Komodo Cruise – Our honest review

Komodo Island, one of the most stunning islands in Indonesia, is now on most travelers’ bucket list! The UNESCO-protected Komodo National Park is a group of 29 islands located near Flores. The main islands are Komodo, Rinca, and Padar, but there are also smaller islands to visit making it perfect for island hopping!
Home to a rich marine sea life including manta rays, sharks, flamboyant coral reefs, splendid pink beaches, and unique tropical island landscapes, the Komodo National Park is above all the only place in the world where you can spot the famous Komodo Dragons – the world’s largest lizard!

During our four-month trip in Southeast Asia, many fellow travelers strongly recommended two unmissable experiences: one being the Ha Giang motorbike loop in Vietnam and the other being the Komodo Cruise in Indonesia. Ha Giang was by far the highlight of our Vietnam trip; we absolutely loved this singular adventure. So, when we landed in Indonesia, we had very high expectations for this Komodo Cruise! This guide includes everything you need to know from how to book your cruise, and what to see to our honest review.


In 2023, Shared Boat Tours in Komodo are only cruising during the weekend (Departure on Friday morning until Sunday mid-day).
You must fly to Labuan Bajo on Thursday night at the latest to make sure you don’t miss the boat the next morning. Book your accommodation as early as possible as most hotels are sold out weeks in advance.

How to travel to Komodo Islands

Exploring the Komodo Islands is now easily accessible for anyone traveling to Indonesia. The getaway airport is Labuan Bajo (LBJ) on Flores Island.
Since 2015, Labuan Bajo Airport has a few international flights and most importantly multiple flights per day from Indonesia. From Bali, the flight takes only 1h15 which is convenient if you want to add Komodo to your 3-week Bali itinerary.

Labuan Bajo town is only a 10-minute drive from the airport and has seen a recent infrastructure development to welcome more tourists.

From Labuan Bajo town, you need to book a single or multi-day boat tour to get to Komodo National Park. Pick-up is organized from your hotel.
Alternatively, some boat tours go from Lombok to Labuan Bajo and stop to visit the Komodo National Park highlights! However, this is recommended for true adventurers as the sea can be super rough between the islands.

Staying in Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo is a small and traditional fishing town that is slowly attracting more tourists. There are not many accommodation options available yet and you will not find the same standard and value as in Bali.
Book your hotel as soon as you have your travel dates!

We visited the Komodo Islands the weekend following the ASEAN meeting, an international meeting gathering all the Southeast Asian countries. As expected, every hotel on Flores Island was fully booked many weeks in advance. We ended up booking the last room in La Boheme Bajo hostel in the center of Labuan Bajo. The hostel was clean, the room was comfortable enough for one night and there was a good atmosphere at the bar.
Be careful – there were many Airbnb hotel rooms available on the app but they were all fully booked or fake.

We only walked around Labuan Bajo to go for dinner the night before our cruise. The little town was very pleasant to discover. The local people were welcoming, and smiley and many kids were playing in the lively streets around sunset time. There are some nice little restaurants in town and a few bars. We had dinner at Pizza Haus Bajo but ordered the pasta from its sister restaurant La Cucina!

How to explore the Komodo Islands

You can only explore Komodo National Park on an island-hopping boat tour. The small fishing town of Labuan Bajo is the starting point of all boat tours.

You can either do a single-day tour on a speedboat or a multi-day sightseeing cruise on a Phinisi boat, a traditional wooden boat, accommodating 10 to 20 people.

If you do a single-day boat tour, you will be based in Labuan Bajo otherwise you’ll sleep on the boat in the Komodo National Park.

Komodo Cruise options & prices

There are two main boat options for your Komodo Cruise. Prices vary depending on the type of boat, level of comfort, and type of cabin you choose.

Sharing boat Tour

  • Sharing Cabin: budget friendly, shared dorm & bathroom (From IDR 2,500,000 – $165 per person)
  • Private Cabin: private room & bathroom – prices are per room and vary depending on the cabin you choose (IDR 3,500,000 to 8,500,000 – $230 to $550)

Private boat Tour

  • For 5 people, you can look at renting your own boat which would give you more flexibility and convenience. Depending on the boat and company you choose, it might be worth the extra money.

