How to find heaven on earth: visit Komodo and Rinca Islands, Indonesia

Before heading to Komodo and Rinca islands, in Indonesia, I had a picture in my mind of what a tropical paradise should look like. My fantasy involved sights of uncontaminated lands, beautiful hilly landscapes swept by some soft breeze and offering incredible hiking trails, crystal clear seas with a thriving marine life, unique and at times scary wildlife and as little inhabitants as possible. After visiting Komodo and Rinca, I have decided that these two islands are, indeed, as close as it gets to my idea of a tropical paradise.

I set foot on Rinca on a hot morning of October, after a boat ride from Labuan Bajo across the calm waters of the Flores sea. The boat ride was just a small sampler of what awaited us. An infinity of small islands glowed in the distance, against the bluest sky one can conjure. The tranquil seas broke on the shores of the sandiest, whites beaches, lined by lush vegetation. I felt spoiled to be experiencing just that (and thankful that I did not get seasick as it had happened to me in Panama, thanks to the fast pace of the boat!).

Read more about my misadventures while sailing on my post “Sailing San Blas.”

Looking wistfully at the dramatic wedges of rock jutting out of the turquoise sea

Staring in the distance at the dramatic scenery – photo courtesy of Jeremy Goh @g0ldeng0h

Then, after two hours of navigation, we arrived to Rinca island. 

Spotting the Komodo Dragons in Rinca – it’s no monkey business!

Koh Kima is the hidden dock of Rinca, from where a trail starts, taking visitors to the base camp of Loh Buaya. It did not take us long to spot the first of the multitudes of Komodo Dragons who literally own the island (around 2000 live on the archipelago of Komodo, Rinca, Gila Motang and Flores), as he (or was it a she?) rested “peacefully” under a tree.


Don’t worry, he’s resting – and looks almost harmless

Those komodos look so scary that it is said that the legend of the Chinese Dragon takes after them. And scary indeed they are. These giant lizards, locally known as ora, can reach a whooping length of 3 meters and weight up to 170 kg, and feed on the insects as well as the buffaloes, goats, monkeys, boars and deers that also live on the island. They are proper predators, who patiently hide to ambush their prey. So determined they are in their hunt, that they wait around till their meal of choice dies from the strong bacteria transmitted through their saliva once they bite.

hunting komodo

Sticking his forked tongue out, hunting for food – komodos are scary!

Don’t be fooled by how lazy the dragons look when they slowly walk around, sticking their forked tongue out. That is a sign that they are smelling around for food, and knowing that they can ran as fast as 40 km per hour should be a good enough deterrent to keep at a good distance. Indeed, although the komodos prey of choice are buffaloes and deers, incidents have been reported during which humans have been attacked.


Watch out – komodo hunting

One of the victims of such attacks was one of our guides, Rino, who took us around one of the various trails to show us the local wildlife – including a number of nests where female komodos lay their eggs – and who bravely recollected how he had to literally climb a tree for life and then seek immediate help against the bites. It’s little wonder then that all visitors must hire the services of a guide carrying a wooden forked pole to keep the dragons at bay and properly instruct tourists on each move they may or may not take.

it's no monkey business

Waving us goodbye at the dock, the monkeys of Rinca island

On the way back to the dock, before we boarded our boat again heading to Komodo Island, we got a quick yet cute reminder that if komodos rule in Rinca, monkeys may provide as excellent competitors in getting the attention of visitors. A multitude of monkeys waved us goodbye as we got on our boats, jumping from one branch to the other, playing around and threatening to steal our cameras, phones, water bottles and even our sunglasses. 

In search of the perfect view in Komodo

We then set sail towards Komodo Island, which we reached after about 30 minutes. Walking on the long wooden dock towards the camp site of Loh Liang, I embraced the view in front of me and immediately knew I was in love with this remote place. There, we could again see a few komodos – these ones were bumming on the beach, taking in the sun. And what a mighty sight they were!


Turquoise waters, a dock and more islands in the distance: this is Komodo

As if Komodo was not perfect enough already, accompanied by our guide we started hiking in search of more wildlife and even more stunning views. There are a number of hiking trails around the island, all starting from Loh Liang and varying in length and difficulty – from the 1 hour easy trek through mostly flat trails and in good shade, to one that takes roughly 4 hours and is a bit more difficult, if anything because of the blistering heat and completely exposed to the sun.

Komodo National Park

The blistering sun didn’t keep us from hiking to the top

We felt particularly fit that day (besides, hiking really is one of my favorite things to do) and decided to climb the steep hill of Gunung Ara, the island’s highest peak at 538 meters above sea level, and challenge the sun and heat. We were thus rewarded with amazing views of the beautiful landscape, spotting the odd komodo as well as other wildlife on the way to the top, where we finally got to enjoy an incredible panorama over a small cove with really blue waters and a docked boat.

Gunung Ara

The rewarding view from Gunung Ara

We were so in awe of the view that it was not an easy task for the guide to finally convince us to leave and go back to the base camp, where lunch as well as a multitude of komodo dragons were waiting for us (come to think of it, they may well have thought that we were their lunch).

spot the photographer

Try to convince us to leave this paradise!

