How to spend a long weekend exploring Komodo

You might have seen from my latest blogposts and Instagram that Flores is one of my new favourite destinations to visit in Indonesia. Rather than just tempt you with pictures of Komodo Dragons and Pink Beaches, I decided to put together all my trip notes and research from this trip so that you can now plan your own epic adventure in Flores!

Use the handy menu below to navigate:

Pin it: Plan a 4D3N trip to Komodo

  1. Preface: Why this guide only focuses on Komodo and Labuan Bajo
  2. How to get to Flores by plane
  3. What to do – suggested 4D3N itinerary and things to see
    1. Padar Island
    2. Komodo Island
    3. Pink Beach
    4. Scuba Diving
    5. Cunca Wulung
    6. Melo Village
  4. Where to stay – accommodation ideas
  5. Estimated Costs

1. FOCUS ON KOMODO AND LABUAN BAJO

There is so much to see on the island of Flores, and it is tempting to try and see as much of the island as you can, but getting around Indonesia usually involves long bus rides along winding and sometimes sketchy roads, so unless you have a week or two to spend covering the whole island and pop over to Ende, my suggestion for first timers to Flores is to focus on Labuan Bajo and Komodo Island on the west coast for a start, which is what this post will cover.

I planned this as a 4D3N trip because I think 3D2N is a little short given that it takes a bit more effort to get there!

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2. HOW TO GET TO KOMODO

Komodo Labuan Bajo Airport Building
Bandara Udara Komodo as you walk in from the tarmac

The closest airport to Komodo is in Labuan Bajo, and while the airport is small, the building is surprisingly modern looking. There are no direct flights from Singapore to Labuan Bajo – you have to do 1 stopover at least, most likely in Bali, but if you fly Garuda, the stopover could be in Jakarta.

Check Skyscanner for flights from Singapore to Labuan Bajo here. Set the ‘Journey Duration’ filter in the left column to 8hrs, if not you’re going to get results where you will need to overnight in Bali – no ideal for a long weekend trip.

The best possible flight I found on Skyscanner from Singapore to Labuan Bajo is via Garuda Airlines through Jakarta. Surprisingly given it’s a full-service airline, it was also the cheapest at $380.

Flores Skyscanner Flights SIN-LBJ
This is probably one of the best options in terms of maximising your time and not having to change airlines

 

If you can’t find this flight or price, the next best option is to capitalize on Singapore-Bali flight promos. The Bali-Labuan Bajo flight prices are pretty consistent, so the only significant savings you can make is from the Singapore-Bali leg.

1. Fly from Singapore (or wherever you are) to Bali

Check rates for your preferred Singapore to Bali flights on Skyscanner. Depending on whether you fly budget or full service, round trip flights usually cost around $300-$500 without any special promotions on average.

2. Take a domestic flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo.

I listed all the flights timings in ascending order rather than by airline so it’s easier for you to gauge timings:

Bali Denpasar (DPS) >> Labuan Bajo Komodo (LBJ)

  • 0730-0905 Garuda Indonesia
  • 0800-0840 Wings Air
  • 1000-1050 Kal Star
  • 1050-1225 Garuda Indonesia
  • 1250-1410 Wings Air
  • 1340-1435 NAM Air
  • 1355-1515 Wings Air

Labuan Bajo >> Bali Denpasar :

  • 0840-1000 Wings Air
  • 0935-1055 Wings Air
  • 1100-1155 Kal Star
  • 1255-1420 Garuda Indonesia
  • 1505-1555 NAM Air
  • 1600-1720 Wings Air
  • 1600-1730 Garuda Indonesia

Check out the rates for Bali-Labuan Bajo here on Skyscanner for your preferred dates and timing. Last I checked, the range for round trip flights  was around $130-$200 for budget, and $300-$400 for Garuda

If you are flying in from Singapore, here’s my suggested flight plan. It doesn’t really matter where you fly in from though – use a flight search engine like Skyscanner to help you sort through the various flight times to get to your chosen destination – sort by price or flight duration to see what works best for your dates or budget. This particular set of flights should cost about $500 in total without any promotional prices.