You can do an overnight cruise or 2 nights trip. We recommend the second option as it covers the best things to see in Komodo National Park. The pick-up from the hotel, drop-off to the airport, breakfast x2, lunch x3, dinner x2, snorkeling gear, snack, coffee, and water are all included!

You will need to pay for your flight to Labuan Bajo, your hotel the night before the trip, and the Entrance fee for Komodo National Park which is IDR 500,000 ($33).

We did a sightseeing cruise which included many stops and some snorkeling spots. You have the option of doing a Diving Cruise as well. You will see the highlights of the National Park (Padar Island, Komodo dragons) but the rest of the trip will focus on diving/snorkeling in the best areas.

Komodo Cruise Itinerary (3 Days, 2 Nights)

From Labuan Bajo, it takes a couple of hours to reach the Komodo Islands. The itinerary can be influenced by the weather, but most tours offer the same itinerary. Here’s what you can expect to see during the three days of cruising:

Day 1 – Kanawa – Manjarite – Kalong

Pick up on Friday morning at your hotel. Our driver dropped us at Labuan Bajo harbor 10 minutes later where you meet your guides.

This is your last chance to buy beers and alcohol before the Boat tour starts. Near the Starbucks (yes there is one in Labuan bajo…), there are some shops and banks if you need cash, snacks, or beers. This part of Labuan Bajo feels more modern than the center. However, not all the shops sell alcohol.

Kanawa Island

This small paradisiac island recognizable by its long wooden pontoon was our first stop. We did some snorkeling for about an hour in the turquoise water where you can spot small sharks, turtles, soft corals, fish, and large starfish.
You can walk around the island in one hour and hike to the main viewpoint, or just chill at the beach. The island felt overcrowded and too busy for us.


This inhabited island is one of the best snorkeling spots in Komodo. There is a long wooden pier overhanging on shallow crystal-clear water and white sand. The garden corals, fish, and lights were amazing. Our guides took many underwater photos of everyone with the GoPro. We particularly enjoyed snorkeling there, it was truly magical.

Sunset on Kalong Island

This small island covered by mangroves is home to thousands of giant bats that leave after sunset to get some food. This was by far the most impressive moment of the trip – seeing these big bats flying over the boat while the sun was going down was amazing!

Day 2 – Padar Island – Pink Beach – Komodo Dragons – Manta Point – Taka Makassar

Hike Padar Island

Rise and shine at 4:30am to see the most iconic views of the Komodo Islands for the sunrise. Padar is the third largest island in Komodo. It’s an easy 45-minute hike to the top with many viewpoints along the way. The island has the most original shape with its three majestic hilly bays where you can see a white-sand beach, a grey beach, and a pink beach. The views are indisputably magnificent, but it was way too crowded!! It felt surreal to see that many people up so early at the same viewpoint. It slightly ruined the experience for us.

Chill on a Pink Beach

The Komodo Islands are famous for their beautiful pink beaches which are very rare in the world. The pink color along the coast comes from the mix of white sand and red coral fragments. Most tours take you to the largest pink beach near Komodo Island. Unfortunately, this beach is a little less pink than others because of the travelers that take this unique red coral home – please don’t touch or take any corals with you… The pink beach is a great stop to take photos, lounge at the beach, and snorkel after the morning hike.

Komodo Island to spot the dragons

Komodo National Park is the only place in the world where you can spot the largest lizard on the planet living in the wild – The Komodo Dragons. The boat will drop you on either Rinca or Komodo Island to look for the dragons with experienced rangers. From there, you have a few options to do a short (30 min), medium (1h), or long trek (2h) in the park.

The dragons in Rinca are usually smaller than in Komodo but the population is bigger.

Adult dragons can be as long as 3 meters and generally weigh around 70 kg. They don’t normally attack humans but always stay behind the ranger and never get too close.

As soon as we arrived on Komodo Island, we noticed a dragon running on the beach. We then saw one massive dragon resting near a pound after a 10-minute walk. However, one of the rangers was pushing tourists to take photos behind and close to the poor dragon, and the whole situation lasted 20 minutes and felt very uncomfortable.

