Visiting Komodo island in Indonesia is a unique experience, the only place in the world where you can see real dragons. The nearest big and inhabited to the National park island is Flores. Labuan Bajo, a small town is the main gateway to Komodo island and a perfect base for exploring Flores. The island has a lot to offer, you can easily spend here a couple of weeks exploring its surroundings. Even if you are limited in time it’s still worth coming here. Just think about all the exciting activities you can do here, from sailing adventure to walking with the ancient dragons and diving with magnificent mantas, there are plenty of things to do and see on the island. Plan your perfect trip to Komodo island now!
The best time to visit Komodo island
It depends on what you want to do on Flores.
To see Komodo dragons it doesn’t make a big difference except during the mating season, May to August, they are more active, walking around in search of females.
For mantas the peak season is from September to November when you see up to 20-30 mantas in one dive at Manta Point, not many tourists around but many mantas. You can see them all year around just the amount can reduce to 1-4 in one dive in months of July to August. We were there in August and saw only two, other travelers were more lucky and saw 4-5.
For good weather the best time is between June to October, though June to August is very busy time, islands are packed with tourists, if you travel these months book your flights in advance. Try to avoid mid Jan to mid March monsoon season rough sea and wind.
The main attraction most people come here for and definitely, one of the must-visit places in Indonesia. Dragons do look quite impressive, big, and a bit scary. With an average weight of 80 kg, body size of 2,5 m (male species) they may look slow and lazy but actually can be very fast and unpredictable.
The Komodo National park includes three big islands: Komodo, Rinca, and Padar and 26 smaller ones. The total protected area of the park 1733 square km. Two main islands where you can see the famous dragons are Rinca and Komodo. On both you can do a trek from 10 min. to 1-1,5 hours, depends on your group, to see the dragons and their nests. You can do a day trip from Labuan Bajo to both islands.
Rinca island is smaller and closer, it’s easier to see dragons there, couple of them (huge males) are always around rangers’ house. During the trek, you can see more dragons in the wild. The price for a tour is about IDR 500 000/$38 including lunch+150 000/$11 park fee and IDR 65 000/$5 for a guide.
Komodo island is bigger and further away from Labuan Bajo, the trip will be longer and more expensive, IDR 700 000/$53 (plus park and guide fee), including lunch. If you go to Komodo island don’t forget to visit the famous Pink Beach.
Both trips will take a whole day, you leave between 6.00-7.00 am and come back at 4pm. Don’t forget to take with water, sunscreen, a hat, and hiking boots or trainers.
Some dive centers offer combination diving/snorkeling trips with visiting one of the islands. We did a trip with Divers Paradise Komodo, after two dives our boat stopped at Rinca island some people went to see the dragons, and some (who had seen dragons before) went diving or snorkeling.
Amazing things to do on Komodo Island
Diving in Komodo National park
Komodo is one of the top places for diving in the world and definitely on the bucket list of every diver. We dived with Divers Paradise Komodo, at Soekarno Hatta street, next to Giardina hostel, the cheapest price we could find. For more info and photos on diving at Komodo click HERE.
Snorkeling around Flores
You can do a snorkeling tour from Labuan Bajo with one of the dive centers, we used DiversParadiseKomodo, price IDR 500 000/$38 for a full day, including lunch and snorkeling equipment. The boat stops at three different dive sites for about 1 hour at each. Snorkelers have their own guide.
Hiking Padar island
An absolutely beautiful island with some stunning view-points and look-outs is a great place for hiking. To get to Padar island take a boat from Labuan Bajo, travel time by speed boat is about 2 hours. The hike takes between 1h30min to 2 hours return, to get to the view-point you have to conquer steep uphill but the view from the top is well worth of effort.
A day trip to one of the islands, e.g. Kanawa for snorkeling and chilling on the beach. Depending on a group size a day trip can cost about IDR 500 000/$38 per person. It’s possible to stay on Kanawa island there is a Kanawa island resort with bungalows and a restaurant but be ready to pay a lot, IDR 900 000/$68 for a bungalow. The price includes boat charter from Labuan Bajo and back. There used to be cheaper accommodation option – tents for rent for 10$ per night but not any more.