  • SIN>>DPS : Air Asia 0915-1200 – you’re not up too early, and you have time to make your connection
  • DPS>>LBJ : NAM Air 1340-1435 or Wings Air 1355-1515 – Make sure you don’t miss your connection because these are the last flights in for the day! If you are worried, maybe shift up your first flight so you have more leeway
  • LBJ>>DPS : Wings Air 1600-1720 – to maximise your time in Labuan Bajo, this is the latest flight out of the town
  • DPS>>SIN : Tiger Air 1845-2130 or KLM 2130-2359 – the Tiger connection is a tad tight, but your next budget option is Jetstar at 2245 and you’ll arrive home in the wee hours which might be shitty if you have to work the next day

Information is correct as of Oct 2016 and based on my own search parameters. It may be updated without notice, do let me know if there are any major changes!

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WHAT TO DO – A SUGGESTED 4D3N ITINERARY

I’m basing my itinerary suggestions on my personal experience during this trip – so many thanks to Skyscanner and The LostPacker who planned out the itinerary for TeamKomodo. I did a bit of research on my own to see if there’s anything that I missed or would have liked to do, but I think they did a pretty good job of covering the absolute essentials!

If you rather not worry too hard about the details, you can also check in with Tina from Eastrip, a lovely Indonesian lady who helped plan our Labuan Bajo leg – she’s lived there for awhile so she can get you sorted and can customise a tour according to your needs.

Day 1 – Getting to Labuan Bajo

Have an early start and fly into Bandar Udara Komodo aka Komodo Airport in Labuan Bajo. You’re likely to reach LBJ in the afternoon and it’s a very short drive into the downtown area, so you can check into your accommodation and have a bit of a rest before dinner.

Flores Labuan Bajo Airport
Welcome to Komodo! You can’t miss this giant Komodo Dragon right outside the airport

Spend your evening exploring downtown Labuan Bajo as you are unlikely to have much time here… you’re going to be quite busy! Also, there really isn’t a lot happening in this small town – the main streets are basically lined with hotels, restaurants and tour companies. There is a night market where you can grab street food for a cheap option, and some restaurants we tried: Le Pirate Bajo Restaurant for family style Indonesian food, Mediterraneo for some good Italian food. There is a lot of good Italian food here for some reason!

Flores Labuan Bajo Le Pirate Food
Indonesian + Seafood = YUM. This was family style sharing dishes at Le Pirate Bajo Restaurant.

Alternatively if you want to escape the city, spend your sunset on a beach – We had sundowners at Atlantis Beach Club which was shaped like a boat and a pretty cool place. We even had a seafood dinner and bonfire on the beach! Another popular location is Paradise Bar on the hilltop.

Flores Labuan Bajo Atlantis Beach Club Ship
Yes, an actual boat at Atlantis! There is a pool there as well and a great sunset view
Flores Labuan Bajo Atlantis Sunset
Instagrammable sunsets galore!

 

Have an early night because you’re in for a busy day tomorrow!

 

Day 2 – Komodo National Park

It’s gonna be an intense day trip exploring Komodo National Park by boat, get ready! The easiest way to manage this is book a tour with any of the tour agencies you can find along the streets in Labuan Bajo – you should be able to find tours for about S$70/pax (US$50/150k IDR). If you have a larger group and want more customisation, you could hire someone and arrange your own itinerary and speedboat rental for about US$1,000 per day. We went with ORA dive who arranged both the day tour and diving for us.

The itinerary I did had a 7am start where we covered Padar Island > Komodo Island > Pink Beach (lunch at about 1pm) > Diving (Pink Beach, Manta Point, Batu Bolong (short dive) > back to Labuan Bajo around 6pm… phew! The non-divers in our group snorkeled at Pink Beach, passed through Manta Point and headed to another beach to snorkel and chillax.

However you decide to arrange it, some highlights to consider:

PADAR ISLAND

Komodo Padar Beaches V
Victory! See the pink, black and white beaches? The photographers in the group were despairing over the cloud shadow on the right, but you barely even notice it because everything else is like WOAH

Padar Island is one of the three bigger islands in Komodo National Park and absolutely breathtaking from the top. It’s quite beautiful in the morning when we were there at about 8am – some people go for sunrise, but its 360 view also offers spectacular sunsets so you’ll get amazing pictures no matter what time of day you end up there.

