Flores and Komodo National Park
A collection of islands to the east of Bali, Komodo National Park is the only place in the world where Komodo Dragons still live in the wild. Stay on the island of Flores or overnight on a sailing boat as you cruise between the islands, encountering Komodo dragons, visiting white (and even pink) sand beaches, and diving or snorkelling through blue waters teeming with marine life.
If you are tempted to meet up with the fabled Komodo dragon, a trip to the Indonesian island of Flores gives you easy access to the many small islands off the west coast, including Komodo and Rinca, the only islands in the world where these dragons still live in the wild. Flores is several islands to the east of Bali and it’s a short 45-minute direct flight from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo on the west coast of the island, the gateway to all the adventures the West Flores Islands have to offer. While most people come to see the dragons, the island of Flores itself boasts plenty of opportunities for diving, snorkelling and hiking.
The islands of West Flores, UNESCO-recognised since 1991, lie within the protection of the Komodo National Park and are easily reached by boat from Labuan Bajo. The scenery is stunning, the water is warm, and the area is home to around 3,000 Komodo dragons, who all live on either Komodo or Rinca Island. The Komodo dragon is the largest living species of monitor lizard on the planet, often appearing lifeless until suddenly rearing up, hissing and sticking out their forked-tongues. Growing up to 2.6-metres long, 3-metres tall and with the ability to run at speeds of up to 20-kilometres-an-hour, it’s easy to understand where the ‘dragon’ name came from.
The warm waters and coral-rich seas around the islands make them ideal for diving and snorkelling. A highlight is Pink Beach on Komodo, where crushed red coral has mixed with white sand to make the most amazing baby pink sand. The water here is clear and shallow, perfect for snorkelling beginners. Expect to see lots of healthy coral, pygmy seahorses, blue star and sea turtles. Divers will also want to explore Manta Point, the strait between Komodo and Rinca, where you may see manta rays and the rare blue-ringed octopus. If you enjoy hiking and want to see some of the best views in Indonesia, we’d suggest a stop at Padar Island because while the hike is a challenge, the view over the islands is truly magnificent. The whole region is spectacular and Komodo National Park was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2011.
While Flores is known as a launch pad for encountering the Komodo dragon, the interior of the island is full of steamy volcanoes, beautiful mountain lakes and forests. Close to Labuan Bajo and worth a visit is the Batu Cermin Cave, set within an impressive limestone rock formation. A hole in the cave allows rays of light to enter the structure to perform a spectacular show of reflected sunlight, which is reflected off the mirror-like rock surfaces.