On my recent trip to Indonesia we were given an itinerary prior to arrival. The two keywords that stuck out at me were Lombok & Komodo, the latter winning because the weord after it was dragons.
I’d been to Indonesia once before but I was excited to head back for some Komodo Dragon hunting.
Where Do Komodo Dragons Live?
Komodo Dragons can be found in zoos around the world but in the wild they are found on just five of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands. The islands are Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang, Flores and Padar. The Komodo National Park was established in 1980 in order to preserve the species who enjoy Indonesia’s hot & dry environment.
Komodo Island is of course the most popular island for Komodo Dragon hunting. On our tour we also went Komodo Dragon hunting on Rinca Island.
Komodo Dragon Facts 1: On the last Dragon census, there were 2919 Komodo Dragons recorded to be living on Komodo Island.
How To Get To Komodo Island, Indonesia
Chartered boat is the only way you can reach Komodo Island, a speed boat or a larger boat which you will usually sleep on as part of your tour. These boats are known as a live aboard & from what Dave was saying sleeping conditions can be pretty crazy & some boats can be dodgy.
Most will charter their boat from Lubuan Bajo with another popular option departing from Lombok.
How To Get To Lubuan Bajo?
Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores has an airport providing the most practical access to Komodo National Park. There are numerous flights to Lubuan Bajo from Denpasar every day. Once you arrive, Lubuan Bajo is only a five minute drive away with a number of taxis ready to pick you up if you haven’t prearranged anything.
I cover where to stay in Lubuan Bajo at the bottom of the post.
It’s Time To Set Sail To Komodo Island!
Our boat was glorious! There was 10 of us plus the crew. We jumped on a small dinghy to take us to our boat. When we got a clear view of our live aboard vessel I was instantly impressed with how large it was, definitely more luxurious than expected.
All the dorms were similar, a small room for two to sleep in. The rooms did have air con and the need for luxury wasn’t required. Of the 30 hours or so we were on the boat the only time I was in my room was to sleep.
Sailing To Komodo Island
Early December is:
- low season for tourism in Indonesia
- middle of the monsoon season
Generally I don’t mind monsoon seasons as rainfall only happens for a couple hours a day for the most part.
Once on the boat I decided to take a nap having slept less than three hours the previous night. The whirl of the motor with the water giving way to our bow put me to sleep pretty quickly. It was one of those naps where you drool a little bit, always a sign of a quality nap.
An hour or so into the journey I was woken up for lunch. At this point none of the food had been spectacular on the trip. It made sense boat food would be pretty plain jane. In our group we weren’t easy to cook for…myself and Jasmine being vegan, two vegetarians, zero cannibals and six omnivores.
Crikey! We all drooling when we saw the food. It looked amazing and tasted even better. The premise was the same for me as usual, tempeh, tofu, various vegetables and rice which was finished off with pineapple and melon. It was so good, the flavours were incredible.
Enroute we saw very few other chartered boats around us which was great and the waters were flat. I’m not sure of the speeds we were moving at but a few hours later Indonesia’s Pink Beach was pointed out to us and a short while later we were pulling up to the jetty where we would being our Komodo Dragon hunting adventures.
The excitement and nerves were real.
Taking Our First Steps On Indonesia’s Komodo Island
I expected the jetty to perhaps be raised off the ground to prevent dragons from waiting for us to jump off the boat having dealt with plenty of hawkers when exiting mini vans the last few days. It was nice to see the dragons had some etiquette and let us get to see some of the island before eating us.
The next thing that caught me off guard was seeing a deer. I had these images of a Jurassic Park like landscape. Prey would be hiding at all costs with the Komodo Dragons drooling (everyone is drooling in Indonesia) as they scout out their next victim.
Komodo Dragon Facts 2: The bacteria that kills in a dragons saliva doesn’t occur until they are five years old or so.
As we were walking to the starting point of the trek we spotted our first Komodo Dragon walking the other way (it wasn’t as casual as it sounds). We took a couple of snaps from 15 metres away. The excitement had set in. The Dragon didn’t even look twice at us as it continued on it’s mission
to eat a deer for lunch, apparently it was just a youngin.
