I received a discount on my 3 Day Komodo Dragon tour with Flores XP Tours in exchange for my review. All opinions from this Komodo Island Tour are my own.
Of all my favorite things in this world, lizards are at the top of the list, right next to long-term travel, team trivia nights, and guacamole. After knowing me for about five minutes, anyone could tell you that I have a profound love for these scaly creatures. So you can imagine how excited I was when I learned that I could take a three day Komodo boat tour and see some of these fascinating creatures up close!
In order to take my dream Komodo Island boat tour, I caught a flight from Bali to the Island of Flores. Flores is home to Komodo National Park and it’s only an hour flight if you’re traveling from Bali.
I had no idea what to expect from my Komodo Island boat tour. I knew the landscape was rugged and desertlike. I hoped I’d see lizards. And that was about it.
Choosing the Best Komodo Island Tour
I heard about the Flores XP Three Day Dragon Tour from a fellow travel blogger. She had a great experience with this Komodo boat tour and after doing some research on the company, I knew these were the people I wanted to travel with.
Tours with Flores XP are detailed and well-organized. Tons of tour companies around Labuan Bajo have Komodo day trips and liveaboard options, but Flores XP offers beachside camping.
I thought three days of sunsets on a private beach sounded dreamy. I also loved how their itinerary included two days of Komodo Dragon hikes and plenty of snorkeling.
Day 1 of the Flores XP Komodo Dragon Tour: Komodo Island Snorkeling and Beaches
At 7:30 am, Flores XP picked me up at my Labuan Bajo hostel and I met my boat-mates. There were five of us from all over the world – a couple from London, solo travelers from the Netherlands and California, and myself.
Down at the pier, we boarded the simple but sturdy boat that would be our home for the next three days. Paul, a tour guide and divemaster, gave us our first daily briefing while we ate breakfast. Before most of the world was awake, we were sailing out of the harbor and toward Komodo National Park, Indonesia.
Komodo National Park covers several islands within a few-hour boat ride of Labuan Bajo, including Rinca, Komodo, and Padar. The park was established in 1980 to protect the area’s most famous resident: the Komodo dragon.
But dragons will have to wait until tomorrow.
Komodo Snorkeling and Beach Day at Kanawa
Just as we started to find our sea legs, we arrived at our first stop: the little island of Kanawa. While adjusting to our flippers and snorkels, fish surrounded us in the clear blue water.
I wanted to dive right in, but I learned something about myself on Kanawa that would stay with me throughout the entire trip.
I learned that I’m terrible at jumping into the water in snorkel gear.
I know, I know – it’s not that hard. You’re supposed to be an adult about it and just jump in. But I was so afraid of breathing in saltwater through my snorkel tube, choking, and being swept away with the sea that I couldn’t bring myself to do a normal jump into the water.
So instead I sat on the back of the boat, slowly edging my way toward the water, until I managed to hurl myself in like a kid bellyflopping off a high dive. I came up sputtering and spewing. Water filled my snorkel tube anyway, but that didn’t change anything. I never learned.
I had snorkeled before, but it was nothing like this. Small striped fish darted around brain-shaped masses of coral in bright reds and yellows. Fanny, our snorkeling guide, swam in slow circles, pointing out anthias and sweetlips. Nestled between rocks, I saw little fish dancing in the tentacles of a dangerous-looking sea anemone.
There were a few other boats docked at Kanawa and about a dozen other tourists relaxing on the beach. We didn’t know it at the time, but this spot and its sparse inhabitants would be the most crowded beach we would see on our three-day tour.
Lunch each day was its own delicious affair. The crew prepared platters of rice, vegetables, meat and tempeh with fruit for dessert. Two days we even had French fries. I timed it once. Sunburned snorkelers can demolish an entire banquet platter of french fries in just under three minutes. Every meal, we ate like kings.
Komodo National Park Diving and Snorkeling at Mini Wall
After lunch, we cruised to Mini Wall, a well-known Komodo diving and snorkeling site. Only one person in our group was scuba dive certified and we watched as he and Paul pulled on wetsuits, strapped on oxygen tanks, and disappeared into the deep.
While everyone else dove gracefully into the sea, I scooted to the edge of the boat and dropped into the water like a bowling ball.
There was so much to see at Mini Wall just below the surface. The corals were further apart and seemed to stretch for miles. Somehow, we spotted a well-camouflaged stingray among the coral. When the divers finally surfaced, they were exhausted from swimming fast to keep up with a sea turtle.
Flores XP’s Pirate Beach Camp
In the evening, we began the journey to our campsite, a private pirate-themed beach on the island of Sebayur. The pirate beach camp, a facility shared with Flores XP Dive Camps and other Flores XP tour groups, had a casual restaurant and bar with WiFi and cold drinks.
