Komodo National Park was established in 1980 as a sanctuary for the Komodo dragon (the largest lizard on Earth) and later became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The three major islands are Komodo, Rinca, and Padar. There are also about 26 small islands surrounding the area.
As you might expect, diving Komodo National Park is spectacular! For our trip, we decided to do a Komodo liveaboard.
How to get to Komodo Island
To get to Komodo National Park, you must first make your way to Labuan Bajo Airport on the Island of Flores, the gateway to the Park. It is a tiny airport that serves as a flight layover from Bali to smaller destinations further east.
Upon landing, we hopped into a taxi to make our way into the town of Labuan Bajo to spend the night there. The taxi was roughly Rp. 50,000.
That’s a local price for Indonesians like me, so you may have to pay a bit more more.
Labuan Bajo is a tiny town that has recently started to thrive from the tourism business, so it’s worth your time to take a Labuan Bajo tour.
You’ll find lots of wonderful street food here.
The major road there is home to more than 22 Komodo dive shops.
They all compete for business from divers who come to this otherwise sleepy fisherman’s village to see Komodo.
For our Komodo liveaboard, we decided to book with Dive Komodo, one of the larger establishments in town. They have several Komodo diving liveaboard options available.
If you want something more luxurious in Indonesia, you’ll find lots of different types of liveaboards in Komodo National Park here.
The Tatawa Komodo Liveaboard
Our boat, the Tatawa, was small, yet totally appropriate for what we were doing and where we were going. It certainly wasn’t as fancy as some of the subsequent (and far more expensive) trips we’ve been on in Indonesia.
Michael’s trip aboard the Raja Ampat Aggressor was much fancier.
Here, there was no air conditioning, so at times it was quite hot. Thankfully, we dove 3-4 times a day.
Don’t let the lack of air conditioning prevent you from joining this trip though. You’ll be surprised how wonderful and comfortable it can be to sleep on the deck at night!
During the downtime, we always managed to snag spots on the deck with cooling electric fans blowing above our heads.
The Komodo islands are in the arid Nusa Tenggara (Lesser Sunda) region of Indonesia. They are hot with high humidity. There are rows and rows of islands, so this region offers some of the most beautiful natural colors on earth.
The ocean is a turquoise blue and the islands are a lush green.
Sunsets in Komodo are amazing.
Further reading: How to pack for a liveaboard and save space and money!
Diving Komodo National Park
The marine diversity in Komodo is stunning. That is largely due to the strong currents that run north and south between the islands.
Because the current can get quite strong, beginners and people who prefer to dive in calm water should take that into consideration before diving Komodo National Park.
Komodo diving requires much more patience and a bit more skill than you might have as a beginner diver.
For this reason, the divemasters at Dive Komodo were very attentive during the check-out dives. They went to great lengths to ensure that we saw everything we wanted to see.
And the dives we did matched the skill-sets of each diver.
When you’re diving Komodo National Park, you’ll see tons of big animals in the water, including the always majestic manta rays.
One of our favorite dives here, at the Batu Bolong Dive Site, saw mantas lining up gracefully in the strong current.
Cleaning fish (wrasses) and the fast moving water did their best to clean them.
A total spa day for mantas!
But you have to hold on – the currents here are very strong, and you will need a hook or something else to hold onto.
(In our case, our “reef hook” was our dive guide!)
Sea turtles were also quite plentiful and we even saw some sharks – they were mostly bamboo sharks.
Stingy Nomad has an excellent page that highlights some of the spectacular Komodo Dive Sites. You can find his Diving Komodo Islands page here.
Local population of Komodo Island
Only a few hundred people live in the National Park. Most have been living on these islands before it became a National Park in 1980.
They depend on fishing and tourism.
Although the ocean surrounding these islands are protected from over-fishing, illegal fishing does still occur here.
Typical arid landscape of Komodo National Park islands
We didn’t see this, however, and we are told it is a very rare occurrence nowadays.
During our time diving in Komodo National Park, artisans from a wood carving business would often visit.
In the evening, local boats visit tourist boats and ships, attempting to sell their wares.
Normally, we don’t buy things like this. But the work was so good that we purchased a pair of hand-carved wooden Komodo Dragon sculptures.
Our liveaboard didn’t offer an actual tour of Komodo Island. But as a break from the diving, we visited Rinca Island. It’s one of the most popular Komodo tours.
There, we hiked to the highest point of the island to view the namesake Komodo Dragons.
We even spotted a few surrounding the ranger’s elevated cabin.
Unfortunately, the majority of dragons you’ll see are there begging for food. That’s not too impressive if you had a more stoic image of these dragons hunting big animals.
Still you’ll get lots of Komodo Dragon pictures, and they are really cool animals to see.
You just have to be careful.
But don’t worry, you’re guide carries a very powerful… stick.
Everything surrounding these islands make up an amazingly beautiful underwater sanctuary. Diving Komodo National Park is a must-do for divers.
From macro life to big animals like manta rays, there is something for everyone to see on a Komodo diving trip!
We were obviously very fortunate to be diving in this marine paradise!
Food on the Tatawa liveaboard
Aside from the amazing Komodo Island diving and new friends, the food was outstanding. No pretense is made about serving five-star food here on fancy plates with fine flatware.
The food was absolutely delicious and served buffet style!
Absolutely zero complaints.
Even Michael, who is a vegetarian, could find nothing wrong with the food. The chef on the boat was superb and there were always good quality vegetarian options available.
This is not surprising, since tempeh is an Indonesian invention!
With Dive Komodo, “Vegetarians are always well-catered to!”
Here are some Indonesian food facts – an introduction on what you can expect.
Dive Komodo dive shop
If you decide that diving Komodo National Park is for you, we do recommend the Dive Komodo liveaboard.
It’s not fancy, but the staff is quite professional.
Dive Komodo is great option for Komodo tours and diving. It’s also quite inexpensive compared to luxury liveaboards in Komodo National Park.
Check out their current prices right here (pdf).
We recommend renting the gear they have there, which is good quality and inexpensive.
Carrying a lot of diving equipment can get expensive. If this is the only stop you have in Indonesia, perhaps that doesn’t matter and it’s worth it for you to bring your own.
If you’ve never been on a liveaboard before, we’ve written a guide to how to pack for a liveaboard diving trip.
However you decide to pack, go to Komodo.
It’s absolutely wonderful!
And if Indonesia turns out to be your thing, check out Michael’s Raja Ampat Aggressor liveaboard review as well!
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Halef moved from Indonesia to the US nearly two decades ago to go to college here. He hasn’t looked back. He’s been to over forty countries and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. He’s a Landscape Architect in Atlanta, GA.
very good review Halef and informative. I plan on diving the Tatawa next May.
That’s great! It’s not luxury, but the staff, diving, and food MORE than make up for it!!! Let us know how how it goes and if/how it has changed if you wouldn’t mind! We’ll provide an update if there are big changes!
What are your thoughts on women traveling/diving solo there?
You won’t have any problems at all. Women traveling solo to Indonesia is pretty common.
Just back from Komodo and discover a LOT MORE options that the one who mentionned…
Tatawa is non active during low season (until april) so could be nice to mentionned it.
I suggest you to pass by and update your article.