If you love diving, then diving Komodo is the place to be for big fishes and strong currents.
Keep reading for the Pros and cons of diving with a liveaboard vs. day trips and practical tips on how to make your trip memorable.
Komodo has become increasingly popular and it is easy to see why. So go there quickly before it gets too crowded
Getting to Komodo (Labuan Bajo)
Komodo National park can be accessed easily through Bajo. Direct flights go from Denpasar to Jakarta every day. From Denpasar, the flight takes 1 hour. The best airline is Garuda, which is dependable and allows carrying luggage up to 20kg of weight. Nonetheless, delays in the flights to Labuan Bajo are frequent. Therefore, avoid planning for short connection, if you want to travel by international flight. Getting to hotels around Labuan Bajo is a 5-15 minute scenic drive away. You can book the airport transfer or there are plenty of taxis waiting outside of the airport that will take you to the hotel for about 50000 rpies( 3 Eur) for the hotels in town up to 100000 Rpies ( ~ 6 Eur) for the hotels further away
Komodo diving: Land-based and day trips vs. Liveaboard
When diving in Komodo, there are two main options: Liveaboard or land-based with day trips.
I have been to Komodo 10 times over the last 12 years and did both liveaboards and day trips. Here is my verdict:
Pro’s of diving with a liveaboard:
1) The sunrise dive just rolling out of bed is usually amazing
2) Longer trips ( 7-10 days) visit sites that day trips can’t access and those are usually less crowded
3) Night dives or 4 dives a day are possible
4) you can shower and relax in between dives
Con’s of diving with a liveaboard:
1) The cabins are usually less comfortable than hotel rooms ( smaller bed, AC noise, tiny bathroom,…)
2) Labuan Bajo has an increasing amount of great restaurants so I would argue that you can eat better in town than on a boat.
3) You are expected to dive every day while if you are staying on land, you can interrupt your diving with a day of inland sightseeing which is better for people who don't want to dive a lot
4) Liveaboards are usually more expensive than land-based options
So my advice is to go with liveaboard trips if you want to dive a lot but to stay on land if you only want to do a few dives.
Where to stay
Labuan Bajo is far from being the prettiest town in Indonesia but there is an increasing amount of accommodation options, making it more and more comfortable.
As the Komodo National park is gaining in popularity, rooms are becoming scarce in high season. If you are traveling in July or August, I strongly recommend to booking room in advance as the best places get booked early
Best luxury hotel: Ayana Komodo resort.
This is the new and only 5* luxury hotel in Komodo and it is stunning. It is located 10 minutes drive from the pier where the diving boats depart in the morning. See my review here
Most convenient hotel for day trip diving: Green Hill Boutique Hotel
This hotel is simple and comfortable. It is located 5 minutes walk from the port where the diving boats depart every morning. Most of the rooms also have a very nice view of the bay. Great for sunset after diving
Best mid-range hotel: Bintang Komodo
This hotel is located 10 minutes drive away from the pier and has a nice beach and garden. The level of comfort is way below the Ayana mentioned above but it is also much cheaper
Best Island hotel: The Seraya, Seraya Island
Think paradise beach on a remote Island. Snorkeling off the beach is very nice. Bungalows are basic but comfortable. Slightly further away from the dive sites so not very convenient if diving is your primary goal but great if you want to chill on the beach for a few days after your dive trip. You can read my review of the Seraya resort here
My favorite dive shop in Komodo
Some dive sites are tricky due to the changing current so make sure you dive with an experienced dive shop. I usually dive with Dive Komodo. They are one of the first operators in Labuan Bajo and their dive guides have the most experience. Their new boat is very comfortable and the staff is super friendly
I place Komodo diving in my top 5 diving destinations in the world. It combines really nice reefs with lots of big fishes like mantas, sharks, turtles, tunas…
Macro divers will also not be disappointed as there are tons of critters and nudibranchs to be found should you look for them.
The Komodo area falls within the Coral Triangle, the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity. The region covers the exclusive economic zones of six countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste (the "CT6" countries). Covers 76% of all known coral species, 37% of all known coral reef fish species, 53% of the world’s coral reefs, the greatest extent of mangrove forests in the world, and more than 3000 fishes makes it world’s largest tuna fishery. In 1984, the area of Komodo Marine became protected.
It creates an incredible diving experience.
For Komodo diving, most sites have strong currents in Komodo and are mostly held in reserve to experienced drift divers.
There are some quieter areas for beginners; however, the incredible action of big fishes in the current is missing.
Some spots have currents that reach 8 knots sometimes. Carefully choosing the site according to the conditions is utmost necessary for your safety.
This current is due to the Komodo and Rinca island acting as a bottleneck between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
The guides are real professionals. For Komodo diving, you better accept the decision of your guide regarding trip cancellation because of safety reasons; these waters can be very risky and might wash you away in the open sea.
It takes about 90 minutes from Labuan Bajo pier to the majority of Komodo diving sites.
Overview of Komodo’s best Dive sites
Check out the description below about the dive site’s features.
