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Komodo National Park: More Than Just Dragons!

Everyone has heard of the Komodo dragon – the largest lizard in the world and part time human eater who stalks the barren islands off Flores, Indonesia. There is far more to Komodo National Park than just dragons though, including a pink beach, some beautiful mountainous coastline and that calm feeling you get while sleeping on the deck of a boat under the stars. If you are heading to Bali or Lombok it’d be a huge mistake to miss out on this new wonder of the world.

Spotting wild Komodo dragons

There are 2 islands where you’ll see these interesting creatures: Rinca and Komodo.  You’d imagine that Komodo island would be the best place to see them, but in this case the advertising is false – you’ll most likely see far more on the less exotically named Rinca. I was on a 1 night tour of Komodo National Park, and being a solo traveller I bought a ticket on a boat and hoped I got put with people I got along with. After a couple of weeks travelling through Flores I was tired, so it was with some relief when I found out my shipmates were a family from Denmark. They were really friendly, but it gave me the chance to keep to myself a bit more than if I’d been on a boat with younger people.

Our first stop was Rinca, a barren and dusty island with a Wild West feel. We didn’t have to wait long until we saw our first dragon; in fact we got 2 for the price of 1. Similar to walking in on your parents having sex (assuming they’re old and extremely wrinkly), it was quite an odd welcome to the world of dragon spotting. They weren’t actually going at it, the male was just lying on top of her hoping she’d let him in and the female was waiting patiently for him to give up – a true stalemate!

Komodo dragons mating on Rinca Island in Komodo National Park, Flores, Indonesia

We saw around 5 dragons on Rinca, mostly around the park headquarters. We went for a short trek and learnt a lot about the dragons (keep reading for some interesting dragon facts!).  On Komodo we saw 2 dragons, but only after walking for over an hour (and we saw them right by the park headquarters again!). One of them was huge and looked pretty hungry; luckily we had a guide with a stick to discourage any advances.

Dragon Facts

  • Male dragons have 2 penises.
  • Baby Komodo dragons have to fend for themselves when they are born. They take to the trees to avoid getting eaten (and probably to mope around because their parents abandoned them) and eventually end up fighting/eating each other. It sounds like a horrible existence, but when they grow up they become the top predator in the area, so that kinda makes up for all the broken dreams of childhood.

That’s all I can remember – I should have listened more carefully!

Further reading: Check out National Geographic’s page about Komodo Dragons for more information.

The pink beach

Komodo National Park apparently has some of the best snorkelling and diving in Southeast Asia, and a perfect place to get a glimpse of the underwater world is at the pink beach. The snorkelling is great (I heard you can even see dolphins if you’re lucky) and the pink beach is one of those unique quirks of nature that you’ll remember forever. I have no idea why, but the sand really is pink,  only in the small area where the water meets the sand though. If you go to the pink beach make sure you climb the small hill for a stunning view over  the surrounding area – it’s one of the best views I’ve seen for a while!

FURTHER READING: 10 of the Best Beaches in Southeast Asia

The Pink Beach in Komodo National Park, Flores, IndonesiaA view from a hill of the Pink Beach in Komodo National Park, Flores, Indonesia

Sleeping on the boat

Boats come in all levels of luxury – the one I was on was somewhere near the bottom though. It didn’t really matter, because the food was great and sleeping on a gently rocking boat surrounded by exotic islands is a great experience.  Boats with cabins cost more and might be more comfortable, but I’d highly recommend going for the more unique experience.

A sunset from a boat in Komodo National Park, Flores, Indonesia

Kanawa Island

Just outside of Komodo National Park is a tiny island called Kanawa. There is one resort (which is kind of expensive on a backpacker budget) but it’s so peaceful, and there is excellent snorkelling to be had just off the beach. I saw turtles, small rays and so many fish. You can get dropped off there after the Komodo tour or get a free transfer from Labuan Bajo. If you get dropped off after a tour you might miss “Manta Point” (I did) which is obviously a spot where you’re likely to see manta rays.