Finding Nemo

Just as a proper cherry on a delicious cake, our final stop for the day was the Pink Beach, or Pantai Merah, at about 30 minutes boat ride from Komodo island. Before getting there, the question was whether the so-called Pink Beach actually is pink. And I was also secretly asking myself if I, a girl from the beautiful island of Sardinia, would find a beach that could bare the comparison to what I am used to. The conclusion? Well, yes: the Pink Beach really is pink. Tiny coral fragments mixed with the golden powdery sand give it a slight pink color. What makes the place even more beautiful is its complete isolation (there are no buildings on this small island) and the shallow yet pristine water that have perfect visibility and that really are a paradise for snorkeling. So, the Pink Beach fully passed the tough Sardinian test!

Pink Beach

Do we look happy?

It took me a total of 15 seconds from the moment we set foot on the beach to take my clothes off and jump in those transparent waters, jumping around in happiness at the beauty of it. It really felt like heaven. Then, I sported some snorkeling gear and went in search of Nemo, and along with him I found many other fishes and corals. So we swam, relaxed and took pictures just before getting back on the boat that would take us back to Labuan Bajo, not before enjoying yet another gorgeous sunset, as only Indonesia seems to have.


Nemo lives on the Pink Beach

I was happy: I found my tropical paradise. So, whatever happens, please do whatever it takes to protect Komodo and Rinca Islands and make sure they stay the same so that when I make my way back there, they will still shine in all their splendor.

Practical Facts

The Komodo National Park is one of the places to visit in Indonesia. Tours to Komodo National Park normally start in Labuan Bajo (Flores), with departures in the early hours. It is a full, yet pleasant and eventful day and visitors should expect to stay out for a good 10 to 12 hours. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes, hiking shoes, a hat and a swim suit if planning to snorkel, and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, which is common in such hot weather.

Read more about Indonesia on my post “Fantastic things to do in Indonesia.”

Those who wish to spend a bit longer exploring the island can sleep in the modest facilities available in both Rinca and Komodo – wooden huts and bungalows that have plain rooms, with shared bathrooms and a dining area that offers simple yet delicious local staples like nasi and mie goreng. What makes sleeping on the islands so special is the feeling of closeness to nature that one only gets here.

Komodo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as such there are several fees to be paid for its protection and maintenance. They are as follows:

Entrance Fee – used for the conservation of the area: 20,000 Indonesian Rupiah (roughly $1.5 USD)

Local Area Tax – goes to the local community: 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah (less than $4 USD)

Snorkeling Fee – for trips inside the national park: 60,000 Indonesian Rupiah (around $4.50 USD)

Camera Fee – 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah

Local Guide – hiring a local guide is compulsory for reasons of safety and protection of the territory: around 80,000 per group (less than $6 USD)

Legal Disclaimer: This article was written in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia as part of the #WonderfulIndonesia campaign. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. 









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  • ciki
    28 October 2015 at 7:13

    Fabulous post babe.. and yes, you do look happiest on the water! Nemo is so cute! And I totally agree, no blistering heat could keep as away from such an amazing experience. Let’s all go back soon!

    • Claudia Tavani
      28 October 2015 at 8:11

      Tough cookies we were. And to think I almost missed that day. So glad I tagged along and visited 🙂

  • Tiana
    28 October 2015 at 18:23

    Sounds like an amazing adventure. I’ve only seen the dragons at the zoo

  • Janna
    28 October 2015 at 21:08

    I defiantly didn’t know that about Komodo dragons. Kinda a scary thought running into one in the wild. Thanks for the pointers on them.

    PS. It does look really pretty there even without the “dragons”

    • Claudia Tavani
      28 October 2015 at 21:43

      You are completely right, they are incredible to see even without the dragons 🙂

  • Miranda
    29 October 2015 at 7:13

    The park entry fee is such as steal. What a lovely way to spend a day – I love that you get to see both the scary looking kommodos and the mischeivious monkeys on the tour.

  • Claudia Tavani
    29 October 2015 at 8:16

    I know! It really is cheap. But trust me, even if it was 10 times more expensive, it would be worth every single penny!

  • Rochelle
    29 October 2015 at 11:36

    Great post!.. Sounds like fun!.. You also have awesome photos.:-)

    Good vibes, Fox

  • Julie
    29 October 2015 at 16:35

    Based on thrill to value ratio, this has to be one of the craziest ways to spend $20 in the whole world. I was just thinking about the out-of-the-way destinations in the world that are left where people go specifically for an animal. Not many right? I can only think of a few…and now I must add it to my list!

    • Claudia Tavani
      29 October 2015 at 16:41

      Add it, add it! Yes I know it is such a steal that one may go anyways – and trust me, it really is gorgeous!

  • Natasha
    29 October 2015 at 19:10

    Two animals I never ever mess with: komodo dragons and monkeys. Yet they scattered around Indonesia.

  • Bruno B @ Geeky Explorer
    30 October 2015 at 15:10

    Wow, seeing a Komodo dragon live should be quite the experience!

