Although Komodo National Park is one of Indonesia’s driest regions, the rainy season, from Jan to mid-March, can be pretty wild with winds, waves and heavy rainfall, meaning few tours run, especially in Feb. Apr-Jun is one of the best times to visit Komodo as the islands gleam in greenery with comfortable temps, cool and fresh at night, and calm seas, often featuring whale sharks. High season, Jul-Aug, is hot, sunny, and pricier, with tour boats cluttering popular snorkel spots. Wait instead until Sept, Oct and Nov for warm weather, fewer tour boats and deserted dusty tracks for trekking.



Things to do in

Unless you’re five years old you aren’t going to be invited on a dragon hunt anytime soon; however, as Komodo National Park boasts a population of around 5,000 – split between Komodo, Rinca and Flores – tracking dragons with a knowledgeable local ranger, armed with a large, Y-shaped stick, is about as good as it’s going to get. Although some dragons appear no sooner than you’ve docked, others are a lot less sociable with ranger rules certainly worth adhering to.
As there isn’t any tourist accommodation in Komodo National Park, other than west coast Flores, staying onboard a small boat is the best way to spend a night within the domain of dragons. There are literally hundreds of different boat types available from luxurious private yachts to more basic craft sleeping up to 16 passengers within cabins, bunks and mattresses on deck. A guide and group leader will also be onboard, as well as a chef to rustle up an array of tasty Indonesian treats.
Depending on whether you’re visiting Komodo in the dry season or just after the rains you’ll find islands either dusty brown or lush green. Rugged volcanic slopes and savanna hillsides, on places like Padar Island, provide the best spot to watch the sun set before returning to the sea. Trekking in Komodo with a ranger in search of beaches, birds and dragons is the only way to explore, and trails are usually well marked and not too strenuous so hiking boots are handy, but not essential.

Things not to do in Komodo...

Stay out of the water. Some of the snorkelling is sublime, especially off the northeast coast of Komodo Island, with boat trips and kayaks the best way to get closer to the patches of coral that fringe the islands and feed an abundance of sunfish, sea horses and rays. Pantai Merah (Pink Beach) and Manta Point on Komodo Island are a couple of great sites for marine life. It’s also possible to kayak around the islands of Komodo National Park as part of a tour that includes snorkelling and nights spent in safari tents.
Once you’ve snorkelled, hunted for dragons and enjoyed a couple of nights star gazing on deck there’s little else to do within Komodo National Park so don’t ignore the rest of Indonesia if you’ve got a few extra days to spare. Flights to Bali from Labuhan Bajo usually take just over an hour with tailor made tours also able to incorporate time spent in Sumatra and Java to ensure you get to experience the rest of Indonesia.
Although it’s the wildlife that often steals centre stage on a visit to Komodo, don’t forget about the local people who live and work, often as guides and park rangers, within the realm of dragons, volcanoes and tourists. Visits to the east of Flores allow you to learn more about Buginese culture in towns like Maumere and traditional villages like Sikka, renowned for its silk weaving, and the fishing village of Riung which lies within the protected perimeters of Pulau Tujuhbelas National Park.



Kayaking advice

Laurenne Mansbridge is Director of our supplier Pioneer Expeditions, which specialises in kayaking vacations: “No experience is necessary to go kayaking in Komodo National Park although we recommend trying it before you go. We use twin kayaks, stay on private islands and use a traditional Indonesian support boat from where we eat breakfast and lunch. The crew sets up tents on the beach and evening meals are served on tables and chairs, also on the beach. Guides lead you in their own kayak and are also experts in snorkelling and local marine ecology. We spend at least two hours a day snorkelling so this is a massive draw for those who love being underwater. When traveling quietly through Komodo by kayak you get a sense of the true wonder of the archipelago without impacting on it.”

Tom Harari, from our supplier Exodus, shares snorkelling recommendations and personal experiences from Komodo:

All aboard

“The boat I stayed on was basic and had a mixture of cabins and mattresses up on deck to comfortably sleep 16 passengers. Bathrooms were shared and basic toilets were at the back of the boat. The food on board was a selection of Indonesian cuisine served with rice at every meal. If you're not snorkelling or visiting an island, time was spent just chilling, reading or chatting. There’s also a guide on the boat (as well as leader) for the whole duration of the trip.”

