Boat deck beds, seriously choppy waves (and a bout of seasickness), crazy wonderful people, tropical island hopping, instagramable view points, stunning coral reefs, spontaneous waterfall showers, pink sand beaches, boat top sunsets, magical Manta Rays, humungous Komodo Dragons and not forgetting the questionable rice wine. Our visit to Komodo National Park will always be an experience we will never forget.
But before we could visit this amazing place, we had to get there! There are a few ways to do this (e.g fly to Flores and book tours from the mainland, or make your way across all the islands in between by bus and ferry), but we decided to take a 4 day 3 night boat trip from the island of Lombok to Labuan Bajo, Flores with Wanua Adventure (wanuaadventure.com). There are so SO many companies who run boat trips just like this one, all varying in price, facilities, destinations they stop at etc etc, but we'd heard a lot of good things about Wanua, and after checking the reviews online, we booked! We slept on the deck of the boat, which we found to be so much better than expected! Yes it was a little squished, but having a cooling breeze (which you don’t get in the cabin which is more expensive) more than made up for that. You also get 3 meals a day, 6 bottles of water and all the national park and camera fees as well, which is a massive bonus when no where online gives a definite answer to how much these might be.
Want to visit Komodo? Book your boat trip here!
Of course there are a couple of things that could be improved upon. Firstly, it can be quite crowded with 40 people on one boat, and although we did have enough room to sleep, it did feel a little packed in. The deck could have done with some beanbags or something a bit more comfortable to sit on than the floor during the day. Even though masks and snorkels are provided, it would have been great to have fins for snorkelling as well, especially at Manta Point where the current is crazy! If we’d known they didn’t have these we would have brought our own. Finally, there were a couple of places we’d have liked to go that we didn’t, such as Padar Island (iconic viewpoint) and Rinca Island (another place where dragons can be seen), but that’s our fault for not researching well enough! Saying all this though, we did get what we paid for and we were still really happy with the trip overall.
Highlights of the Trip
In 4 days we visited a lot of different places and crammed so many experiences in, and writing about all these would mean you are here reading for hours and hours, if not days! So, instead of sending you to sleep with endless descriptions of what we did (and besides, if you wanted to go on the trip, I don’t want to spoil all the surprises), here are our main highlights!
Being squidged together side by side for a few days means you can’t help getting to know the people on the boat very quickly! And we couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of people to spend our trip to Komodo with; we’ve definitely made some friends for life. It was so nice to have people who we instantly felt comfortable around, which is definitely important when you might wake up accidentally spooning, you all get super seasick and throw up over the side of the boat in front of each other, and you’re not showering properly for a few days (unless you count pouring a little bucket over yourself on the boat deck). We could tell from the first night, when we played a big game of Werewolves (such a fun game especially in a group!), that we were all going to get on well. Great people = Great trip!
Climbing Up and Showering In a Waterfall
On the second day we visited a little waterfall in the heart of the jungle on Moyo Island. There were two pools: one within easy reach and one with a rope swing which you had to climb up the waterfall to get to. Being one of the clumsiest people on the planet, I had doubts about scaling the vertical rocks to get there, but, being the monkey he is (and the complete opposite to me) Will went first and helped me up. Thankfully it wasn’t as slippery as it looked. At the top we jumped off trees and the rope swing into the little pool which was much deeper than it looked, and I also took the unexpected opportunity to have a quick shower under the running water (which of course I imagined to be much more glamorous that it was, but still). I definitely didn’t regret this decision once my hair was no longer a greasy mess!
Sunsets From the Boat
Some of the most glorious sunsets we’ve seen were enjoyed from the top of the boat deck with a beer in hand and some lovely people to see it with.
Ok, so you’d think we’d be ok with trekking up steep hills after Rinjani, but the hike up to the top of the hill on Laba Island on Day 3 was a still a bit tough, especially considering how early in the morning it was/the lack of sleep we’d had during the choppiest night journey ever, but the view was definitely worth it! This is where the national park really started showing its true colours. Looking down onto the beautiful blue water and the incredible shapes created by the islands was simply amazing. And the island just kept on giving - first the views and then a refreshing snorkel on the reef by the boat. It was packed with life, which is something that we have found quite rare to see in touristy areas where the coral is damaged by boats and people.
