KOMODO Islands Guide
The Komodo Islands are famous for world-class dive sites and Komodo dragons. Visiting the Komodo Islands is an exceptional experience that every traveler should do once in their lifetime. Here is your Complete Komodo Islands guide, how to get there, how to visit the islands, what boat to take and where to sleep with the best view in town.
How to get to the Komodo Islands?
How do I get to the Komodo Island and Labuan Bajo?
You must have heard of the Komodo Islands lately – they are becoming really trendy – not just for the Komodo dragons but also for its amazing sights from the top of the islands and the insane diving you can do there. Yes it feels like you’re in an aquarium with Manta rays, sharks and billions of corals and fishes. So how can you get to the Komodos?
First, you have to understand that the Komodo Islands are located just next to Labuan Bajo on Flores – this is where you want to arrive to visit them. When I (Pierre), came here 8 years ago it was a lot more difficult to get to Labuan Bajo. Nowadays, you have a lot of options more or less fast…
Let’s start with the easy one:
1. Take a Flight to Labuan Bajo
A lot of new routes have been opened in the tiny airport of LB. You can fly in from:
– Jakarta: AirAsia
– Bali, Denpasar: Nam airlines, Garuda. NAM provides a jet plane that takes about 45mn to get to LB but the plane is old – it’s an Boeing 737 from 1984 – older than me… :-/ Garuda has a propeller plane that takes 1h20mn – more reliable time wise from what we’ve been told.
Something to know is that the flights are often delayed or canceled (at least for NAM – I’m literally sitting in the airport waiting for the plane as I am writing this to come…) so it’s best not to plan tight connections on your return.
Also depending on the plane, you might be restricted on the checked in luggage weight. Just pay attention when you book and you’ll be fine.
2. Cross all the Islands from West to East until you make it.
I’m not kidding. If you start from Jakarta I wouldn’t advise it unless you want a 72hours local transport experience… But from Bali or Lombok, it is a lot easier and I have already done it 3 times.
Here is what it looks like in a video. (make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel while you’re at it – we’d love to share the adventures with you too!)
The best is to combine this trip to Flores from Bali with an exploration of Lombok and Sumbawa. Take your time, explore the best waterfalls of Lombok, maybe go up the Rinjani and discover the off the beaten path island of Sumbawa. Here are a few options with local transport:
How to get from Bali to Labuan Bajo Komodo by bus and ferry:
- Go to Padang bay and take the local ferry to Lembar on Lombok. Don’t get the private fast boats, the service is horrible, they have the worse safety records and let “kids” with no experience drive 800HP+ boats… yes my fast boat to the Gili Islands sank [LINK story]
- From Lembar take a bus or private car (we got it for 50K RP) to Mataram bus station. It will take about 20-30mn.
- From Mataram follow the steps below:
How to get from Mataram Lombok to Labuan Bajo Komodo by bus and ferry:
- A few companies provide a bus service that goes straight from Mataram to Labuan Bajo. It is a big bus with AC and decent seats. The bus will cross the islands of Lombok take the ferry to Sumbawa then cross Sumbawa and take the ferry to Labuan Bajo. Expect to pay ~350,000RP and it will take almost 24 hours but the ferry rides are really nice with good views! You don’t have much to do except seat eat and watch the view 🙂
How to get from Sumbawa to Labuan Bajo by bus and ferry:
Somehow you made it to Sumbawa! Congratulations! Enjoy a non-touristic unexplored island in Indonesia. If you’re wondering what people do in Sumbawa checkout this post. [LINK Post What to Do in Sumbawa]. Time to get your bus now!
- No matter what your starting point is in Sumbawa your goal is to get to Sape harbor where you can grab the public ferry from Sape to Labuan Bajo.
- From Taliwang or Poto Tano get a local bus to Sumbawa Besar (30,000RP, ~2hours) almost every 30 minutes-ish.
- From Sumbawa Besar take another bus to Bima (120,000RP, ~6hours)
- From Bima take another bus to Sape harbor (30,000RP ~2-3hours). Note, those buses stop running at 7pm. If you didn’t get to Sape you can enjoy the beautiful hotels of Bima (sarcasm… the one we had was “expensive” – 120,000RP – and terrible but next to the bus).
- From Sape take the public ferry to Labuan Bajo (60,000RP, 7hours). The ride is very scenic as you pass all the Komodo Islands. You will find bunk beds also on the boat. The ferry leaves from Sape at 10 am – *supposed to – we left a bit late and other people told me it was supposed to leave at 9 am. You will get to Labuan Bajo at around 5 pm or 6 pm just on time for an amazing sunset.
