KOMODO DIVING LIVEABOARD: TOP DIVING SITES AND THINGS TO DO
Laying on the deck while sailing through picturesque mountains of Labuan Bajo and the Komodo National Park are some of my best travel memories of 2016 and 2017. That’s right I went twice, that’s just how awesome it is. It’s like being a luxury pirate, you’re essentially a nomad sailboat, free to roam wherever you wish but with the luxury of comfortable beds, a chef, and modern amenities. Being aboard a Komodo liveaboard is the ultimate lifestyle. There are three main reasons why this is the most epic getaway you will ever take.
#1 UNDERWATER: You are surrounded by some of the world’s best dive sites where you can swim with manta rays, turtles, sharks, huge schools of fish and amazing coral.
#2 KOMODO DRAGONS: In addition the world-class diving, you can explore Rinca and Komodo Island, the only places in the world to see Komodo Dragons in the wild.
#3 AMAZING VIEWS: If you still aren’t sold yet there are several short treks in the region with unbelievable viewpoints for sunrise and sunset. If I could live anywhere in the world it would be on a Komodo Liveaboard!
Raja Ampat Guide: I also wrote a great guide to visiting Raja Ampat, which includes the best diving sites, top things to do/viewpoints and whether you should go on a liveaboard or a dive resort.
In this blog post, I’ll cover everything you need to know about your Komodo Liveaboard experience.
- How to get to Komodo/Labuan Bajo
- Komodo liveaboard budget (luxury available)
- How many days do you need
- Best time to visit
- A detailed list of all of the activities you can expect to do while on a Komodo liveaboard
- The best Komodo Dive sites
- The best Komodo viewpoints
- Onboard experience review – detailing food, amenities, rooms, beds, and comfort.
How to get to Komodo
There are a few different ways to get to Komodo from Bali to Komodo:
- Fly directly from Bali (Denpasar Airport) to Labuan Bajo which is on Flores Island. Most people use Labuan Bajo as their base when they explore Komodo National park. From Labuan Bajo, you can do day trips, scuba diving, and other hiking/Komodo Dragon day trips.
- My favorite way to get to Komodo and the option I highly suggest is to fly to Labuan Bajo and then to book a liveaboard so you can enjoy Komodo National Park at a leisurely pace and sleep in some amazing locations on the boat. This way you can wake up for a sunrise hike, do a night dive or watch the sunset go down from the deck of your boat.
- The third option is to charter a private boat and take a day trip to Komodo National Park. This is a great experience but I can guarantee you will kick yourself that you only get to enjoy several hours snorkeling, diving, and visiting beaches compared to life on a liveaboard.
- There is also the option to get a liveaboard all the way from Bali. You will do some diving in the Lombok region before making your way to Komodo. I’ve never made this liveaboard journey from Bali to Komodo but can only imagine how amazing that would be.
Click Here to compare all liveaboards and to check availability and pricing for the Komodo region.
Komodo Liveaboard Budget
You can expect to pay anywhere from $200 a night all the way up to $600 a night depending on your route and level of luxury. This price is all-inclusive and covers your food, transit, up to five dives a day (Nitrox available), hiking and other activities. If you don’t have your own gear there is often a small daily rental fee. It is definitely the value way to travel in what is quite an isolated part of Indonesia.
It is definitely the value way to travel in what is quite an isolated part of Indonesia. There are cheaper places to travel by boat such as the Gili’s are the Nusa Islands but there is a reason Komodo is so sought after. It is a region of raw natural beauty above and below the surface.
Liveaboard.com is the largest online booking company and always have deals for different times of the year, especially during the low season. Click Here to compare all liveaboards and to check availability and pricing for the Komodo region.
Komodo Liveaboard Best time to visit for diving season
Komodo is accessible all year round for diving and exploring without too much of a change in the weather. When I went in late August the weather was supreme with hot sunny days and warm water. Lots of people in my group didn’t even wear a wetsuit!
- Dry season runs from April to December with average temperatures of 26 degrees celsius.
- Rainy season runs from January to March with average temperatures of 28 degrees celsius.
Komodo Water Temperature: the best time to visit the Komodo National Park is between April and December in the dry season. Then you can enjoy the warm sun in between dives, which are in the beautifully warm water. Gotta love the tropics.
The Komodo Dragon: they are out and about all year round. However, the mating season is from July to August and then the nesting season is from September to November making them a little harder to spot. Both times I have visited in August there have been plenty of dragons and we even saw a bit of a fight after one territorial dragon chased another away from a nest.
Dive sites in Komodo
If you decide to explore Komodo National Park from the luxury of a liveaboard, there are a number of world-class dive sites that will be right on your doorstep. On my dive trip, a number of the people in my group had done over 1000 dives in their life. When they got out of the water at Batu Bolong they declared it, the dive of their life. These were my favorite sites during our Komodo Liveaboard Diving Experience.
From above the surface, a small rock arch marks the spot for an amazing array of life beneath. A light current slowly carries you alongside a rock tower, plastered in coral and sea life. On this one dive alone there were over five turtles spotted, sharks and hundreds of fish. The topography is dramatic with prolific, jarring rock formations shooting from the sea floor like stalagmites.
