I'm bringing you to my home country, Indonesia. Home to 260 million Indonesians and also home to 5,700 Komodo Dragons. These dragons live in Komodo National Park. A destination full of unexpected experiences just a boat trip away from Flores.
Hello Flores and Komodo National Park
My colleagues, our 11 travel bloggers from 9 countries and me, left the Island of the Gods, Bali, to fly to Labuan Bajo, Flores, after wrapping up a two day Skyscanner influencer content workshop.
How we got to Komodo Island from Labuan Bajo, Flores
Komodo Island is part of the Komodo National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. It's one of the three biggest islands with Padar and Rinca and surrounded by 26 smaller islands that form the entire national park. The only way to get to Komodo Island is by boat. We hired a boat from Labuan Bajo, the closest city with an airport.
Flying to Labuan Bajo is quite easy. Airlines like Garuda Indonesia and Wings Air, fly up to three times a day from Bali to Labuan Bajo. The flight journey is about 55 minutes. My advice: fly during the day and sit by the window for a stunning view of the islands! Don't expect big fancy planes! We were on a decent propeller plane that did the job: take us there safely.
In terms of accommodation, booking a hotel for 14 people in Flores can be quite tricky. There's not a huge selection like in Bali. I ended up sharing a room with my dear colleague, Mathilde Klotz, during the entire trip and I wouldn't have done it any other way.
All Aboard for Komodo National Park!
First stop: Padar Island, A View Worth the Hike!
We started with Padar Island. What a breathtaking view from the top of the hill, but oh boy, what a hike. It was crazy hot when we got there and the sun just burned my naked arms in a matter of seconds. The path was pretty steep, dusty and dry. I was the worst hiker in the group. I needed the guide to hold my hand even when I was already given a stick (duo function: support and weapon). I'm not scared of heights but the idea of possibly slipping from the top all the way to the bottom just freaks me out.
When we got to Padar, the local guide told us that 'if we're lucky' we might bump into a Komodo Dragon here (hence the stick as my weapon). I don't know if I wanted to be lucky at the time. I was happy enough if I could focus on going up the hill and back down to the beach without a scar. So, I'd rather not see or be seen by dragons on Padar Island. My trip would have ended before it begun.
To be totally honest, it was a tough hike for me because I'm the most unfit person. I had to stop a few times to catch my breath. When we (I) took a break, we (I) took a photo! I did slow down the group, especially on the way back. Going down was scarier than going up for me! I was the last to get on the boat. But they were so supportive they clapped their hands when I made it back in one piece. Hooray! I managed to face my fear of hiking and descending a big hill.
Second stop: Komodo Island, The Land of the Dragons
This was the moment I have been waiting for since college: meet the Komodo Dragons. We got to Komodo Island just before noon. Feeling a bit hungry (after the work out on Padar), I wondered if the dragons were waiting for their lunch too and I definitely didn't want to be their amuse-bouche!
The local guide-slash-ranger gathered us together to explain a few things before we went on the tracks. He told us stories of what has happened in the past with 'naughty' tourists. We listened very attentively. There are a few rules we have to follow: stay with the group (for sure), don't swing your bag (can do), don't be too loud (mmm...), don't get too close to the dragons (fully noted), and climb up a tree if they chase you (what? I can't even hike now you tell me to climb? #faint). Well, there was a lot more but my brain froze at 'climb a tree'. My heart was beating fast, following the track that many have already walked through, trying to spot the dragons along the way, while listening to the guide talk in really good English. Proud!
Now, where are you hiding dragon?
As I suspected, it was well lunch time for the dragons too. We barely saw one along the track because they were all gathered near the kitchen area, closer to the beach side. And oh my God were they HUGE! They were really immense! They can be as long as 3 meters and weigh up to 100 kilograms or more (seems like on average these guys are slimmer than me, huh!). They're basically these massive giant lizards with a fierce look and acting all cool in their habitat. And no, they don't spew fire nor do they have wings. They don't fly! They do like to stick their tongue out at you, not in a cute way though!
Komodo dragons are the largest lizards on planet earth. They generally eat meat, humans included, and oh... the adult dragons can be cannibals! Apparently they also feed on baby dragons! Sob! Let's not get into too much details so we don't lose our appetites. Komodo Dragons are native to Komodo National Park. They mainly live on Komodo Island, Rinca Island and Padar Island. But you can also find them wondering around some parts of Flores and Gili Motang. This is their natural habitat. It's not a zoo!
Third stop: Pink Beach, Gorgeous Pink Sand and A Wonderful Spot to Snorkel
After spending nearly two hours on Komodo island 'playing' with the dragons, we headed off to Pink Beach. The name says it all. It was a beautiful pink sandy beach. The intensity of the colour depends on the light. We got on to the island and completely devoured our lunch boxes filled with local goodness not forgetting the mighty finger licking good sambal. I for sure was ultra hungry. After a quick meal and a nice laugh in an abandoned gazebo, a few of the bloggers went off for a dive at Manta Point while the rest stayed behind and snorkeled around the island. Someone managed to take a nap under the sun!
Going Home to Labuan Bajo after a Day Trip in Komodo National Park
We hopped back on the boat again later that afternoon with a quick stop on a random island, completely deserted. It had nice white sand and clear water so we decided to go for a last snorkel. When the sun started to set, we were on our way to Labuan Bajo. It was a gorgeous sunset that accompanied us home.
The day went by so fast. We settled in our rooms, got changed and treated ourselves to some nice Italian food. Yep! Italian in Labuan Bajo. We stayed at Le Pirate Labuan Bajo Hotel on Jalan Soekarno Hatta (jalan means street). It's just a short walk away to some nice restaurants and coffee shops.
Watch our video from Komodo and Flores, Indonesia
The Flores and Komodo blogger group were Kimi and Thomas from the Philippines, Jaclynn from Singapore, Ami from India, Lucie from France, Hitomi from Japan, Henry from Australia, David from Malaysia, Alyssa and Kiersten from USA, and Sutiknyo from Indonesia. For team Skyscanner were Michael Briggs, Mathilde Klotz and myself, Tika Larasati. Here's a short video from our entire seven day trip in Flores and Komodo National Park.
Our seven day itinerary for Flores and Komodo National Park
I organised the seven day itinerary with a lot of help from our Indonesian blogger, Sutiknyo who knows the region inside-out.
- Day 1: Flight from Denpasar, Bali to Labuan Bajo and check-in to Sylvia Hotel
- Day 2: Day trip on a private boat to Komodo National Park: Padar Island, Komodo Island, Pink Beach, Snorkeling/Diving, and check-in to Le Pirate Labuan Bajo Hotel
- Day 3: Cunca waterfall, Melo village, and sunset dinner by the beach
- Day 4: Flight from Labuan Bajo to Ende and check-in to Grand Wisata Hotel
- Day 5: Catch the sunrise in Kelimutu National Park, visit Koka Beach, drive to Maumere, and check-in at Coconut Garden Resort and Budi Sun Hotel
- Day 6: Visit Nilo Hill (Mother of All Nations statue) and Sikka village
- Day 7: Flight from Maumere to Denpasar, Bali
The bloggers took some absolutely stunning photos and videos from the trip. You can find their blog posts here including those about Bali and Yogyakarta. You can also watch some great videos about Indonesia here. If you want to know more about Flores, you can read Firsta's article on what to do in Flores.