Komodo Padar Hiking Up
The most treacherous stretch is actually right at the start – it’s pretty precarious coming down this sandy steep slope. The rest of the climb isn’t quite as steep thankfully!

The hike to the amazing view point from the beach takes about 30-40 minutes – I would factor in spending about 2 hours in total because you’re definitely going to spend a lot of time taking photos! The hike is not too hard – it can be a bit steep at points and there are no proper paths or shelters – I suggest wearing proper shoes and definitely wearing a cap.

Komodo Padar Rock Top
Henry calls this my outdoor magazine cover shot. Be careful when posing on rocks though, it can get a bit precarious!

KOMODO DRAGONS

Komodo National Park is the only place in the world where you can see Komodo Dragons in the wild, so it is a must do! Read more about my Komodo Dragon experience here.

Komodo Loh Liang Entrance Sign
Welcome to Komodo!

 

There are two spots that you can visit – either Komodo Island or the smaller Rinca Island. I went to Loh Liang on Komodo Island where our group had several trek options – we took the short trek which was a relatively flat walk on a forest pathway shaded by trees and took us about 2 hours including photo-taking time.

Komodo Loh Liang Hitomi Dragon
Here be dragons! Hitomi and I are like, woah.

Like safaris or any sort of animal watching, there is no guarantee you will see any Komodo Dragons – things seemed a little dire at first with no sightings at all in the first half of our walk, not even at the waterhole which they tend to frequent. Thankfully we finally saw a handful of them as we neared the restaurant area, apparently a more popular hang out spot for the lizards!

PINK BEACH

A short half hour boat ride away from Loh Liang is Pantai Merah aka Pink Beach – a famous beach stretch where the sand is coloured pinkish due to the presence of red coral bits in the water. Chill out by the beach, snorkel in the clear shallow waters, or climb up to the small hills around the beach to get a good shot of the pretty sand below.

Komodo Pink Beach Feet
Pink! The best way to get maximum pinkness in your shot is to wait for the tide to wash out

 

Note that while it is The Pink Beach, it isn’t the only pink stretch of sand in the area. Chill out on the sand or snorkel here. It is also a popular dive spot.

SCUBA DIVING

For avid scuba divers, I suggest spending a full day diving on day 2 and go exploring on Day 3 instead so you have time to decompress before flying home. The diving here in Komodo is absolutely incredible and some of the best I have ever seen – I could spent an entire week here quite happily, but if you’re time starved, one day will have to do!

Komodo Diving Happy Group
One dive down and we’re absolutely stoked. The smiles by Henry, Kiersten and David would be even bigger at the end of the day!

A full day of diving typically encompasses 3 dives to various locations around the area. Some dive centres offer diving and Komodo Dragon visits as a day trip package as well, so you could combine that together if you want to spend more time exploring other places. We dived at 3 different spots:

  • Pink Beach – there are several spots around here, we started quite near the shore and then drifted along
  • Manta Point – the famous Manta cleaning station, but sadly we didn’t see any mantas that afternoon (Alyssa did the following day though!)
  • Batu Bolong – with a bit of extra air left, our dive instructor let us check out this spot and it was like jumping into an aquarium!

Uber Scuba comes in #1 on TripAdvisor and is very well rated. They offer 3 dives in a day or 2 dives and Komodo Dragon trek for 1,500,000 IDR (~S$160) including gear rental (doesn’t include the National Park fee though)

Sadly I had no gear with me for photos but I have the best memories ever. Check out this video that Kiersten made:

 

Other things in Komodo National Park that you could check out include:

  • Rinca Island is the other island where you can see Komodo Dragons. It is smaller but apparently home to more dragons
  • Kalong Island is a small island covered with mangrove forest near Rinca Island. It is also home to a whole horde of bats that emerge en masse at sunset, which can be quite spectacular or freaky depending on how you feel about bats.
  • Kanawa Island is a resort island that is quite popular for its white sand beach and snorkeling

 

Day 3 – More Komodo National Park or other Sights

You could spend another day going island hopping and enjoying the water, but if you want to check out some other sights beyond Komodo National Park, here are some suggestions:

CUNCA WULANG

Flores Cunca Wulang Waterfall Top
View from the top – the waterfall is located in a narrow gorge which you can only see when you are in the water, but you can’t get too close either as the pools at its base are really deep and there are down currents that could pull you under.

