Searching for Komodo Dragons

The wild beauty of Komodo National Park inspired me ever since I watched a National Geographic documentary. I thought one day I will go searching for Komodo Dragons. One can only dream, right?

Dreams do come true! Fast forward many years later and there I was. I traveled to Komodo National Park, to see Komodo dragons in their natural habitat. Komodo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and holds a place on the list of the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World. It’s also one of the top 10 diving places in the world.

I was in for a trip of a lifetime! I went to search for Komodo dragons and ended up swimming with giant mantas, seeing amazing corals, and sunbathing in pink sand beaches. There is so much to do.

Me with Komodo dragon

***Update on Komodo National Park Closing***

It has been reported that Komodo Island which is part of Komodo National Park will potentially close in 2020. In an attempt to improve conservation efforts. Nothing has been confirmed. However, as reported by Reuters, Komodo National Park would still remain open to visitors. Only Komodo Island, which is the largest, would closed to visitors.

So if you are planning, or have a trip coming up to Komodo National Park, rest assured you will still get an amazing experience. In my experience Rinca Island is the best place to pot Komodo dragons and that will remain open. Plus there are so many other activities to do in the national park and in Flores.

How to get to Komodo National Park

Labuan Bajo in Flores is the gateway to Komodo National Park. Nestled between the island of Flores and Sumbawa, Komodo National Park is in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago.

Labuan Bajo has a great airport making it easy to fly into Komodo Airport. Visitors can fly in from within Indonesia, alternatively, international travelers can fly into Bali and get a local flight from there. Bali is extremely well connected to international destinations, making it easy to catch a local flight to continue on to Labuan Bajo.

Komodo National Park Map

Komodo National Park is only accessible by boat

Once in Labuan Bajo, the only way to get to Komodo National Park is by boat because the park is in a remote area. Labuan Bajo is a relatively small town, its main street is filled with shops offering boat tours to the island. Visitors can choose whether to do a quick day trip, a multi-day sailing trip or hire a private boat. There are plenty of options to fit every budget and style. To get the best experience I recommend choosing carefully because not all the providers have good reviews.

Sail to see Komodo dragons

One-day trips seem a good option but you end up rushing ticking off boxes and spend 2hr to reach the island each way. Since Komodo is one of the most amazing National Parks in the world and a natural wonder, take the time to experience it all. Consider a multiday trip, a liveaboard boat, there are many options to fit every budget, choose carefully, read the reviews and choose a reputable company.

Sailing Komodo National Park

To experience all that Komodo National park has to offer, I chose a 3-day sailing expedition. I did a threeday sailing excursion to explore the remote islands, both by land and sea. To take the time to do it all, see the Komodo dragons in their natural habitat and also explore the pristine underwater world.

So, I set out on an adventure in pursuit of Komodo dragons and ended up swimming with giant Manta Rays, diving and snorkeling to see beautiful corals, and sunbathing on pink sand beaches. An epic experience! The liveaboard experience is definitely worth the expense because you experience the best of Komodo on land and sea.

Sailing to see Komodo

The Komodo Dragons

Komodo dragons are ancient creatures often referred to as modern-day dinosaurs, their ancestors date back as far as 4 million years. They are endemic to Indonesia and exist only on 5 islands there.

Komodo dragons are a rare protected species that is endangered. According to conservationists, they estimate there are only about 6000 left on earth. The vast majority live in Komodo National Park, made up of three large islands: Komodo, Rinca and Padar (plus other islets) in the heart of the Indonesian archipelago. Komodo and Rinca are home to over 5,000 Komodo dragons.  

Komodo Dragon

Komodo dragons are wild and dangerous. Every year, there are reports of several attacks on humans, both visitors and locals alike. Their bite is fatal, and their hunting technique is to ambush their prey, strike a bite, and let their prey escape with just a bite. They know the prey has not escaped; in fact, that it’s dying, and they follow it. After a few days, the prey dies from the bite and the predator feasts on the carcass of its easy kill.

Komodo National Park Sailing Trip Highlights:

I set out on an adventure to explored the wild, exotic beauty of Komodo National Park. The experience goes beyond meeting the Komodo Dragons, we also visited several of the volcanic islands around and two of the top diving spots in Komodo.

We set sail from Lebuan Bajo in the afternoon and on the first morning on board I woke up early. It was my birthday! Yay, happy birthday to me!! I felt a cool morning breeze and heard the waves softly crashing against the boat as it glided through the water. I slowly got up, and saw a stunning sunrise.

It was breath-taking to wake up to such a beautiful sight. Unobstructed views of the sun rising over the islands.

Komodo sunrise

It was a beautiful moment, a quiet moment surrounded by pristine nature. As I looked at the horizon, in the soft glow of the morning light, I saw dolphins jumping in and out of the water. It was a magical experience, a gift from mother nature.

I closed my eyes as I felt the sun warm my face and thought nothing could beat the feeling of that moment. It was a perfect moment and an amazing feeling to be there. It was a dream come true, to be in Komodo National Park, in the middle of the ocean surrounded by pristine nature. I was grateful for a stunning birthday sunrise and a beautiful start to the day.

Rinca Island searching for Komodo Dragons

It was time to see the incredible Komodo dragons. Rinca is one of the three largest islands in Komodo National Park home to Komodo dragons. Upon arrival, they assigned us a park ranger as our guide to explore the island. Although it is safe to trek Komodo National Park. Visitors must always stay close to the park ranger who leads the trek around the island and another one at the back end of the line to make sure that no one gets left behind. Komodo dragons are known to attack people in the past, visitors and natives alike.

How to stay safe while searching for Komdo Dragons

To prevent an attack, the park rangers recommend visitors to stay together with the group, not wander off the trail, not look the dragon in the eyes and keep their heads down to see where they step as Komodo dragons easily camouflage in the wild vegetation. Also, that women on their periods should take extra precaution, they needed to double up on security as the dragons have a highly sensitive sense of smell and can smell the smallest drop of blood from miles away.

Holy Mother of God! This adventure is already proving to be more like a mission impossible. I have to say; I was nervous! This was the only time when I wanted to be part of a large group to trek the island. Hey, there is strength in numbers, especially if a hungry dragon is searching for a meal. It was starting to feel like Jurassic Park.

To add to the excitement, and by that, I mean the feeling that I was sure we would end up as a dragon’s lunch. The park rangers grabbed their weapon of choice: a wooden stick! Not even joking. My jaw dropped, my heart sank, and I got the feeling that I should get back on to the boat! Or is the risk all part of the adventure?

Komodo National Park felt like Jurassic Park

The park rangers are supposed to be our protectors in case of any issues. Yet, there we were, heading out to a Komodo infested island, to a Jurassic Park-like environment with dinosaur-like giant lizards. Lizards that grow up to 10 feet in height and 200 pounds of muscle and our only defense is a guy with just a stick for a weapon. Have they not seen Jurassic Park? Or that dragons attack people every year? Oh, boy! I wondered if anyone else in the small group was feeling the same way.

The park ranger assures the group we were safe, that he has lived alongside the dragons all of his life. That he has been trained and has learned how to read the dragons. As long as we follow his instructions we are safe. In the meantime, I see a friend I met at the diving resort in Flores; he is coming back from the trek, all smiles and has made it out alive. So it can’t be that bad, I figured, all I have to do is stay close to the park ranger. You only live once, so why not live on the wild side!

Seeing Komodo Dragons in their Natual Habitat

My heart was still beating fast and just as we were leaving the entrance of the park, we spotted the first Komodo dragons; they were juvenile dragons and looked harmless. Along our trek, we also spotted deer and water buffalo, which are the favorite menu items on the dragon’s diet. Phew, I felt a lot better seeing there was plenty of dragon food around that did not include us.

Komodo dragon juvenile

We spotted the larger dragons, a distance away, camouflaged in the vegetation. The Park Ranger had to point them out; the dragons were HUGE but so well camouflaged in the trees. We kept walking and spotted another dragon, this time closer to us, he seemed to be just sitting there lazily resting. So far our encounters with the dragons seemed to be a lot gentler than what I had expected.

Me with Komodo dragron
Can you spot the Komodo Dragon?

We continued exploring the island for about 1.5 hrs and had several sightings. Some dragons were resting, and some were on the move. The younger ones were active, making their way up and down the trees and through the landscape. Komodo dragons cannibalize the younger dragons, so the juveniles live up in the trees until they are large enough to survive on land. The older dragons did not seem to be bothered by us walking around the park. The park rangers did a phenomenal job during the trek, they share information on the dragons and shared their stories of growing up coexisting with the dragons on the island. Most importantly, they kept us safe, once in a while we had a few people that strayed and stayed behind to take pictures but the rangers were always on it.

