Disclaimer: Thank you to Flores XP for hosting us as your guests. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own. Photo credit for Komodo Dragons: Kevin Helmink, for Makassar Reef Locals: Susana Gomez & Kevin Helmink.
Komodo National Park, located in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia was recently chosen as one of the World’s Top Ten Destinations to see by National Geographic magazine and once you’ve visited, it’s easy to see why. The Komodo National Park encompasses 29 volcanic islands but the three most notable islands are Rinca, Padar and Komodo. These islands are home to a whopping 2,500 Komodo Dragons and other terrestrial species, currently serving as the only place in the world where you can have an up close experience with the deadly, venomous, and prehistoric Dragons.
Aside from these legendary creatures, Komodo National Park features outstanding natural landscapes that are incredibly diverse. From tropical rainforests, to grass covered mountainous terrain, and pink sanded beaches... this national park has it all, which is why we had to experience it for ourselves, and Flores XP Adventure Tours gave us the opportunity to do so on a 3 day 2 night island hopping adventure of lifetime
We boarded our beautiful wooden boat Kapal Lahila and set sail for Rinca Island as our first stop to trek with the world famous Komodo Dragons. We can safely say, mission accomplished! Our guide helped us navigate the Loh Buaya Walking Trail to get a glimpse of these mythical creatures, and we were fortunate enough to see nearly a dozen; It was an absolute adrenaline rush and lived up to every minute of anticipation!
From there we sailed to Penggah Island for snorkeling that rivaled our experiences with the Great Barrier Reef. This enchanting island had some of the most vibrant colored coral reefs we had ever seen with equally exotic marine life to accompany it. We were mesmerized by the endless schools of fish and fluorescent corals at every turn.
Boarding our boat once more, we set sail for the iconic Padar Island. We had seen this place in photos and were chomping at the bit to experience a sunset here. After a steep but brief hike to the top, we rested in awe, basking in the indescribable view before us. The landscape was so distinctive, with steep volcanic mountains on one end and rolling grass covered hills across the other, set against three bays with tri-colored beaches. Each cove had its own color: one black, one white and one pink sanded beach bordering its own coastline of tropical water. This place was a hidden treasure, unlike anything we had ever seen and surely a place we will return to over and over again.
You know you’re on a good tour when the second day supersedes the first. We did a brief pit stop on Komodo Island to trek with the legendary dragons once more, before we set sail to experience the remarkable Pink Beach. This exceptional beach is one of seven pink beaches in the entire world. The beach gets its unique color from microscopic organisms called Foraminifera. They produce a red pigment from the coral reefs, but when the small pieces of coral combine with white sand, it creates a soft pink tint, which is only visible on the shore. Aside from its striking color, this notorious beach offers its visitors absolute serenity with vibrant corals and beautiful reef alongside its pink covered coastline.
After a few hours exploring our pink haven, we boarded our ship and sailed towards the Siaba Besar Islands to snorkel once more. We were transported into another world from the moment we hit the water; This was some of the richest marine biodiversity we had ever seen. Swimming with sea turtles, schools of fish, and weaving our way through rainbow colored corals, we were mesmerized by the beauty found below the ocean's surface.
Once snorkeling had concluded, we sailed towards Sebayur Island, an idyllic desert island, for a sunset dinner at Pirate's Cove (a pirate themed island camp) before retreating to our own private bungalows only a few yards from the beach. There’s something so soothing about falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing on shore. It was such a special, enchanting experience and was the perfect combination of luxury with a hint of rustic adventure.
Sailing across the turquoise sea we headed towards Batu Bolong Island for another snorkeling opportunity, but with each new location, lied a unique underwater oasis. Below the surface, each terrain was different from the last, with cliff walls, sandy bottoms, underwater plateaus, caves, and tunnels; all accompanied by hard and soft corals, and distinct marine life, each was a personalized experience that would not be forgotten.
After snorkeling Batu Bolong, we then left for our second snorkel location of the day, Manta Point. We dove right into a fast moving current that took us north as the Manta Rays swam the underwater highway below. These reef mantas were up to 5 meters wide (15 feet) and were absolutely massive. There we were, as guests entering their place of wonder, peacefully swimming alongside them as they majestically navigated the crystal clear waters around us. Absolutely UNREAL. No words will ever be able to do our experience justice, we were truly left speechless.
As if life couldn’t get any better, we were then escorted to the Makassar Reef. This was one of four pink beaches in the Komodo National Park, and ironically resembled a heart shape from above. With its very own pristine pink sand beach and vibrant turquoise blue waters, we had our first remote tropical island experience. It was the type of island you'd hope to get stranded on… any place that beautiful is hard to leave.
Our day was far from over. From there we snorkeled a third location, Mawan Island for some additional one on one time with manta rays, sea turtles, and even stingrays in their underlying coral gardens. Shortly thereafter, we boarded our ship once more to visit the Rinca gipsy village and get a feel for local island life before making our way towards Kalong Island to experience the flying foxes at sunset. This was the most spectacular display of nature as thousands of fruit bats emerged from their mangrove forest habitat to fly towards Rinca Island in search for food which for them was good old fashioned fruit. The pink and orange hued sunset also made for an incredible backdrop as the staggering number of bats took to the sky.
Flores XP Adventure Tours had delivered on their promise to enhance our love for nature and satiate our lust for adventure. Komodo National Park absolutely deserves its title for top 10 destinations to visit in the world and we now understand why. A trip like this is so rare to find and when you do, you want to share it with the world. So do yourself a favor, add this to your bucket list, because travel is the best gift you can ever give yourself especially when it takes you to a wondrous place like this.