Kanawa Island, near Komodo National Park, Flores, IndonesiaA view from the hill on Kanawa Island, near Komodo National Park, Flores, Indonesia

Komodo National Park: The details

You can take a 3 or 4 night boat trip from Bali/Lombok which will take you around all of the best snorkelling spots and to see the dragons on Komodo and Rinca, or you can take a 1 night tour if you are already in Flores. Labuan Bajo is the gateway to the park and is a bit of a mess, but it’s an OK place to spend a night or 2 and has some great Italian restaurants. I paid 750,000 rp for the tour, which included all food and drinking water, but not the park fees. Kanawa Island cost me 350,000 rp per night, but it was worth it! It’s a similar feeling to staying on a 1 resort island in the Maldives but at a fraction of the price.

FURTHER READING: Exploring the 17 Island Marine Park in Riung, Flores

A beach view in Komodo National Park, Flores, Indonesia

Have you been to Komodo National Park, and do you think it is worth the detour from Bali? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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19 Comments

  1. July 30, 2014 at 8:48 pm — Reply

    We really wanted to make it to Komodo but it just didn’t work out for this one! It definitely looks worth it, we were just on limited time. I’ve heard the snorkeling and diving there is incredible!

    • Jon Algie
      August 1, 2014 at 4:49 pm — Reply

      It was great, you can’t see everything though! I planned to spend at least a week or so in Lombok but only had a few days in the end.

  2. July 31, 2014 at 2:32 pm — Reply

    2 penises?! What in the world…

    • Jon Algie
      August 1, 2014 at 4:49 pm — Reply

      Lucky females huh!

      • August 1, 2014 at 5:44 pm — Reply

        Hahaha i’ll say 😉

  3. July 31, 2014 at 6:54 pm — Reply

    Nice post and pictures. It’s a cruel childhood for these creatures with them eventually eating each other.

    • Jon Algie
      August 1, 2014 at 4:50 pm — Reply

      Thanks Natasha, survival of the fittest I guess!

  4. August 5, 2014 at 11:02 am — Reply

    I feel bad for the young ones! But obviously just a part of their lives being abandoned and having to fight it out like that! Really beautiful photos!

  5. August 5, 2014 at 3:27 pm — Reply

    This post was interesting and useful for me and I loved your pictures. Last year I started planning for a trip to Indonesia, but had to postphone it. I will come back to your post when a trip to Indoneasia is getting closer.

    • Jon Algie
      August 6, 2014 at 11:52 am — Reply

      You’ll love it, so many places to go though, it’s a tough place to plan for!

  6. August 5, 2014 at 3:59 pm — Reply

    They look cute but when they start eating the littles ones, not so cute anymore !

    • Jon Algie
      August 6, 2014 at 11:53 am — Reply

      Haha, never heard them described as cute before!

  7. August 5, 2014 at 7:56 pm — Reply

    Amazing pictures! I would love to visit there as well and I think when I finally make my way over to Asia Bali and these islands will be first on my list 🙂 Snorkelling and diving over there would be fantastic too I’m sure, as long as the dragons don’t go in the water…

    P.S Your blog looks very nice, good job! It’s really pleasant to read too 🙂

    • Jon Algie
      August 6, 2014 at 11:56 am — Reply

      Thanks Annika! The snorkelling is great and I’ve heard the diving is pretty amazing too, it’d also be a good introduction to Asia – most of the things that make Asia a great place to travel can be found in Indonesia.

  8. October 2, 2014 at 12:13 pm — Reply

    Great photos! I am headed there in November. What time of year were you there? Also, I wish I had two penises like a komodo dragon.

    • Jon Algie
      October 3, 2014 at 1:26 am — Reply

      Haha, don’t we all! I was there in July which is apparently the best time of year, November might be a bit wet but it should be OK.

  9. Daniel Santiago
    September 10, 2015 at 1:34 am — Reply

    Hi!! Congratulations! Your blog is amazing! Do you remember the name of the company which you did the 2d/1n tour? Have you heard about Padar island? I really wanna trek there but it’s hard to find any information on internet about day trips to this island… Thanks in advance! Greetings from Brazil. 🙂

    • Jon Algie
      September 13, 2015 at 9:25 am — Reply

      Cheers Daniel, I don’t remember which company sorry, I think they are all pretty similar though. I also haven’t heard of Padar Island, come back on here when you do it and let me know how what it’s like!

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