Allow me to introduce you to Komodo National Park, a collection of remarkable islands in Flores, Indonesia. A destination so special that though it may feel like a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trip it’s accessible to everyone with a will for adventure.
Now we’ve crept into 2020 I want to spend the time circling back to my own personal holiday of 2019. I travelled to 15 countries last year, I flew to Italy for a wedding and the rest for work commitments so the single week I spent in Indonesia was ‘just for me’. It was a last minute booking and I knew very little about the location before setting off, though as with most things unplanned, it was my favourite trip of last year, It was also, in retrospect, the cheapest.
When you think of bucket list travel destinations it’s easy to associate them with extravagance and expense but if you’re looking for a wanderlust escape on a budget, look no further than Komodo.
I’ll have more to say about how to get to Flores later but when it comes to exploring the best way to see the islands that make up Komodo is by boat. Tours depart from a small port town called Labuan Bajo which is, in turn, a ‘sandwich’ destination within itself. We enjoyed a couple of days in Labuan Bajo either side of our ocean adventure and discovered there are number of daily departing boat tours to the surrounding sights. After researching online before travelling however I had decided the best way to see everything was by booking a 3 Day 2 Night Tour.
Inside Komodo National Park
Our first stop as part of our 3 day tour was Kelor island, a stunning uninhabited isle with the some of the most amazing views of the ocean and scattered landscape of Flores. The hike up to where this picture was taken was not for the faint hearted during the midday heat but if you can stand to ‘sweat it up’ it is skills wise, an easy climb of around 20 minutes. The view is insane from the look out point and well worth the hike, most tours will start here, it sets the tone perfectly for the magic of Komodo.
When you make your way down you’ll be stripping into your swims as you go and running into the water like a fish out of it! The ocean here is shallow and warm and will invite those who usually just dip and toe to fully submerge in. The beach is pristine and the crystal clear turquoise water was another dazzling introduction for what’s to come over the next few days.
The Pink Beach
There are only a handful of beaches in the world that have coloured sand and one of the few pink ones is located in Komodo. Arguably the prettiest of them all with the azure blue ocean and scattered reef completing the picture perfect scene from above.
I know what you are thinking, as why I before seeing it for myself; Is it really that Pink? YES. The picture below was capture by my drone (DJI Mavic Pro 2) and I have added zero edit to it. It’s just as special, if not more so than the images captured.
The great thing about Indonesia’s pastel sand cove is the seclusion of this particular beach. As it’s only accessible by boat you’ll often have the stretch of pink all to yourselves. We were shocked and in awe of the few hours we spent here, I didn’t expect it to be as stunning and serene as it was.
The most famously pictured moment when touring Flores is the sunrise at Padar Island and guys, I’m pleased to tell you this is another experience that is truly as magical as photographers would have you believe.
You’ll anchor down the night before and wake in the early hours to hike up and watch the sunrise. It’s a nice and easy climb once again and this time with the benefit of the morning breeze to keep you cool. Once up top you will be joined in numbers but not too many people that bothers your own view or experience.
The sunrise here is truly one of the best I’ve witnessed in the world as there are so many different scenes to be unveiled as the sun rises higher. There are three main views and all of them showcase the landscape in a totally unique and mesmerising way.
Rinca Island & The Dragons
Komodo National Park is (clue being in the name) home to the magnificent Komodo Dragons. The beautiful reptiles can only be found living wild in Indonesia and there are less than 5000 existing in the world today. The Indonesian government work hard to protect the species so even though they can be spotted on a handful of islands, at present you are only allowed to travel and see them on Rinca island. I thought this was an amazing initiative and incredible to hear how strongly the country believe in caring for their wildlife and it made us, as a group, feel incredibly privileged to have walked alongside the dragons.
We spent an afternoon wandering with a guide and learning all about the amazing animals and then went on to hike a little further and higher to enjoy the views at leisure of the island itself.
If you are in Komodo and it’s possible to do so, you HAVE to walk wild with the dragons.
A sky full of Bats
Whilst we’re on the subject of wildlife, the most unexpected treat for me throughout my entire stay in Indonesia was our sunset on the ocean when we were joined by some unexpected friends.
When the sky moves on from a pastel display of colour, the deeper blue welcomes thousands and thousands of bats. This, as a spectacle in the sky, had the whole boat in awe but it was a particularly personal for me. Asides from marine life, bats are my favourite animals, I had no idea we would see something like this when I booked the trip as it was such a last minute adventure so this evening was a total ‘pinch-me’ mega-moment.
Our final stop on the tour was another early morning hike, as per our request. It’s not a common trail but we wanted to make the most out of our time in Flores. Due to snorkel on the island of Kanawa, we also hiked up to watch the sunrise and it was another incredible view…….this time even more memorable as we had it all to ourselves 😉
After the sunrise hike we ventured back down to the blue…….and when I say blue……I’ve never known water like it!
We set ourselves up for the morning on the white sandy beach and jetty, jumping in, sunbathing, chasing turtles and just taking it all in. It was one of the most stunning locations I’ve ever seen and then we took the drone up to discover a whole new world of wonder.
Snorkelling in Komodo was some of the best I have ever done. We had multiple opportunities to explore the underwater world and interact with the bountiful marine life that is full of vibrancy and colour.
Having flown directly to Indonesia from The Maldives I couldn’t believe the clarity of the ocean and vast array of health, both in the coral and fish. If I was there for longer I would have loved to book a dive and spend more time in the ocean, guess I’ll just have to go back one day 😉
I traveled to Komodo with Omar and from sunrise to sunset we were both in total awe of our surroundings, it was a true ‘trip of a lifetime’ for us.
There are a number of options then it comes to booking your boat tour but as it is such a popular excursion I do suggest booking well in advance. I was lucky enough to find a spare cabin for Omar and I just weeks before we flew out but my options were very limited. Though the tours mostly cover the same destinations it’s the boat and guide that you need to pay attention to.
We opted for a more affordable boat because I had read such great reviews about the guide, Erwind and I’m really pleased I made that decision. Erwind was awesome, so full of life and eager to fill our days with excitement, he was also a dab hand with a camera so a win win for me 😉
The boat was very much a ‘back to basics’ style with plastic mattresses on bunkbeds, shared water pump toilets with a shower head above the seat and basic wooden benches lounging and dining.
The food was great though, there was always plenty and it was perfectly suited to all diet types, as a veggie I ate really well with lots of rice, salad and Tempeh then sweet treats were always waiting for us after a snorkel. There was no alcohol on board so you do have to take your own with you or if you are lucky enough your guide might speedboat out to shore and pick some up at your request.
How much does it cost?
Boat prices will vary depending on the time of year and level of luxury of the boat but our exact trip cost 7700000 Indonesian Rupiah which exchanges roughly to £435.00/$565.00. That was for the two of us and it included all the park entrance fees, obvious accommodation and all food and beverages.
Just over £200 each, in my opinion it was a steal for 72 hours worth of unforgettable memories and experiences.
It’s not possible to fly directly from the UK or US to Flores. You can only travel from within Indonesia. We took a flight from Jakarta into Labuan Bajo, it took 2 hours and 20 minutes. There is also an option to travel to Flores by boat or plane from Bali if you are making a trip there as part of a longer Indonesian tour.
For more of an insight into this corner of paradise check out my latest vlog here:
We travelled in July and we didn’t see a cloudy day! If you are thinking about it, BOOK IT!!!