Visiting Komodo Dragons in Indonesia

Indonesia     Destinations
The guides are experts at taking this awesome photo! That's one big lizard.
The guides are experts at taking this awesome photo! That's one big lizard.
I'm fortunate that my hometown of San Diego has an incredible zoo and I have seen Komodo Dragons there since I was a kid. But it's been on my list to visit the island of Komodo in Indonesia to see them in their natural habitat.

Komodo National Park contains the only 4 islands in the world where Komodo Dragons live in the wild. You can only visit them by boat and the main way to get there is to book a tour in the town of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores which is only a 1 hour flight from Denpasar on Bali (see Booking a Komodo National Park Tour - What You Need to Know).

The islands set up for tourists to visit the dragons are Rinca and Komodo. The government had plans to shut down the island of Komodo in 2020 to allow the deer population to grow and hence helping the population, health, and size of the Komodo Dragons, but those plans were suddenly cancelled saying they decided there was no actual concern about the dragons.

Each island has a park entrance where you pay your fees and get a guide. The fees are per day so if you visit Komodo and Rinca on the same day, you only have to pay one set of fees. And the park entry fee is much less expensive on weekdays. If you are on a group tour, your tour guide will probably just collect all the fees up front so you don't have to worry about them. It should be approximately Rp 285,000 for both parks.
The dock at the Rinca Island park entrance.
The dock at the Rinca Island park entrance.
Rinca park entrance.
Rinca park entrance.
Neither island is very grandiose which is very nice. The hiking (walking) on both Rinca and Komodo is very tame. You could go in rubber flip flops, but something a bit more rugged (even a rugged flip flop) is best. It's mostly just flat and sometimes a little rocky. Sunscreen - yes! Mosquito repellent - didn't need it. You spend about an hour and a half at each park.
The terrain is pretty easy. No hiking shoes needed.
The terrain is pretty easy. No hiking shoes needed.
The shady path on Rinca.
The shady path on Rinca.

Rinca

Rinca, about 2 1/2 hours from Labauan Bajo, is the only island visited on a 1-day tour. On a 2-day tour, you get to visit both islands.

At first it was exciting thinking we might come across a huge Komodo dragon as the guide led us along the shady path through the jungle. We did see some monkeys and deer and some dragon nesting grounds, but we didn't actually see any Komodo Dragons until we looped back around to the ranger station, nor did it feel like the ranger was even looking for any along the path.

It was a bit of a different feeling that they were all hanging out around the houses, but we were able to get quite close to a group of dragons lying in the sun, and a few others around the ranger station grounds. There were even deer hanging out close by; the dragons' main food!

Since the dragons only eat once a month, much like a snake, they are lethargic most of the time. You do need to be careful of course. Do not swing your bag since they think you are swinging meat for them to eat.
Pretty cool seeing this wild Komodo Dragon in its natural habitat ....
Pretty cool seeing this wild Komodo Dragon in its natural habitat ....
But zoom out and this wild dragon is just hanging out around the ranger station.
But zoom out and this wild dragon is just hanging out around the ranger station.
Even the deer let you walk right up to them.
Even the deer let you walk right up to them.
The guide with his stick weapon.
The guide with his stick weapon.

Komodo

As on Rinca, the guide takes you on a pretty and tame path. I don't think it's any surprise to them where the dragons are at any given time. But there did seem to be more of them wandering around on Komodo. There were some large males lying around in the sun, some young dragons doing their funny little dragon walk near the path, and even a female cruising around by the gift stands.

Apparently in the village of Komodo (on Komodo island), many children lose limbs to the dragons! So there is indeed a bit of danger walking around these giant lizards. The rangers are armed with a long forked stick which I'm very unsure of its effectiveness if a dragon decided you would make a good meal.

But after getting some great shots of the dragons, including the photo that the guide will take of you with an expert angle to make the lizard seem larger-than-life, you are left at the gift shops before you board on your boat. Yep, they sell the same tacky crappy stuff here as everywhere else but it's not the worst thing to get a small wooden dragon souvenir. Bring cash and your bargaining skills.
A very handsome (and large!) male Komodo Dragon on the island of Komodo.
A very handsome (and large!) male Komodo Dragon on the island of Komodo.
For a 2-day tour, we slept on our boat anchored off the village of Komodo. The "cool beer" boat rowed over with large Bintangs for Rp 50,000.

Komodo National Park Foreigner Tarifs
Entrance Ticket (M-Sa): 150,000 rp (11 USD) per person
Entrance Ticket (Sun & holidays): 305,000 rp (21 USD) per person
Tourism Tax: 100,000 rp (6.60 USD) per person
Ranger fee: 80,000 rp (5.30 USD) per group up to 5 people
Hiking fee: 5,000 rp (0,30 USD) per person
Wildlife observation fee: 10,000 rp (0.7 USD) per person
Boat Parking fee (Rinca): 100,000 rp per boat
I tried to get a clever shot of the dragon walking in the background of the dragon carvings but I kind of missed the photo opp. LOL
I tried to get a clever shot of the dragon walking in the background of the dragon carvings but I kind of missed the photo opp. LOL
Hati hati indeed!
Hati hati indeed!

More Details About the Tour

Booking a Komodo National Park Tour - What You Need to Know
What to Bring on Your Komodo Nat'l Park Tour
Visiting Komodo Dragons in Indonesia
Pink Beach, and Pinker Beaches
Padar - THE Komodo View Point
Manta Rays - Majestic Giants in Komodo

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