3. Take a boat from Bali to the Komodos / Labuan Bajo
Please don’t do that. I’ve heard so many horror stories over the years of people getting onboard of “liveaboards” from Bali to get to the Komodo Islands and having the worse experience of their life and in some cases go missing. Unless you’re going for a diving safari with a renowned and safe company that has great boats with all the safety equipment for this journey I don’t recommend taking a boat to the Komodo Islands. Some people will propose packaged tour leaving Bali and cruising all the way to the Komodo Islands. It takes about 4 or 5 days. Many of those companies use small local boats that don’t even have a radio on board. The weather on the way can change very very rapidly and you can get stuck in massive swells. There have been numerous boats like that that simply disappeared. Also there have been many reports of belonging disappearing in bags or simply finding your bag “open as if someone had been going through your stuff”.
Take it for what my thoughts are worth but I’d rather take the plane or bus/ferry…
Congratulations you just made it to Labuan Bajo! Now it’s time to visit the Komodo Islands!
Before we keep going – Did you know we have a YouTube channel with all those travel adventures in the Komodo? Say hi on YouTube and subscribe to discover new epic adventures from around the world! This way please.
How to visit the Komodo Islands?
Once you’ve set foot and put your bags down in your hotel in Labuan Bajo (see our accommodation guide for Labuan Bajo) you’ll want to start organizing your trip to the Komodo Islands. Labuan Bajo is actually not in the Komodo Islands so you need to find a way to get there.Visiting the Komodo islands can be done either in day trips from Labuan Bajo or on a live-aboard boat.
There are many many tour operators in LB that will try to sell you trips to the Komodos. The popular route for the day is: Komodo, Pink Beach, Padar or Rinca, Padar, Pink Beach.
Price wise it depends greatly on the kind of boat they have. A few companies propose luxury day trips on nice boats. Most of them however propose the trips on that kind of boat:
Your daytrip will leave at around 6am and return at 5pm. Expect a full day at sea with 1 or 2 hour breaks on each spot. The Price of the Komodo Islands tours vary depending on the company and your negotiation skills. If you join a group expect to pay between 300,000RP and 600,000RP for a day trip.
For 2D1N trips the prices are really depending on the boats you will sleep in. This French blogger reports negotiating 600,000RP for 2D1N food included – granted it was a basic boat – nothing fancy!
Another option if you are 3, 4 or more people is to charter your boat to the Komodo Islands. This will give you the flexibility of staying as long as you want on islands and going wherever you want. If you ask the tours on the main street your best price you can get is 2,500,000RP. But…. If you are like me and like to talk straight to the boat owners then you’re in luck. Walk to the harbor where all the day trip boats are (not the ferry) and start chatting with the captains waiting around. You will get the best deals and avoid paying a commission to a tour. Also the captain will be paid more than if you went through a tour company: win-win.
We negotiated our Komodo charter boat down to 1,600,000RP without food or water – we brought food and drinks ourselves by buying lunch boxes and water which in total cost us an extra 200,000RP for 4 people. We got slightly unlucky in the morning as our captain was late (we made a special request for 4 am but it didn’t work out haha) and his boat broke down in the bay after we left. We switched to another boat and everything was perfect! You can watch the video of that day here: Exploring the Komodo Islands by Boat.
What to see? Depends on what you want! We went to Pulau Padar then Rinca (where you see dragons – very natural island) and finally an unknown tiny Island for some swimming and drone shots. We literally pointed at a beach and said captain can you take us there? 🙂
If you have time just try to do all the islands for 2 to 4 days. They are all very different and equally beautiful. Here is a little map the French blogger made:
Quick budget note: the Komodo park entrance when you go to Komodo or Rinca is not included usually and you have to pay that yourself. It is NOT cheap – paid 260,000RP per person for Rinca – prices went up significantly since my first visit but the place has not changed by one ounce.
My suggestion overall if you have the budget is to find a nice liveaboard and do 2D1N. Sleeping under the stars in the park is priceless 🙂
Where to sleep in Labuan Bajo Komodo- Hotels & more
Labuan Bajo is the base for anyone who want to visit the Komodo Islands. Nowadays you have a lot of sleeping options in Labuan Bajo – from boats to hotels. [VIEW THIS POST FOR THE FULL LABUAN BAJO ACCOMMODATION GUIDE]
What to do in the Komodo Islands
As mentioned the number one reason people visit the Komodo Islands is for the diving and #2 the Komodo Dragons. Lately, the Indonesian tourism board has been pushing hard for more people to visit the Flores & Komodo.
As explained above our recommendation is to simply hire a boat and go island hopping. Read up to see how much it costs. If you can I’d recommend doing it over a few days. There are so many islands!
Second, if you like snorkeling or diving, go diving! This will be one of the best experience of your life. I’ve done it 8 years ago and remember it as if it was yesterday – best dives ever. This year I did it again! Read the full experience on that post “Diving in the Komodo Islands“.
Those are my recommendations for anyone wanting to visit the Komodo Islands. If you have any question feel free to ask us in the comments!
Have fun in the Komodos!
Before you head off, you might want to read those very important posts before going to the Komodo Islands. There you go: where to dive in the Komodo Islands and this accommodation guide for Labuan Bajo Komodo.