Ultimate Travel And Diving Guide For Komodo, Indonesia

Komodo National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s world famous for its scuba diving with some of the highest concentration of marine life on the planet. It is truly a divers paradise with famous dive sites like Batu Balong, Manta Point, and the Cauldron consistently ranking among the best dive sites in the world.

Komodo National Park Batu Balong manta rays
Beautiful manta rays in Komodo

I’ve been to Komodo two times now, once in 2015 and once in 2022. Both times were absolutely incredible with loads of manta ray encounters and some of the most beautiful marine life you can find.

padar island komodo national park

Komodo is as beautiful underwater as it is above water so if you are not a diver, you can easily find many things to occupy yourself with exploring the beautiful nature in the park. In fact, Komodo’s first claim to fame was the discovery of the world’s largest lizard in the komodo dragon. You can see these beautiful creatures on any trip to Komodo but don’t expect much to happen as they are incredibly mellow creatures after they’ve eaten.

Update 2022: Labuan Bajo, the gateway city to Komodo National Park has undergone an extreme makeover. The city is no longer the complete sh*thole it was when I visited in 2015. It has proper roads and modern infrastructure now. Really crazy to witness the change. I would definitely even consider staying in Labuan Bajo for a night or two now!

Komodo National Park Overview

After careful and meticulous deliberation, I settled on Komodo National Park, Indonesia after a friend raved about a liveaboard he did. I hadn’t dived in SE Asia up to this point but always knew that it had the world’s best diving. Komodo itself is an absolutely stunning group of islands about 500km east of Bali.

It has some of the most dramatic landscape contrasts I’ve seen between starkly rugged hillsides of dry savanna, pockets of thorny green vegetation, brilliant white sandy beaches and blue waters surging over coral. It’s another world compared to the tropical dense jungle environment of Bali.

A view of Komodo National Park!
A view of Komodo National Park!
komodo aerial beach national park scuba diving dragons
Drone footage of the surrounding Komodo National Park and all its beautiful gloriousness
komodo national park aerial drone photo
More aerial footage of Komodo National Park

After running a google search of “Komodo Divemaster”, I clicked on the first link that popped up and it was Scuba Junkie Komodo. The cost of the Divemaster Internship was 19 million Rupiah (~$1400) for a month long course that included food and accommodation at their resort far away from the craziness of town.

That’s an absolute steal of a price. For someone that lives in NYC, I spend more money in a month on food and alcohol alone and New Yorkers will back me up when I say $1400 isn’t even that much. So to pay that same amount to dive multiple times a day, obtain my professional dive certification, AND all food/accommodation? Sign me up.

Komodo sunset
Sunset from the Scuba Junkie Resort. Almost a daliy occurrence here.

Carys, the lovely owner of the resort along with her husband Rohan, wrote me back immediately and promptly answered all questions I had. After ironing out all the details, I was excited to fly out to Indonesia and get started!

Getting to Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park, a group of islands in Indonesia,  is most famous for being the natural habitat of the largest land based lizard in the world, the Komodo Dragon. It’s also known among the dive community to have some of the best diving in the world, especially if you want to see Manta Rays.

Located east of Bali, the easiest way to get here is to take a flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo. Labuan Bajo is a sleepy port town on the island of Flores, that serves as the base for all diving within the Komodo National Park. Labuan Bajo is a bit of a dive. It’s dirty, noisy, and just not a very pretty place to be. The primary reason people come to LBJ (Labuan Bajo) is to see Komodo Dragons and go diving, which is why 90% of the liveaboards and dive operators have their offices and hostels in town.

Wingsair bali
Wingsair plane departing from Bali Airport!

Garuda Indonesia, WingsAir, and Batik Air fly regularly from Bali to Labuan Bajo. Upon arriving in Labuan Bajo on my WingsAir flight, you can take a taxi to the city center for 50-60k IDR. It’s only a 5 minute drive so don’t let anyone rip you off.

Update 2022

I came back to Komodo National Park after 6 years because I just couldn’t get enough of it! Labuan Bajo has undergone a complete makeover and the city is now in a much better condition. I was so blown away when I landed for the second time and literally did not recognize the city at all. It is totally clean, orderly, and befitting of a place you’d actually want to spend time in.

