A Unesco World Heritage Site, Komodo National Park lies in the strait between Sumbawa and Flores and is the habitat of the world’s largest lizard, Varanus komodoensis, the Komodo dragon. Although there are dragons on two other nearby islands, to protect wild populations visitors are only allowed on Komodo and Rinca. Most will couple Komodo dragon-spotting with snorkelling and diving while in the park. At Pantai Merah (Red Beach), near Komodo, reefs teeming with colourful fish are very near the shoreline. Komodo island is also home to several human settlements, including its largest village, Kampung Komodo.
The best travel tips for visiting Komodo National ParkThe highlight of a visit to the national park is seeing the dragons in their natural habitat. On Komodo, the most popular trek is a 2km (1.2 mile) walk to Banunggulung. Shorter walks are also possible from the ranger station at Loh Liang (where basic tourist accommodation is available) to Kampung Komodo. Trekkers must be accompanied by a park ranger. Keep your distance from all wild animals, the dragons can move very quickly if disturbed. They are dangerous creatures and medical attention is far away.
Scuba diving and snorkelling in the park waters are among Indonesia’s best. There are 260 species of reef-building corals, sheer-drop walls and around 1,000 species of fish and marine mammals, including manta rays, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins and whales. The waters in the south are cooler than those to the north, creating an ideal habitat for corals and reef fish, while to the north, rich plankton and nutrients attract a wide variety of temperate marine life.
For snorkellers, Pantai Merah (Red Beach) offers butterfly, parrot and triggerfish, giant clams and colourful corals at close range. The gorgeous beach is pink due to an abundance of red coral in the region.
Best things to do in Komodo National ParkThe main attractions of these inhospitable islands are the remarkable Komodo dragons, the largest lizards in the world, and some of the best diving in the region. Here are the best things to do in Komodo National Park.
#1 Spot some dragons on KomodoThere are about 6,000 Komodo dragons on Komodo, Rinca, Gili Montang, Flores and Nusa Kode. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of threatened species, the Komodo dragon is considered vulnerable. The greatest threat to the monitors is from deer poachers, who kill off the animals on which they feed. Male dragons can reach three metres (10ft) or more in length and weigh an average of 70kg (154lbs).
Females usually attain only two-thirds of this size and lay up to 30 eggs at a time. The reptiles are carnivores, favouring rotting meat, which they track by flicking their forked tongues into the air to identify odours. However, they can hunt when no carrion is available; by lifting their massive bodies up on muscular legs they can sprint briefly at 20kph (12mph).
#2 Snorkel at Pantai Merah (Red Beach)For snorkellers, Pantai Merah (Red Beach) offers butterfly, parrot and triggerfish, giant clams and colourful corals at close range. The gorgeous beach is pink due to an abundance of red coral in the region. As Komodo National Park is in the transition zone described by 19th-century naturalist Sir Alfred Russel Wallace, birdwatchers will find a mixture of Asian and Australian species.
Squawking cockatoos and noisy friarbirds flock in tropical kapok and gnarled tamarind trees, disturbing green Imperial pigeons, black-naped orioles, sunbirds and flowerpeckers. On the forest floor, there are jungle fowl, the forebears of domesticated chickens, quails scratching for insects and mound-building megapodes.
#3 Avoid the crowds by visiting RincaNot having received the same publicity as Komodo, Rinca island is not as crowded as its more famous neighbour in the high season (July and August), and provides a far more natural experience. On Rinca, there are two moderately easy treks (2–3 hours each) from the ranger station at Loh Buaya, which also has limited basic accommodation. One, to the east of the compound, is up and across a ridge where there is a breathtaking view of the Komodo group of islands, with Flores rising from the sea at one point.
Watch for herds of wild horses, which are absent from Komodo. The other trail goes in the opposite direction through monsoon forest, where wild buffaloes wallow in streams. It is best to leave on expeditions early in the mornings so you can see the animals at their most active, and you can avoid the extreme midday heat.
#4 Enjoy stunning beaches on PadarThe small island of Padar in the channel between Komodo and Rinca has become incredibly popular with visitors in recent years – in large part for the iconic panorama from its main peak, which is now badly eroded as a consequence. Padar also has beautiful beaches, though there are no resident dragons.
Where to stay in Komodo National Park and aroundAccommodation within Komodo National Park is limited and basic. Most travellers visit on a dive boat, many of which have overnight sleeping quarters, or in Labuanbajo on Flores.
LabuanbajoThis small fishing town on the western end of the large island of Flores is used as the gateway to Komodo National Park. The town is scattered with a host of accommodations, from simple homestays and no-frills guesthouses to four- and five-star resorts with swimming pools.
Kampung KomodoThe main village on Komodo has a clutch of simple homestays and not much else.
RincaIt's possible to book a spare room in the park ranger's accommodation.
Best restaurants and bars in Komodo National ParkEating in Komodo National Park is limited to meals provided by your accommodation. If you're staying inside the park, your host will make some simple food but pack water. The ranger station on Rinca does have a small café that sells snacks and drinks. Liveaboard dive boats will also provide you with food if you're staying with them.
Else, eat in Labuanbajo, which has plenty of good options.
How to get to Komodo National ParkKomodo National Park can only be reached only by sea. Labuanbajo in western Flores is the main entry point, with a modern airport, served by direct flights from Bali and Jakarta as well as from smaller airports in Nusa Tenggara.
By boatFrom Labuhanbajo, it’s about three hours to Komodo and is a far more scenic crossing. Overnight stops with accommodation aboard the boat is possible. And there are various upscale liveaboard dive boats operating from Labuanbajo.
An alternative approach to Komodo is from Bima on Sumbawa via Sape (1.5 hours by by public bus or hired vehicle along curving mountain roads), where there is basic accommodation and local boats available for charter. The crossing from Sape to Komodo takes eight hours in calm seas, longer if the waves are strong.
There is also a daily public ferry running between Sape and Labuanbajo (with departures usually in the early morning in each direction) which passes through the park but does not stop.
Tips for getting around Komodo National ParkIt's only possible to walk or hike around Komodo National Park. All tours are led by a park ranger and are priced by distance. The further the walk, the more you'll pay.
Best time to visit Komodo National ParkThe best time to visit Komodo National Park is during the dry season (April to December). The weather is generally sunny and dry, with lower humidity making the trek through the park less strenuous. Peak tourist season is July to August, so consider booking ahead.
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