Water wonderland: sailing around Komodo National Park
Set amidst the arid mountains of East Nusa Tenggara and plunging into pristine waters is a location so untouched and remote, it’s easy to see why the world’s largest lizard calls Komodo National Park home. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated in the centre of the Indonesian archipelago, is the perfect place to explore by boat no matter what kind of trip you are looking for. Relax and unwind or explore and discover – the choice is yours. A sailing trip around Komodo National Park from Labuan Bajo is bound to impress even the most well-travelled individual.
Where is Komodo National Park?
Komodo National Park is an equatorial group of islands located 744 kilometres (462 miles) east of Denpasar, Bali – just off the coast of East Nusa Tenggara. The park boasts similar characteristics to the Mediterranean regions, making it easy to see why the Komodo dragon has thrived here. The mountains and valleys are harsh terrain, often very dry, with intense humidity – a complete contrast to lush, tropical Bali.
The mountains are staggering, dramatic and seem to sink effortlessly into the azure waters that encircle them. Scattered sand islands are randomly dispersed throughout some of the most electric blue water you’re likely to ever lay eyes on. If it’s adventure you seek, the islands of Komodo National Park play host to some of the most exceptionally beautiful and desolate landscapes imaginable – a sure fire way to get the adrenaline pumping. Beyond the sheer beauty, lies Labuan Bajo, the fishing village of East Nusa Tenggara and home to a backpackers’ haven of adventure, food and Indonesian culture. As Labuan Bajo frantically tries to keep up with the number of tourists visiting the area, it’s interesting to gauge how this humble little fishing village fairs as a tourist hotspot in the coming years.
How to get to Komodo National Park?
Getting to Komodo National Park is as simple as booking your flights into Labuan Bajo, a small fishing village on the far West coast of East Nusa Tenggara. Flights run daily from Denpasar, Bali into Labuan Bajo with the following airlines:
- Garuda Indonesia
- Lion/Wings Air
- Nam Air
The flight takes approximately one hour and ten minutes from Denpasar and catering on board is limited. As these flights are extremely popular, I recommend booking early to secure your seat.
Labuan Bajo is a short car ride or transfer from the main airport on the island. When you arrive at the airport, you’ll notice a large gathering of locals hoping to drive you wherever you desire. Just smile, be polite and suggest a price before choosing your driver. It can be quite overwhelming if you’ve never dealt with this type of ‘driver ambush’ before, so just breathe and enjoy the moment. Indonesians are super friendly, so be sure to have a chat and ask questions. Expect to pay approximately 40-50,000 IDR for a 20-30-minute car ride for your entire party of travellers.
Where to stay in Komodo National Park
There are a couple of great hostels you can book in Labuan Bajo. Ciao Hostel has a huge terrace that overlooks the harbour, where you can try a morning yoga class or relax with a drink at sunset. If you’ve already visited Gili or Lombok on your Indonesia trip, then you’ll be familiar with the lovely La Boheme hostels. La Boheme Bajo is very charming, with colourful umbrellas and tiles plus some breezy seaside vibes.
Exploring the islands
While there are more dive boats and daily tours to the islands than you can poke a stick at, Labuan Bajo offers more than its fair share of options to explore the islands and I recommend booking your expedition prior to arriving. I really enjoyed my tour with Le Pirate Explorer, as they give you the peace of mind knowing everything is completely taken care of, from start to finish. You can choose to sail and explore the islands for up to seven days on their ‘Explorer’ series of boats, plus you’ll have the opportunity to travel and visit the following islands:
- Rinca Island
- Komodo Island
- Kelor Island
- Padar Island
- Taka Makassar
There are also many other single or multi-day sailing options you can choose from. The main street in Labuan Bajo has countless booking desks and sailing charters offering their tours. For an alternative day trip or overnight options, I recommend using Flores XP Adventure Tours.
The following list of activities and adventures are just an example of what to expect whilst exploring this part of the world. I recommend making sure your tour includes:
- Visiting the Komodo Dragons
- Hiking Padar Island
- Swimming with Manta Rays
- Diving/Snorkelling Batu Balong
- Relaxing on your boat
- Watching the largest migration of bats on earth.
- Exploring remote and untouched islands.
Be sure to book a day or two in advance if possible as popularity in the region is rapidly increasing.
Diving is proving to be the most popular activity in this part of the world and Labuan Bajo has one of the highest concentrations of dive centres in Indonesia. Taking a short walk along the main street behind the harbour is bound to give you a selection of the best dive centres the region has on offer. We’d recommend looking into Komodo Dive Centre first. Australian certified divers run many of the dive centres, so you’re bound to bump into someone proficient in English that can guide you on the best diving expedition.
Where to eat and drink in Komodo National Park
Start your day right with breakfast at one of the many street-side breakfast bars and cafes. I recommend Bamboo Cafe, which is open from 6am-6pm and caters for those hungry and sun-drenched travellers and divers all day long. The menu is modern and a little pricey for this part of the world, but it does offer a comfortably air-conditioned reprieve from the harsh Indonesian humidity with a slice of home-grown healthy treats and drinks.
If you’re prepared to wander further afield, the entire street of Jl. Soekarno Hatta has got you covered. Everything from western dishes to traditional Indonesian meals can be found within a short stroll from the main harbour. Restaurants like Made in Italy and Pasar Malam are worth checking out. While Made in Italy is a little further from the main drag of the Labuan Bajo Harbour, Pasar Malam offers visitors a relaxed waterfront night market experience. Expect to sample plenty of fresh seafood and fried dishes.
Know Before You Go
This region of Indonesia is humid – let’s get that straight. Like much of these equatorial Indonesian islands, Labuan Bajo is notoriously hot, sweaty and uncomfortable in the heat of the day. That’s not to say it can put a dampener on your epic sailing adventures through the islands. Plan your day early to avoid the extreme heat of the day and ensure you have plenty of bottled water. If eating out or dining in, just be sure to ask if they use filtered water and try to avoid ice in drinks or salads that have been washed in tap water.
What to pack
As a precaution, always travel with any medication in case of emergencies. Traveller’s Diarrhoea is common in this part of the world, so always come prepared. Sunscreen, long shirts, hats and plenty of water will be your best friends during your travels throughout these islands. Trust us, a week on board a boat is best enjoyed without looking and feeling like a complete lobster.
About the Author
Scott Pass is a travel writer, photographer & videographer hailing from the beaches of Australia’s Sunshine Coast. Scott aims to showcase the world’s most remote and bucket-list worthy destinations in such a way that evokes a strong and insatiable desire to explore far and wide. You can follow Scott’s escapades over his website and Instagram.
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