Day 3 was shaping up to be a great day and it didn’t stop there. After visiting Laba Island, we also went in search of Manta Rays! There were a lot of them at Manta Point, and after spying them from the boat we jumped in and snorkelled around trying to see them. We did get a view glimpses of some Mantas which was a fantastic feeling, but with their graceful speed in the opposite direction (it’s like they knew we wanted to see them!) and the crazy strong current, it was difficult to keep up! But still, we saw them and that was great!
The Pink Beach
To round off Day 3 we went to The Pink Beach. We’d heard about this place and seen a lot of photos of the famous pink sand; but were definitely skeptical as to whether this was real or just good editing skills. But, The Pink Beach is really pink! Truthfully, in bright sunlight it is difficult to see the colour, but in shaded areas or when you pick it up in your hands, it is unmistakably pink in colour. The colouring is caused by the red coral that can be seen EVERYWHERE when snorkelling just off the beach (but it looks purple underwater). The coral was fabulous and there were so many Anemone Fish (or Nemos as I like to call them) which are some of our favourite things to see when snorkelling on reefs. It was also nice to get onto dryish land for a little bit after feeling a bit dodgy on the constantly rocking boat. It’s silly really that I went on a boat trip when I am someone who is very prone to motion sickness. But hey ho! I didn’t want this to put me off the experience and it was nothing a few motion sickness pills couldn’t put right, and even without those it would have been completely worth it!
Party on the Last Night
Even though we were pretty knackered by this point, the crew put on a good old disco on the last night, complete with crazy lights and a game of limbo. Before going on the trip there was the option to buy beers for this very night, but being me and not a massive fan of Bintang, I thought why not get a bit of the local home brew Rice Wine (which in every other place I’ve had it was very nice)! Rice wine seems to be something that is brewed behind the scenes, so to speak, it’s normally in an old water or beer bottle and you have be a local to know where to get it. I got a confident 1.5L of the stuff, thinking that it would be absolutely fine like every other place I’ve had it. How, how, wrong I was. It must have been the bottom of the barrel or something, because that rice wine was definitely NOT ok!! It was probably one of the absolute worst things I’ve tasted; one cup would probably have made you blind and caused liver failure!!! And the aftertaste: Ergh NEVER AGAIN!!! I don’t care that I wasted a fiver on it because there was no way that I was drinking that poison. Even though I didn’t get drunk, everyone else did and it was a funny night! Will got much drunker than you should on 4 beers, and we put that down to dehydration - he had a nice little hangover for Komodo Island the next day, lucky him!
Seeing Komodo Dragons
This was the main reason for the trip and Komodo didn’t disappoint! When we arrived we were told by the rangers that we would be lucky to see Komodo Dragons because it is the breeding season. But lucky we were, as 5 minutes into the walk and just round the corner we saw 4 absolutely HUGE dragons and then even more as we wandered round the trail. Being cold blooded creatures, a few of them were sunning themselves to warm up for the day and one was even having a casual stroll along the beach. They were so calm and didn’t mind people at all - but they are still wild animals and predators at the top of their game, and so it was best to be a little wary. The bacteria they carry in their mouths means that one bite could be lethal. Luckily we had our long lens, so we could get some close up portraits without disturbing them - thank goodness for zoom lenses! It was one of the best experiences to see these amazing amazing animals in their natural habitat; we would have spent all day walking all the trails if we could have!
Arriving in Labuan Bajo meant the end of the trip, but the experience didn’t end there. Not content with giving into our bodies telling us we were too tired, we booked a diving trip for the next day! This actually turned out to be the best decision we could have made - it was 100% the best day of diving we have ever done! The day consisted of three dives at Siba Besar, Tatawa Besar and we went back to Manta Point as well! We saw some of the biggest turtles, some of the most gorgeous corals which were absolutely teaming with life and we had Manta Rays swimming over our heads, and I am unable to put into words how unbelievably incredible that was, but I’m sure you can imagine!
So overall a pretty phenomenal trip to and around Komodo National Park! Going here should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list, and we certainly would be so happy to return even though we’ve ticked it off ours.
Want to tick Komodo off your bucket list? Book your boat trip here!
Thanks for reading!
Ellie and Will