Komodo National Park was established in 1980 as a sanctuary for the Komodo dragon (the largest lizard on earth) and later added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The three major islands are Komodo, Rinca, and Padar. There are also about 26 small islands surrounding the area. As you might expect, diving Komodo National Park is spectacular! For our trip, we decided on a Komodo liveaboard.
How to get to Komodo Island
To get to Komodo National Park, you must first make your way to Labuan Bajo Airport on the Island of Flores, the gateway to the Park. It is a tiny airport that serves as a flight layover from Bali to smaller destinations further east. Upon landing, we hopped into a taxi to make our way into the town of Labuan Bajo to spend the night there. The taxi was roughly Rp. 50,000. That’s a local price for Indonesians like myself, so you may have to pay more.
Labuan Bajo is a tiny town that has recently started to thrive from the tourism business, so it’s worth your time to take a Labuan Bajo tour. You’ll find lots of wonderful street food here. The major road there is home to more than 22 dive shops, all competing for business from divers who come to this otherwise sleepy fisherman’s village to see Komodo.
For our liveaboard, we decided to book with Dive Komodo, one of the larger establishments in town. They have several liveaboard options available. Since we were new-ish divers at the time, and didn’t know much about liveaboards, we chose the three-day option.
The Tatawa Liveaboard
Our boat, the Tatawa, was small, yet totally appropriate for what we were doing and where we were going. It certainly wasn’t as fancy as some of the subsequent (and far more expensive) trips we’ve been on since, like the Raja Ampat Aggressor or Rocio Del Mar, but it suited us nicely. There was no air conditioning, so at times it was miserably hot. Michael was also suffering from a sinus issue. It wasn’t serious enough to keep him from diving, but the lack of A/C didn’t help him much! Thankfully, we dove 3-4 times a day. Since your nose isn’t much use to you underwater, Michael was thankful for the few hours of reprieve he got every day! During the downtime, we always managed to snag spots on the deck with cooling electric fans blowing above our heads.
The Komodo islands are located in the Nusa Tenggara (Lesser Sunda) region of Indonesia, and they are hot with high humidity. There are rows and rows of islands, so this region offers some of the most beautiful natural colors on earth, with turquoise blue ocean water and green lush islands. Sunsets here are amazingly beautiful.
Diving Komodo National Park
The marine diversity in this area is stunning. That is largely due to the strong currents that run north and south between the islands. People who prefer to dive in calm water might wish to reconsider diving Komodo National Park, as Komodo diving requires much more patience and a bit more skill than you might have as a beginner diver. That said, the staff at Dive Komodo was very attentive during the check out dives and went to great lengths to ensure that not only did we see everything we wanted to see, but that the dives we did matched the skill-sets of each diver.
When you’re diving Komodo National Park, you’ll see tons of big animals in the water, including the always majestic manta rays. One of our favorite dives here, at the Batu Bolong Dive Site, saw mantas lining up gracefully in the strong current to get cleaned by the moving water and small cleaner wrasses. A total spa day for mantas! But hold on – the currents here are very strong, and you will need a hook or something else to hold onto. In our case, our dive guide!
Sea turtles were also quite plentiful and we even saw some sharks – they were mostly bamboo sharks.
Only a few hundred people live in the National Park. Most have been living on these islands before it became a National Park in 1980. They depend on fishing and tourism. Although the ocean surrounding these islands are protected from over-fishing, illegal fishing does tend to occur here. We didn’t see this, however, and we are told it is a very rare occurrence nowadays.
During our time diving Komodo National Park, we were visited by artisans from a wood carving business. In the evening, local boats visit tourist boats and ships, attempting to sell their wares. Normally, we don’t buy things like this, but the work was so good that we purchased a pair of wooden Komodo Dragon sculptures. We named them Fred and George, after the two rambunctious children who were also traveling on the boat with their family.
Our liveaboard didn’t offer an actual Komodo Island tour, but as a break from the diving, we visited Rinca Island. It’s one of the most popular Komodo tours. There, we hiked to the highest point of the island to view the namesake Komodo Dragons. We spotted a few surrounding the ranger’s elevated cabin. Unfortunately, the majority of dragons you’ll see are there begging for food – not too impressive if you had a more stoic image of these dragons hunting big animals. It would be funny if it weren’t a bit sad. Still you’ll get lots of Komodo Dragon pictures, and they are really cool animals to see. You just have to be careful.
But don’t worry, you’re guide carries a very powerful… stick.
Everything surrounding these islands make up an amazingly beautiful underwater sanctuary. Diving Komodo National Park is a must-do for divers. From macro life to big animals like manta rays, there is something for everyone! We were obviously very fortunate to be diving in this marine paradise!
Food on the Tatawa
Aside from the amazing Komodo Island diving and new friends, the food was outstanding. No pretense was made about serving five-star food here on fancy plates with fine flatware. The food was just delicious and served buffet style! Absolutely zero complaints. Even Michael, who is a vegetarian, could find nothing wrong with the food. The chef on the boat was superb and there were always good quality vegetarian options available – not surprising, since tempeh was invented in Indonesia! With Dive Komodo, “Vegetarians are always well-catered to!”
If you decide that diving Komodo National Park is for you, we do recommend Dive Komodo. It’s not fancy, but it’s a great option for Komodo tours and diving. I recommend simply renting the gear they have there, which is good quality and inexpensive. Carrying a lot of diving equipment can get expensive. Of course, if this is the only stop you have in Indonesia, perhaps that doesn’t matter and it’s worth it for you to bring your own.
In either case, go there. It’s absolutely wonderful! And if Indonesia turns out to be your thing, check out our Raja Ampat Aggressor liveaboard review as well!
For More on Indonesia: When we travel, we use Lonely Planet. By buying a book at one of the Amazon.com links below, we get a small referral fee at no additional cost to you.