Scuba Junkie Resort in Komodo

It was love at first sight. The resort was just what I was hoping for. Secluded from the rest of society, the place was rustic but in the best of ways. It’s surrounded by palm trees, mountains, and beach. It’s beautifully built with plenty of hammocks, bungalows (bales as they call them), and a common area designed with recycled wood and thatched roofing. The bungalows are open air, and the perfect place to fall asleep after a long day of diving.

Overlooking the bay of Labuan Bajo while waiting for Carys.
Overlooking the bay of Labuan Bajo while waiting for Carys. Komodo National Park is just in the distance

Because the resort is in the middle of nowhere, everything is done at the resort. There are local villages within walking distance but not the tourist catering sort with Western style restaurants and bars. We ate all our meals at the resort, and they were amazing meals at that. The chef Rhian is an all star that cooked up delicious local foods every night, along with the best damn Sambal (spicy sauce) I’ve ever had.

aerial image scuba junkie komodo
Scuba Junkie Komodo Aerial shot

As I write this post, I’m drooling at the thought of that sambal as it brings back such good memories. For those that can’t handle being away from society for so long, I did go back to Labuan Bajo for a day to run some errands and this made me really appreciate staying at the resort, away from the dirty shitshow of Labuan Bajo.

Scuba Junkie Komodo resort
Finally made it Scuba Junkie Komodo Resort! It’s beautiful and the absolute perfect place to come home to after a long day of diving.

The pictures tell it all. It’s in such an amazing location next to a fishing village, and surrounded by mountains and ocean. There was even a completely deserted beach a quick walk over the hilltop in case this wasn’t secluded enough already.

Diving in Komodo National Park

I spent many days scuba diving in Komodo National Park. This is where I did my divemaster course after all and I spent two months here in total.

First Day

After arriving at the resort, I checked into the dorms, and as far as dorms go at a dive shop, these were top notch. For it being included in the price of my divemaster course, I had zero complaints. I was pretty tired at this point, having spending the previous day getting from my amazing dives in Sipadan, Malaysia to Bali at midnight, and then flying out the next morning at 7am to Labuan Bajo. Nevertheless, I came here to dive so diving I will do on my first day.

scuba junkie komodo diving
Scuba Boat selfie! First of many

I came with zero equipment (except a dive computer) so I spent some time getting acquainted with the equipment room. After I sorted all my gear out, we did a shore dive in front of the resort. The house reef isn’t the most picturesque site, especially compared to the rest of Komodo diving but we did see some awesome macro stuff thanks to one of the amazing local DMs, Fandi. Komodo’s famous for its unpredictable and often times hectic currents and I got my first taste here. The house reef would also be the basis for the mapping project, a requirement of the DMT, that I’ll cover later.

Scuba Junkie’s dive boat, the Birostris, also my home for the next month, was a beautiful boat. They embraced the old school designs, not unlike a lot of the other boats in the National Park. It was big enough to hold 20 people comfortably.

First Week – Diving, diving, and more diving

The first week passed by like a blur. The first few days were dedicated to just “fundiving”, so to get a lay of the land. With just a short briefing of the boat, daily duties, and expectations, I was shadowing other Divemasters and Instructors immediately. The boat routinely had 5-10 customers each day so my main job was to hang at the back of the group and watch how the DMs were guiding and to learn the sites.

padar island komodo national park

Wow, the diving in Komodo is absolutely incredible. Komodo National Park is part of the Coral triangle, a small part of the South Pacific that is home to the highest marine life density in the world. The corals were out of this world. Healthy, vibrant, and abundant, I was shocked at how much more intensely beautiful it was compared to the other places I’ve dived. It was so picturesque that this was what I thought diving would be like, having only watched Nat Geo documentaries.

Your average at the Komodo National Park...
Your average at the Komodo National Park…

Landscape of Komodo

Komodo’s landscape also makes it stand out from everywhere else. It’s an archipelago of islands that are mostly large rock formations and mountains that resemble the American southwest. I’d marvel at the landscape everyday because it just isn’t the type of place you’d associate with having world class diving, but it absolutely did which made it even more amazing.

Komodo National Park Batu Balong

I was immediately mesmerized and a bit in disbelief that I’d be diving in these parts for the next month. Every dive site, whether you’re into macro diving or corally dive, was world class. If I had to choose my favorite dive sights for endless amounts of beautiful coral, Tatawa Besar, Siaba Besar and Batu Balong were my favorites.

Komodo Diving corals
One of my favorite dive sites, Tatawa Besar is about as much of an aquarium as I’ve ever seen in my diving career. The colors are so vibrant and corals so healthy that I was in awe every time I dove it.

