A Komodo Island adventure is the perfect weekend getaway

Now there are direct flights from Jakarta to Labuan Bajo, a Komodo Island adventure is the perfect weekend getaway destination for city weary folks. Labuan Bajo is developing fast, but still has a magical tropical village charm. Think traditional buildings, working fishing harbour, scuba diving, beaches and some high quality restaurants and you would be correct. Furthermore, it’s easy to hire live-aboard boats and go to see the famous Komodo dragons in the national park and UNESCO world heritage site. More active people can climb Pulau Padar hill for stunning views and go snorkelling in clean clear water.

The quality of this destination is not to be underestimated.

Getting to Labuan Bajo

The Garuda direct flight takes you to  Labuan Bajo in time to have a little walk on the beach before dark. We stayed for a night at Sylvia Hotel. The hotel has about 60 lodges and a few swimming pools spread over quite a large area. The beach looked pretty clean and there are a number of recliners if you want to take it easy.

That night, we headed for Paradise Bar. It’s my second visit to Paradise, and although this time beer was not served, it was still pretty good. We had a welcome dinner, met some local bloggers and Uncle Louis from the forestry police who was to be our Komodo Island adventure guide.

Embarking on Noah

Everyone was up early the next day. We were all aboard an ark sized boat named Noah. She had 14 cabins with accommodation for at least 20 people. On Noah, we chugged through the morning light, drank coffee, ate fried bananas and enjoyed seeing the dolphins splashing in the sea.

Pulau Padar

We arrived at Pulau Padar first. The hilltop of Padar is an Instagram hotspot. You can climb to the top and have your photo taken against one of the most impressive backdrops imaginable. It’s blue sea, white beach, jagged mountains and blue skies, all in the space of one wide angle photo.

The local site management team are busy building a flight of steps to the top of the hill, and some flattened viewing platforms so that everyone can enjoy the place. If you do climb this hill, remember to pack sunscreen and plenty of water. It’s not that high, or far, but there’s not much shade and the sun is blistering at 11am.

Rinca Island

After a group photo opportunity, we headed for Rinca Island to see the giant Komodo Dragons. Although Flores, Labuan Bajo, Padar and the marine life round here are amazing, they are subsumed by the Komodo Dragons. Giant lizards, marooned here by strong currents and evolved to be the largest lizards on Earth. They will eat any flesh, can be aggressive, and are ambush hunters, just a shade slower than an Olympic sprinter. Did I mention they can swim and climb trees too? Luckily they are not the smartest, and the guides carry a forked stick in case they go for you. In such time, they will pin the lizard to the ground by its head, and have a word with them about the tourist dollar, and the need to be an ambassador for the nation.  Anyway, this trip passed without incident and the Komodo dragons behaved admirably.

Live aboard the boat

We sailed on to our evening mooring, and watched thousands of bats emerging at sunset from their trees and setting off in search of food for the night. It was one of those moments where, under falling darkness, it was better to cease the photos and enjoy the spectacle. Later, on Noah, our dinner was delicious, varied and well prepared. It was fish, chicken, vegetables, rice and plenty of fresh fruits. I spent the evening talking to the crew, and laughing as they unsuccessfully encouraged me to sing.

Batu Balok

Next day, although sleep didn’t come easy in the bowels of Noah, we went to Kampung Rinca, the main village on Rinca Island. At heart, it’s a fishing village where the catch is laid out on racks to dry in the sun. Continuing the Komodo Island adventure, we were trekking for Batu Balok. I’d been told it was a mysterious place, where there were megalithic stones, and no-one knew where they came from, or anything about the people who might have used them. 

It was a lovely walk through the woodland, although it pays to be on alert round here, and the stench of death is all over. We saw a few Komodo nests, and eventually climbed a dry river bed to the site. Turns out it was cooled rock columns, just like the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. I mentioned this to one of the guys on the trip, and we finally settled it back on the boat, where you could look at the mountainside, and see many columns, just the same, clinging to the sides of the hill.

 

Strawberry hill and snorkelling

We set sail again, and had a look at Strawberry hill but were short of time for attempting an ascent. Instead, Noah moored up again for some snorkelling and a dose of vitamin sea. The coral was in reasonable condition and there were plenty of fish. Finally, the brave or dumb folks, jumped off the boat into the sea below. Our Komodo Island Adventure ended when we returned to Labuan Bajo, in time to catch the 3pm flight back to Jakarta. Lucky we did, as Gunung Agung in neighbouring Bali exploded and closed all the airports in the region. Although I could think of worse places to be stuck!

 

Thanks to the guys at the Ministry Of Tourism who organised this Komodo Island Adventure trip. Further thanks to Wonderful Indonesia, and Pak Edo, Uncle Louis and the crew of Noah. Thanks also to the other bloggers Sinyo, Tika, TitiDefi, Nda and Indah. Really great to meet you all!

 

Komodo Island Adventure

In summary, this trip to Labuan Bajo and the Komodo National Park was a fantastic nature adventure. The aim for the region is to become a much higher profile resort, and it has many of the right ingredients. There are beautiful beaches, a native culture, plenty of activities and some great places to eat. It’s not over developed yet, but the area around Labuan Bajo has sprouted quite a few hotels since the first time I came here in 2012. In a similar theme, Pulau Padar is just one of the many hills in the region. There must be plenty of other hiking and exploration opportunities if you talk to your guides and boat masters. Camping on high peaks looks possible for the adventurous, and I bet the sky scape is dramatic at night.


