Among many reasons why Indonesia is an amazing place to travel, their famed Komodo Dragons are stunningly majestic and can only be seen on a group of 5 small islands in the East of Indonesia. You can travel there for a one day trip from Lubuan Bajo in Flores, or if you like adventures and don’t mind roughing it the 4 day 3 night boat cruise from Lombok is an excellent choice and a once in a lifetime experience. I chose Komodo Star Cruises as I’d heard good things from other travelers and I thought they were awesome…more on that later!
You’ve got two options here, either a cabin 2.5M IDR or an outside bed on the top deck 1.8M IDR. The cabins are relatively small and although you are provided with a fan, the room never really cools down, and they are located next to the engine, meaning as you travel through the islands at night it is a bit noisy and hard to sleep.The upside to having your own cabin is that you have privacy and a place to securely store your belongings.
If you choose to stay on the top deck, you will get a thing mattress and a small pillow. You will not have any privacy, and your bags will be stored below deck, making them a bit difficult to access. There will be approximately 20 of you crammed on the deck with mattresses at night, but you get a nice breeze and fresh air at night, and after all you’re going to be meeting some amazing new friends and having an epic adventure… so how much sleep do you really need?
REMEMBER to negotiate hard, we managed to get a cabin for 2M IDR and a space on the top desk for 1.6M IDR, cheeky money saving tip if there are two of you one of you book the cabin and one book the top deck, if one person books the cabin they get the whole cabin to themselves so if you are a couple do this and you can get two people in the cabin for 3.6M IDR saving over $100!!
3 meals a day, pretty decent food but if your boat is busy make sure you queue up early at meal times as once it’s gone it’s gone!
Tea, Coffee, Sugar
All transportation, including use of smaller boats to get into the islands
Entrance fees to all national parks (Komodo and Rinca)
What’s not included:
Stock up on booze before you get on board, once you arrive you can order anything with the boat company you are going with but to save money buy large bottles of spirits before you get to the boat or pick up some local rice wine for 30,000IDR for 2 litres. Try and get any snacks and alcohol before you get to Lombok port as it is more expensive there. Remember to get double the amount of alcohol you think you’ll need, sitting around on a boat cruising around the islands is thirsty work and the cruise is a boozy one if you’ve got the right crowd and everyone is up for a good time!
What sort of boat is it?
An awesome wooden ship, 30m Long with 2 decks, a lower deck with the cabins (Our’s had 4 cabins), the dining area and an outside lounging deck and an upper deck with mattresses.
Your day will start at Gili T, where the public boat back to Lombok is included in the ticket price. You will leave Gili T at approximately 8am, so that you can check in by 9:30, but unfortunately that does not mean you’ll be heading out mid morning… you won’t depart until about 12.30/1pm at the earliest, so you’ll have a few hours of sitting around. If you need any last minute supplies you can find them at Bangsal Port, which is where you will depart from, it has several small shops to choose from.
Once on the boat grab your sleeping spot, try getting on early so you get your pick of the spots and then start socializing with your new crew mates! The entire first day will be spent on the boat with the exception of a 1 hour swimming stop. The boat will cruise all the way around Lombok heading towards the island Moyo. Myself and my new mates sat on the boat all afternoon having a few drinks, playing cards and listening to music. Dinner is usually served around 6pm right as the sun is starting to set, and you can eat and chat and relax into the evening.
You will wake up around 6.30am, which is about an hour after the sun comes up and start the day off with a breakfast of pancakes and tea of coffee before diving into the sea straight off the boat for a nice and refreshing dip!
The first stop of the day is Madong Island, a tiny island somewhere off the coast of West Nusa Tengarra. Here you will walk around the island and explore the local community. Everyone swims over to the island from the boat whilst the crew will row all your valuables / clothes over to the island so you don’t have to carry them with you. Once on the island you spend the morning at the local schools, interacting with the school children and generally getting an insight into community life. Our tour guide came with us and gave us the history of the island and spoke excellent English, it was only his 2nd cruise but he was always full of information and made the experience really memorable.
In my opinion this was a bit of a weird first stop; it was really cool to see how the locals live on the island but also a bit strange to visit the schools and interrupt all their classes! You can stock up on booze and snacks here as there is a local shop and after the heavy drinking on the first night we all needed a refill. We headed back to the boat and about 2 hours later we’re at our next stop which is a short jungle trek to a beautiful waterfall, which was the perfect opportunity to grab a shower and laze in the cool waters in magical surroundings.