Manta Rays in Komodo are AMAZING!

Without a doubt, Komodo’s claim to fame is the Komodo Dragons, the largest living lizards in the world that only exist on the islands of Komodo and Rinca. However, as cool as Komodo dragons are, they really don’t do anything. For the dive community, Komodo is revered for its pristine diving and abundance of Manta Rays.

The famous currents of Komodo, along with an abundance of pytoplankton draw Mantas here year round. There are two types of Manta Rays, Manta Alfredi (reef manta) and Manta Birostris (Oceanic manta). Komodo is home to one of the largest populations of Manta Alfredi. The manta experiences that I had here were out of this world. As we approached the manta dive sites, we could already see dozens of mantas feeding on the surface. As beautiful as they looked from the boat, it was tenfold underwater.

More Manta Rays!

Komodo National Park Batu Balong manta rays

Mantas are some of the most amazing animals in the world. I saw them on a daily basis for a month, but I never tired of it. Mantas are smart fish and they are inherently as curious about divers as we are about them. The protocol here is when we saw a manta and because the currents were so strong, we would hang on to a rock and watch them do their thing.

No complaints from anyone here. The best experiences had to be when the mantas would swim right over me and you could fully appreciate just how massive and incredible these animals are. They are so graceful and powerful underwater that one effortless flap of their wings would propel them forward in hectic current.

Komodo National Park Batu Balong

Mantas are very intelligent animals and they are naturally curious of divers as much as we are of them. As they swam near me, I could see their eyes staring at me trying to analyze what I was. There was even one occasion where the same manta swam over me multiple times and eventually hit me on the head! Don’t worry, I survived and I’d do it again.

The day we saw over 100 Mantas!

And to top it off, the most insane thing I’ve ever seen while diving. For those that want to see mantas guaranteed, the wet season is the best time of year to visit (Dec to Mar). In the middle of a big storm, we veered off track on Karang Makkasar (the main manta dive) and ended up in a bay that was teeming with endless mantas. We lost count after the hundredth or so manta. This is the type of stuff that doesn’t come along very often but we got lucky.

Because I can’t say it enough times, if you’re looking to dive with mantas, GO TO KOMODO!!! As far as price, accessibility, quality of diving, and abundance of mantas, Komodo might be unrivaled in the world. If there is competition, PLEASE leave me a comment and let me know! The sheer number of mantas I saw and the types of interactions I enjoyed with them will make me return to Komodo forever.

Don’t just take it from me either, there were plenty of customers during my time here that were manta virgins and there is no clearer look of happiness than after a dive or two on Karang Makkasar. So with that said, more pictures of mantas just because:

Macro Diving in Komodo

For those that like macro diving, there is no shortage of amazing macro life in Komodo. Every dive site has amazing macro life to be found but some sites I was distracted by mantas, and others, I was distracted by endless amounts of coral and fish. It’s hard to pay attention to the small stuff when you’re being circled by hundreds of parrotfish and a coral garden the size of a football stadium. Nevertheless, I managed to survive through all those distracting things and found so much cool macro life. Nudibranchs, frogfish, blue ring octopus, various types of scorpionfish, pipefish, flamboyant cuttlefish were just a few of the amazing things I saw during my time here.

And a video of my favorite macro creature, the flamboyant cuttlefish!

Another video of the incredibly rare Lacy Rhinopia (Scorpionfish)

Komodo has insane currents

Komodo is world famous for its unpredictable and hectic currents. Most dives had at least some sort of current whether it was consistent throughout the dive, or changed midway through. None of it was predictable and even if you surveyed the ocean from the boat, anything would happen underwater. You could be floating effortlessly one way, and then a massive thermocline will make it 5 degrees colder and the current will start pushing you in the opposite direction. It’s invaluable experience for a DMT in my opinion!

Siaba Kecil Komodo
Siaba Kecil in the distance. It’s hard to see from the picture but the currents are moving fast from left to right. We essentially drifted that entire island in less than 5 minutes.

Nearing the end of my divemaster course, the tides had changed completely vs when I first started. This meant that the currents were doing crazy, inexplicable things all over the park. One dive site in particular, Siaba Kecil, was particular crazy. Normally, this dive site is a beautiful drift dive along a coral wall that ends in a vast and beautiful coral garden (or vice versa depending on the currents).