We each stayed in comfortable open-air bungalows with real beds and ocean views. After much-needed fresh-water showers, we relaxed on the beach until the dinner bell rang.
Each night after dinner, Paul and Fanny briefed us on the plans for the next day. Exhausted from a day at sea and the excitement of a new adventure, we collapsed in our comfy beds by the ripe old hour of eight o’clock.
Day 2 of the Flores XP Komodo Island Boat Tour: Hiking With Komodo Dragons
The journey from Sebayur to Komodo Island took two hours, which I certainly didn’t mind. I loved riding around on our boat. It was noisy, a bit choppy, and the wind whipped my hair into amazing styles, but gliding across the sea felt so freeing.
There was no one around, just our little group on our little boat, watching the sun greet us from the top deck.
Happiness is easy to find there: a cup of instant coffee under a clear morning sky, the mountains, the waves, the wind in your face, a wooden boat all alone at sea – an adventure.
Trekking with Giants at Komodo Dragon National Park
At Komodo Island, we paid our park fee and met the guide who, armed only with a long wooden staff, would lead us into the woods to find deadly 150 pound lizards.
He’s the one who would presumably protect us in the event of an animal altercation, but thankfully those are quite rare. We were more concerned about whether or not we would even see a dragon.
“There are no guarantees,” the guide stressed, as the rising temperature and scorching sun lowered the chances of seeing lizards.
But maybe five minutes into the walk along the well-kept trail, we saw our first beauty. Waddling through the forest (not unlike me in flippers), she made her way to the watering hole just a few feet away from us. She was fascinating to watch- a relic from an older time, walking through this new world with confidence – a true apex predator.
As we watched her, our guide talked about the dragons and the island they call home. Komodo is volcanic and still active. One thousand people live here in a small fishing village that has been inhabited for generations. But even with over 5,000 giant lizards roaming freely, incidents between humans and dragons are very rare.
“Small Komodo dragons,” the guide explained as our lizard friend lapped up water, “are much faster than the big ones. They can run 12 miles per hour but are only aggressive if you get in their territory.” We took a cautious step back, just in case.
When I asked, “Is it true the mother dragons eat their own babies?” the guide seemed surprised. “Of course,” he responded like he was stating the obvious.
“They walk around like they own the place,” my friend said while a second, larger dragon sauntered over to the watering hole. Occasionally, the two dragons would stop and lift their noses to the air. They noticed our group, looked us over, and decided we weren’t worth further investigation. They definitely own the place.
On our walk out of the woods and back toward the park entrance, we saw two dragons relaxing in the shade near the ranger station. They seemed fond of the crawl spaces under buildings and napped underneath them like dogs. I don’t blame them. The temperature was steadily creeping past eighty degrees Fahrenheit and the sun was relentless.
By the way, the dragons in the pictures below are considered “medium size.”
These lizards near the tourist areas aren’t strategically placed here for photo-ops or anything. It turns out, tourists and lizards both like the enticing scent of food and reliable shade. The result? The dragons hang out under the cafe, just feet away from tourists.
I love lizards so this wasn’t a concern for me, but I imagine people without a reptile obsession might be worried about safety on Komodo Island. I get it. Even with a tour guide and his super protective stick, you’re still walking through an island literally crawling with strong, venomous reptiles.
I see how this could be a little too adventurous for some, but the whole time I was on Komodo I felt safe. The dragons are clearly used to seeing people from time to time, and while they aren’t handled or fed by the park staff, they have learned to tolerate and happily ignore us.
Exploring the Komodo Island Pink Beach
I remember seeing the Komodo Island Pink Beach in pictures and wondering how pink it would really be. I’ve been to “black sand” beaches that were underwhelmingly gray and “white sand” beaches that were closer to beige, but Pink Beach surprised me.
Although faint, there was a clear pink tint to the sand at the waterline, caused by eroded red coral pieces mixing with the sand.
When standing in the water close to the shore, you can see stripes of dark blue, turquoise, and light blue water, followed by lines of pink and white sand. The pink beach practically begs to be in your Instagram feed and we couldn’t refuse.
We spent the afternoon lying in the pink sand and snapping a million glamorous pictures before enjoying lunch on the boat and traveling to Turtle Bay and the Coral Garden.
Snorkeling with Sea Turtles in Turtle Bay and the Coral Garden
Someone on our trip must have cashed in some good karma with the universe because moments after I face-planted into the water at Turtle Bay, I heard someone shout, “Sea turtle!”