We made it to the trail head and met our island guide and his friend who would lead our Komodo Dragon hunting expedition. They gave a quick review about Komodo Island and what we can expect before giving us some options for hiking. There was a short, medium and long trek around Komodo Island. As a group we decided on the medium trek, I believe it was 3km. Enough time to give our Komodo Dragon hunting a chance of success without us dying from the heat.
We started hiking along the well trodden path. We saw some pigs early on, they were very skittish compared to the deer. Maybe they knew the rain was about to come tumbling down?
10 minutes into our walk our Komodo Dragon encounters were zero but it was raining. Thankfully it wasn’t raining Komodo Dragons, I’ll stick with cats and dogs.
Of course, as a group of travel bloggers we had a lot of technology on us but were left vulnerable trying to keep them all as dry as possible. We took shelter under a tree, while the guides went for a walk to see if there were any dragons nearby as they were often around the vicinity of the muddy water logged area we were standing by.
All of a sudden, we were in a scene from a horror movie. We could see one of our guides at all times but a dragon could have casually come from behind and had 10 tasty people to choose from. Mmmmm foreigner.
Our tour leader (I highly recommend Kakaban Tours) from the boat was a hero and caught up to us carrying a few plastic bags. Plastic bags are a problem in Indonesia but I have to say these were the best looking plastic bags ever. Now that all our technology had a chance of staying alive we continued on the hike.
Before long the rain had stopped & our inadequate footwear was providing periodic expletives as we slipped and slided on the track. As humans do we soon found something else to complain about, the heat.
We eventually made it to the ‘summit’ of our hike with zero Komodo Dragon encounters to this point. The hopes of the group were starting to diminish as we were resigned to the fact we would probably have to hope a Komodo Dragon hanging out around the kitchen.
The mid-distance trek took us around an hour in total including stops for photos etc.
We were walking towards the kitchen that we could see from the start of the trail head when we all suddenly slowed down. There was three Komodo Dragons laying flat on the ground in the shade. I wasn’t sure what to do exactly, keeping my distance I marvelled that we were within 200 metres of the dragons when we first arrived on the island but we oblivious to their presence. Some Komodo Dragon hunting professional I am…
Our group split up (they didn’t get eaten). The others had also found a Komodo 50 metres away from us.
Komodo Dragon Facts 3: Rudolph was a Swissman who ventured
away from the rest of his tour group on Komodo Island.
They only ever found his sunglasses and camera.
We snapped away, making sure we knew where everyone was at all times. Our guide took hold of our phones and fearlessly moved in to get some photos for us, ensuring he always had his eye on the dragons. Armed with his stick, he took a snaps of all of us without getting eaten alive (the light wasn’t great).
We all started to get a little but more comfortable before another dragon comes strolling around from the side of the building to join his friends. Seeing this guy move with an awkward grace was epic. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous when he came around the corner, knowing he could reach up to 20km/h while running I avoided eye contact.
Once we realised he didn’t have human flesh on his mind we ventured into selfie territory. After 20 minutes of hanging with the Komodo Dragons we headed back to the boat, crossing one more dragon seeking some shade behind a sign & picking up a couple extra Bintangs.
Back on the boat it was time to head to Pink Beach.
Visiting Pink Beach, Komodo
Pink Beach (one of seven Pink Beaches in the world) didn’t look any different to any other awesome beach in Indonesia when we put the anchor down but that soon changed. A few swum in & a few of us jumped into the dinghy to take us ashore.
Once we arrived on the beach, we all noticed the sand does have a pink colour to it. I’m not sure of the science of the sand but there was a bunch of red flakes scattered along the waterline which plays a role no doubt. I picked up a handful of sand and it didn’t appear pink. It does get confusing and frankly sometimes it’s better to not know how things work. As the sun started to get lower and lower the beach turned pinker.
We were the only group on the beach which was pretty cool, but we didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the beach. Snorkelling over the reef was just metres away.