  • Megan
    31 October 2015 at 11:16

    How magical! I can’t believe you got so close to the dragons! Were you on foot when you saw them or in some sort of motorized cart for a quick run away?

    • Claudia Tavani
      1 November 2015 at 22:33

      Everything was on foot 🙂 We were properly instructed by the rangers!

  • Erica
    31 October 2015 at 12:28

    Definitely going to try to get to doing this by next year. I’ve seen a komodo in the wild before but I’d love to see more of them. This has been in my list for awhile now and you’ve just proven how much I need to cross this out already!

    • Claudia Tavani
      1 November 2015 at 22:33

      Don’t forget to visit the rest of the archipelago. It’s fantastic!

  • Stefan
    31 October 2015 at 12:58

    Absolutely incredible place and totally agree with you. Also a warning, after you’ve gone diving here, everything else will pale into comparison! It’s really the best diving we’ve ever experienced!

    • Claudia Tavani
      1 November 2015 at 22:34

      I know. I don’t dive but I snorkel and well… Sardinia is pretty amazing, but we don’t have the colored fishes Indonesia does!

  • Fernando
    31 October 2015 at 18:53

    Great post. I can’t say I like lezards or reptiles very much, but seeing the Komodo dragons once in my lifetime is definitely on my bucket list!

  • Traveling Rockhopper
    31 October 2015 at 20:51

    Beautiful place! However, I’m still not sure what to think about komodo dragons, I also saw them in wild, my first impression was “they’re hug” or “is it going to bite me”… 😉

  • Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    1 November 2015 at 11:03

    Dinosaurs! That’s what Komodo dragons look like to me! What a magnificent experience. I love the juxtaposition of pristine beauty with the sinister aspect of the dragons.

    • Claudia Tavani
      1 November 2015 at 22:35

      They don’t look dangerous. That’s until you hear the rangers saying they had to run for life.

  • Andrea Leblang
    1 November 2015 at 18:19

    Beautiful place! Thanks so much for the tips as this is on my hit list, for sure! I’m actually fascinated with the komodos, and I’d love to see them in person. They are scary, but also quite interesting and beautiful in their own, creepy way 😉

    • Claudia Tavani
      1 November 2015 at 22:36

      Creepy, very very creepy. I am glad I saw them!

  • Sally
    1 November 2015 at 18:57

    Wow great pics… Those dragons are huge… Where you scared? Do they eat people?

  • Brianna
    1 November 2015 at 20:20

    Its refreshing to see unspoiled places like this. You don’t have to warn me about not getting too close to those komodo dragons though!

    • Claudia Tavani
      1 November 2015 at 22:37

      You’d be surprised, so many don’t realise how dangerous they can be!

  • Mel @ Footsteps on the Globe
    1 November 2015 at 21:34

    I’d just go for the wildlife but the beaches would be awesome too! I’d love to get that close up to the monkeys and always wanted to see a Komodo dragon in the wild it would be so cool! 😀

    • Claudia Tavani
      1 November 2015 at 22:38

      Watch out with the monkeys though. They are THIEVES!

  • Travelwith2ofus
    2 November 2015 at 1:48

    Love the view from Gunung Ara. Those Komodo Dragons are very interesting. I would love to see them up close. Were you scared?

    • Claudia Tavani
      2 November 2015 at 9:04

      Mmmm really, the only thing that scared me that day was the tremendous heat!

  • Mar
    2 November 2015 at 4:45

    Awesome! I found the dragons to be less scary in real life as they move so slowly! But I would not want to find myself face to face with them! Komodo and Rinca were fsbulous, the area is so cool and unspoilt. I also wet diving which was great because we got to see mantas!

  • Maria
    2 November 2015 at 9:53

    Wow this looks amazing! I always wanted to see Komodo dragons, these places look beautiful! Totally going on my planning radar 🙂

    • Claudia Tavani
      6 November 2015 at 8:48

      We may meet there then, because I want to go again!

    5 November 2015 at 21:42

    Wowwwww I have heard about the Komodo dragon since I was a kid and to my shame I would have not been able to locate it on a map….now thanks to you I can ! Stunning pics as always !

  • Sysha Venkatesh
    30 May 2016 at 14:50

    Great Post!
    Which tour did you take? i’m just checking out a bunch of different tours online but i’d rather take one from a company that’s been tried and tested, especially since you had such a wonderful time.
    Do let me know!
    Thank you!

    • Claudia Tavani
      31 May 2016 at 10:26

      Hello Sysha, you can contact Travel Sparks, I am sure they will be able to put together a great tour for you!

  • Nish
    7 July 2017 at 16:46

    Could you let me know the tour operator.. The itinerary is pretty adventurous ..

    • Claudia Tavani
      8 July 2017 at 8:39

      Hi Nish, the company I used is Travel Sparks. I am sure they will be able to help you 🙂


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Hello, nice to meet you!

Hi, my name is Claudia. One day I packed my life and started traveling... except I packed too much. Follow me as I fill my life with dreams, drop the weight and inspire you to live your dreams. View and download my media kit here (updated June 2018). Learn more about me here...


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