Sailing trip in the Komodo National Park in 2019

A sailing trip in the Komodo National park is one of Indonesia’s top tourist attractions for sure. And it was one of the highlights of our entire Southeast Asia trip.

The Komodo National Park

The Komodo National Park is home to the world’s famous Komodo Dragons and some of the best scuba diving spots on earth. It’s a perfect destination for adventure travelers because its nature is one of Indonesia’s most beautiful.

lazy Komodo dragon looking in the camera
Komodo Dragon on Komodo Island

It has been reported that the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) administration plan to close Komodo Island (not the whole national park!) to the public from January 2020 for one year. This closure is supposed to give nature the opportunity to rehabilitate from tourism and the government the opportunity to improve conservation.

Before we start:

Before going to the Komodo National Park you should know one thing in advance:

You will be offered “sailing trips” everywhere. This is why we chose to title this blog post as well “Sailing Trip in the Komodo National Park 2019” and also use the term “sailing trip” throughout the following text.

But we want to be completely honest with you:
Real sailing trips are very rare and very expensive in the Komodo National Park. Most companies use this term “sailing” for marketing purposes. Most boats are built to look like sailing boats but almost all of them are motorized and can’t sail.

Big boat with sunset light and pinkish sky at Komodo National Park
Our “sailing” boat in the sunset light in the Komodo National Park

How to get to Komodo National Park

We did a ton of research on this and found out these three transportation options:

1. By boat from Bali or Lombok

There are companies running boat trips from the main tourist islands Bali and Lombok to Flores. This can be quite an adventure as this is a multiple-overnight-trip. Unfortunately, we have heard that many of these trips are only rushing through and you nearly no time at all enjoying the beautiful places on the way.

2. By bus and ferry over Sumbawa

The cross-country route is for those on a very tight budget and goes Lombok-Sumbawa-Flores and takes more than 24 hours in total.

Scam warning:
Be aware that the prices of transportation on Sumbawa might be very high if you don’t buy the all-in-one ticket to Flores! There is no competition for transportation, in result they might charge you unreasonable prices to bring you somewhere, especially when they note your helpless situation.

Our experience:
We chose the extended version of this option with some stopovers in Sumbawa. Unfortunately, we were so much annoyed by the inclement people in Sumbawa so that we decided to return to Lombok. From there we booked a flight to Labuhan Bajo. 

3. By airplane

This is definitely the most convenient option and the one we recommend (we thought we would never recommend a flight on this blog, but this is an absolute exception). The flight is a real highlight itself as you’ll be able to admire the beauty of Indonesia’s islands from above. The Labuan Bajo Airport (LBJ) is also known as Komodo Airport. You can catch a flight to Komodo from Bali, Lombok, and Jakarta almost every day.

Especially during high season we recommend booking a flight far enough ahead.
Otherwise you risk your seat or pay a very price.

From the airport, you can either take a grab taxi or even walk, depending on where you want to go it’s only 15-30 minutes downhill.

Labuan Bajo, Flores

Labuan Bajo is a fishing village located on the northwest coast of Flores. Over the past few years, this village has become the launching point for tourism in the Komodo National Park. For this reason be prepared for a lot of construction, as the former lazy town is expanding to a thriving hub for future adventure travelers in Indonesia.

To be honest, we were a little bit disappointed about Labuan Bajo itself. It’s super dirty, accommodation prices are above the average in Indonesia, and there is not a single beautiful beach with public access. All existing beaches we’ve seen were extremely polluted with plastic waste.

So either you have a bigger budget to sleep in one of the luxurious hotels with private beach access, or you go on a sailing trip in the Komodo National Park directly or you rent a scooter and take a bit longer journey down to the south of Flores island.

The wooden pier of the "Plataran Komodo Rest & Spa" in orange sunset light.
Luxurious hotels like the Plataran have their own clean beach

Where to stay in Labuan Bajo

We recommend the following accommodations depending on your budget:

Luxury option: Plataran Komodo Resort & Spa

This beachside luxury retreat Plataran Komodo is located in the north of Labuan Bajo and has access to one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire area.  Away from the hustle and bustle of the town, you can admire the romantic and tranquil atmosphere with world-class sunsets.
The Plataran Komodo also offers private sailing trips in the Komodo National Park.

Wooden bed in the open entrance to the deluxe beachfront villa of the "Plataran Komodo Resort & Spa"
The Plataran has beachfront villas in traditional style

Budget option: La Boheme Bajo Backpacker Hostel

The chilled hostel La Boheme Bajo is a great cheap option for every backpacker in Labuan Bajo. Catch up with other adventurers, have a chat and take part in some free activities (like beach clean-ups) or payed tours (like snorkel trips).

Free breakfast, WiFi, water, coffee, and tea are included for all guests.
The hotel’s facilities are a spacious common area, self-service kitchen, a TV-lounge and a pool table.

Komodo National Park

“Sailing” around the islands of the Komodo National Park is the reason why you should make all the way to Flores. The national park includes around 30 islands, the most famous islands are Komodo Island, Padar Island and Rinca Island.

Lush green landscape and deep blue water of the Komodo National Park in the afternoon light.
The scenery is like in a Jurassic Park movie

Before you book your trip make sure what is included and what is not.

There are so many different price variations and hidden costs that may ruin your experience if you don’t know about them before.

Sailing trips in the Komodo National Park

To visit the Komodo National Park we recommend booking an overnight tour because in our opinion the park is too big for day trips only.

We decided on a 3-day 2-night sailing trip in the Komodo National Park.