He was gliding peacefully near the bottom, probably munching on some turtle food and riding the current. We followed him for a while but eventually lost him because he was camouflaged so well against the coral.
“There’s so much down there and were so oblivious to it.” My friend said as we dried off in the late afternoon sun. “I wonder if they’re just as oblivious to us.”
Day 3 of the Flores XP Dragon Tour: Dragons, Mantas, and Flying Foxes
Now used to the routine, on day three we were up early for breakfast at pirate beach camp. Since this was our last full day before returning to Labuan Bajo, we packed our bags and said goodbye to our adorable beach huts.
Snorkeling at Batu Bolong
I might have totally missed Batu Bolong if Paul and Fanny hadn’t pointed it out. From the boat, it just looks like a pile of rocks in the sea. I wouldn’t have even thought to take a picture of it. But as I plopped myself into the water with the grace of a hippopotamus–mask askew and snorkel filled with saltwater–I couldn’t believe what I saw beneath the surface.
There’s a reason Batu Bolong is known as one of the world’s top snorkeling spots. I was swimming inside an aquarium exhibit. The coral was so vibrant and close to the surface, making it easy to see. Along the sides of that unremarkable mass of rock, a sprawling reef teemed with life.
Fish were everywhere – colorful, happy, and willing to pose for pictures. The whole time I was in the water, schools of striped beauties surrounded me and swam right up to my mask to say hello. When I swam closer to the coral, I saw frogfish, triggerfish, and even a pufferfish.
I could have stayed there all day, but I’m glad I didn’t miss what came next.
Swimming with Mantas at Manta Point
We were starting to think we wouldn’t see one today. We sat perched at the edge of our boat for what felt like hours, eyes squinting in the sun, scanning below the surface for any large, dark shapes. Though frequent in this area, they are still rare creatures.
I caused a false alarm, jumping up and down and shouting, “I see one! I see one!” Everyone threw on their snorkels in a frenzy and prepared to leap from the bow when Paul kindly told me that I’d actually just seen the shadow of the boat.
Fanny saw her first, for real this time. My friends slid into the water like ballerinas, even keeping their hair nice despite the snorkel masks. I managed ungracefully fling myself in, arms flailing, in a wave of utter chaos.
Sure enough, just below our flippers, we saw her. Close in width to a queen-size mattress, she was gently gliding along the current without a care in the world.
A single, elegant manta.
We followed her as long as we could, watching her fins softly flap like a bird in slow motion. She seemed oblivious to our presence. She was gorgeous–a creature from another world.
Eventually, she outswam us, and we surfaced for the first time. Thirty minutes had passed, but we didn’t notice. None of us needed to say anything. We had just shared one of the most amazing encounters a person can have with nature.
In preparation for the trip, my excitement for seeing Komodo dragons eclipsed everything else. I didn’t realize we would be in an area with mantas, so seeing her was a totally unexpected and spectacular surprise.
Back on the boat, we were completely content with our manta swim-along. I even made a coffee and settled in with my book for a while, assuming we had all the excitement we could handle for the day. But once again, I had no idea what was coming.
The Mawan Manta Cleaning Station
We left Manta Point and headed over to Mawan – home to a reef well-known as a manta cleaning station. Mantas come here to swim around while little reef fish eat the grime and parasites off of them.
With my flippers tangled together, I tripped into the water. When the bubbles cleared, I saw two mantas getting a fish bath just a few feet away. These mantas certainly weren’t oblivious to us. They were almost playing with us, swimming in slow circles while the reef fish frantically cleaned.
I dove down deep right as the larger of the two mantas turned to face me. We looked at each other for a minute, me staring at its strange “u” shaped mouth and it, no doubt, wondering what kind of odd goggle-eyed creature I was.
Rinca Island Tour to find more Komodo dragons
Our Rinca Island tour was more rigorous than the trek on Komodo Island due to our midday arrival. Shade was scarce and temperatures were higher – not an ideal situation for dragons or people.
We knew the dragons would be hiding from the heat, but I couldn’t believe what I saw when we walked up to the ranger station. In the shady crawl-space under the rangers’ houses, almost a dozen dragons slept in a heap.
Komodo dragons sleeping under houses. Now I’ve seen it all.
It was comforting knowing that my tour was led by someone who lived with a dog-pile of deadly reptiles in his basement. Nature is unpredictable, but if anyone can keep us safe, it’s him.
We saw a few dragons on our hike, but most of them were hiding from the sun. On our walk back toward the entrance, we spotted a substantial chunk of spinal bone from what was once a buffalo, now a lizard’s lunch. On our way back to the boat, we passed the dragon pile again. They were still enjoying the man-made shade but always kept a lazy eye on us.
