Ever wanted to see a Komodo dragon in the flesh? How about swim with manta rays, or relax on a pink sandy beach? What if we told you that you can do all of these things when visiting Komodo Island?! We’ve pulled together a list of all reasons why Komodo Island is worth visiting just to tempt you and stoke the wanderlust a little bit more.
Komodo Island is a tiny Indonesian island with a big reputation. Hailed as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in 2011, it is home to a large population of Komodo dragons. These creatures roam the Komodo National Park freely, giving visitors the chance to get a close (but not too close!) look at one of the world’s largest and most deadly lizards. But Komodo Island is about much more than just the dragons…
With turquoise waters, rugged volcanic landscapes, and an overwhelming sense of raw nature, Komodo is the ideal destination for hiking, diving, and just getting away from the beat of modern life. You might come to Komodo island for the dragons, but you’ll want to stay for all the other great activities and sights to see on this beautiful island. Need further convincing? Read on to discover 9 reasons why Komodo island is worth visiting.
See the world’s only wild population of Komodo Dragons
The clue is in the name: The island’s native population of Komodo dragons makes Komodo Island worth visiting. For those who don’t know, Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizards. They can grow up to three meters in length and weigh approximately 70 kilos. These overgrown reptiles have a fearsome reputation. With shark-like teeth and a venomous bite, they are menacing predators who dominate their native island, as well as the nearby islands of Rinca, Flores, and Gili Motang. They are up there with the most dangerous animals in Indonesia.
However, while deadly, Komodo dragons are also endangered. The Komodo National Park was founded in 1980 to aid the conservation of the rare species, which are protected under Indonesian law. It is now the only place you can go to see a Komodo dragon in the wild. Visitors to Komodo Island have the chance to walk around the national park, observing the animals in their natural habitat. With on-site guides to keep you safe, viewing these fascinating yet formidable creatures in the flesh makes for a spine-tingling encounter that you’re not likely to forget in a hurry.
Dive down to see the island’s rich marine life
Fascinating creatures aren’t only above land on Komodo Island, you know? There’s a world of beautiful species in the surrounding waters, too. So, if you’d rather explore Komodo Island by flipper than by foot, you’re in luck – this is one of Indonesia’s, even the world’s, top diving spots.
Underwater enthusiasts will be excited to hear that the island is part of the Coral Triangle, an area of rich biodiversity between the Pacific and Indian oceans. It hosts 76% of all known coral species and 37% of the world’s reef fish! Diving around Komodo promises sightings of a whole manner of marine life, from reef sharks and turtles to manatees and even the dreaded stonefish.
Komodo Island is also a popular diving spot due to its large populations of manta rays. These graceful creatures dance through Komodo’s clear waters, promising an unforgettable diving experience. Manta rays are present all year round. However, the best time of year to see them is during the rainy season, between December and February.
It has many stunning hiking routes
Komodo Island is a great hiking destination. It’s perfect for anyone who enjoys getting active in the great outdoors. There are multiple hiking routes to explore the island on foot. Aside from passing by those aforementioned Komodo dragons in their natural habitat, walkers will venture through the island’s stunning natural landscape of luscious green hills and dusty ridges; a mosaic of monsoon forests and dry woodland that crashes down to pink-tinted beaches (but more on those later!). TL;DR – This is one seriously jaw-dropping destination.
This isn’t the place to go off-piste, though! To avoid any dangerous encounters with dragons, or simply getting lost, always stick to marked pathways and always be accompanied by a guide. Many operators offer trekking tours that take visitors through the island’s stunning backcountry, beaches, and forests, so you shouldn’t be short on options.
Traditional villages and cultural encounters on Mesa Island
Although it’s not entirely within the boundaries of the Komodo National Park, little Mesa Island offers something totally different to the wild landscapes and dragon-stalked mountains. A tiny pinprick of a piece of land, it’s home to one of the last remaining settlements of sea gypsies in the Flores Sea. They’ve lived here for centuries, though no one really knows how their history began. What’s clear is that they’re intimately connected with the ocean, and you can still watch the fishing folk drying newly picked sea cucumbers and skinning fish between the sandy streets.
