Taking a local boat around the Komodo Islands for 3 days

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
10
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
5
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
9
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
7
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
7
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
9
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
87 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Asia
country
Indonesia
Length of time
3-4 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 300
Time of year visited
November
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
5th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 5% SUMMARY RATING: Unmissable

Summary

The Komodo Islands are best known for the Komodo Dragons, and rightly so because seeing these awesome creatures in their natural habitat while walking across the islands is a wonderful experience.  But, it’s actually the islands themselves that are the real star – jagged savannah-covered mountains meet bright white sand beaches across 30 islands surrounded by gorgeous turquoise waters filled with manta rays . . . indeed, truly awful

 

Best way to explore them is by boat for 3-4 days, either in luxury-style with an expensive live-aboard (around USD500 per person per day), or through chartering a local boat with a few other tourists from Labuan Bajo (the main hub you will fly into) for a fraction of the price.  The boat will be very basic and move at a snail pace, but it’s all part of the adventure and the surroundings more than make up for it, plus the crew will bend over backwards to make sure you have a great time.  Aim to give yourself a week in the Komodo Islands – for flexibility to be able to get great deals, and for some world-class scuba diving and snorkelling day trips from Labuan Bajo

 

Note that the recent changes in 2020, whereby entrance prices for visiting the islands will greatly increase, will obviously make this trip more expensive.  But I still recommend the above approach as it’s sailing round the islands that is the highlight experience – bite the bullet for the entrance “membership” and enjoy a truly world-class experience . . . hopefully with even fewer fellow tourists . . .

highlights

#1 Simply being on the small boat watching the beautiful scenery drift by

#2 Seeing the world-famous Komodo dragons up close in the villages and surrounding forests of Komodo Island

#3 The stunning white sand beaches that seem to be everywhere in this island chain

#4 Trekking across Komodo Island itself - a beautiful Savannah style setting

#5 Stopping off in any of the 30+ islands in the Komodo Island chain and being met with paradise-style beaches and reefs

#6 The crystal clear waters for swimming, snorkelling and diving

#7 Swimming with Manta Rays off the side of the boat - annoyingly didn't have the camera! But nonetheless a fantastic and surprisingly typical experience

Travel Tips

  • You’ve got broadly three options:
  1. Take a day trip from Lubuan Bajo (the main hub you will fly into) which is convenient, but it’ll be mass tourism and you’ll miss out on the adventure of choosing where you go
  2. Live-aboard which which will be magical, but also expensive – likely around USD500 per person per night
  3. Chartering, with some other tourists, one of the local boats – which is what I am recommending .  Rock up to Lubuan Bajo (flights from Bali usually arrive very early in the morning) and head straight to the Tourist Office.  Ask them which boats are soon to be leaving – there may be some heavily reduced live-aboards, but more likely there will be local boats leaving that morning, or the day after, that you can join with
  • For option 3 (recommended), the boat will be very basic – likely up to 8 people on board, cold pump showers, mattresses on the floor, one bathroom.  It will also likely move very slowly.  But, again, this is all part of the adventure – grab a book, sit on the roof and watch some of the most beautiful scenery in South East Asia drift by
  • Make sure to let the captain know what you as a group are keen to see.  There are the obvious sites like Komodo Island, the pink beach, the islands with all the bats.  But, you can also visit some of the local villages, some uninhabited perfect desert islands and amazing snorkelling spots.  I’ll never forget when the captain told us to jump out for snorkelling in the middle of the ocean with no real explanation – confused, we did so, and there were 30+ manta rays feeding in the plankton in what was a magical experience
  • For Komodo Island itself – be sure to take the long walk option as the views from the top of some of the hills are great and you have the chance of seeing some of the dragons out in the wild (as opposed to in the village)
  • The scuba diving around Komodo is fantastic.  If a diver, be sure to dive Castle Rock, Crystal Rock and The Cauldron (a drift dive passing hundreds of Stingray)

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone