If you love nature, unspoiled islands and hiking to the most spectacular views you’ve ever seen, you are going to love Komodo National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site, located just a couple of hours away from Bali, will leave you feeling like you’ve stepped into a world, reminiscent of Jurassic Park.
The main reason people visit Komodo is to see the Komodo Dragon, the largest and most dangerous lizard on earth, that’s been roaming free over millions of years across these tropical islands of Indonesia. They look, sound and walk prehistoric and don’t even get me started on the ferocious mating behaviour.
Where is Komodo National Park?
The Komodo National Park is located east of Bali, within the Lesser Sunda Islands, close to East Nusa Tenggara. Komodo, Rinca and Padar, are the 3 largest volcanic islands and the main ones you’ll want to visit.
The scorching hot climate has shaped the islands into a breath-taking, rugged landscape with russet red hues and thorny grassland, surrounded by white and pink sandy beaches. It’s worlds away from what you see in Bali or anywhere else in Indonesia.
Where are Komodo Dragons Found?
As the name suggests, Komodo National Park is the only place in the world where these endangered prehistoric-looking creatures exist. The best islands to see the Komodo Dragons are Rinca and Komodo Island, where over 2500 of these gigantic lizards roam free across the rugged terrain. (Komodo approx. 1500 & Rinca approx. 1000)
Although Komodo Island is more favourable amongst tourists because of the larger population of dragons, it is also the largest island in the park which means it’s often overcrowded and harder to spot the lizards because they have a much larger area to wander.
Rinca Island vs Komodo Island
For me the best place to see Komodo Dragons is Rinca Island, it’s smaller but still home to over 1000 gigantic lizards and when we visited we were the only ones there! The island is stunning and looks prehistoric with its jagged landscape that rises up out of the ocean, undisturbed by tourists, overgrown and far better for observing the wild Komodo Dragons in their natural habitat.
As our speed boat glided towards Rinca Island we couldn't help humming the theme tune to Jurassic Park as we half expected a T-Rex to come crashing through the trees.
Thankfully no T-Rex but the minute we stepped through the gate adorned with giant Komodo Dragons, a huge real-life 10ft Komodo Dragon shot out of the forest and slowly dragged its gigantic body down the hillside. It’s not until you see one in person, do you realise how big they really are!
You will be met by a ranger, who will escort you on a hike across the island, so make sure you are wearing a good sturdy pair of shoes, I did it in flip flops but the loose ground underfoot made the trek incredibly difficult!
Once you reach the top of Rinca Island, the views across the ocean of the national parks jagged islands are spectacular. I would highly recommend grabbing a pair of binoculars to take with you. I use a pair of Swarovski Optik CL binoculars that you can also hook up to a smartphone for incredible photos without the hefty weight of a professional camera.
Coming Face to Face With a Komodo Dragon
During our trek across Rinca island, we were lucky enough to encounter several enormous mating Komodo Dragons. It was an incredible moment to witness yet absolutely terrifying, as the Komodo’s hissed and flicked their tongues whilst lashing out at each other with razor-sharp claws.
As we were about to leave, another Komodo Dragon stepped right out in front of us which would’ve been the perfect video moment, if our guide didn’t accidentally turn off our camera as he raced ahead to place it in front of the Komodo. Priceless!
If there’s one thing that Komodo is famous for that’s not ferocious lizards or the most incredible diving on earth then it’s the breath-taking views from Padar Island, that sits between Rinca and Komodo Island.
It’s a 30mins steep hike to the viewpoint but it’s absolutely worth it! As you look out across the volcanic mountains, you’ll be able to see the beautiful contrast of the rugged dry landscape as it’s transforms into a lush green forest before meeting the turquoise waters edge. From up here, you’ll also be able to see views of Indonesia famous pink beach.
Where Komodo Dragons Stalk the Beach
If you’ve ever watched a Komodo nature documentary and wondered where they filmed the Dragons stalking up and down the water’s edge, it’s at Horseshoe Bay, a small deserted area on the edge of Rinca Island just across from Nusa Kode, only accessible by boat.
This is one desert island you definitely don’t want to be stranded on. As our boat approached the deserted bay there was an eerie silence, that was suddenly broken as several large Komodo Dragons rushed out from the undergrowth and down to the water’s edge.
We’d heard that if you are lucky, they sometimes swim out towards the boats, however, the guys we saw were not interested in getting their claws wet.
Are Komodo Dragons Venomous?
Komodo Dragons do have a venomous bite which leaves many people worrying if it’s safe enough to visit the national park.
Once a dragon bites down on its prey with teeth like a steak knife, the venom prevents the blood from clotting, leaving its prey to bleed to death. If the animal escapes, the Komodo will continue to stalk it until it dies from its venom infected wounds.
So back to the question of if it’s safe to visit Komodo… These animals are wild and there are no barriers and I have to admit the simple stick used by the rangers as a defence weapon does make you wonder, however, if you respect the rules and keep your distance, then yes Komodo is safe to visit.
The Famous Komodo Pink Beach
Komodo National Park is where you can also find the famous pink beach, which gets its name from thousands of tiny pieces of broken red coral, shells and microscopic marine creatures that wash up onto the shore colouring the sand a beautiful pastel pink.
Although, how vivid the pink sand will be when you visit all depends on luck as it’s a natural reaction in the sand that can be stronger on some days more than others. When we visited it was sadly barely noticeable.
Where is the Pink Beach?
You will find the pink sandy beach hidden in a bay located on Padar Island within the park. It’s situated just on the other side of the island’s famous viewpoint so it’s easy to combine a visit to both if you don’t mind a hike.
Scuba Diving in Komodo
If you’re interested in scuba diving then you cannot visit the Komodo Islands without diving as they contain some of the richest and most diverse marine life on earth, one of the reasons why it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site and New 7 Wonders of Nature. Find out about our Komodo liveaboard trip here.
Best Time to Visit The Komodo Islands
Komodo dragons can be seen all year round but if you’d rather not get wet then the best time to visit is in the dry season between April to November.
If you want to witness them mating, which only happens once a year, visit between July-August when you’ll see the true strength of these creatures as the males aggressively battle for the females.
We visited in July via a liveaboard and it was a perfect time, we got to witness over 4 mating Komodo Dragons and the diving was spectacular with perfect conditions.
How Far is Komodo From Bali & How to get there?
You can easily reach the Komodo National Park by flying to Komodo Airport in Labuan Bajo on Flores island, which is a 90mins flight from Bali or 2hr 30mins from Jakarta. Maumere Airport in Flores is also an alternative option.
To reach Komodo National Park, you can book a day trip from Labuan Bajo that will take you to all of the top sights or if you are a scuba diver, I would highly recommend joining a liveaboard. The waters around the Komodo Islands contain some of the best diving and richest marine biodiversity on the planet!
When we landed in Bali, we had a long 8hr wait until our connecting flight, so we booked a short private tour around the temples of Bali, which I would highly recommend to anyone in the same situation. I've recommended my favourite tour guide here