Apart from being a feast for the eyes (and the camera lens), this wonderful place positively brims with life. You can wander tight-knit alleys between corrugated shacks on stilts to meet the inhabitants of the village, hop the fishing nets by the boats along the shore, and chat to the locals as they go about their routines.
Mesa Island isn’t too easy to get to, but it’s also not super difficult. You’ll probably need to negotiate a private boat taxi over from Labuan Bajo.
It has an amazing pink beach
Did we mention that there’s a pink beach on Komodo Island? Yep, the millennial hue of the coastline here is the stuff of Instagrammer fantasies. Contrasting with the island’s luscious greenery and sparkling turquoise waters, the spot – conveniently called, simply, Pink Beach – is a rare beauty. It’s actually been hailed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, which is a tall order considering this is the home of Nusa Penida and the Gilis!
The beach gets its color from microscopic red organisms called foraminifera. They live in the surrounding coral reefs and get washed up on the shore thanks to the unceasing currents that breeze through the Indian Ocean. There are actually a number of pink beaches in Indonesia, including on nearby islands Padar and Lombok, but, on the whole, pink sands are extremely uncommon around the planet.
It’s no secret that the sunsets in Indonesia are pretty spectacular. From the Bukit cliffs of south Bali to the white-sand bays of the Mentawais, there are some fantastic locations to watch the evening light change from pink to red to purple in this archipelago nation. Komodo has to be up there with the best of the best…
You’ve got a few options. We love the evening spectacle on Kalong Island, where thousands of rare flying bats emerge from the verdant mangroves and whiz through the skies. You can watch them from a yacht moored just offshore. The hilltop on Padar Island is another jewel worth seeking out, as the backcountry hills there get colored shades of muted brown as the sun dips. There’s also a wonderful sunset to be seen over on Labuan Bajo on the mainland, as the fishing boats and Komodo ferries retreat back to dock for the night.
Explore all the other islands that the Komodo National Park has to offer
Komodo Island is just one of the islands within the Komodo National Park. There are a few others that are sure to capture the imagination just as well. Our favorites are Rinca and Padar…
Rinca Island is another great spot for seeing dragons and many other forms of wildlife. Hiking around here can feel like an adventure through Jurassic Park. It’s not uncommon to see Komodo dragons lazing in the sun and even hunting their prey at watering holes. As well as the dragons, the island is home to populations of wild pigs, water buffalos, and even saltwater crocodiles, who hang out in lush mangrove forests. Rinca also has a number of beaches to relax on, as well as some great snorkeling spots. But don’t relax too much…Komodo dragons do sometimes venture onto the beaches, so visitors should have their wits about them and have a guide around at all times.
Padar island is possibly the most beautiful of all of the islands within Komodo National Park. Its rocky, volcanic structure is complemented by green hills and crescent-shaped beaches featuring pink, white, and black sands. To take it all in, it’s worth hiking to the summit of the island. This relatively easy trek doesn’t disappoint. The top offers panoramic views worthy of any bucket list. You can head up at sunrise or sunset for unforgettable scenery. After completing the hike, there’s no better place to unwind than on one of the brightly colored beaches – a truly magical day trip awaits!
At night, the shores literally sparkle
Ever heard of bioluminescence? It’s the biological phenomenon that gives the firefly its glow and happens when a chemical reaction within an organism emits light. On certain evenings, the bioluminescence of marine plankton lights up the shores of Komodo Island. This truly is a spectacular sight: Imagine dark waters filled with millions of tiny glistening diamonds. The island’s remote position, with very little light pollution in the surrounding region, makes this a great place to observe this amazing thing happening after dark.