There are more variations in length, but afterward, we can say this was the right choice (even though it is one of the most expensive trips we have done). Even 4 days might be a great option!

We negotiated a lot with different sailing trip providers and we chose the cheapest offer in the end. Our trip was 2.1 million IDR, including food and water, excluding park fees.

There are also vegetarian and even vegan options, as the Indonesian people use to cook animal foods separately. But to reduce food waste we recommend explaining your dietary restriction the tour company before you leave the harbor.

The sailing trips in the Komodo National Park normally start in the morning at the port of Labuan Bajo. Most companies offer a pick-up and drop-off before and after the trip, either at your accommodation or at the airport.

If you want to leave Labuan Bajo on the same day your sailing trip ends, it is advisable to book a flight with departure time later than 5 PM.

Private sailing boat of the Plataran Komodo Resort & Spa
Sailing Boat of the “Plataran Komodo Resort & Spa”

3D2N Sailing Trip in The Komodo National Park

Kelor Island – Viewpoint, snorkeling and beach

Pulau Kelor is one of the closest islands to Labuan Bajo and therefore part of almost every Komodo trip. It’s the perfect warm-up for the rest of the amazing archipelago. A short hike up the hill and you can enjoy a gorgeous view above the beach and the turquoise water.

On top of the viewpoint of Kelor Island, which is the first stop of most trips in the Komodo National Park
Normally Kelor Island is the first stop of most trips in the National Park

Looking down the hill, on the right side of the sandbar is a good snorkeling spot.

Be aware of the currents.

Rinca Island or Komodo Island – Encounter the komodo dragons

Rinca Island and Komodo Island are the biggest in the national park and the standard tour stops for Komodo-dragon encounters.

We have been to Komodo Island.

We’ve got the advice from other travelers, NOT to go on the guided jungle track but only stay at the beach, because the dragons normally come there for sunbathing.

We were confident with our knowledge and plan until the park rangers forced us either paying for the tour (or leave the island). So we did the small track and luckily saw 3 dragons in the jungle. After the tour, we arrived at the restaurant on the island.

Around the restaurant were a handful of Komodo-dragons chilling in the sun.

Komodo Dragon is sleeping in the shadow in front of a young couple from Germany
Normally you can find the Komodo Dragons around the restaurant

Tip:
If you don’t want to pay for the guided tour, tell the rangers you only want to have a drink or coffee in the restaurant. Perhaps you are lucky and they let you go.

Note: even though the Komodo Dragons seem to be used to tourists, keep a safe distance!

Kalong Island – Bats flying

As the sun was setting, we stopped nearby Kalong Island.
First: the sunsets are absolutely stunning. Second: the sunset and flying bats are even more stunning adding up to an unreal picture. Thousands of them were spreading out in the dark reddish sky, don’t miss on this fascinating phenomenon!

padar island – Jurassic park in real

Padar Island has become world-famous because of its distinctive and unique shape. The short hike up the hill is revenued with one of the most spectacular views in the world.

Stunning landscape with green hills and blue sea at at Komodo National Park Padar Island
The iconic Padar Island is famous because of its unique shape

pink beach – Expectations vs. reality

There are several beaches in Indonesia that have pieces of dead red corals mixed up with the common white dead corals, what unify to pinkish sand.

Important to know: the Komodo National Park has at least two pinkish beaches. The “Pantai Merah” (also the “original pink beach“) is supposed to be less pinkish than the other one.

We have been at the Pantai Merah and this is how it looks like (in reality and on Instagram):

Tip: Don’t have too high expectations about the pinkish color. Most shots online (or on Instagram) are edited. Nevertheless, especially the wet part of the beach has a modest pinkish color.

Unfortunately we don’t know where the other one is, but we met travelers who reported that some tours go there!

Manta point

Coral reef near the Manta Point in the Komodo National Park captured from the bird's eye view
Coral reef near the Manta Point: especially in the off-season it might be good to have a drone as a spotter for manta rays

The encounter with manta rays was one of our highlights in the Komodo National Park. Make sure to find out the best times in the years for manta ray encounters.

Tip:
If you have a drone you can easily spot manta rays from above, as they come close to the surface sometimes. Even in the offseason, you have a high chance to spot some with this trick.

Two manta rays in the Komodo National Park
Manta rays at the manta point in the Komodo National Park

Taka Makassar

This sandbank of Taka Makassar close to the manta point has stunning turquoise water. We didn’t go on the sandbank because there were lots of other boats and people but its super fun swimming around. We even spotted a turtle!

Kanawa Island

Kanawa Island was the last stop of our sailing trip in the Komodo National Park. It was nice but is not a real highlight after all the other amazing places. It has some good snorkeling spots and a nice beach.

What to bring

  • hiking gear
  • reef-friendly sunscreen
  • organic/non-chemical shampoo and/or soap

Snorkel/mask/fins are usually provided by the boat companies.

What to expect

The sailing trip we booked was not a luxury sailing trip. It was equipped with 3 bedrooms and one toilet/shower (very basic). The boat had an upper deck with lots of space for chilling and a dining area in the back.

The meals were surprisingly big and delicious, the crew was very experienced and we never had concerns about safety.

Islands of the Komodo National Park

And that’s it! We hope you enjoyed our Komodo National Park travel guide.

If you think other people should get to see our guides as well we would appreciate your shares very much!

Don’t forget to respect nature, animals, and local people! Try to minimize your impact, watch out for your waste and inspire others to do the same!

Happy travels!

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