The most popular route of getting to Komodo National Park is by boat from Labuan Bajo. There’s an airport in Labuan Bajo named Komodo Aiport that handles the flights from Denpasar, Bali (from where most people start their journeys).
In Labuan Bajo, there are a number of tourist agencies selling tours to both, Komodo and Rinca islands in all combinations (Komodo-Rinca in one day, Komodo-Rinca in two days, Komodo-Rinca in three days, only Rinca in one day, etc.). Unfortunately, at the time of our visit (September, off-season) there was no one going to make the one-day trip to both, Komodo and Rinca. Those few travelers we met were interested in a one day trip to Rinca only, and that’s what the agencies were selling (two- and three-day trips were available as well, but we didn’t have time). Since there wasn’t anyone to share the costs, we had to pay for the whole boat. But after the negotiations, it wasn’t that bad, so if you travel in larger groups (like three or four) consider renting the whole boat instead of paying for going with a group. You’ll have the whole boat for yourself, and you’ll travel at your pace (we write more about renting a boat here: How to travel Flores smart and stay within a budget).
In Bali, we have seen many travel agencies selling package tours to Komodo National Park (including plane tickets to Flores and boats from Labuanbajo). It is comfortable, as you don’t have to arrange the tickets or worry about the accommodation. However, the cost of it is twice / three times what you pay if you make all the arrangements yourself.
You come here to see the dragons, that’s obvious. But Komodo National Park has so much more to offer, starting with the rich marine world (including dolphins, whales, manta rays) and finishing with mammals and birds. The longer trips to Komodo National Park (two- or three-day long) will allow you to get closer to nature: they offer longer snorkeling (sometimes diving), bird watching, bat watching, etc. These are the pros. The cons? You will have to spend a couple of days on a tiny little vessel with people you just met and not necessarily like. For those with seasickness, there are clearly additional cons.
We didn’t have such dilemmas, as our schedule wouldn’t allow us to spend in Komodo National Park more than a day. We had to plan a smart schedule. All we wanted to see was Komodo and Rinca islands. But after reading the tour flyers and talking to our skipper, we learned that we still had time to visit Pink Beach and Kelor Island – both places great for snorkeling.
We started early, at 5 am. The boat owner will try to persuade you to start later (no need for such an early start, sleep longer; not possible to prepare breakfast, etc.) – don’t listen. Komodo Island lies far away, and despite the fact that we rented a fast boat (important!), we didn’t have as much time left for snorkeling as we expected (true, we enjoyed our time in the park, but after all, it was the main course in the menu).
We left Labuan Bajo when it was still darkish, but soon the sunrise appeared in its full glory:
Sometimes it is possible to see the dolphins or whales from a boat. Unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky. But anyway, the voyage was beautiful, and we enjoyed it a lot.
We started with Komodo Island. It took us about three hours to get there and two more to visit the park. The entrance fee covers both, Komodo and Rinca islands.
W H A T T O S E E N E X T
The next was the Pink Beach (located on Komodo Island, about 10-15 minutes by boat from the park pier), where we snorkeled for about half an hour and had lunch prepared by the boat crew.
From the Pink Beach, we went to Rinca Island, where we arrived about 2 pm. We spent here about 2 hours.
We returned to Labuan Bajo when it was already getting dark.
We highly recommend visiting the places in this exact order. Due to its distant location, Komodo Island is far less visited than Rinca. And all boats heading to Rinca start from Labuan Bajo early in the morning. So if you come to Rinca in the afternoon, you will avoid the crowds.
To see what else you can do in Flores go to our article What to see and do in Flores, Indonesia.
And if you need help with planning your trip, see our itinerary on How to plan a trip to Flores, Indonesia.
On the way back we stopped at Kelor Island to snorkel some more and admire the sunset.