The best way to see the wildlife and scenery above and below the waters of Komodo National Park in Indonesia has to be a liveaboard diving cruise. Above water you will see giant Komodo dragons, otherworldly landscapes and idyllic deserted beaches, underwater there is an unbelievably rich marine life, from manta rays, turtles and sharks, to hundreds of kinds of fish and coral.
Day 1: all aboard in Flores
Arrival in Labuan Bajo, Flores, where you will be picked up and taken to the harbour. Pirates’ Bay cruises offers plenty of options, for all price ranges and durations. Our boat was the Antares, a traditional wooden ketch rig that I can highly recommend!
We arrived end of the morning and still managed to do two dives on our first day. Look out for dolphins from the boat!
Day 2-4: dive, dive, dive
The following days are all about the diving. Depending on currents and weather conditions, your dive master will take you to the best spots.
My favorite dive sites:
- Manta point (Karang Makasar). The highlight of our diving trip, I’ve never seen so many manta rays! They are not afraid at all so they might come very close… but don’t touch!
- Batu Bolong. Amazing corals forming different plateaus along a huge wall. After immersion, you go down through a half-open corridor, and from there you slowly work your way up. The quantity of brightly coloured fishes is just amazing.
- Castle rock. Great spot to see grey reef, blacktip and whitetip sharks and schools of barracuda, jacks and others. Not easy to find, so you need an experienced dive-master. The top of the rock is just a few meters below the surface, I found a very friendly grazing turtle here during my safety stop!
Make a stop at Padar island where there is an easy but quite steep trail up to two amazing viewpoints that are great for late afternoon and sunset views. New stairs (that only take you up the very first bit however) mean that this place has become popular with Indonesian tourists, but you can always find a quiet spot. Have your boat drop you off at the right-hand side of the (probably deserted) beach for a stroll along the water, if you peek over the bushes along the upper edge of the beach you have a good chance of seeing wild deer on the plain just behind.
Other small deserted beaches abound, just ask your captain to let you go discover!
Day 5: Dragon hunting on Rinca island
To see the Komodo dragons, stop off at Rinca rather than Komodo island itself, it’s closer and less visited. There is a choice of walking trails ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours, you are obliged to go with a guide, included in the entrance fee.
You will probably see most dragons around the camp and can consider yourself lucky to come across one on the trails, but it is nice to stretch your legs and see some of the scenery. The 1 hour trail takes in forest and hills and makes for a nice and undemanding walk, with a chance of seeing water buffaloes and deer. Be sure to bring mosquito repellent!
If you want to spend more time on land you could consider visiting both Rinca and Komodo. For more information about Komodo National Park click here.
This diving trip is best organised as part of a longer visit to Indonesia, for ideas check out my two week itinerary.