons live on two islands in Komodo National Park in Indonesia: Rinca island and Komodo island. Komodo National Park consists solely out of a series of islands surrounded by a no-fishing zone. Out of the two islands, you will see more tourists on the Komodo island tours rather than on Rinca Island. Most people will hop on an expensive Komodo Tour from Bali which takes several days. But this is not the only way you can see the Komodo Dragons. You can also explore the Komodo Island from a 1-day tour based out of Labuan Bajo. Let’s explore!
What are your options for Komodo Island Tours?
Can you see Komodo Dragon in Bali?
Yes and no. Komodo dragons originate from the Komodo National Park (hence the name) and therefore you cannot see Komodo dragons in Bali in the wild. I would highly recommend making the effort to go to the Komodo Islands as it is breathtakingly beautiful. You can read more about what you can see on the islands below.
You can see the Komodo dragons on the island of Bali in various wildlife parks and zoos. I cannot, however, in good conscience send you to any of these parks and zoos as all of them fail animal welfare standards.
Go from Bali to the Komodo Islands
Let’s look at the most popular option to do a Komodo island tour, which is departing from Bali. Most visitors will choose Bali as their base for visiting the different Indonesian Islands such as Java, Lombok and the Gilli Islands. With good reason as Bali is by far the most developed island in terms of tourism in Indonesia.
Komodo Island tours departing from Bali will take you a few days to get to the Komodo Island and depending on which tour you choose. The boats will always involve at least a one night trip and tend to be slower the lower the cost is. Below you will find a few reliable companies offering the Komodo tours from Bali.
This should give you a pretty good idea of what kind of prices you are looking at. There is always an option of booking locally through your hostel or through a local travel agent. However, ALWAYS make sure to do a quick Tripadvisor search before you book any boat.
The tours from Bali to Komodo Island are notorious for safety hazards. Also, pay attention that the tour you book includes accommodation (rather than sleeping in the common area of the boat) and food. There are too many stories around the internet of people have horrible experiences on the tours and even getting shipwrecked.
One of the many beautiful Komodo Islands with tour boats lining up (Photo by Celvin Purnama)
How to get to the Komodo National Park from Labuan Bajo?
Fly to Labuan Bajo
Luckily, hopping on a 3-day tour from Bali is not the only way to do a Komodo island tour. You can actually do it faster and cheaper!
Komodo National Park and the Komodo islands can be found right next to the island of Flores. In my personal opinion, the island of Flores and its harbor, Labuan Bajo, are the best way to reach the Komodo islands. Plus it’s my favorite place in Indonesia!
With a low-cost carrier (I always use Kiwi to look for cheap flights), Labuan Bajo is super easy to reach by plane plus the tickets are very affordable. Labuan Bajo is a 45min flight from Denpasar in Bali and 1.15h from Praya in Lombok.
How to see the Komodo Dragons without an expensive tour from Labuan Bajo?
Do the smart thing and ALWAYS get travel insurance before taking off! Even if you have already left, it’s never to late to protect yourself.
I have good news and bad news. Which one do you want to hear first? I’ll start with the bad.
There is no way of visiting the Komodo islands without an organized tour. By boat, the Komodo islands are located more than an hour from Labuan Bajo. Thus making it impossible to paddle there yourself.
The good news is that, once you find your cheap flight, it is pretty easy to find a tour on Flores. Labuan Bajo is a small port and you can shop for tours locally. Some tours will visit only one of the two islands. Other boats will visit both and will be gone for longer.
The cheaper option is often to visit only Rinca island which is closer to Flores. In my opinion, the Komodo dragons look pretty much the same on both islands. Furthermore, the landscape is just as gorgeous in the whole park. Therefore I chose to go with one of the tours that limit their visit to Rinca island. You get to see the one-of-a-kind Komodo National park landscape and you get to see these unique dragons. Plus, you will have enough time to squeeze in one of the amazing Komodo diving destinations on the same day!
See Komodo Dragons in action on Rinca and Komodo Island
What tour did I take in Komodo National Park?
While I only discovered Komodo National Park thanks to the existence of the Komodo dragons, it became a bucket list item due to the scuba diving in the park. Traveling through Indonesia, I had heard so many good things about it. I received several good reviews on a Belgian diving company, Manta Rhei.
After visiting them on the island, I knew I wanted to go scuba diving with them. When I was on the island, they organized a weekly trip to Rinca island which included a scuba dive and a view of the sunset at Kalong Island. Here thousands and thousands of fruit bats fly away from the island to collect food. Simply spectacular!
Activities in Komodo National Park and Flores
Komodo Island Diving
Visiting Flores island to only see the Komodo dragons would be a shame. Komodo diving or even the snorkeling is world class. I’ve been recommending Komodo as one of my favorite dive spots for years now! Out of all the amazing scuba places I have been, Komodo national park is the most easily reachable scuba diving location plus it is very affordable. I’ve written everything you need to know about diving in Komodo National Park in this post including the breathtaking Manta Point pictured below. Another option is jumping on a liveaboard to explore the area.
I would return to Komodo National Park (something I will do for sure) for this viewpoint only. There are several tours departing from Labuan Bajo or Bali that have the Padar Viewpoint on their itinerary. If you ever wanted to create a drone shot of the Komodo Islands without having a drone, this is your spot!
the viewpoint of Padar (Photo by Ash Edmonds)
Same place, different view, so pretty though! (Photo by Killian Pham)
Komodo National Park is also famous for its pink beach. Not far by boat from the Padar hike, you can step foot on a pink beach. There have been reports that the pink beach is getting less and less pink due to tourists taking sand home (well up to the airport). Don’t be too disappointed if the beach is not bright pink anymore!
