Have you ever… snorkelled around an island? woke up with nothing but the sound of the waves and the singing of birds? had a day without using keys, or without using a phone? I had to answer no, no and a no. Until I went camping in Komodo National Park!
- The Salacia sets off
- Komodo National Park
- Komodo Dragons at Rinca Island
- Setting sail for Mawan Island
- Swimming with Manta rays
- Exploring & camping at Mawan Island
- The island lifestyle continues…
- Diving at Batu Bolong
- Meeting manta’s at Mantapoint
- Snorkeling at Pinkbeach
- Komodos and wildlife at Komodo Island
- DIY Camping in Komodo National Park
The Salacia sets off
While lounging in a blue bean bag chair, listening to chilled-out music, and enjoying a fresh Florenese Kopi (coffee), the Salacia (Queen of the sea) sets off to Komodo National Park! For about an hour we cruise through the calm waters and mystic green scenery of this island archipelago. This already gives me a sense of ultimate freedom and happiness. Crew leader Max gives a briefing of what’s more or less the plan for the next days. I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s not a dream. He emphasizes on the importance of not littering and leaving the place cleaner than we left. Komodo National Park is such a pristine piece of nature, it has to be preserved by the best possible means. I’m super excited about what the next days will bring!
The crew: a Spanjard living in Norway, a Swiss living in Bali, a Sumatran living in Bali, an Italian living in Flores, three happy local boys, and this crazy Dutch person. This is going to be fun!
Komodo National Park
Komodo National Park is located in West Flores, and part of the Lesser Sunda Islands in Indonesia. It’s a nature lovers paradise, on both sides of the surface. No wonder why it is on of the 7 wonders of nature. The park is named after the Komodo dragon. This is the largest land lizard on earth, and listed as endangered specie with the IUCN. The park may be equally famous as one of the worlds richest marine environments. It lies in the heart of the Coral Triangle, the most diverse marine habitat on earth. The park has been an UNESCO world heritage sight since 1991. It has three larger islands (Rinca, Komodo and Padar) and in total about 100 islands and inlets, all arosen from volcanic activity. It’s rich with more wildlife, corals , bays, and inlets than anyone can ever explore in a lifetime. Komodo National Park is estimated to be home to about 4000 people (more kids than adults), > 5000 Komodo dragons and more than 1000 species of fish. In the week I made this trip, february 2014, Komodo National Park also became part of worlds largest Manta sanctuary.
Komodo Dragons at Rinca Island
Our first dock stop is Rinca, one of the four island where you can find the Komodo. Reno, the park ranger, makes sure we won’t get eaten. His snaked painted stick is our weapon for survival. Last year February (exactly one year ago) someone disappeared so it are exciting times for Komodo National Park and its visitors ;). Reno double checks if the ladies don’t have their period cause this could trigger a potential meal for the dragons. There are different trails on the island and we choose to do the medium one, from Loh Buaya to Panorama hill, which takes about 1,5 hours. Reno explains us about this largest lizard on earth. In Rinca, there are between 3000-5000 dragons. They get up to 3 meters long and 136 kg of weight. They run up to 19 km/hour, so if they are hungry you make a chance but you have to run fast. Most dragons are at the entrance of the park. Here we encounter both mature and baby dragons. They are indeed pretty big! We reach up to Panorama hill, the viewpoint where we can overlook Komodo National Park. In the distance we see some water buffalos and high up there are eagles flying. From this viewpoint I only realise how big the park is: way bigger than my eye sight reaches. Without being eaten we all step on board the Salacia again.
Setting sail for Mawan Island
In the far distance, I see some white lines that hurt my eyes, that bright. These are the beaches of Mawan Island: the place where we will go camping. I see a hill to climb, turquoise waters to explore and not a single other boat. It’s so green and quiet and calm. It is rainy season and low season (February). I don’t know what high season would be like but I know it just cannot get better than this. Not far away we see some dolphins breaking the surface. The closer we are coming, the more excited I get. The water is SO clear! From above I can see the corals, fish, and a MANTA. Yes, that was really a manta swimming by! After saying ‘wow’ 10 times about the pretty scenery, I jump into the water, searching for the manta’s.
Swimming with Manta rays
I clear my diving mask, and I open my eyes. There she is: a manta ray, bigger than I! My heart stops for a few seconds. She doesn’t go away, but stays to play, swim and dance around me. And then there are more, and more, and more! Just like this, in the front garden of Mawan Island, a deserted Island in the center of Komodo National Park.
This may be the most amazing experience in my life! So far… :)
Exploring & camping at Mawan Island
After spooning out a coconut on the beach I hike to the back garden of the deserted island for more island exploration. Through the bushes, I end up at another secluded beach. About 100 meters offshore there are some local guys fishing from their Jukung. Their curious faces probably didn’t expect some fluorised pink dressed girl with a snorkel appear on this site. I swim to them to say Selamat Siang (goodday) and start the snorkelling tour. It starts raining a bit and the current get stronger. It doesn’t matter. I’m wet anyway, it’s not cold and actually, it gives an extra cool dimension to the adventure. The current makes me drift far and there is no way to swim back where I got in. I just go with the flow and decide to make it a tour around the island! I spot some cool mangrove constructions, sharks, and beautiful red coral formations.