Go go Komodo Rangers

“You have to be accompanied by a ranger when hiking and looking for Komodo dragons. The rangers are not necessarily qualified guides, but are very knowledgeable and carry a big Y-shaped stick to pin down dragons if they decide to charge!”

Snorkelling spots

“There are numerous spots for snorkelling in Komodo, the best is possibly Pink Beach (named as the sand is pink – at least when hit by the sunlight in the right way, but commonly seen). Komodo National Park has around 500 types of coral and 1,500 types of fish. The best underwater experience, however, is going to Manta Point where it is very common to swim with manta rays.”

Justin Vieregge, from our Indonesia travel specialists Odyssey World, offers some advice for travelers considering Komodo:

National park life

Rinca and Padar Islands are officially considered uninhabited with only rangers and a few local people living in and around the ranger stations. Komodo Island has around 4,000 inhabitants, but there is not really much to see or do in the village for visitors. You can chat with the rangers at the ranger stations, and maybe local people if you visit Komodo village with a ranger. You should never wander off alone as it can be very dangerous.”

Here there be dragons

“Dragons on Komodo Island are bigger and more impressive, so this would be my first recommendation if you want to see them. It does, however, take longer to reach Komodo from Labuan Bajo (4hr cruise), so people on a tight schedule usually only visit Rinca Island (2.5hr cruise). Komodo dragons on Padar Island are as good as extinct and rarely seen by visitors.There are no special rules within Komodo National Park except you should always be accompanied by a guide and are not allowed to touch the dragons – but you probably wouldn’t want to try that anyway! Due to the importance of the Komodo dragon to the Indonesian people and government there have been discussions about limiting the numbers of visitors but as yet this has not come to anything.”



At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Komodo vacation tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your suitcase.
“As the majority of our trip was located within the National Park local people were working in the hotel and local boats were used to take us out to other islands. On visiting Rinca and Komodo we went hiking with rangers who again were all local. A lot of the food we were served was made using fresh fish and produce from local markets. Pack plenty of sun screen and a rash vest - spending time on boats and in and around the water all the time it is very easy to catch the sun. Also be open with the company as to what you actually want from the vacation - we found they were more than happy to tailor the vacation to our needs.” – Emma Coe, staying in our Flores ecolodge
“The boat trip that the Eco Lodge organised to Rinca and Komodo Island was really lovely. The food was amazing (how he did that magic in a boat is beyond me) and the snorkelling was easily the best I've ever done - we saw turtles, rays, scorpion fish, beautiful coral and a whole host of gorgeous sea life. Our guide was really friendly and helpful, just like it said on his shirt!” – Jessica Southworth
“I guess the best part was kayaking around the beautiful Komodo islands just my husband and myself in one kayak and our guide in another. The water was crystal clear and the reefs were amazing. Pack light, you need virtually nothing. Make sure your hands are used to rowing as the only problem I had all vacation was developing a huge blister on my right hand on day one making it more difficult to row. If you are female make sure you are not menstruating otherwise you won't be allowed to visit the komodo dragons which would be terribly disappointing. – Sally Jackson
“The trip was very well organised and supported by the local team but those from less hot and humid climates would be advised to ensure that they arrive in as fit condition as possible in order to make the most of the walks to see animals, birds, plants, etc.” – Robert Young
“Indonesia is a wonderful country to visit, and we particularly enjoyed being treated as VIP guests everywhere we went during the low season (January). I deduce that traveling in the off season is most likely a best kept secret!” – Susan Haldy
Photo credits: [Teperature chart: Benjamin Hollis] [All aboard: Christopher Harriot] [Snorkelling spots: Lakshmi Sawitri] [National park life: Gabriel ^(oo)^] [Review 1: Gabriel ^(oo)^] [Review 2: Wexor Tmg]
Written by Chris Owen
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