What You Really Need to Know Before Going on a Sailing Trip in Komodo, Flores, Indonesia

This article is part 2 of 2 in the series Flores, Indonesia

Our sailing trip around the islands of Komodo is one of our favourite moments in Flores. Not only did we hike, snorkel, swim, and see manta rays and a turtle, but we also managed to relax on the boat! The view of the islands of Komodo was spectacular. The landscape was incredibly unique — I had never seen anything like this in any other places in Indonesia.

Before I embarked on my first sailing trip, I had a lot of questions and doubts. Is it safe? Is a 3-day trip too long? Should I book in advance? And many more… Thankfully, I managed to have those questions answered before and after the trip, so that’s why I decided to come up with this post!

In this post, I compiled some of the things you need to know before going on your first sailing trip to the islands of Komodo. I hope it is helpful and I hope you’d eventually know what to expect before embarking on this super exciting trip to Flores!

Avoid weekends and public/school holidays

A lot of local open trips are organized on the weekends and during Indonesian public holidays, as well as school holidays. If you can avoid those days, then you won’t be seeing too many people crowding most famous attractions, like Padar and Rinca Islands. I would prefer a much quieter Padar, to be honest! I did go during the weekend as I did not have much choice at the time. But I was lucky that I was able to avoid the long Easter weekend in the week before. I was told that there were at least 40 boats sailing around the islands of Komodo at the same time!

Some of the boats anchored nearby Kelor IslandSome of the boats anchored near Gili Lawa Island

Take a multi-day sailing trip

Komodo dragonsThe idea behind this sailing trip is not only to hop from one island to another. It is also to enjoy the relaxing experience on the boat, in addition to snorkelling, hiking, and seeing different views of the Komodo National Park. Doing a day trip strips away such privilege and you are forced to do everything in a hurry. Take at least a 2-day sailing trip, although, in my honest opinion, 3-day would be much better. I personally took the 3-day package and it was one of the most wonderful experiences I had — a much needed relaxing trip after spending two days in Wae Rebo (and on the road!).

Taking a multi-day sailing trip also allows you to go to Padar Island and hike to the top of the island early in the morning before the sun strikes the most in the afternoon. Trust me, you do NOT want to go there at noon as it is just too freakin’ hot! You don’t wanna come back with wrinkled skins like the komodo dragons, do you? 😉

The mighty manta ray Snorkelling in Pink Beach

Be prepared to do short hikes

The islands around the Komodo National Park are beautiful. In order to see more epic sceneries though, you would need to spend 15 to 30 minutes hiking to the top of the island. The hikes are not difficult, especially for those who are used to doing sports. You do need a proper pair of shoes or hiking sandals with good traction to properly enjoy the hikes.

Hiking to the top of Kelor Island

Before you do the hike (or any outdoor activities in that sense), apply a sunscreen lotion and wear a hat to protect your skin and to prevent you from getting a heat stroke. The sun and heat around the Komodo Islands are quite unbearable and that is one of the reasons why the landscape of most islands around the Komodo National Park is extremely dry with very few trees.

Padar Island

Is it safe?

The sailing trip around the Komodo islands is generally safe. In fact, during my 3-day trip, I never felt unsafe at all. Of course, there are some instances that accidents did happen off the coast of Komodo islands, but they are not frequent.

There a number of things that made me feel safe when I was on the boat. The experience of the captain and the people on board was very important. Although I didn’t know about the captain’s past experience until I boarded the boat, I felt much at ease when I learnt that he had conquered Indonesian waters, as far as the rough sea of Halmahera, which is notorious for having rough sea conditions. He is also very much familiar with the area around the Komodo islands, which is quite essential as there are a lot of corals here and he needs to make sure that his boat does not hit any of them. He also needs to know where to moor the boat as the depth of the sea can change when the tide is slow.

It is also important to go to Komodo during one of the recommended seasons/months. Avoid the months of December, January, and February due to raining season, bad weather patterns, and rough sea conditions. When I went there in April, the weather was perfect. It did rain quite a bit in Labuan Bajo (and the mountains), but not around the Komodo islands. Unlike the sea off the coast of Bali, Lombok, and other parts of West Nusa Tenggara, the sea around the area of Labuan Bajo and Komodo islands was quite calm and it was even much calmer at night!