With sunset some of us hike up one of the two hills on the island. With a Bintang beer, we cheers to this in-cre-di-bly awesome day. We finish the day with a mouthwatering freshly grilled snapper on the beach. We have some laughs, drinks and snacks under the party tent, while the rain is nurturing the greens of Komodo National Park. We all go for an early night so we can start exploring when the first rays of light come true! With the drizzle of the rain tickering on the tent, I fall into a deep content sleep. Camping in Komodo National Park: I love it!
The island lifestyle continues…
Selamat Pagi (Good morning) Komodo National Park! I listen to the water coming a shore, and try to identify the cool insect and bird sounds, which I’m not possible to do. This fauna seems unique to Flores. Excited I jump out of the tent, to go for some morning island exploration at Mawam Island.
Before breakfast I climb the other hill of the island, figuring the views must be cool early morning. The grass on the hill reaches up to my hips. Obviously, Komodo’s green vegetation has received some nutrition and no one who has set footsteps here lately. I reach the highest point at Mawan Island and from here I get some really cool views of Komodo National Park. I could sit here and watch the surrounding the whole day.
After a freshly made breakfast on the beach, we swim to the boat to get on board. It’s high tide. We’re off to see more of Komodo National Park. We cruise through the turquoise waters, navigate through the strong currents and swirlies off Komodo National Park. Within an hour, we arrive at the first playground of the day: Batu Bolong.
Diving at Batu Bolong
At a tiny rocky islet, called Batu Bulong, we get ready for some exploration into the blue. Batu Bolong is a wall dive between two strong currents. We descend and I really don’t know where to look. Hundreds of thousands of fish are fighting for a space to nipple at the coral. This is an underwater colourdisco at it’s best. Every centimeter is covered with life. Thanks to strong currents Komodo’s reefs are constantly supplied with new food and fish. Zig zagging we go down, avoiding the strong currents at the end of the coral wall. The visibility is 20+ and the water 27 degrees. Perfect! Batu Balong is not just for micro diving. I see some big guys too: a giant napoleon, blacktip reef shark, a sea turtle, parrot fish, triggerfish, barracudas. I’ve been diving in at the Great barrier reef and in the Red Sea but this spot goes straight to #1 in the list. It’s spectacular!
Meeting manta’s at Mantapoint
While taking in the impressions of this suburb dive, we move on to another promising spot of Komodo National Parks: Manta Point! It’s another stunning cruising leg. We pass some potential island buy retirement options. This park is really nature at it’s best. I cannot get enough of it.
1…2…3…4…5….6….7….8….9…..10….11….12…. Ok I’m losing count. One manta after the other is passing starboard side. Time to jump in!
I let myself float with the current and enjoy the manta parade. Some of them are huge, some of them are dancing together, some of them are dancing with me, making backward saltos showing their unique white bellies.
I keep squeezing myself making sure I’m not dreaming. Seriously, how many of these incredible experiences can I have in a day?
Snorkeling at Pinkbeach
Well apparently even more… The next snorkel stop is at Pinkbeach. The beach is indeed pink-ish, due to red and white corals mixing. Actually, a large part of the beaches in Komodo National Park is like this. This one is on the way to Komodo Island so often combined in the trip. Also here the snorkel is really cool with turtles, colourful corals and fish.
We chillax, have lunch and dream away in the blue launch bags, before we’re off to the next adventure.
Komodos and wildlife at Komodo Island
In the afternoon we set foot on Komodo Island. The largest island in Komodo National Park. From the dock we already see two Komodo dragons in action. They are wandering on the beach next to a group of deers. Now I can really see the immense size of these creatures. These may reach 3 meters! We take a one hour hike inland to see what else Komodo Island has to offer. I would need weeks to learn about all the flora and fauna that can be found here. It’s very diverse which for me makes it a more interesting visit than Rinca. Inland we spot one more Komodo dragon who’s chilling in the bush.
From Komodo Island we set off for a last laid-back leg to Labuan Bajo. We go via Kanawa Island, located just outside the national park. Along the way we meet some birds enjoying the park on driftwood transport. The contrasts of blue and green, of which I have been amazing myself the whole trip already, gets even stronger now the sun is dropping. It is scenery at its best!
We drop off those who continue the island lifestyle at Kanawa island and where we watch the sun setting down after another day in paradise. The final leg to Labuan Bajo gives me a fallen star. I cannot come up with anything to wish for.
DIY Camping in Komodo National Park
- When to go? Anytime is ok! I recommend going in low season. Although there is some chance of rain, temperatures are nice and it is so peaceful and quiet. There’s are less (hardly any) other boats! The hills are green (as opposed to brown in dry season) which makes the scenery super stunning.
- How to go? Contact Max or Mikel from FloresXP. They have al the gear and can arrange this adventure from Labuan Bajo or Kanawa Island. Their boat is fast which really paid off! As the length of this post may indicate ;) , there was quite some time left to enjoy all the coolness in Komodo National Park.
- How long to go? Go as many days as you can! This camping trip was 2 days, I highly recommend to go 3 days or more. This area exceeded all of my expectations. Loads to explore! If you make it all the way up to Flores, make sure you have the time to soak it all up!
- TIP: Combine the camping in Komodo National Park with a stay on Kanawa Island. Before or after the trip the boat can drop you off here so you can continue your island lifestyleIt’s a chill island where there is nothing but beach, reefs and nature to explore. You can sleep in a Bale on the beach, which is very affordable and cool.
- Find more Komodo National Park and Flores tours on Viator
Disclosure: this Camping trip has been made possible by Flores Experience Adventure (FloresXP). All views expressed above are 100 % mine.