Snorkelling at Pink Beach: I can’t exactly swim (yea, I know I grew up minutes from the beach in New Zealand – it wasn’t for the lack of trying). You couldn’t ask for calmer waters so I attempted to see if I could snorkel in waters deeper than myself. I slipped on some flippers for the first time and clumsily walked into the water. I floundered around in the shallows for a bit but could actually feel myself propelling forward in the water. Eventually drifting into the deeper water (it’s only a few metres deep) fish started appearing. I can’t recall what they looked like now having spent most of the time trying not to panic. I do remember being stunned at all the different colours of the fish. They were much more colourful than the selection I used to catch as a youngster back home. I also remember seeing a cool as blue starfish!
The reports from the others were more awesome fish, and The Freedom Travellers (these two people are awesome!) saw a turtle hanging out.
What To Do At Night Stuck On A Boat?
We didn’t know where we were going to drop anchor for the night, not even our itinerary guru Shandos knew. Once back on board everyone was on a high. We’d seen Komodo Dragons, seen Pink Beach, Komodo & had fun snorkelling.
Once again cruising the sun was ready to set. You couldn’t ask for a better spot to watch the sunset from.
More food was consumed and for those who were having a beer, they started to be opened at an increasingly fast rate. Dinner was another glorious feast. It was impressive as it was totally different from what we had for lunch.
Komodo Dragons. Of course he headed to the islands
tourists don’t go to.
The group we had on board was actually epic. Everyone got a long well, stories were told, jokes shared & most of all no one was complaining or being negative. There was awesomeness happening all around, Silke even wanted to be a dog. Eventually we set anchor for the night where it didn’t take long for locals to pull up on their boats offering their wares.
We were in the midst of a drinking game when the wind suddenly picked up, the rain started to fall. That’s monsoon season for you. The crew were onto it fast, pulling up the anchor, getting a tarp up quickly & shifting to calmer waters.
The rest of the evening was spent enjoying Bintangs, contemplating sleeping on the roof and sharing a laugh. Eventually we all headed off to our assigned dorms. With enough beer in me I passed out in no time, so happy there was a/c in the room.
I know someone will ask about it….bathroom situation onboard. On our boat, we had two bathrooms. One for the lads, one for the ladies. The toilet was a western toilet & there were showers. They weren’t flashy, enough to get the salt water off. It’s fair to say we started to smell a bit by the time we got off the boat.
Komodo Dragon Hunting Day 2, Let’s Go!
ENJOYING THIS POST? PIN IT FOR LATER USE
Komodo Dragon Facts 5: The Komodo dragon doesn’t chew. They’ll consume the animal whole and spend a month or so digesting the victim.
The next morning I was up at 7.30am as I was sweating away. It turns out the a/c turns off when the boat starts up. According to Aga we started heading to our next location at like 6am when the sun was rising. We chowed down on some breakfast and before long we pulled up to a spot where we could see manta rays! Definitely wasn’t expecting to see these epic creatures in the sea.
Komodo Dragon Hunting on Rinca Island
The process for Rinca Island was the same. We decided to do the medium distance hike after a quick intro from the guide. This time the guide was straight up with us. We will go check out the Komodo Dragons hanging out around the kitchen first before hiking for real Komodo Dragon hunting.
Komodo Dragon Facts 6: ~1300 dragons
live on Rinca Island.
The Komodo’s Dragons near the kitchen are pretty chilled out, even laying on top of each other. There was minimal movement from the adults but we did get to see a couple youngsters in action. From behind the Komodo Dragon looks like a crocodile, though I will leave it to the experts to get up close to both animals.
Komodo Dragon Facts 7: A pregnant Komodo Dragon can lay
15 – 20 eggs yet none of the offspring may make it to adulthood.
There were other tourists on Rinca Island with us today having seen 0 on Komodo Island the previous day.
We all got excited when ‘a rat fell through the floorboards’. When the ‘rat’ fell a few of the dragons suddenly moved. We got to witness them react to food when within their immediate proximity. This was awesome to see.
