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  • Writer's pictureMaureen Pfaff

Komodo Dragons & Manta Rays - Komodo National Park, Indonesia

These giant monitor lizards truly are one of a kind. They are the largest lizard species on the planet and have not changed in 900,000 years. Komodo National Park is much more though than just komodo dragons, as it encompasses various smaller islands and incredible dive sites, too. Trip Plan here.

Why Komodo?

If you are an outdoorsy person, like I am, Komodo National Park is one of the best trips in South East Asia you can do. It has a huge variety of places and activities to offer and you can customise your program to your heart’s content. People who are passionate about diving can visit Manta and Shark Point for some of the most diverse diving when it comes to marine life I have ever done. Huge reef mantas and being circled by several sharks at once were just the beginning. If you are into hiking there are a few islands that offer hills or small mountains that lead you to breathtaking views. Padar island comes to mind, but Komodo is another one for some treks (but watch out for the lizards!).

Komodo National park

Komodo National Park is an area in Indonesia off the island Flores that you can fly into from Bali. It’s touristy enough for the infrastructure of regular boats to all areas within the National Park from Labuan Bajo. The city is a fishing village, but the biggest one on the western side of the very long island of Flores. Flores itself has a lot to offer, too, so if you have a few more days I would highly recommend to check out the Tricoloured Lakes.

From Labuan Bajo it’s very straightforward to see the park, however, the most convenient in terms of location and time efficiency is staying directly in the park. It consists of two main islands (Komodo and Rinca island), which are the ones that the famous komodo dragons live on. A third smaller island called Padar (with the amazing view I was talking about earlier) is right in the middle of the two big ones. Along with those three there are 26 much smaller islands that you can visit, which aren’t as well-known. In order to see as much of the park as possible there are two different options:

I opted for staying on an eco-island in between Komodo and Rinca, which was 100% solar powered, organised by Xpirates. From the island we took day trips to either go diving or see some of the surrounding sights. An alternate option is to stay on a boat that travels from place to place, staying overnight in different bays. Looking back to the trip I believe I would actually recommend the latter option now, as it will save you time going to and from the places you are seeing. Commuting isn’t bad, as you spend the day on a boat, laying in the sun and chatting with the locals or your friends. However, the commuting requires getting up early, which some people might not be so keen on during a long weekend. Some people might not be so thrilled by the idea of staying on a boat for several days though and would therefore opt for a nice resort on an island, it all depends on your preferences.


To get to Labuan Bajo depending on where you come from you’ll probably need to do a stop-over in Bali for a few hours or a night even. When we arrived on Flores Island we were picked up by Xpirates and before we knew it on the boat headed to the island Sebayur Besar. Upon arrival we moved into our pirate huts, which other than a roof are completely open. This kind of accommodation is not for you if you are prudish or want a lot of privacy. We started exploring the rest of the island, went for a swim and then booked our day trips for the next three days. Diving was on the agenda for the following day, and not just diving anywhere. The plan was to do four dives to see lots of sharks: manta rays and reef sharks. The area is famous for big reef manta rays, and we couldn’t contain our excitement.

Manta rays & reef sharks

Onto the boat the next morning and off we went to Manta Point, which was about a 2h boat ride away. We passed the time by having breakfast on board, tanning and getting our gear ready for the dives. The dive-master informed us that mantas love strong currents, which is what this area is famous for. The currents mean that you need to have at least the Advanced Padi Open Water license to dive here. After our dive briefing we got ready, buddied up and back rolled our way into the water.

We could feel the strong current right away and were slightly more nervous going down than during our usual dives. We were told to let the current take us and just drift with it until told otherwise. As we didn’t have to fight the current and were allowed to let it push us it turned into a lovely experience, and almost felt like sitting on a soft roller coaster. About 20min into the dive someone signalled manta rays ahead. We dug ourselves into the sandy ground and waited. The current was so strong that we had to hold on with both hands whilst clipping ourselves onto each other so we wouldn’t float away. And then we saw them.

Manta rays are the most majestic sea creatures I have ever seen. They are huge and the way they float whilst barely moving makes me hold my breath each time I see them. They are able to change direction with the smallest movement of their giant fins. The mantas we saw were reef mantas, who are big, but much smaller than oceanic mantas (still on my list). Alien is one way to describe them, but to me they are simply beautiful and on top of that the friendliest of giants. Being the curious creatures they are, they started circling us for a minute and then disappeared. With them our dive-master and the rest of our group, who we had lost somehow. My buddy and I signalled that we would go look for them and found them on top of a reef not far away. In order to get to them though we had to swim against the current. This might sound easy, but given the restriction on air flow underwater, it felt like we were climbing Mount Everest, pushing forward what felt like centimetres with each breath. When we finally got to the top our dive-master had a major go at us (as far as that’s possible underwater) for losing him and the group. We exchanged a look and knew that despite the talking to we were giddy with joy after seeing mantas on our first dive.

We ascended quickly and were on our way to the next dive site, which was Shark Point. After our surface interval we were back in the water soon and more careful this time not to lose anyone.

For the first 40min during this dive we didn’t see any sharks and were quite disappointed already. Despite the fact that marine life was vast in the reef and held an abundance of fascinating animals, such as lionfish, moray eels, stingrays and nudibranchs, the sharks were the main attraction. We had almost hit our reserve air level and started our ascent when our dive-master signalled ‘shark’.