Unless you are in a rush, your boat is most likely be anchored near an island as soon as the sun sets. Other boats will do the same and they will “park” next to your boat. It is quite fun as you get to meet travellers from other boats and share each other’s experience. Beware that the electric generator from boats next to you can get too noisy though, so on one occasion, we decided to anchor a bit further from other boats.

Another thing I noticed about sailing around the Komodo islands is that there are a lot of boats going to the same destination as our boat. So if there is anything happen, we won’t be totally by ourselves. Not to mention that we were almost always surrounded by islands, making the sea calmer and safer to sail.

Safety cannot be compromised – be picky!

Despite the points I wrote above, it is always good to be picky when choosing a boat before you sail. Make sure that the person or the company that owns the boat has a good reputation. Find out when the boat was last refurbished or maintained and whether they have life jackets and other safety measures. If you get to talk to the captain of the boat, try to ask about his experience sailing around the Komodo islands. Taking a luxury or big boat does not mean you are free from accidents. The captain of my boat told me, “Sometimes, these big boats rely too much on GPS and high tech equipment that they are less careful. As a captain, you need to be vigilant at all times and be familiar with the condition of the sea. That’s why some of these big boats sank in the first place.”

The full team + the crew members
The full team + the crew members

Sailing trip for all budgets!

The boat we used for the sailing tripThe first thing that came to my mind when I heard about a sailing trip is that it’s very expensive. A few years ago, I tried to google information on Komodo sailing trip and all I found were the super expensive liveaboard package catered for foreigners (in USD that is)! It is really ridiculous. Sure, the boat is nice and luxurious but I don’t need all that! All I need is a place to sleep with a roof above me, a boat to bring me from one island to another, and nice companions. Is it something impossible to get?

Well, the good news is that, due to the increasing number of tourists visiting Flores, there are various sailing trip packages available that are able to suit everyone’s budget. If you are willing to spend USD 10,000 per night for a boat, this can be arranged easily! Or if you want a cheaper option with a basic room and toilet, that’s widely available. If you don’t mind sleeping outside on the deck with a few other people, that’s a possibility as well! So, the sailing trip can be arranged depending on your budget and preference.

Some of the things that can influence the price of the sailing trip are:

  • Open trip vs private boat. If you are a solo traveller or travelling in a group of 2-3, then joining an open trip or sharing the boat with others is much cheaper than hiring your own private boat.
  • Sleeping conditions: either an open deck, a shared room (3-4 people), or a private double room
  • AC or fan. An air-conditioned room is, of course, more expensive than a fan room, due to the fact that they have to use an electric generator on the boat to keep the electricity running.
  • Size of the boat. I find that bigger boats are more expensive compared to smaller ones. Perhaps this is because the smaller boats are owned by individuals or smaller companies.
  • Tour guide. Some packages may not provide a tour guide. A tour guide is not really necessary for this trip, but it can probably be helpful for those who cannot converse in Indonesian

Before you book your sailing trip, make sure you are aware of what the trip includes (e.g. meal 3x a day, snorkelling equipment, life jacket, etc) and ensure that there are no hidden costs that may surprise you in the end.

Book in advance or on the spot?

Boats in the harbour of Labuan BajoIf I had a choice, I would prefer to book the sailing trip on the spot, so I can see the condition of the boat and do lots of comparisons before taking the trip. But unfortunately, I had a limited time in Labuan Bajo and I didn’t want to risk not being able to go on any sailing trips due to limited available boats (as it was in the weekend after the Easter holiday). I also want to take a 3-day sailing trip, which (in many cases) need to be booked in advance as supplies/foods need to be bought and the boat needs to be prepared in advance.

If time is not your concern, I would suggest going to the Labuan Bajo harbour where are all the boats are anchored. Walk to the very end of the row of boats and shop around! You will be able to negotiate the price, ask lots of questions, and compare the prices on the spot. I was told that it is generally more expensive to ask in the shops in Labuan Bajo.

Be mindful of the holiday seasons in Indonesia (public holidays & school/university holidays) as the prices can be more expensive and availability of the boats can be quite limited.

Contact details for the sailing trip

Be Borneo Tour

For the 3D2N package that I took with the Be Borneo Tour, I paid Rp. 1,750,000 (~USD 125 / MYR 500) per person (shared room with fan) – additional Rp. 250,000 (~USD 18 / MYR 71) per person is required for foreigners. Below is the contact detail for the Be Borneo Tour package. Pak Indra and the tour guide can speak English so this could be a good option for foreign travellers.

