Getting from Bali, the Island of the Gods, to the Home of the Dragons is a classic journey that many travellers will make when in this part of the Indonesian archipelago. Komodo Island, along with Flores and Rinca, is situated in the Flores Sea in what is known as the Nusa Tenggara region. There are 3 realistic options (no swimming!) of getting from Bali to Komodo: by air, by boat, and by bus (yes, bus!).
It can be tough to leave Bali, as for some people the island represents paradise. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that myself, although each to their own! What I did miss about Bali was the rice paddies and rural areas around Ubud and elsewhere in the centre of the island. The beaches of Bali are pretty poor, and you can actually find better ones in the Nusa Tenggara region. Heading back to Denpasar Airport, which is situated near the dive that is Kuta, is actually a godsend when readying yourself for the flight to Labuan Bajo – the base of your Komodo exploration!
A flight leaving from Denpasar in Bali will take you to Labuan Bajo Airport, which is a short taxi to the pier where you can take boat trips to Komodo Island, and around the national park. A flight is the simplest and fastest option, although prices range from 800,000 Rupiah to around 1,300,000 Rupiah. Garuda Indonesia is the best option, although their fares are a little higher than some of the slightly more unreliable airlines.
From Bali, the only option that can take you all the way into the Dragons’ Den without stopping at Labuan Bajo is by ferry. Most boat trips to Komodo from Bali sail to the north, past the Gili Islands, Lombok, and Sumbawa onto the Komodo National park near Flores. Keep in mind that these parts of the water, mainly the Makassar Strait and the Flores Sea, are notorious for being difficult to navigate and have bad reputations in terms of weather and visibility.
Due to shallow rocky areas and currents going every direction you can imagine, accidents and shipwrecks in this area do happen, even with the most trusted tour companies. Make sure for yourself the vessel has life jackets and they are easily accessible, not tied down or secured to the floor. Keep your wits about you, and ask questions before you had over any money.
Believe it or not, you can avoid flying AND using direct ferries if you want to travel to Komodo from Bali. The way you do this is by taking the bus! It may sound strange, but the bus is the cheapest and the way to go! It’s not a straightforward bus ride by any means, with the necessity to catch multiple buses and ferry crossings, and even these have random stops all over the place, but it will only set you back around 400,000 Rupiah overall.
When taking the bus, three ferry crossings are required, from Bali to Lombok, Lombok to Sumbawa, and Sumbawa to Labuan Bajo in Flores, make sure to ask if these are included in your ticket and ask them to write it down. After you have booked your ticket, ask for the phone number of the company so you can call them at any time, but in reality nothing should go wrong. Your biggest worry on this trip should be stamina and comfort (around 42 hours journey time in all)!
The overland bus ticket from Bali will take you to Labuan Bajo Harbour in Flores, which is right in town. Labuan Bajo has guesthouses, internet cafes and restaurants, although all these are very basic.
Now you have got yourself to Labuan Bajo, be it by land, water, or air, how to you get to Komodo Island itself (Labuan Bajo is located on Flores island, whereas the Komodo Dragons are located only on Rinca and Komodo islands)? It is actually quite simple, and you have two main options. You could head into town and check out some of the tourist offices who will sell you multiple day tickets, or you could buy your park tickets and head straight to the Komodo National Park independently as a day trip (albeit with a mandatory guide), like I did. This means you would be coming back to Labuan Bajo to find a guesthouse.
Some other activities on Komodo Island and surrounding islands such as Rinca and Flores include: trekking, snorkelling, diving, watching flying foxes in the mangroves, and enjoying some fun on Pink Beach, which must be one of the most unique beaches in the whole of Indonesia. And on the way back to Bali, why not stop off in Lombok, which is yet another of Indonesia’s tourist havens?