Rent a scooter and drive around Flores
Popular thing to do in Indonesia; easy to rent, don’t need a license, cheap and fun though can be quite hectic in bigger places. Motorbike rental in Labuan Bajo IDR 75 000/$5,6 per day if you rent for longer period it’ll be cheaper per day. You can do a day trip to one of the waterfalls; Cunca Wulang or Cunca Rami, about 1h 30min. from Labuan Bajo if you’re a confident driver, steep ups and downs, sometimes off road driving. To visit the waterfall you need a guide, they ask IDR 50 000/$3,7 per person for 1 hour hike. The waterfalls are quite big with many pools where you can swim.
Visit Sano Nggoang lake
Beautiful and very deep lake, it depth reaches 500m, located 35km from Labuan Bajo. It’s possible to visit the lake in one day just remember the road doesn’t go all the way to the lake last couple of km you’ll have to hike through the jungle. There are some small hot springs on the way.
Hike Kelimutu Volcano
If you have more time you can do longer trip to Kelimutu volcano and visit some local villages on the way, 2-3 days trip from Labuan Bajo. The hike to the crater is just 40 min., the entrance fee IDR 100 000/$7,5. If you don’t feel like riding a scooter all the way you can do a tour to Kelimutu from Labuan Bajo. Most tourist groups go to the top early morning to see the sunrise.
Explore the Hobbit Cave
Liang Bua is a huge cave near Ruteng town, the cave was discovered only in 2003. It got its name because of the small size skeletons that were found here that supposed to be 18 000 years old. The cave is really impressive it’s a bit far from Labuan Bajo, 140km, though it doesn’t sound far it’ll take you about 4 hours to drive, you’ll need two days to get there, see the cave and drive back.
How to get to Komodo?
Detailed article about different ways of getting from Bali to Flores.
Labuan Bajo the gateway to Komodo island
And to many activities around Flores. The town is a bit of a dump, don’t expect to see nice beaches and crystal clear water for these go to one of the smaller islands nearby. A good thing about Labuan Bajo is that it’s easy to arrange any activity here from diving to hiking. All town is basically tour agencies, hotels/guest houses, restaurants, dive centers and shops.
Where to stay in Flores/Labuan Bajo?
There are plenty of places for different budget you don’t need to book in advanced unless your trip is in months of June – August (peak season) but even these months you can find a place it just can take more time and walking around.
One of the most budget options is P.Adi Hostel, dorm beds start at US$5. Good place for the price, the place is new, ok facilities, friendly staff, walking distance from the dive shops, restaurants and the pier.
A great and good budget place is Dorme Tree hostel though not the cheapest one, prices US$8 for a bed in dorm with fan and US$12 for AC dormitory. Nice, clean, very friendly owners, cheap restaurant, close to the main street and the port.
For couples on a budget World Bnb hotel is a good option; private rooms with AC and bathroom from US$20, breakfast included. Nice rooms, friendly staff, good breakfast, clean, a bit far from the center but there is free shuttle service for guests.
If you want to spoil yourself and stay in more luxury place Pur Sari Beach hotel is a good option. Located at Puri Sari beach outside of Labuan Bajo this hotel offers comfortable stay in Labuan Bajo; big rooms with AC, impeccable clean, swimming pool, beautiful garden, buffet breakfast, wi-fi, free airport shuttle. Double rooms US$70.
ATMs in Labuan Bajo
There are four on the main street; Mandiri, BRI and two BNI bank, at least one will work. All ATMs have the same limit IDR 1 200 000/$90 per withdrawal. Some dive centers, restaurants and fancy hotels accept card with additional 3% charge.
Where to eat in Labuan Bajo?
There are plenty of options in the town, from cheap local street food to western cuisine restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries. Almost all restaurants as well as hotels and tour agencies are located at Soekarno Hatta street, the main street that runs from the harbor through the town.
The most popular among tourists Italian restaurant La Cucina, great pizza and breakfast, always full at night time, average bill IDR 60 000-80 000/$4,5-6 for breakfast and IDR 100 000/$7,5 for lunch/dinner.
Two other western cuisine restaurants Le Pirate Bajo and Mediterraneo looked nice from the outside but we never ate there.
Fish market, next to the ferry terminal, opened till 5 pm. You can choose fresh fish and ask to grill or fry it for you right there. From IDR 15 000/$1 to 25 000/$2 per fish with rice.
Blue Corner, traditional Indonesian food, mie and nasi goreng, big portions, prices from IDR 20 000/$1,5 to 30 000/$2,2.
Labuan Bajo is maybe not the best and nicest town in the world but its location and infrastructure makes it a very convenient base to explore Flores and Komodo islands.