How to plan a 3 days cruise in Komodo National Park

Where to meet Komodo Dragon

Watching Tv documentaries or turning over the pages of a travel magazine, I have often seen the Komodo Dragons and always dreamt of having a trip around the beautiful islands of Indonesia trying to spot these incredible giant monitor lizards.

After many journeys around Asia, finally, it is time to visit their home: Komodo National Park. Located in the centre of Indonesia Archipelago, the park includes three major islands: Komodo, Rinca, and Padar.

Mainly known to be home to Komodo Dragons, the park also hosts a productive marine environment, including coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and beautiful bays with pristine beaches.

Indonesia, Flores island - Labuan Bajo Airport
Indonesia, Flores island – Labuan Bajo Airport

After touching down at Labuan Bajo airport in the early morning flying with Garuda Airline from Bali Depansar and meeting my guide, a lovely local guy by the name of Mazstin, we go straight to the harbour where the captain of the boat is waiting for me: the trip around this breathtaking place is starting.

Indonesia, Komodo National Park - my boat
Indonesia, Komodo National Park – the boat

The first stop of the 3 days cruise is Kelor (pics below), a small island with a bright and colourful sea where I spend more than 1-hour snorkelling and resting on the beach. The coral reef is gorgeous, and I can spot a lot of tropical fish.

Two of them are crazy! Despite the fact I am quite huge compared to these little fish, they are very aggressive and with no fear. All the times I dive passing by their holes, the blackfish and the white ones come up very fast, biting me! Sure they are not piranhas, and their bite is like a pinch, but with no doubts, very annoying!  

Before leaving, it is worth climbing up the hill to have a cool view of the island and the facing green hills. The boat sails slowly along the small islands of the park, passing by mangroves, trees, white beaches and a clear shallow sea with its different blue gradations.

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After 2 hours, we get to Rinca, one of the 3 islands where the Komodo dragon lives. It says that the monitor lizards living here are around 1500 specimen. Left the boat on the dock behind me, walking on a flat path, I reach the gate, where two big statues of a dragon are set on its left and right side.

I meet a Ranger of the park at the counter office (Rinca ticket is 150.000 Rupies per day); he carries a long wooden stick with a forking at the edge, “just in case“, he says. The Dragons look so quiet, but they can be aggressive and run very fast at almost 20 km/h.

He tells me that in May, an Asian tourist was attacked by a Komodo Dragon. The man was walking alone near the Komodo village where he spent the night, in an area usually not allowed to go, coming across a group of monitor lizards feasting on goats.

Komodo National Park, Dragon in Rinca Island
Komodo National Park, Dragon in Rinca Island

Excited for that sight, he went closer to the big wild lizards trying to take pictures without realising that a small one was approaching from behind and was severely bitten. The Ranger continues by saying that the dragons’ jaws have venom glands that can cause paralysis and spasm, and during the mating season, they are more aggressive from May to August.

Then, after the short briefing, we start walking, looking for our dragons. It is possible to choose different trails (short, medium and long) through the forest, and they are mostly flat and easy to walk. The ranger says that it is not certain to spot the dragons because they hide in the woods, but we are lucky, and after some minutes walk, we bump into 3 big Komodo monitor lizards.

Komodo National Park, big dragon at Rinca Island
Komodo National Park, a big dragon at Rinca Island

The big one is a male, and he is resting under the sun. The dragons are fascinating, but to be honest, we are close to the ranger’s huts, and they smell the food in the kitchen, so they come out from the forest before going in again. Anyway, it is better than nothing considering that even though there are huts, it is not sure that we can find monitors here around.

The Ranger says I m lucky because a big group of tourists did not spot any dragons days ago. Suddenly he tells me: ”My friend, give me your mobile phone and go behind the dragon!”. I think he’s joking, but again ”Come on, give me your phone, switch on the camera and go there!”. ”But…what about the Asian tourist?” I say, but he replies ”No worry, go there!”. Then I take my place behind this giant, and the Ranger, with a beaming smile and really satisfied, takes several shots with my phone.

We continue our trek for almost 1 hour without seeing anything, and once completed the trail, I go back to the boat to head to Pempe Island, where I take my rest on the beach and go snorkelling ”hunting” for some good pictures.

Komodo National Park, Pempe Island
Komodo National Park, Pempe Island

Before the sunset, we moor in front of Kalong Island, just a few minutes sail from Pempe. We are waiting for one of the most amazing moments of the day. When the sun sets, and the sky is half orange and half dark, thousands of big bats, called flying foxes leave the mangroves trees flying towards Flores Island.

The night is coming down so, after a delicious dinner with rice, chicken and fried eggplants cooked by the captain, I go to sleep, ready for another beautiful day around this charming place.

Read about day 2 and 3

Komodo National Park, Flying foxes at Kalong Island
Komodo National Park, Flying foxes at Kalong Island

Need to Know about Komodo

1) How to plan the tour

I arranged my trip a few months in advance, looking for a local agency on the web. After contacting some of them, I chose Komodoblessing Adventure. The owner, Mr Maxi, was always punctual and accurate in his answer. Of course also very patient because I’m really demanding when I arrange my trips.

Other tour operators, I found in Labuan Bajo

Alternatively, you can check Komodo Tours on Viator or GetYourGuide , which offer good deals and options.

2) Where to sleep and eat

Labuan Bajo offers a good range of accommodation, from cheap Hotels to expensive ones. I slept at Bajo Beach Hotel, basic accommodation on the main road. 

My favourite restaurants are Mediterraneo and Le Pirate restaurant & Deck. If you like tasting street food, go next to the fish market (kampung Ujung) where, from 6 p.m., you’ll find several stalls selling local food.

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