There he was, a black tip reef shark not far, coming towards us. Only seconds later two other divers signalled ‘shark’ as well, and before I realised what was happening there were three of them circling us. It was a surreal experience, that made me slightly uneasy, even though I knew reef sharks weren’t dangerous. It looked like they were measuring us up! As we were almost out of air we didn’t have that much longer to stay with them, however, that's how the dive turned into a very successful one in the last 10min.

Komodo Dragons

The next day we had reserved an island tour where we were planning on seeing Komodo Island including the legendary komodo dragons. We were off in the early morning and it took about 2h again to reach the island. Komodo island is the biggest one in the National Park, which is why the park has been named after it. Let me tell you a bit more about these ancient creatures. Komodo dragons are the oldest and largest species of lizard that still exists today. They can grow to 3m long and weigh up to 70kg. You might think with this size and weight they are slow animals, which is true unless they are hunting their prey at a swift 20km\h. Their diet consists of mammals, such as deer, wild boar and buffalos. They have also been known to attack humans when they are by themselves and wander off the beaten track. They smell with their long forked tongue and the way they kill their prey is by secreting several toxic proteins through the glands in their jaws when they bite, or by a lick of their poisonous tongue. We were slightly apprehensive about meeting these lovely sounding lizards and carefully stepped foot on Komodo island.

The island is one of the last islands in the world that still has komodo dragons living on it. Rinca is another one, however, the dragons are slightly smaller there. Komodo has around 1500 left, and the number is decreasing, because (and I’m not kidding) people are STEALING the babies! I’m shocked at what people come up with to make money…

We were with a guide who reminded us of the safety procedure and urged us not to wander off the path. He also told us that the previous year a Swiss guy got lost and a few days later they had found nothing more than his backpack. In the beginning we didn’t see anything and started relaxing, looking around us and talking to each other. Our guide suddenly put his finger on his lips and pointed right ahead of us. I couldn’t see a thing. Suddenly the sand (or what I thought was sand) started moving and the lizard starts waddling in the opposite direction. It was big! Slowly we started following it. It was absolutely fascinating to see this it up close. An older one, so he wasn’t as big as some of the other ones we saw later. After a while of trotting through the woods behind it, our guide asked us to go back to the path and we continued on our tour.

We saw quite a few other ones, bigger ones too that were lazily lying in the sun next to the only cafe on this island. We were told that they could smell the food from the kitchen. There were three of them right next to the cafe and they didn’t seem to care for us in the slightest.

Before heading back to the boat we had one more encounter, where we witnessed one dragon chasing a deer in the

distance. The deer was twice the size of the lizard but seemed to realise the danger it was in. We didn’t see what happened, however, it’s safe to say that the deer probably wouldn’t survive for much longer on an island with more than 1000 komodo dragons. It was an amazing experience to see these animals up close and I would definitely be up for going again or checking them out on Rinca island next time.

Padar Island

Our last destination was Padar island and the surrounding beaches. I had always imagined that the way up to the famous viewpoint was a proper hike, however, we realised quickly that it was just a long array of stairs. Not that this was any better or less exhausting in 35°C. Half way through I wasn’t sure whether it would be worth it but when I finally arrived at the top the view that opened up in front of us was so breathtaking that I would do it again tomorrow.

What makes this view so special is not only that you are essentially looking down on an island and can see the entire circumference of it, but the beaches that are part of it. The three beaches you can see from the viewpoint have different colours. There is one with white sand, the most common one and I guess nothing too special. Then there is the second one which has black sand, definitely a novelty and not something you see every day. Finally there is the third beach, which is pink! Yes, it actually is.

The reason the third beach looks pink is because it’s a mixture of white sand and red bits of coral. Over the years the beach has become less and less pink as people (and again I want to say how ridiculous I find this) are stealing the sand. From the view point you can see all three of these beaches, which make the photo even more unique from up there.

On the way back home from Padar island we decided to do another stop at Manta Point and snorkel this time. I’m so glad we did!

It was one of the memorable snorkels for me. First we encountered numerous green sea turtles that were humongous and super friendly!

Once we had swam along them for a while, we saw a total of eight so-called ‘ninja’ mantas, which are completely black. Normally mantas are white and black, but some species can produce plain black ones, which look even more mysterious. It took everything I had to keep up with them. They seem to not move at all, being completely still, but are going at a speed that will make you out of breath in seconds. Diving down to them to get photos like these was even tougher.

Island trek

Our last day on our little island had arrived and whilst we knew we were getting picked up in the afternoon to go back to the mainland, we still had a few hours to explore the island in the morning. We decided to hike up to the highest point and see whether we could find a good viewpoint. The hike up turned out to be more difficult than anticipated as there wasn’t much of a path anywhere in sight. The view from the top though proved worth it and we decided to stay there for a while before attempting the climb down again.

When we finally got back to camp with scrapes from falling over on the way down our boat had arrived and we grabbed our stuff and were off. It had been an action packed five days we spent in Komodo National Park and we were looking forward to a proper shower. On the boat we weren’t able to stop smiling. During this one long weekend trip we had seen two of the most amazing animals we had been dreaming about: manta rays and komodo dragons!

“Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not things to show.”
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Indra Nugraha
Indra Nugraha
Jul 14

Dinosaurs still exist and are not extinct. Indonesia best place gaming site AMPERASLOT

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