As an FYI not all the touring companies follow the same itinerary. However, I’m fairly certain that this is a stop that most of the other boat cruises and companies will make as we saw 3 other boats moored up at the same time.
Following the morning activities you will have a 20 minute walk through the jungle where you will then arrive at a tiered waterfall, with the sun bursting through the canopy and clear turquoise waters flowing down the falls. These waterfalls are similar to the sticky waterfall in Chiang Mai as you can climb up it and your feet stick to the falls. There are a few ropes that you have to use to traverse to the top but once at the top there is a deep pool to swim in and a few rope swings.
Once you’ve finished up at the waterfall it’s back to the boat for Lunch and the rest of the day is spent on the boat, cruising through beautiful scenery, passing beaches, mountains and local fisherman while having a few drinks on the boat. Dinner is served again at sunset, and you’ll spend the evening drinking and partying with the rest of your crew.
Again you’ll find yourself waking up around 6.30am, I’ve heard elsewhere that the crew wakes you up but our crew would probably have let us sleep all day if we’d wanted to, there were super chilled and despite many of them not speaking much English they always visited with us and would have a few drinks and a bit of banter in the evenings, as you’ll see in my video!
You’ll arrive on another deserted island at about 7.30am (sorry but no idea what the name was) here we had a 90 minute trek to the top of a mountain to get fantastic views across a plethora of beautiful uninhabited islands. It’s a fairly hot and sweaty trek with minimal shade but once at the top the views and scenery are epic.
After this trek it’s back to the boat and on our way to Manta point to swim with Manta Rays. The crew jumped into their little row boat and headed out in search of Mantas. We pulled up as close as we could, jumped in and started swimming with them. The first thing I saw when i jumped in the water was a black tip reef shark, which was awesome and then I was in search of the gigantic Mantas. This was one of my highlights, these majestic creatures seemed to appear out of nowhere and glide effortlessly through the water, keeping up with them was near impossible as the currents were strong and they’re way too fast!
After a couple of hours watching the Manta Rays we were back on the boat for a short trip over to Pink Beach, and as you may guess it’s called pink beach because it’s pink!! Here you will have a few hours to laze on the beach with a few beers or go and check out the snorkeling. I’d say this beach is up there with some of the best snorkeling I’ve experienced, live colorful coral, loads of fishes and even the occasional sea turtle.
After this stop the boat leaves and moors up near Kalong island, it was our last night on the boat so what do you think we did? Obviously we had a boat rave! The subwoofers came out, the alcohol was flowing, the crew were all drinking with us and we had an epic party, so much so that we got complaints from other boats for being too loud… sorry! Luckily the locals from the neighboring islands come out on their boats and sell you anything you need, we even got one of the guys to get us a boat load of ice so all our drinks were ice cold!
If your boat and new mates are anything like my experience was, you might feel a tad bit under the weather on Day 4. After waking up with a raging hangover from the night before this was finally the day to see Komodo Dragons! First stop is Komodo National Park, where you trek for 90 minutes around the park…. I’ll be honest it was somewhat pointless as we saw all the Komodo dragons we would see within the first 10 minutes of the trek. These beasts are epic… not only in size but in all aspects of being a wild carnivorous creature and getting so up close and personal with them was incredible.
Next we were off to Rinca which was pretty much the same deal, trekking around a beautiful island in search of Komodo’s knowing that the 6 you saw at the beginning were probably the only 6 you were going to see, none the less seeing these magnificent creatures in their wild habitat was a memorable experience.
Once you’ve done Komodo and Rinca you’ll head back to the boat for lunch before a 3 hour cruise to the final stop of Labuan Bajo in Flores.
WORD OF WARNING – book accommodation in advance in Flores, cheaper hotels are harder to come by and after that amount of time on a warm boat, you want some A/C and a hot shower. Also make sure to book your flight back from Flores to Bali or wherever you go next in advance as it’s much cheaper online and the flights fill up pretty fast.
For me that was one of the highlights of Indonesia, I was fortunate to have an amazing group of people on the boat, not once did anyone complain about the heat, lack of showers or noise, we were just all there to have a good time and that we did! Special thanks to those guys for making it so awesome and to Komodo Star Cruises who I would highly recommend!