Have you had a Komodo Island Adventure? Been to Rinca or Padar? I’d like to hear your views on the place. Let me know in the comments.


44 thoughts on “A Komodo Island adventure is the perfect weekend getaway

    • It’s a great place to visit. Not just for a weekend actually, but the idea is that you can see the best bits in a few days. I reckon I could spend a lot longer in this area. I have a strong liking for Flores.

  1. It looks beautiful and I do hope to go there with you when I next visit. I hadnt realised there was so much else to see besides the Komodo. Your blog really brings it to life.

    • Yeah there is a lot in the immediate area. This post really only scratched the surface. There are also many other places to visit in Flores, with Labuan Bajo acting as entry of exit point.

  2. Danieeeell! It’s very detail and beautifully written. Anddddd little did I know that you are so good in portrait photography. Super nice nice nice. Hope we can have another adventure again! 🙂

    • Yes he was a big one. They get to be 3 or 4 meters! I didn’t try any of those fish, but I do eat salty fish from time to time. Having said that, you could eat them by smell alone. I cannot imagine dating in that village!

  3. Wow I am sure it must be a great experience. I wanted to visit this Komodo island during our Bali trip but could not go. Great to know they have direct flights too!

    • Yeah well the direct flights from Jakarta are fairly new, but Labuan Bajo could just be the start of the Flores end of a land or sea adventure. Next time you go to Bali, give it a shot!

  4. amazing pictures! I never thought to visit komodo islands, but know that you showed it through your pics, im consider a visit to this island, life seems to be so different from occidental way of life. Thank you for sharing!

    • It is very different to some parts of the “West” but actually, Komodo has a quite a Mediterranean feel to it, but just a feel from several decades ago! Of course the fauna and flora is a bit different too!

    • There have been people on Flores for many, many years. Some of the early hominids are from this part of the world. You should have an exploration trip!

  5. Fantastic post! I was in Komodo last year but had to leave after two days diving because of a big storm so didn’t get to explore at all. I was so gutted! And I’m dying to go back. Thanks for sharing!

  6. What an amazing experience to be able to see the Komodo dragon on Komodo Island. This is totally on my bucket list and I hope to get to hop onto Noah one day and slowly chug over to the island. The nature and the panoramic views is incredible – your shots are just wow!

    • Thank you. Indonesia has so many places, but this and the island of Flores are very high on my list of favourites. I’m so glad I ended up here for a while!

  7. This looks like a fascinating trip. And there’s so much more to see than just the komodo dragons (although that would be a highlight for me). I have a bit of a fear of heights, but I’d have to overcome it to get to the top of Padar Island

  8. The pictures make me wanna be there and add it to the list of places I’ve snorkeled. I’d love to see komodo dragons up close. Glad you had a fantastic time on your trip.

  9. You weren’t wrong when you said it was like paradise on earth! I didn’t get a chance to visit Komodo Island when I was in Indonesia, and now I wish I had. Your photos are beautiful and capture the landscape and the lovely people there. So jealous you got to meet some komodo dragons, if only at a safe distance!

    • To be fair, it used to be a bit of a pain to get to. The first time I went, the airport was like a small house! Now it’s developing more it’s easier to get to, and the perfect time to go before it gets too developed!

  10. Hahahaha. You gote cracked up with pinning lizards amd having a word with them. Both the flora and fauna of Komondo Island is beautiful. The views from Sylvia’s hotel to Noah’s large space is worth to make a perfect getaway. And the locals seem friendly. It was nice reading about your experiences.

  11. I never heard of Komodo island and your photos makes me tempt, to explore this place. Wildlife lovers would love this place. Did you enjoy the views from top of Padar island?

    • Yes. It’s been on many many nature shows from National Geographic to BBC. The views from Padar are amazing. That’s why people brave the scorching heat of the climb!

  12. Initially I thought this would be a normal tourist excursion where you go to the island, see the Komodo dragon, have a meal and come back, but so glad to see this is so much more. The island looks so beautiful and still miles away from the rampant commercialization that happens to touristy places. Something new and extremely adventurous and exciting. Thanks

    • Thank you Raghav. There are a lot of blog posts about Komodo, and about Indonesia in general. That’s one of the reasons I rarely write about Bali, and try to find a difference from the usual hotel/restaurant reviews that are so tempting. It’s probably (a lot) less profitable but it remains a quest for something a bit different!

  13. This totally looks like the perfect weekend getaway. Looks like you got some terrific weather when you went (or is it always that nice?), and the boat Noah looks like the perfect sea home for a few days. I was really surprised to see how spacious and cozy the bedroom on Noah looked. I’d love to take this trip one day.

    • Yes Diana, the weather in Komodo is pretty good most of the time. It does rain, as it’s tropical weather, but it seems dryer than other parts of Indonesia probably due to lack of landmass. Noah was much bigger than I was expecting, and the top deck is really comfortable with large bean bags under sun shades up front, and a huge restaurant seating area at the back. I guess the boat must be around 30 meters long!

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