The Island Of Flores
Komodo National Park is really the star of the show on most Komodo Island tours. However, the island of Flores itself has some epic spots as well! You can hike up to the three-color volcanic lake (Kelimutu Lake), visit the pink beach, bike up to awesome waterfalls, great locals and so much more.
Three-colored volcanic lake on Flores, Indonesia (Photo by Pierre-Yves Burgi)
Labuan Bajo Accommodation
I split my stay between a nice hotel and cheap budget accommodation. I often like doing this to save money on one and to relax on the other hand. Depending on the activities that I’m doing, I’ll find it easy to sacrifice luxury or not.
Hotels in Labuan Bajo
Labuan Bajo now has several beautiful hotels to stay in for a very affordable price. The island of Flores is still a lot lesser known than Bali, offering you the opportunity to get more for less.
Brand new on the island is the first 5-star resort, Ayana Resort. Better known from the Rockbar in Bali, they’ve now opened a luxury facility on the island of Flores as well. They provide everything you can imagine. From luxury liveaboards, pools, massages and basically anything you can imagine.
If you’re looking for the best view on the island, Sunset Hill Hotel is your best bet. For uber-cool looking cabins on the side of the hill on a tiny island in between Flores and the Komodo Islands, head to Xpirates dive camp. I know I will during my next visit.
A beautiful hotel that is better suited for my budget and that has very Insta-worthy rooms (if XPirates doesn’t have a good deal on) is Coconut Garden Beach Resort. Beachfront, gorgeous cabins, and palm trees everywhere, what more do you want?
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Budget Accommodation in Labuan Bajo
While I was doing my dive course, I stayed in the ultimate budget accommodation. To this day, it’s one of my most memorable hostels! Bajo View is basically a hostel with tents. The toilet and shower facilities are clean and really, sometimes all you need is a good bed and a fan. If you pay a little bit extra, you sleep on the top floor and can even reach the wifi from the deck above! (edit March 2019: the hostel is sadly closer for renovations until further notice)
The island is getting more and more budget accommodation with prices around as little as 10AUD/7USD/6EUR.
Can you stay on the Komodo Islands?
Because the Komodo Islands are part of the UNESCO world heritage site and they are within the national park of Komodo, I cannot find any accommodation on the actual island of Rinca and Komodo. But, since Labuan Bajo is so much fun, you don’t want to stay there anyway.
What’s so special about Komodo dragons?
The Komodo dragons are on everyone’s lips as they are the biggest lizards in the world. Technically they are monitor lizards, which you can see around the parks in Singapore and regularly in Australia as well. Komodo dragons are a much bigger and faster variety though.
The males can grow as big as 3 meters long and the female follow short behind at almost 2 meters! They can run as fast as 30 km per hour and have a powerful poison in their mouth. As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, they are known to be very patient killers. They could follow a buffalo around for weeks slowly killing it with its poison and simply waiting for it to die. Do can even kill a human in a matter of hours. Luckily attacks by Komodo dragons are rare, but not impossible.
When should you visit the Komodo Dragons?
Just like the rest of Indonesia, the Komodo islands and Flores have a wet season and a dry season. The rainy season is from December to March and you will find fewer tours running to the islands. I went during the end of the rainy season in April and loved it! We had a few heavy thunderstorms, but they were over super quick and there were a lot fewer tourists.
The busy season of the Komodo Islands is during the dry season between July and August. It is not only super warm during this time of year, but you will also find the most amount of tourists in the area.
I will always recommend going to crowded placed in the shoulder periods. For Komodo National Park, that would make the recommended periods in the months of September, November, April, May, and June. In addition to having fewer tourists around, the low season will usually also have lower prices, double win right!
Are the Komodo Islands closing (update April 2019)?
yes, Komodo Island is closing in 2020
Ok, what do we know? Yes, according to the Indonesian newspaper Tempo, Komodo island will close temporarily in January 2020. This is happening because the Indonesian police found a group of smugglers that stole 41 dragons off the island. They were selling them on the black market for 500 million Indonesian rupiahs, which is 50,000AUD or 35,000USD!
The stolen dragons were reportedly sold to buyers in Thailand and Vietnam. Komodo dragons are a protected species and therefore stealing and buying them is a crime. Imagine stealing let alone buying an animal that could kill you? Crazy!
As I mentioned above, Komodo Island is the most popular place for tourists to see the Komodo dragons. It is inevitable that high volumes of tourism take its toll on animal populations and the eco-system of the island. During the closure, officials will focus on tracking the food stock for the Komodo dragons (so they don’t see humans as a food source). In the end, they hope that the population of the Komodo dragons will thrive during the closure of Komodo island.
Can you still see Komodo dragons in 2020?
this is the good news, they will only be closing down Komodo itself. The island I recommended above, Rinca, is still open for the public!
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Disclaimer: I was not paid to write about any of the companies mentioned in this post nor did I receive any discounts to write about them. This article contains only my opinion and experiences. Some of the links have been updated with an affiliate link, which means that you are supporting this blog if you make a purchase. You will not pay anything extra to buy something through these links.
This post has been updated since it’s original posting date of December 2016 to add more relevant information and content to help you plan your trip as best as possible!