Komodo Diving site: BatuBolong
Batu Bolong is Komodo diving at its best: There is always a full-on festival for fish life at ‘Hollow Rock’; which is a high point and distinctive identification for the region, lies in 75 meters of water between Tatawa to the east and Komodo main island to the west. The reef is in wonderful condition and has not been targeted by fishermen, because of the rock’s topography and exposure to strong currents. Fish-life is the main beneficiary in it, although hard corals and sponges also cover the walls and slopes
There were thousands of smaller reef fish in the shallow area, fighting for territorial and feeding rights. Whereas Napoleon wrasse and Whitetip reef sharks reside in deep water areas but cruise to the shallow areas for hunt. Hawksbill turtles feed on the sponges and tunicates, giant sweetlips lurk in the gullies and overhangs, palette surgeonfish dance across the current swept upper reaches of the rock. This dive site was really a great place, and I stayed there for some time to witness the full extent of what being a reef fish is all about from mating, laying eggs, fish hunting, and feeding.
Komodo Diving site: Langkoi Rock
It is Komodo diving’s most extreme dive site. The underwater highpoint; located southeast of Langkoi Island. I dived down directly to the highpoint and grabbed it to watch the mass togetherness action of grey reef sharks, whitetip and blacktip sharks, hammerhead sharks and bronze whales!
Komodo Diving site: The Cauldron
The very shape of this dive site has given The Cauldron its name; it is split into 2 sides. At one end of it, there is a shallow and narrow pass that would steer you out to the other side.
The first half of the dive site is that of a wandering; slide along the walls, check out the fans and the soft corals. A slight low on the Northside just before the pass is actually covered in orange. You should stay there for a while and see the gorgonian fans and pygmy seahorses.
The second half can be different and quite challenging. When the current is pushing, you have to hold on to the edges of the canyons. As a matter of fact, the manta rays come at this very place to effortlessly freshen, get cleaned with the flowing water. Beware of coral and venomous fish when you hold on to the canyons. The manta rays can come close if you're relaxed and don't scare them away with too many bubbles or noise.
Komodo Diving site: Castle Rock
This amazing site for Komodo diving has a deep strong current because it’s a highpoint underwater with a peak at 4m. There’s much more to see at this dive site, from giant trevallies to schools of tuna, Manta rays to grey reef sharks, and maybe even dolphins. This dive site can be hit and miss. I have had dives there with poor visibility and nothing too exciting but I have also had the best dive of my life with dolphins ( including babies!!) and sharks circling around us for over 20 minutes. You never know what is going to happen at Castle Rock but it is worth a try.
Komodo Diving site: Manta Alley
This signature dive is the main location in Komodo to find manta rays – often as many as 10 or 20. It’s a rock islet that just punctures the sea’s surface in a small craggy chain, inside the bay along the south coast of Komodo Island. Another good site for diving with mantas is Mawan. It also has more coral reefs than Manta Alley so even if there are no manta’s insight, you can still have a pretty dive. ( see below)
Komodo Diving site: Mawan
Diving in Mawan is epic but it sometimes has a strong current. We encountered Mantas in Komodo at 9 meters deep on a cleaning station. We dived here a few times and saw mantas on every occasion and spent some time with these graceful creatures. It is amazing how a diverse coral cover can be in such a small area. You have to dive over hugging corals and leaf-like sponges and then continue to an area of mixed corals and white sand. After five minutes, it changes to an area covered entirely with a certain type of bubble corals and soft corals.
Komodo diving: best time to go
Scuba Diving in Komodo Island is possible year-round.
• March to October is the ideal season for best diving conditions but July August are getting really busy so best to avoid if you can
• December to February is the best season to see a lot of Manta rays because of the rainy season. Not every diving club goes out to sea during the rainy season. Enquire from diving clubs about the availability.
• January to March is the season with the roughness sea.
Currents and waves are stronger around the new moon and full moon, which means more difficult dives but often bigger fishes’ activities so you can time your trip depending on what you want
Other activities besides diving: the Komodo dragons
Komodo dragons are amazing reptiles. Seeing them is one of the world’s top wildlife experiences.
Komodo National Park was created in 1980 to conserve the Komodo dragon and its habitat. Despite the name, the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is not actually a dragon but it is the world’s largest lizard.
There are over 70 species and subspecies of monitor lizards but Komodo dragon wins the prize for being the largest living lizard in the world. Komodo dragons live on only five islands in southeastern Indonesia: Indonesia’s four islands within Komodo National Park (Komodo, Rinca, Gili Montang, Gili Dasami), and the island of Flores.
The easiest way to see them is to do a 1 or 2 hours visit as part of your dive trip ( often instead of the third dive of the day).
If you can’t do that, you can get a tour from Labuan Bajo. There are plenty of shops on the main street.
Rinca vs. Komodo for Komodo dragon watching
I have been to both Rinca island and Komodo island numerous times. Rinca is the easiest to visit as it is nearer Labuan Bajo. The landscape and Komodo viewing opportunity are pretty similar so if you have limited time and are not diving near Komodo Island, I suggest you go to Rinca Island to view the Komodo dragons
Beyond Komodo and Labuan Bajo
When you are done with Komodo diving, the overland trips to Maumere is amazing and takes 3-4 days.
If you don’t have the time, you can also fly to Maumere or Kupang which are only a short direct flight away. Both also have good diving. See my diving reports for Maumere here and for Kupang here
Have you ever dived in Komodo? I’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below.