We learned a great deal about the dragons and their habitat with our local guide. We just hope that the Indonesian Government will protect the endangered dragons and will develop conservation even more in the future. Komodo has not yet reached its peak in terms of tourism so it’s important to make the right choices.

Snorkel at Manta Point

A great snorkeling point where you can spot the beautiful Manta Rays and many other fish and corals. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any Manta rays during our trip as the sea was quite rough. We spotted two turtles and very nice soft and hard corals which was great.

Taka Makassar

This tiny sandbank in the middle of the sea is surrounded by shallow turquoise waters and a mix of white and pink sand. This is the perfect sunset spot for the last night.

Day 3 – Kelor Island and back to Labuan Bajo

Kelor Island – Labuan Bajo

Our last stop was this stunning inhabited island with a chilled atmosphere. There is a short hike to get one of the best views of Komodo and it is less crowded than Padar Island.

The shallow turquoise water is perfect for a last snorkeling. We spotted 4 baby reef sharks and a sting ray. Kelor Island was one of our favorite islands.

Best time to visit Komodo

Try to avoid the rainy season from January to March, as most boat trips don’t run during this time. If you do go then, plan for a couple of days’ buffer time so you can reschedule your boat trip in case the original trip gets canceled.

If your aim is only to see Komodo dragons, avoid mating season in July and August. You’ll likely only see small Komodo dragons during this time as the large dragons are in the forest mating, and hard to find.

What to expect from a Komodo Cruise (boat, food, and activities)?

Exploring Komodo on a 3-day cruise is a very cool experience! You will be mesmerized by the beautiful landscapes you see all day from paradisiac islands to waking up in the middle of the sea facing stunning beaches. The underwater life is truly one of the best we have seen in Indonesia (manta rays, corals, sharks, turtles, tropical fish). It’s a great way to meet other travelers and have a good time.

Regarding the boats, remember that it’s not a 5-star cruise like you can find in Halong Bay. The rooms are basic and standard. The cooks prepare good traditional Indonesian food all day (there are a lot of veggie options).

Our Cruise experience – honest review

As we said, we had such high expectations for this Komodo Trip that our experience was slightly disappointing overall!

Here are the reasons why we think Komodo could become overrated soon:

The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s very hard to find established Tour companies specialized in Komodo Tours with great reviews. We realized that every other traveler on our boat booked through a different agency. This means that your agency is just a middleman and can’t really help if you face any difficulty during the trip.

Our tour company was very nice and responsive, but the booking process was complicated. We needed to transfer the money on Wise and not all the information was very clear after we booked.

We booked a ‘luxury’ Phinshi which was built in 2020 (so pretty recent) and looked great in photos. We had booked 2 rooms (one for 3 people and one for 2). When we arrived on the boat, we realized that in one of the rooms, the door was not locking nor CLOSING and there was a sink with no TAP in the bathroom. We were not expecting luxury at all because I knew it would be a basic room but closing your door and being able to brush your teeth in the sink is the bare minimum for the high price we paid (more than $1000 for 5 people).

When we contacted our tour agency to complain and fix the problem – they said they couldn’t do anything, and they were genuinely sorry about that because they didn’t own the boat. This is why the booking system is a problem.

The people who had booked the best and most expensive sea view cabins were even more disappointed than us. They couldn’t open the curtains without seeing most of the crew smoking or having a drink behind the boat. They also could hear the machinery more than us but there is not much you can do about that.

Despite the cabins, the main problem was hygiene on the boat – we noticed many little cockroaches around the dining area, and they climbed at night in everyone’s toilets which was absolutely gross. There was not enough space for everyone to dine at the main table outside, so we had to eat on the lounge chairs or inside the boat.

Finally, we just felt that Komodo was too crowded and busy, especially on Padar Island which was a shame. There were probably 100 boats anchored and a thousand people hiking with us. The main problem is that they open bookings for the weekends only which means that everyone is in Komodo at the same time… hopefully, they will open bookings during the week to spread the crowds.

The landscapes are amazing, we loved the snorkeling, and the overall experience afterward was great despite little disappointments.

We would recommend it but don’t expect to be alone in Komodo like you see on the Instagram photos. And most importantly, we don’t think that it’s worth the money you pay.

I hope we haven’t discouraged you from visiting Komodo because it was a great experience but don’t have high expectations like us.

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