On this specific day, currents on steroids would have been an understatement. During the briefing, we knew the currents were hectic but as soon as I jumped in, I could feel myself being forcefully pulled along. I’ve been in strong currents before but nothing even close to this. I felt completely useless trying to do any sort of swimming. The trick is to just settle down, be aware, and enjoy the ride. As we zoomed by the corals, I could see fish being tossed around like a salad.

I really wanted to just grab a hold of a rock and feel the strength of that current against my mask. As we approached the end of the dive, my computer read 4 minutes dive time!! Usually, Siaba Kecil is a drift dive that takes a half hour but we managed to do it in fraction of the time. We even skipped our safety stop because another three minutes would have meant we would have drifted well into the blue before surfacing.

And the video to prove it

Surface Intervals

Not much needs to be said here. Surface intervals in Komodo are the best. Not only is the scenery around you absolutely stunning, but there’s a good chance you’ll see Mantas swimming on the surface. This just means you’ll likely be taking your snorkel and fins vs napping on the boat!

Komodo Diving
Surface Intervals in Komodo with Erica!


Bat Island

After a long day of diving, we would visit an island near the resort that was home to a hundred thousand bats. They would routinely come out every night to go hunting. I’d never seen bats in the wild before in these numbers so it was a cool experience to drink some sunset beers while watching these guys wake up to do their thing.

A visit to the Komodo Dragons

The Komodo dragons are actually one of the main reasons people visit this part of Indonesia with more marketing done on the dragons than the diving. Staying at Scuba Junkie, the morning of the last day is usually reserved for a short visit to the dragons before heading back to Labuan Bajo. The islands of Rinca and Komodo are home to the Komodo Dragons and from everyone’s experiences, Rinca was the most scenic so that’s where we went. We docked our boat with the many other dive boats, and proceeded to the entrance to pay for our tickets.

There are multiple hiking options around the island ranging from 3km to 5km. With the sun beaming down and having just done my snorkel test the night before (which I will touch on in the next post), I was massively hungover so we opted for the 3km walk. The island is home to a “resort” where tourists can stay and turns out that the komodo dragons all stay around the resort. We saw them within 5 minutes of starting our “hike”.

Komodo Dragon Selfie
Cautiously taking a pic with some dragons.

The dragons are definitely as advertised. There were some big boys here! Some almost 3m long! There were no fences or cages, they roam as they wish and we got within a few meters of them before the guide told us not to go any further. For those that don’t know, Komodo Dragons are some of the most poisonous animals alive.

Their saliva contains some intense bacteria that they use to paralyze their prey which allows them to bite animals far larger than they are, and just wait until they collapse. Easy life. For the most part, these guys don’t do much. Unless they’re eating or hunting, which isn’t often, they just chill like they own the place.

Padar Island of Komodo

No trip to Komodo is complete without a visit to Padar Island. Padar island is located in the center of the park sandwiched in between the two main islands of Komodo and Rinca.

Padar island is famous for its stunning beaches and viewpoint that overlooks the entire park. To get to Padar island, you’ll need to take a boat tour from the mainland on Labuan Bajo. If you’re staying at a dive resort in the park, you might be able to get here as part of a day trip.

There are a bunch of tour companies in Labuan Bajo that make day trips and overnight trips to the national park. They visit the main sights of the park including Padar Island, pink beach, and the komodo dragons themselves.

padar island komodo national park

To climb up to the viewpoint on Padar island, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee of 50k IDR. You’ll then need to walk 20 minutes of stairs until you get to the famous viewpoint. It is totally worth it however as you can see from these amazing photos! Make sure to take plenty of sunscreen as the heat can be quite unforgiving here.


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  1. Hi! I’m new to the blog but I’m guessing you’re South African? Me too! I’m wanting to do my Divemaster’s so researching that lead me here. Thanks so much for such a comprehensive account – it’s super helpful. What I’m struggling to decide and find an answer to is, is it better to dive/live/explore Bali (and surrounds) or Thailand based on your own experience or what you heard from others? Also, did you get bored staying on the island? Did you miss the social life/clubs/ restaurants on the main island? Thanks again for all the info!

    • Hi Ashleigh, I def recommend Indonesia for diving over Thailand. It’s not even comparable. As for my dmt, I thought I would get bored but I absolutely did not! The diving is paradise and we went out everyday so b ytbe time you came back you weren’t yearning for the big night life scene as you needed to get back out the next day! It is a magical place.