Cunca Wulang is located about 30km outside of Labuan Bajo in Mbeliling, West Manggarai and famous for its waterfall and trekking – I hiked it in my flipflops but it is not the easiest of treks as the ground is covered with leaves, roots and is a tad slopey… Expect to do a lot of walking and sweat a lot because it is really humid!

Flores Cunca Wulang River
Crossing one of the rivers along the way
Flores Cunca Wulang Trek Trail
Here we go!

The most popular route is to the river where you can jump in for a swim, a nice way to cool down after your strenuous trek. The waterfall is quite deep inside a gorge and the waters of the river are deep enough for you to do a little cliff jumping.

Flores Cunca Wulang Cliff Jump
Ready to cliff jump! It doesn’t look high, but it’s at least 7-10m up!

You can also take a longer route and hike to the top of the waterfall – be very careful up here as the waterfall spray makes everything really slippery. Stay well clear of the edges and listen to the guides – some tourists died here earlier in the year and the waterfall was closed for awhile, affecting local tourism so the local guides are extra paranoid about your safety for good reason.

Cunca Wulung is not a place that you can visit on your own – you must have a local guide from the village accompany you, and you will want one to keep you safe. Expect to pay around 100,000 IDR / S$11 for a guide, and 75,000 IDR (S$8).

Flores Cunca Wulang Waterfall Top Guide
Our capable local guide keeping an eye on things!

MELO VILLAGE

After a tiring morning of hiking, perhaps time for something a little more cultural. Head over to Melo Village on a hilltop to visit the home of the Manggarai people. They are an ethnic group native to west Flores and we got to check out their traditional Caci dance and culture. Their traditional dances are usually ceremonial, but these days they do perform for tourists as well for a fee. You’ll need to check whether this is available while you are there!

Flores Melo Manggarai Dress
Their costumes are so distinct!
Flores Melo Manggarai Dancers
The men and women each have their own costumes and dances.
Flores Melo Manggarai Dance Participate
Be prepared to participate!
Flores Melo Manggarai Caci Whip
Another distinct feature of the Manggarai people is this whip dance, where the men show off their martial arts prowess and take turns leaping up and whipping their ‘opponents’ Little bit bizarre to watch, but all sorts of impressive nonetheless.

 

Other sights to consider:

  • Cunca Rami is another pretty waterfall option that is apparently less tiring in terms of hiking
  • Batu Cermin limestone caves are an option if you rather not venture so far out, just 4km from Labuan Bajo

 

Day 4 – Time to go home

It’s over way too soon! The latest flight out is at around 4pm, so I would take this day to wake up a little later and then go get a good massage at Flores Spa which opens at 10am – make a booking earlier if you can so you don’t end up having to wait around in the spa. I had a 30-min body scrub (80,000 IDR / S$9) and a 60-min full body massage (120,000 IDR / S$13) which was very good – you could feel that this masseuse knew what she was doing!

Flores Labuan Bajo Spa
Flores Labuan Bajo Spa

After your massage, find a nice brunch or lunch spot to grab a meal before heading home – Bajo Bakery is a short walk down the road from Flores Spa and came highly recommended by the other people on the trip with me!

Alternatively if you want to really maximise your trip, you could probably go catch the sunrise

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WHERE TO STAY

I stayed in some pretty nice places in Labuan Bajo, but if you are on a budget, here’s what I would have

BUDGET – I can’t vouch for it personally, but if you really want to save, this is what the internet turned up:

NICER – these are the 2 places I stayed at. Really lovely but you have to spend a bit more!