Sunset at Kalong Island to watch the flying foxes
As the sun began to set, we sailed to Kalong Island to see the flying foxes. Every night at sunset, these giant bats migrate from their mangrove to the island of Flores.
As if on cue, as the sky turned pink, they flew out of the mangrove by the thousands. They filled the sky like silent confetti and even when the sky seemed completely full, more came.
When the last flying fox made its exit, we cruised back to Labuan Bajo and said our goodbyes. We arrived at our hotels exhausted, a bit sunburned, and overwhelmingly happy.
Why Flores XP Tours is the Best Komodo Island Tour
I’ve done plenty of tours in my travels, but the Komodo Island tour package with Flores XP was by far the best.
They offer a good balance of adventure and relaxation.
The itinerary was filled with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but the guides still allotted time for rest and relaxation. I’ve done organized tours where it feels like you are just racing from one thing to the next. Flores XP wasn’t like that. We had plenty of time to unwind and relax throughout the day.
When they say three days, they mean three days.
Many other tours advertise themselves as “three days,” but if you read the fine print, they start at noon on day one and end at noon on day three. Check my math, but that sounds like two days. Flores XP’s tour was a true three days, starting early in the morning on day one and ending after dark on day three.
Camping on pirate beach camp was wonderful.
The accommodation on our private beach was rustic but extremely comfortable. I loved our open-air huts and it was amazing to sleep in a real bed. Pirate Beach camp had:
- A private beach with hammocks, beach loungers, and a beautiful sunset
- A restaurant with a bar and WiFi
- Western flush toilets and a clean bathroom
- Fresh-water showers
- Power outlets
- Solar Power
We had an excellent, well-organized staff.
Our staff was confident, capable, and a ton of fun. We were always given a briefing of what each day would include and had a boat map so we always knew where we were.
This tour works hard to be Eco-Friendly.
Flores XP makes a considerable effort to be eco-friendly. It’s one thing to see these awesome animals and walk and swim alongside them. It’s even better to do it with a company that actually cares about protecting the habitats these creatures depend on.
We were issued reusable water bottles and never used plastic products for meals. The pirate base camp was fully solar-powered, and there were solar panels on top of the boat, as well.
High-Quality Komodo Tour Experience
Experiencing the Komodo Islands on the Flores XP three day dragon tour has been one of my favorite travel experiences so far. You don’t have to be a lizard lover like me to appreciate the impressive Komodo dragons and all the other amazing wildlife of this area.
It was just one incredible thing after the next- the reef, the sea turtles, the dragons, the mantas, the landscape—each thing felt bigger and more impressive than the last. I set out looking for Komodo dragons. I ended up finding a perfect combination of land and sea, old and new, relaxation and adventure.
I left convinced that Komodo is one of the most fascinating places on earth.
Komodo Island Tour Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re planning a trip to Komodo National Park, you probably have some questions. The following questions and answers will help you make the most of your Komodo Island trip.
How to get to Komodo Island from Bali
The best way to get to Komodo Island from Bali Indonesia is to fly. You can fly from Bali to a town called Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. Most Komodo Island Tours depart from the port in Labuan Bajo town.
Can I do day trips to Komodo Island, Indonesia?
Yep, if you wanted to, you could book a place to stay in the town of Labuan Bajo and take individual day trips to the islands in Komodo National Park. The downside of this is that you have to take the boat back and forth to Labuan Bajo every day which means you won’t have as much time in the islands.
By doing a boat tour, you can get an earlier start with less transportation time, which means more time visiting Komodo National Park.
Read about places to stay in Labuan Bajo here!
Can I go scuba diving on my Komodo Island Boat Tour?
Yep! In fact, the places to go diving in Komodo National Park are some of the best in the world! Some Komodo Island tour companies will require that you are already certified in order to dive with them but others will teach you for an additional fee.
With Flores XP’s Komodo Tour, you’ll have several opportunities to dive if you’re already certified.
What are the best places to see in Komodo National Park?
The best places to see Komodo Dragons are on the islands of Komodo and Rinca in Komodo National Park. These islands are accessible by boat, so taking a Komodo Island Boat Tour is a great way to go!
Want to take this Komodo Island tour?
The tour I’ve discussed in this blog post is the Three Day Komodo Dragon Tour with Flores XP. I’d highly recommend this tour to anyone who wants to explore Flores and the Komodo Islands.
Flores XP also offers:
- Padar Island Tours
- Adventure Tours
- Diving Camp based at Pirate Beach
- PADI Dive Courses
Of the places you’ve traveled, which was the most adventurous? Let me know in the comments!
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