I did a review in more detail about our sailing trip in the post below:

Be Borneo Tour (contact person: Indra)
Phone/WhatsApp: +62 852 5150 1009 / +62 856 5120 2195
Email: info@beborneotour.com
Website: http://tourkomodo.co

Other options

I talked to some fellow Indonesian travellers and they managed to find a cheaper option as they went to the Labuan Bajo port/ harbour where a lot of the boats are anchored and find the best deals there. One of the travellers, Sarah from Maluku, told me that she only paid Rp. 500,000 (~ USD 36 / MYR 145) for a day trip for two persons (thanks for this information, Sarah!). You can choose 4-5 destinations to visit in one day (for 12 hours), depending on what time you start. As usual, you can even get a cheaper price if you have more people (maximum 6 people in one boat).

Pak Ibrahim
Phone: +62 853 3709 9662

For a multi-day option, she suggested me to contact Pak Moko, who has a 6-to-8-persons boat with a few rooms. It is advisable to book the trip at least 1.5 months in advance in order to get the best and cheaper deals. Depending on how many persons you have, he can give you as low as Rp. 635,000 (MYR 180) per person for a 3-days-2-nights sailing trip. The price can jump to more than Rp 1,000,000 (~ USD 72 / MYR 300) per person, depending on the season, how early you book, and the number of persons joining the trip. It is possible to have your own private boat or share with others.

Pak Moko
Phone: +62 813 1024 1068

I have no information about the boat condition though, so let me know in the comment below if you have taken the trips with either Pak Ibrahim and Pak Moko.

Getting into/out of Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo is connected by frequent flights to/from major cities in Indonesia, including Denpasar (Bali), Jakarta, and Makassar (South Sulawesi). Those three cities have direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, which seem perfect! We booked our flights from KL to Bali (as it was the cheapest), spent a few days there and then we took an onward flight to Labuan Bajo. There are at least 3 known airlines flying to Labuan Bajo: Garuda Indonesia, Wings Air, and NAM Air. To get cheaper flight tickets, in addition to comparing the prices in the airlines’ respective websites, try to compare the prices in locally-trusted portals too, e.g. Traveloka, Tiket.com, and Indonesia Flight. Some of these portals offer discounts and you may be lucky to find good bargains here!

If you only see a few dollars different between Garuda Indonesia and other local airlines, I’d strongly, strongly recommend you to fly with Garuda Indonesia. The airline is well-known for their excellent service and safety records, as well as on-time schedules. So, gotta trust Garuda!

The sailing trip usually starts early in the morning, so it is better to arrive in Labuan Bajo at least one day before as Indonesian budget airlines are notorious for having delays and cancellations. Trust me, you don’t want to experience THAT and risk missing your sailing trip! If you are taking a connecting flight or transiting in Denpasar, Jakarta, or any other cities in Indonesia, make sure you leave PLENTY of time. By that, I mean… at least 6 hours. Again, may I remind you that Indonesian budget airlines are super notorious for having delays and cancellations, that you have a huge risk of missing your connecting flight! We almost missed our 8.50 PM flight from Bali to Kuala Lumpur, as our flight from Labuan Bajo was delayed for 3.5 hours. It was supposed to depart at 3.15 PM, arriving in Bali at 4.25 PM. But instead, it arrived at 6.40 PM. It took awhile for our luggage to appear and we had to run all the way to the international departure terminal. It was not a nice experience and unfortunately, this was not the first time that it happened to us. So, lesson learned, don’t trust Indonesian airlines!

If your sailing trip is scheduled to end at 1 PM, then it is possible to take a flight out of Labuan Bajo from 3 PM onwards. The airport of Labuan Bajo is only 15-30 minutes away from the harbour. Ensure that the time of the flight departure is NOT EARLIER than 3 PM.

Besides flying, Labuan Bajo can also be reached by boat/ferry from Lombok. Personally, I wouldn’t want to take this route at all, due to sea condition, many reported incidents involving ferry/boats around the area of West Nusa Tenggara, and timing (it takes 4 days to get to Labuan Bajo from Lombok). The ferry/boat from Lombok will pass through & stop at some of the Komodo islands (although not all of them). However, if you are willing to take the ferry, do contact Wanua Adventure. I’m not in anyway related to them but I’ve read good reviews from them.

That’s it for today! If you have any questions, drop me a comment below 😉

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