Rinca Island an Epic Experience

Happy with our visit, we headed onboard the boat and sailed away thrilled with our experience spotting the Komodo dragons at Rinca Island. The experience completely surpassed my expectations because we spotted plenty of dragons in their natural habitat as well as other wild life.

Padar Island

We arrived at Padar Island for a trek that promised a spectacular view. I was ready! I was fully outfitted with my hiking boots, camera, and enthusiasm to explore this remote island. At first sight, the trail seemed easy enough. I am an avid hiker and Padar was unexpectedly challenging to hike in the day’s heat, with some steep rock scrambles–a welcomed challenge. Halfway up I turned around and saw this stunning view.

Komodo Rinca Island view point

I fell in love with the beautiful landscape. Panoramic views of a volcanic island with three beautiful beaches: one pink, one powder white and another black, divided by black ridges in between. The rugged hills and dry vegetation contrast with the sandy beaches and the turquoise blue coral-rich waters. It is by far one of the most iconic views symbolic of the Indonesian archipelago.

Pantai Merah also known as Pink Beach

Komodo pink sand beach

Pink Beach or Pantai Merah as the locals call it. It’s a beautiful beach, with blushed soft sand. The cotton candy-colored sand gets its striking color from the red coral. When the fragments of red coral combine with the sand it produces the beautiful pink sand that contrasts beautifully with the blue waters. This is a unique beach, there are only a handful of “pink” beaches in the world.

After taking the stunning panoramas and soaking up the sun for some much needed R&R, it was time to get in the water and see the coral gardens. Pink beach is a great spot to see soft and hard corals, the currents are not that strong so it is easier to dive and snorkle.

Makassar Reef or Manta Point

Makassar Reef, also called Manta Point because the reef is a sanctuary for manta rays. It is one of the best spots in the world to see these magnificent creatures. You can just imagine my excitement to get in the water and see for myself! It was an exceptional experience, for the first time in my life I saw manta rays out in the deep blue. Effortlessly swimming in their natural habitat.

Komodo manta ray

I traveled during the “rainy season” (but experienced no rain) the best time to spot Manta Rays. The visibility from November to January is exceptional (although it’s the rainy season) and the weather is hot but bearable. One thing to be aware of if you want to dive, the currents were really strong.

Just when I thought I had reached a high point for the day, I saw traveling mantas!! A school of traveling mantas. Imagine the splendor of seeing the beautiful creatures gently drifting in their natural habitat. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

school of mantas

Coral Reefs at Komodo National Park

The coral reefs of Komodo host a rich diversity of species and the strong currents bring some amazing giants that cruise the seas. Komodo is one of the top diving spots in the world.

Komodo coral reefs

The top diving spots in Komodo include Sabolon, Batu Long, Langkoi Rock, Castle Rock, Siaba Kecil (drift dive) and Karang Makassar.  

Komodo corals

Kawana Island

Kawana Island is a dive and snorkeling paradise, pristine turquoise water with phenomenal visibility. The reef is stunning with colorful corals, and plenty of tropical fish. One could make a whole day of diving, snorkeling and sunbathing in the spectacular white sand beach.

Komodo Kawana island

Komodo National Park is ideal for the active explorer that wants to experience a variety of activities on land and water.

While sailing, resting from the activities of the day, we watched stunning sunsets. The sea in a blaze of golden orange, peach and pink hues with the volcanic islands as a backdrop.

Komodo sunset

In summary—Komodo National Park Epic Experience

At the end of my trip, I understood that Komodo National Park is much more than Komodo Dragons. It’s a pristine natural environment with its unique fauna and flora. A destination to be explored from land, top of the mountains, and from the sea, exploring its underwater treasures. My three-day sailing trip was not enough. I could have easily done a 5-day trip. There is so much to do, its a perfect destination for the active explorer.

The Komodo dragons are just the start of the experience. Komodo National Park packs a punch with National Geographic worthy experiences. Visit for an overdose of once in a lifetime encounters on land and sea, stunning panoramic views, and some of the best sunrises and sunsets. See Komodo dragons, swim with giant mantas, sunbathe in pink sand beaches and dive some of the best diving spots in the world. I highly recommenced this experience. Step on to the wild and experience nature at its best.

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