Many tour operators now organize night-time outings for people wanting to catch a glimpse of the island’s sparkling shores. Head out on a cloudy evening, when the moon isn’t out and the stars aren’t so bright for the best chance to witness the bioluminescence. You can bring the camera, but capturing it happening is a notoriously difficult task. Good luck!
It’s still relatively off the beaten track
The final reason that Komodo Island is worth visiting is that it’s fairly off the beaten track. Indonesia has become a huge tourist destination in the last 10-20 years or so, with the iconic island of Bali attracting over six million tourists in both 2018 and 2019. While still a wonderful island to visit, the huge amount of tourism on the fabled Isle of the Gods has meant that it can be difficult to escape the crowds and experience true seclusion. That’s where Komodo comes in…
Komodo Island is much quieter than Indonesia’s more famous islands. You won’t find noisy music or drunken revelers on its beaches, only the soft sounds of the ocean lapping against pink sands. With no accommodation for tourists and very few native residents, the natural landscape of Komodo Island is truly unspoiled. When standing on a hilltop, staring out at the blue horizon, it’s easy to feel like you’re at the very end of the earth.
Is Komodo island safe to visit?
It may be populated with deadly Komodo Dragons, but Komodo Island is safe to visit. In order to stay out of danger, visitors simply need to have a bit of common sense. Basic rules to stay safe include following the guidance of the island’s guides, and of course, resisting the urge to get too close to the animals (even if that means forfeiting a great photo!). While the national park has no age limitations, families may want to think twice about bringing small children who may lack awareness of the potential dangers.
While Komodo dragons have shark-like teeth and a venomous bite, they rarely attack humans. The dragons in Komodo National Park have been largely habituated to humans, meaning that they don’t tend to behave aggressively unless provoked. Nonetheless, there were 24 attacks on humans in the Komodo National Park between 1974 and 2012, with five of them fatal. Komodo Island is therefore not without its dangers, but so long as you behave sensibly, you’ll be safe.
How many days do you need on Komodo Island?
You’ll need around 3 to 4 days to properly explore Komodo Island. If all you want to see is the dragons, it is possible to opt for a two-day trip, but this won’t give you enough time to truly get the most out of your visit. The time it will take you to travel to the island alone merits a longer stay. From hiking the natural landscapes to scuba-diving and snorkeling, there’s plenty of additional activities to enrich your trip to Komodo Island. It’s also worth remembering that the Komodo National Park comprises dozens of islands, each with different features and points of interest. Once you’ve had your fill of the dragons in the wild, you’ll probably want to check out the pink sandy beach on nearby Padar Island at least, right?
Where is Komodo Island?
Komodo Island is one of 17,508 Indonesian islands, located between Lombok, to the West, and Flores, to the East. It is one of the Lesser Sundar Islands, an archipelago in Maritime Southeast Asia, north of Australia. The nearest airport to Komodo Island is in Labuan Bajo, on the island of Flores. This city also has a range of hotels and hostels to stay at while visiting Komodo Island. It’s the most popular jump-off point.
How do you get to Komodo Island?
Trips to Komodo Island depart from Bali. From there, it’s a two-part journey. First, you head to Labuan Bajo on Flores, an island to the east of Komodo. Then, you take a boat to Komodo Island. There are two options for the first stage of your journey, from Bali to Labuan Bajo. You can either go by plane or ferry. The ferry may seem like the easier option but be warned: It takes 36 hours! With potentially choppy waters, this option is for the most hardened of backpackers. On the plus side, you’ll get to save on accommodation for one night. For those who’d rather not, Indonesian Air Transport and Trans Nusa Airlines offer daily flights from Bali to Labuan Bajo. The planes are much smaller than your typical international air carrier. The flight lasts around 2.5 hours in all.
Once you’ve arrived in Labuan Bajo, you’ll need to get a boat to Komodo Island. The boat there is around two hours in all, with a number of chartered boats leaving for the national park each hour. If you’re staying in a nearby resort, it’s likely that your hotel will sort its own private transportation into the Komodo National Park.