How to get to Komodo Island
Unless you’re backpacking slowly overland across the entire Indonesian archipelago, Komodo Island is one of those ‘out of the way’ places for most backpackers. Lying far away east from the major Indonesian tourist zones of Bali, Lombok and the Gili Islands, the Komodo Dragons are the biggest draw to the area.
Let’s look at this from a regular backpackers perspective, your starting point for a trip to Komodo will probably be in one of the main tourist areas, so let’s look at how to get to Komodo Island from Bali.
Tickets can be purchased in Bali to get you close to the Komodo National Park, and you have options here, these are land, sea and air. Tickets for all these are available at many travel agents around the backpacker area of Bali, Poppies Lane 1 and 2, look in a few ticket offices, shop around and do some bargaining.
Bali to Komodo by Boat
The only option that can take you all the way without stopping at Labuan Bajo is by boat. Perama tours, the most popular boat trip option, have a range of tour options. Their trips can involve stopping to snorkel, and to see sights and activities on the way. For divers, there is plenty of liveaboard trips that will take you to dive spots, and onto Komodo to see the Dragons.
Most boat trips to Komodo from Bali sail to the north, past the Gili Islands, Lombok and Sumbawa onto the Komodo National park near Flores. Keep in mind that this area, mainly the Makassar Strait and the Flores Sea, is notorious for being difficult to navigate.
Due to shallow rocky areas and currents going every direction you can imagine, accidents and shipwrecks in this area do happen, even with the most trusted tour companies. Make sure for yourself the vessel has life jackets and they are easily accessible, not tied down or secured to anything. A waterproof bag is a good idea, you can use it to carry any electronic items, such as your camera. Most guest houses in Bali will allow you to store your big heavy luggage whilst you are on the trip.
There has been two or three accidents sailing to Komodo in the past nine months, you shouldn’t worry about it too much as these tours leave daily. But keep your wits about you, and ask questions before you had over any money.
Flying to Komodo
A flight leaving from Denpasar in Bali will take you to Labuan Bajo Airport, which is a short taxi to the pier where you can take boat trips to Komodo Island, and around the national park. A flight is the simplest and fastest option, prices go from 650,000 to over 1,000,000 Rupiah. I took this flight and it was 950,000 Rupiah.
The Bali to Komodo Island Bus
The bus is the cheapest and the way to go for the most adventurous. It’s not a straightforward bus ride by any means, multiple buses, ferry crossings and random stops all over the place. I believe the price was 350,000 – 400,000 Rupiah.
The overland bus ticket from Bali will take you to Labuan Bajo Harbour in Flores, which is right in town. Labuan Bajo has guesthouses, internet cafes and restaurants, although all these are very basic.
When taking the bus, three ferry crossings are are required, from Bali to Lombok, Lombok to Sumbawa, and Sumbawa to Labuan Bajo in Flores, make sure to ask if these are included in your ticket and ask them to write it down – they should be.
After you have booked your ticket, ask for the phone number of the company so you can call them at any time, nothing should really go wrong. Your biggest worry on this trip should be stamina and comfort, below I have described in bullet points how this overland bus trip from Bali to Komodo Island goes.
- Pick up from your guesthouse in Bali.
- Minibus ride to the the ferry for Lombok
- Catch the ferry from Bali to Lombok
- Arrive in Lombok, then a minibus to the big bus station.
- Get on the big bus across Lombok
- The bus will drive onto a ferry to Sumbawa
- The ferry ride from Lombok to Sumbawa
- Epic bus journey across Sumbawa
- Stop somewhere in east Sumbawa and change to a crazy minibus.
- The minibus will evetually take to to the ferry to Labuan Bajo
- Take the ferry ride to Labuan Bajo.
When I took this journey, it took around 44 hours in total. Not only is each leg of the journey quite long, there’s often a lot of waiting in between each change of transport. I’m glad I took this trip by land, it was a great but draining experience, we flew back even though it was double the price.
Labuan Bajo to Komodo Island
Now you have got yourself to Labuan Bajo, be it by land or air, how to you get to Komodo Island? It’s actually quite simple, and you have two main options. I recommend a a two day tour of the Komodo National Park as there is lots more to see than the Dragons.
- Take a walk down to the harbor and ask around, you can negotiate a price with the captain yourself.
- Look for a a ticket office in town, they should be able to sort you out.
When I made this trip, we did a two day trip through Komodo, which had these activities included;
- Trekking on Rinca Island
- Snorkeling at ‘Red Beach’ (which was spectacular)
- Watching Flying Foxes in the Mangroves
- Overnight on the Deck of the Boat
- Trekking on Komodo Island
- Snorkeling with Manta Rays (we got lucky on the boat ride home)
This trip cost 2,000,000 Rupiah for the whole boat, there were six of us who met in Labuan Bajo and got together for the trip, making it 400,000 each. You can look around the town for other backpackers and get together to share the cost of the trip.
All food and water was included in the price, the captain stopped at villages for fresh ingredients and cooked for us. These prices are negotiable, we bartered down from 4,000,000 RP and cut the price in half.
Ask a lot of questions when you are negotiating, ask if food and water is included, ask about safety, life jackets and anything else that you are not clear about.
I would not recommended booking a Komodo Island tour together with your flight or bus ticket. As a savvy backpacker it’s better to go down there and see for yourself what’s going on, putting yourself in a negotiating position for the best deal.
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below, I can see if I can help in any way.