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 Komodo.
Use the handy menu below to navigate:
- Preface: Why this guide only focuses on Komodo and Labuan Bajo
- How to get to Flores by plane
- What to do – suggested 4D3N itinerary and things to see
- Where to stay – accommodation ideas
- 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!
2. HOW TO GET TO KOMODO
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 (more on why you should dive in Komodo). The diving 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!
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 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!
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.
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).
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!
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!
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
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:
- Cool Corner Backpackers (60,000 IDR / S$7 per night – seems to be the cheapest option)
- Manta Manta Homestay (S$28/34 per night for a double bed private room)
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. Check out prices and room details on booking.com>>
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)
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:
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 for organising and sponsoring this trip. Note that there are some affiliate links in this post that will bring you to the Skyscanner website.