One of the more relaxed dives in Komodo. A slow current allows you to float through a vast alley waiting for a Manta Ray to appear. On this dive, we ran into several Mantas a few turtles and towards the end of the dive, the coral became the focal point!
Castle Rock is perhaps the most well-known dive site in Komodo and it didn’t disappoint on my visit. We saw 10 sharks, one of which was quite large. Giant Trevally fish schooled together while we also spotted crocodile fish and creole wrasse. There was a moment where our whole group was engulfed by a fast-moving school of 1000 bannerfish. There was so much action at Castle Rock it was hard to know where to look.
This is the Manta ‘guarantee’ site. Well, nothing is guaranteed but the crew told us there aren’t many times they can remember having visited Taka Makassar without having spotted at least one Manta. Having told us this we became quite anxious as we couldn’t spot one from the surface. We decided to drop in and begin the dive and ended up coming across multiple Giant Manta Rays and several smaller majestic Eagle Rays. This was definitely one of my favorite dives of the trip.
Things to do in Komodo
Padar Island Hike
Padar Island is the most iconic views of the region and possibly Indonesia. From the summit, you can spot more than ten different beaches. You will need to take a smaller boat from your liveaboard and then make the trek up the steep hill for about 20 minutes. Stop often and take in the view, which only gets better as you climb higher. I went to Padar Island for sunset but it looks amazing for sunrise also.
Full Blog Post: Padar Island Hike
Gili Laba Viewpoint
I didn’t hear about the Gili Laba viewpoint until my second trip on a Komodo Liveaboard. I wasn’t expecting it to be amazing after only ever hearing about Padar but this spot blew me away. It’s similar to Padar as you need a small boat to run you ashore before a 20-minute trek up the steep hill. Once at the top you have amazing views down into the bay, which has a stunning reef. The sun rises directly in front of you over the ocean. I could have spent a long time atop this mountain and it was one the highlights of my trip to Komodo the second time around.
Full Blog Post: Gili Laba Hike
Red coral is broken up into fine pieces, mimicking grains of sand and giving this shoreline a pink tinge. From the sky or a drone the beach is easily identifiable as pink but from the sand itself, it doesn’t appear bright pink as you might imagine. Don’t be fooled by the editing some people add to their photos. The water clarity here is insane, like much of Komodo National Park. After marveling at the pink sand, take a quick stroll up the hill on either side of the beach to look back down along the shore and even at the cove around the corner. Pink Beach is a spot you can spend a whole day exploring.
One of the focal points of Komodo National Park is Komodo Island, the home of the famous Komodo Dragon. The beasts can grow up to 3m long and have killed humans. This is a predator and not something to mess around with but great to witness in the flesh. Our ranger led us through the bushes spotting a Komodo and teaching us about their habits and characteristics before we found a few more walking along the beach. They also do swim, not regularly but they are out there. Beware snorkeling!!
Rinca Island is home to deer, monkeys, and Komodo Dragons. Our small ferry took us from our liveaboard to Rinca Island. Here you can see Komodo Dragons up close and personal as they hang around the headquarters of the Rinca Island headquarters. Rangers are always on hand to keep the Komodo Dragons at a safe distance. We were lucky enough to see a Komodo Dragon guarding it’s next when all of a sudden another Komodo came in a little too close. An aggressive chase ensued and we stood back, our range a little frightened for us. At the top of the walking trail, the ranger took us on was a sweet viewpoint looking back out over the islands of the region.
An hour before the sunset our captain anchored the boat facing a small island. We were all preoccupied having the time of our life jumping from the roof and flipping into the warm water as the sunlight slowly faded. However, just after the sun set, we found ourselves amidst a Nat Geo moment. A mass-migration of thousands of bats screeched as they flew out from the mangrove island, heading towards Flores for a night of hunting. We sat on the deck of our liveaboard in awe but at the same time, we were crossing our fingers not to get bombed by bat shit.
Mesa Island Village
One of my favorite stops on my first Komodo Liveaboard experience was a visit to Mesa Island Village. This is an island with no fresh water and home to the talented and curious Bajo people. Fresh water is ferried daily by wooden boats to the island as it only rains here several months a year. It’s a great place to walk around and explore the culture and daily life of the people of Mesa as it is like no other village I’ve ever seen.
Several of the villagers showed me their goggles, which were essentially pieces of glass inside a circular ring of wood tied together with string. However, that’s all the Bajo people need. They are able to free-dive to unbelievable depths hunting for fish minutes on end with no fins and only their homemade goggles.
IMPORTANT: If there are any attractions you specifically want to be included on your Liveaboard itinerary, make sure to communicate that while you are booking. Some liveaboards do a sunrise hike at Padar Island, while some may only visit Pink Beach during the day.
Click Here to compare all liveaboards and to check availability and pricing for the Komodo region.
My time in Komodo was part of the awesome Trip of Wonders with the Indonesia Tourism Board.