Whether or not it was a rat we will never know. We’re pretty sure a guide had simply dropped a fish head out of the window as he was walking out of the room a minute or two later. The dragons, while they moved quick didn’t seem to have any struggle on their hands either.
Ah well, I like the idea of it being a rat and pink beaches being pink, just because.
Komodo Dragon Facts 8: It takes a few years for the Komodo Dragon Rangers to figure out what sex each dragon is.
Getting quality photos of the Komodo Dragons is tough due to camouflage, enabling them to ambush their prey. You will need to edit the photos slightly to get the most of what you see to come out in photos.
We began our trek and were sweating right away, it was tough. The Rinca Island terrain is different to Komodo Island. It’s a lot more swampy and has the honour of playing host to Spitting Cobras as well. Komodo Dragon hunting just went to the next level.
The walk on Rinca Island was pretty exposed as we made our way up to the panoramic viewpoint. The view was pretty spectacular and we were ready to get back in the water in the afternoon. The temperature and humidity was insane. We had come to the realisation we would not have any more luck with our Komodo Dragon hunting.
Rinca Island Vs. Komodo Island
We’d now been to two most popular islands for tourists to visit. Komodo Island definitely had the more intrigue due to its name and ultimately if there is a choice to go to only one island, it has to be Komodo Island.
Last Chance For A Swim
Our last stop before heading back to the Island of Flores was Pulau Kelor. A small island 8.5km or so from the harbour. We pulled up along side a couple of other boats.
I wish I had gone exploring on the island more, nevertheless it was a great spot to hang out before heading back to Island of Flores.
We were all sad to be getting off the boat. The 10 of us were so happy we got to see a few Komodo Dragons, eat good food, telling stories and getting to know one another more. Our finally Komodo Dragon ‘hunting’ tally? 18.
What Else Do You Need To Know?
Where To Stay In Labuan Bajo?
If you walk along the main roads in Labuan Bajo there are plenty of hotels, hostels and guest houses with various levels of facilities. We stayed a 5 minute drive from ‘downtown’ at the Jayakarta Suite Komodo Flores, Labuhanbajo, Indonesia (Wi-Fi not available in rooms). The hotel grounds are nice with the swimming pool the focal point surrounded by palm trees. The beach the resort backs onto is nice for a walk, but not the nicest beach given you have been to some of the best beaches in Indonesia like Pink Beach & Pulau Kelor Beach. The bedrooms are pretty standard, but the bed was insanely comfortable. If you stay in hotels regularly the Jayakarta Suites are a solid option to catch up on rest after your Komodo Dragon hunting adventures.
Best Time To Visit Komodo Island?
In terms of the year, I quite liked going in early December as the tourist numbers were low. It gives it an extra authentic feel we all want more of. Most of the time you will get rain at some point during the day, don’t let it get your spirits down. The dry season in Indonesia runs from April – October which is the peak season for tourists.
Who Lives On Komodo Island?
There’s a small village on the Komodo Island where people go about their day to day lives but as it’s a National Park the facilities are minimal. You can possibly stay at the village but it is more popular to stay overnight on a live aboard boat or back on the island of Flores. In total ~2,000 live on Komodo Island, mostly sticking to areas near the shoreline.
On both of our Komodo dragon hunting escapades we had two guides with us, one who played a main role who I spoke to briefly. They work at the National Park on 10 days shifts with either 10 or 20 days off. The guides seem to enjoy their jobs a lot, and often end up spending their days off hanging out on the island regardless of where they are from.
Like when I visited the Orangutan’s on Borneo & going on a safari in Sri Lanka I had all these crazy images in my head. I was thinking I’d be fearing for my life on the island the whole time…not to be. It’s not a bad thing though. The entire experience on and off the cannibal infested islands was amazing. If you are considering going Komodo Dragon hunting, you should make it happen sooner rather than later.
If you have any questions, let me know!
This trip was sponsored by the Indonesian Tourism Board (#WonderfulIndonesia). Without their help this trip would not have been possible. All thoughts & comments are 100% mine.