Komodo National Park is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a Biosphere Reserve due to its rich marine and terrestrial biodiversity. It is located in the center of the Indonesian archipelago and includes three mayor islands: Komodo, Rinja and Padar, as well as numerous smaller islands.
This region is famous for being home of the Komodo dragons, the world´s largest reptile that can reach up to 3 metres long. It is also notorious for having one the world´s richest marine enviroments consisting in over 260 species of reef building coral, sponges, crustaceans, over a 1,000 different fish species including manta ray and sharks; marine mammals like dolphins, whales and marine reptiles like sea turtles.
How to get there: boat trips are an accesible and popular way to visit the National Park. There are tours operating from Lombok in a 4 day-3 night cruise as well as organised boat trips from Labuan Bajo in Flores. Unless you are in a really tight budget I would highly recommend flying to Labuan Bajo and arranging the cruise from there as the first two days from Lombok to Flores are mostly offshore sailing and you rush the visit to Komodo and Rinca. NAM Air and Wings Air have affordable direct flights from Bali to Labuan Bajo. Book via Nusa Trip and Tiket to get the best fares.
How to book your cruise: avoid internet as they sell the same packages you can find at the local agencies for double the price. There are plenty of tour operators in Bali, the Gilis, Lombok and Labuan Bajo that sell this tours and you can book it a couple of days in advance as there are cruises leaving everyday. The price of the 4 days-3 nights cruise from Lombok to Komodo costs about 100-120€ depending on your haggling skills and the chosen accomodation.
Facilities at the cruise: you can choose to stay in a cabin or sleep in a thin mattress at the deck. The private cabin is a good choice if you want to have privacy and be able to store your belongings in a safe place. On the other hand, they are located on top of the engine so its noisy and very hot inside. The mayor turndown of sleeping at the deck is the lack of privacy and the fact that all the bags are kept below deck which is a bit of a struggle as the boats are usually crowded and messy. We were 32 passengers and 6 crew members. There were a few plugs at the boat to charge your electronics but I would recommend to bring a portable charger as they were constantly taken. There are two basic toilets with buckets of salty water to flush it but nowhere to shower or wash your hands.
What to bring to the cruise: most tours inlude 6 bottles of water, tea and coffee facilities, pancake breakfast; and two light meals a day composed of rice, veggies, eggs, tofu and noodles. I would suggest buying your own snacks, extra water and alcohol but ensure is ok to take it inside the boat. With regards to the snorkling gear, they provide masks and tubes but not diving fins, which are quite useful when swimming with manta rays and chasing turtlesThe highlights of the tour:
One of the reasons tourist visit the Komodo and Rinca is to see the famous Komodo Dragons, the largest living species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of 3 metres. The tour includes a 2 hour visit with a ranger who leads a trek around the islands.
Another amazing experience was snorkling at the Pink Beach, one of seven pink beaches on the planet. It gets its color from microscopic animals which produce a red pigment on the coral reefs. When the tiny fragments of red coral combine with the white sands, this produces the soft pink color that is visible along the shoreline.
Kanawa is a small beautiful tropical island, fully surrounded by white sandy beaches and coral reefs. The scenery is beautiful. A walk around the island takes about 40 minutes and there is also a hill in the middle of the island from where you can have gorgeous views.