  2. Hi Johnny! I had been looking for someone to truly describe their first hand experiences of Sipadan and Komodo and your detailed post of your experiences have been so inspiring to me.

    I am planning my Open Water and Advanced Open Water this June, with the OW at Sipadan and the AOW at Komodo. It’s all happening in the same trip with a gap of 2-3 days between both courses. I was initially confused if I should instead do Komodo first or Sipadan but after reading your comment on how tough OW will be at Komodo due to the currents, i’ve decided to stick to OW at Sipadan with Scuba Junkie. What I wanted to know from you was:
    a) From a depth point of view, since my dives in Sipadan will only be max up to 18m deep, am I really optimising for the best that Sipadan has to offer. Like for instance will I really also be able to experience the tornado of Barracudas you saw, at 12-18m or is that something that only happens way deeper at 30m? If not, then I might want to consider heading back to Sipadan after my AOW. What’s the difference between a 15m dive at Sipadan vs a 30m dive?
    b) The dive school that I am looking at in Komodo is an SSI School based out of Labuan Bajo. I wanted to experience both the schools of Scuba and thought it would be good to try PADI first and SSI next. However, reading your post, I am reconsidering diving with them simply from the Labuan Bajo living experience point of view and going to Scuba Junkies in Komodo. Is that advisable?
    c) Am I being unrealistic about squeezing both the courses in a span of 10 days? I understand that dives get tiring as well. Just want to get a sense of how hectic the whole experience be physically.

    I am going to go through the rest of your adventures now and get even more inspired to do more. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


    • Hi Samyak! Thanks for the kind words

      I think you should, if you can dive Sipadan with AOW. I think it’s much better not having to worry about what you can see or not see. However, you will see the barracudas and jackfish with OW depth no problem, but you won’t see the hammerheads. I don’t think it really matters to get PADI and SSI comparison. I think sticking with Scuba junkie is definitely the way to go and the diving in Komodo is absolutely out of this world. 10 days will be plenty for both courses 🙂 and there’s nothign better than the dive, eat, sleep mantra as you will see!

      • Thanks a lot Johnny. Takin your advice and booking SJ in Komodo. I doubt i’ll be able to head back to Sipadan in this trip though. But I’m sure i’ll be coming back to this region for a few liveaboards in the future. All the best for your next adventure!

  3. Awesome post!! What an amazing month you had in Komodo! I’m going to dive Bali and Nusa Lembongan / Penida next month (my first indonesian trip). Wanted to include Komodo too, but I had only a few extra days and thought I shouldn’t rush it and leave it for another time. Your post confirmed I was right. It isn’t a place to go only for 3-4 days.

    • Thanks Vanessa! yes I’d recommend spending more time there, especially if you want to dive with Scuba Junkie. They did just open a new location in Penida however and I’m dying to check it out! Either way you’ll enjoy it I’m sure (but i will say the diving in Komodo is much better 🙂

  4. Hey – great post. Do you think Komdo would be an appropriate place to get open water certified? It looks fantastic and works well for my travel itinerary – but I’ve heard nasty things about the currents. I’d love your opinion!

    • Thanks Sanjay! During my divemaster course, I assisted on a few open water courses so it definitely can be done. Is it the easiest place to get started? No, the currents can be hectic and it’s not a swimming pool like Ko Tao. Aside from that, you will literally be diving in one of the top 5 places in the world. During our course, we were practicing our skills when mantas would fly overhead. Hard to imagine how that student coudl even concentrate with that incredible things happening. So to sum it up:

      – Best of the best diving
      – You will be more skilled after the course than other open water students
      – Since there aren’t many OW students, it’s likely you will get a small group, sometimes even with a one-on-one instructor course

      – Strong currents make it harder to learn
      – Will set your expectations too high for future dives

      Hope that helps and enjoy!

  5. Hey Johnny, saw the link for the post from your post on scubaboard. AMAZING write up! I haven’t been to Indonesia yet but that’s high up on my list to dive next. Love your writing style and the pics and videos you have are equally as amazing. Looks like Komodo is really the special place and glad to see you got to enjoy it! Will let you know if I ever make it out there!

    • Hi Joey, appreciate the kind words! I speak from the heart when I say that Komodo is by far the best diving I’ve done. Definitely make it out there as soon as you can because Labuan Bajo is only going to get more developed and touristy. Let me know if you do and I can give you some recs!

      Btw, is that a hammerhead in your photo??! That is absolutely incredible, where is that?