For many people, there’s only one reason to visit Komodo National Park: to experience the mighty Komodo dragon in the wild. This is an unforgettable travel experience, and an absolute must if you make the effort to come here.
Protection of the dragons is the reason for the existence of the Komodo National Park, and the opportunity to see them is the reason for the tourism boom in this part of Indonesia. However, Komodo has much to offer besides the dragons. The waters which surround the park’s islands feature some of the country’s best diving.
How to get to Komodo
Getting to Komodo is easier than ever, after the opening in 2015 of Komodo Airport’s new terminal. Destinations include Jakarta, Denpasar, Bajawa and Ende, meaning it’s easy to fly to Komodo from across Flores and beyond.
Labuan Bajo, where the vast majority of visitors to Komodo stay, is also the western gateway to the island of Flores. Many visitors arrive by boat, either from Sape in eastern Sumbawa or take a boat cruise all the way from Lombok.
Komodo Park and Diving Fees
As is the case with Indonesia’s other national parks, visitors to Komodo must pay an entry fee on arrival. There is a huge disparity between entrance fees for foreigners and Indonesians. Foreigners are charged Rp 150,000 for entry to the park, with that figure rising to Rp 220,000 on Sundays and national holidays. Indonesian visitors, by contrast, are charged Rp 5,000-7,500.
Divers must pay an additional diving fee of Rp 25,000. The snorkelling fee is Rp 15,000. All these fees encompass the whole park and are valid for one day. The high park fees are one disadvantage of diving in Komodo compared to other places in Indonesia. However, they do go towards the preservation of the land and marine environment.
Diving in Komodo
How to Arrange Your Komodo Dive Tour
Komodo National Park is comprised of 29 islands, of which the largest and most-visited are Komodo and Rinca. Unsurprisingly, much of the park is water, and the area is home to a rich marine biodiversity. Most dive trips are organised in and depart from Labuan Bajo, the nearest major settlement to Komodo National Park. There’s a lot of competition between dive operators, which line Labuan Bajo’s main drag. Prices are pretty uniform across the board, with Blue Marlin offering two dives for Rp 1,200,000. Another option offered by many of the local operators is to spend multiple days on the water on a liveaboard. A three-day/two-night trip with Divine Diving costs €510, including nine dives. Komodo is also a great place to learn to dive, with Blue Marlin offering a range of PADI courses, both in the ocean and their training pool.
What You Can See Diving in Komodo
Komodo is home to some of the world’s best dive sites and an incredibly diverse marine environment. Some of the sites feature strong currents and should only be attempted by experienced divers. Others are more gentle and are better suited to beginners.
Pelagic fish species native to the area include dogtooth tuna, manta rays, barracuda and giant trevally. Turtles and reef sharks are also often seen, and if you look closely you’ll spot pygmy seahorses and colourful nudibranches. Dugongs, dolphins, octopus and stingrays also all live in these waters.
Manta Point, as the name suggests, is famous for the huge rays which float serenely through a sparse lunar landscape. At Tengah Kecil, there are rich coral gardens as far as the eye can see, and at Wainilu, you’ll spot ribbon eels, mandarin dragonets, and harlequin sweetlips.
Extensive information about what you can see across Komodo’s various dive sites can be found on the national park’s official website, here.
The port town of Labuan Bajo, on the west coast of Flores, is the access point to the Komodo National Park and the place where most visitors to the park stay. A charming fishing town which is currently experiencing a massive boom in tourism, Labuan Bajo is adapting well to the swelling visitor numbers and is a great place to spend a few days. It’s the kind of place that you may find hard to leave. The sunsets are like something from an Impressionist painting, there’s a range of hotels to suit all budgets, and there’s even a fantastic Italian food scene. For more in-depth information, check out our travel guide to Labuan Bajo.
Where to Stay in Labuan Bajo
Whether you’re a backpacker, flashpacker, or looking for luxury, Labuan Bajo has something for you. Budget travellers can find a dorm bed at Bajo Sunset Hostel. Green Hill Boutique Hotel is a beautiful mid-range option in the centre of town. The Dutch-Indonesian run Golo Hilltop offers the best views in town, which alone make it worth the ascent. The nearby Paradise Bar is a lively spot for a sundowner.
Where to Eat in Labuan Bajo
Labuan Bajo’s range of restaurants and cafés is fantastic for a place of its size. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything similar during the rest of your time in Flores. One of the town’s unexpected quirks is its abundance of high-quality Italian restaurants. The picks are Mediterraneo, opposite Green Hill Boutique, and Made In Italy, a 15-minute walk south of town. Bajo Bakery is a charming spot to while away the hours, offering a range of coffees, teas, sandwiches and cakes. The stylish Café in Hit, always packed with locals and tourists alike, is a great spot for breakfast.
There’s no doubting that the dragons are the main attraction at Komodo National Park, but it’s also home to some of Indonesia’s best diving – and, by extension, the world’s. It’s a great destination for beginners and advanced divers alike, although steep park fees make it a somewhat more expensive option.