  • Sylvia Resort – about 2,000,000 for a twin room for 3 nights (680,000 IDR / S$72 per night)
  • Le Pirate Labuan Bajo – about 4,000,000 for a twin room for 3 nights (1,360,000 IDR / S$144 per night)

Sylvia Resort is a bit further away from the downtown Labuan Bajo area – you definitely need transport to go out for food, it’s not quite walkable. But you do have the beautiful Waecicu beach right at your doorstep, and you have some hills to climb for a great view of the surrounding area. Rooms are quite basic but comfortable enough as you’re probably going to be out most of the time anyway.

Flores Labuan Bajo Sylvia Resort Pool
I definitely liked the pool area best! The rooms are in bungalows along this stretch. There are sea facing ones too!
Flores Labuan Bajo Sylvia Resort Beach
View from the beach – you can climb those hills in the distance to catch the sunset!
Flores Labuan Bajo Jumpshot Sunset 1
Sunset at Waecicu Beach – here’s how you take a good jumpshot pic of your own

 

Le Pirate Labuan Bajo meanwhile is hipster heaven and has a great location in the center of town. Great design and eco-friendly to boot, though rooms tend to be a bit on the cosy side. Comes with an ensuite toilet. The lobby area is quite spacious and there is a rooftop dipping pool and bar area which is nice to hang out in. There is free wifi but the connection wasn’t great – I was mostly relying on my own SIM card.

Your luxury comes at a price though – my room which has a harbour view and can sleep 2 costs on average 5,000,000 IDR (S$530) per room per night – the standard room is 4,000,000 IDR (S$425). The cheapest rooms are the bunk bed ones going for 3,500,000 IDR (S$370) for 2 pax or 5,000,000 IDR for 4 pax (S$131 per person per night for a group of 4)

Flores Labuan Bajo Le Pirate Room
I was in Room #2 – best. The room mostly consists of the bed and there’s not that much walking space. Those with big suitcases will probably have to open them on the bed or outside! The attached bathroom is open air so you might get rained on, but it keeps the bathroom dry and airy
Flores Labuan Bajo Le Pirate View
View from outside my room faces the harbour (it costs a little extra compared to the other rooms facing the courtyard) – didn’t have the chance to see sunset from here but apparently it’s pretty nice.

There are budget options that I found online, though I can’t give you any personal review since I didn’t stay there for myself, so take the internets’ word for it:

 

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ESTIMATED COSTS

Indonesia as a whole is fairly cheap in terms of lifestyle – one of the things that makes Flores a bit pricier than a trip to Bali for example is that you need to take an additional flight, and the cost of day tours. Note that the prices here are more of a guide so you can figure out how much to set aside, they are not necessarily a bible.

What I’ve also done is round up the prices so that there is a little buffer, in case of extra add-ons or if you want to tip. Better to have more than less! Here’s a rough breakdown of prices for you to estimate your budget for a solo traveller:

Flights ($500 – $700 in total)

  • Budget Airline SIN-DPS Round Trip ~$300
  • Full Service Airline SIN-DPS Round Trip ~$500
  • DPS-LBJ Round Trip ~$200 (Garuda would be around $300-400)

Accommodation (1 room, max 2 pax, having additional heads to split the cost will really help)

  • 3 nights Budget accom (Manta Manta) ~$100 (this could be as low as $20 if you went with the backpackers)
  • 3 nights Nicer accom (e.g. Sylvia) ~ $250
  • 3 nights Luxury accom (e.g. Le Pirate) ~$700 and up

Activities (minimally $300 – $500)

  • Komodo Day Tour ~$100
  • Diving in Komodo with tour operator ~$200
  • Cunca Wulang / Melo Village ~$100
  • Spa Treatment 1.5 hours ~$25
  • Food (local lunches, restaurant dinners, misc.) ~$100

You’re looking at a minimum of $800 at least if you’re willing to go budget all the way and maybe land some good promo deals. For those looking for a more comfortable vacation, an estimate of $1,300 – $1,500 would probably be safe.

 

Happy to add in any recommendations from others who’ve been there and may know of cheaper or better options! Feel free to drop a note in the comments below so everyone can benefit from this 🙂 Hope this has been helpful or anyone planning to make their way to Flores!

Thanks again to Skyscanner and Wonderful Indonesia for organising and sponsoring this trip. Note that there are some affiliate links in this post that will bring you to the Skyscanner website.

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