How to book a boat tour to Komodo national park

If you’ve followed our Facebook & Instagram posts you’ll know we had an ‘interesting’ boat tour to Komodo National park. If I get a chance I’ll write our story on here, but I’d rather spend the time sharing how we organised the trip – as I was completely bamboozled!

Firstly, there’s a few things you should know:

  • We didn’t pre organise our trip (we did research & ended up going round in circles!!)
  • We arrived and departed from Lauban Bajo.
  • We are a family on a budget, but we will not cut corners over safety, for budget.

Should I book a tour to Komodo national park

Absolutely, without a doubt one of the best things that we have done. But I did find that trying to book something for a reasonable price and having confidence that it was reputable and safe was another thing!

But definitely do it! The waters and snorkelling around this area are amazing!!

Preparation

No matter how much research we did on Komodo national park I kept feeling like it wasn’t enough. Like I was missing something.

  • The correspondence I had with several companies about trips were vague.
  • The price variance was huge!!!
  • The boats were different.
  • The reviews weren’t there for some companies, but yet there were websites.

There were comments like

‘don’t get a wooden boat they are not safe – make sure it’s a speedboat’

what did that mean? It didn’t add up.

 

Different tour lengths

Day trip

These are very long days starting at around 7am until around 5pm. You will visit many different sites but with little time at each.

You’ll need to decide the areas you want to visit the most and choose a day trip that covers most of them.

2 day / 1 night cruise

This was the tour we decided on. It can vary so make sure the stops include the main places you want to visit. Our tour included manta point – pink beach – overnight near Komodo island – padar island – Rinca island & Manjarite beach.

3 day / 2 night cruise

A sample itinerary can be Labuan Bajo – Menjerite – Rinca Island – Kalong Island – Padar Island – Pink Beach – Komodo Island – Manta Point – Kanawa Island – Labuan Bajo

*Bear in mind there are separate park fees for both Rinca and Komodo Islands.

4 day / 3 night cruise

A slower pace, but we thought this would be too long for the boys.  Itineraries we saw included:  Kelor Island – Rinca Island – overnight at Padar Island – Padar Island – Komodo island – Pink Beach – overnight at Gili Laba – Gili Laba – Manta Point – Kanawa Island

Padar island

Cruises from Lombok to labuan bajo

We actually researched these prior to arriving in Indonesia. But some of the reviews pointed me towards some traumatic experience and boats capsizing! It was enough to put me off.

However, we did see a couple of these boats and they didn’t seem too bad. But our captain said they were renowned as party boats. Sleeping is on the open deck & main comments I’ve read is that it’s uncomfortable and tightly packed, but manageable. It might be worthwhile bringing an extra sheet & extra snacks too! If I was 20 years younger without kids I may have taken this route 😉

Wanua boat

The boats we saw were with Wanua adventures which seem to have fairly good reviews.

Please, please make sure you read all the reviews and make a judgment call yourself.

Read more info here

 

Different types of boat

  • Phisini wooden boat – the largest sailing boat you’ll see in this area. These will have cabins, some air conditioned. Expect to pay more for these type of boats. There are very large live aboard boats and slightly smaller versions. They will have masts and are common in Indonesia.

  • Speed boat – these are the boats used for day trips. They don’t tend to have facilities in board but there are toilets when you reach the islands.
  • Open deck boats (standard boats) – they only have 1 deck with sleeping in the open air. Make sure you check the sleeping facilities and blankets (it does cool down at night!). This was the boat we ended up on and are most common in the area. We had a Western (open air) toilet and our captain spoke good English – these are things you should also check!

  • Superior boat/Cabin boats – sometimes these can be considered more luxurious but the cabins aren’t always as comfortable as you think! It usually comes with an upper and a lower deck too. These are slightly bigger than standard boats so check the capacity and how many people will be on board also check what shade there is – it’s gets very hot during the day!

  • Mixed boats – as above there are some boats which gave a few cabins but also offer sleeping on the open deck. These will be more basic. Cabins will obviously cost more than sleeping on deck.

Warning: Always check the boat to make sure it’s what you want and what has been sold to you!

Our boat needed some maintenance

Questions to ask for a Komodo boat tour

  • What is the capacity of the boat?
  • How many are booked onto the boat?
  • Are there life jackets for each person on board?
  • Are there children’s life jackets?
  • Is snorkel equipment included in the price? Do you have children’s sizes?
  • Are Komodo national park fees included in the price?
  • What facilities are on board?
  • Do you have pictures of the boat?
  • Can we see the boat? (Seeing first hand is preferred – the boat should arrive back in the evening if it has already been out on tour)
  • How many engines does the boat have? (You need a minimum of 2 – in case 1 breaks!)
  • What staff are on board?
  • Do the staff speak English?
  • What are the sleeping arrangements?
  • Do you have blankets and pillows?
  • Where will we sleep? Make sure you ask if you are in a cabin or on deck!
  • What is the itinerary?
  • How long in each place?
  • What food will be served?
  • What drinks are available/included in price?

 

How to book a boat to Komodo national park

I’ve mentioned about researching online, but anyone can create a swanky website – even conmen.

Do not send any money beforehand, and don’t allow them to threaten that there will be no boats and it’s busy season! We arrived at the height of the season and there were lots of boats & tours – you just need to have a full day of flexibility!!

I would recommend if you are going to book when you arrive that you have a FULL day in Lauban Bajo to research and discuss options.

Also, going down to the docks and looking over the boats then bartering for a hire is a popular option as well. The agents usually tell you they have a boat and then go to the docks to find one.

Aside from the dive centres we hardly found an agent which had its own boats. In fact most of the agents were giggly girls or guys half asleep – walk straight out of these places!!

Komodo National Park Fees

You’ll find a lot of the companies quote a few without park entrance included. That’s because it’s so expensive…

Here is a list of the fees.. yes there is more than one!! Kids under 5 are free, some people have gotten away with saying their 8 year old is 4!!

Check details here.

National Park Fee per day: 150.000 IDR/person (Sundays & Public Holidays 225.000 IDR/person).
Scuba Diving extra fee per day: 25.000 IDR/diver.
Snorkeling extra fee per day: 15.000 IDR/snorkeler
Retribution for recreation and sports: 100,000 rp (6.60 USD) per person

Padar island

Entrance Ticket Padar: 150,000 rp (10 USD) per person

Rinca island

Tourism Tax Rinca: 100,000 rp (6.60 USD) per person
Ranger fee Rinca: 80,000 rp (5.30 USD) per group up to 5 people
Hiking fee Rinca: 5,000 rp (0,30 USD) per person

Komodo island

Tourism Tax Komodo: 100,000 rp (6.60 USD) per person
Ranger fee Komodo: 80,000 rp (5.30 USD) per group up to 5 people
Hiking fee Komodo: 5,000 rp (0,30 USD) per person

Kanawa Island

Kanawa Island fee: 100,000 rp (6.60 USD) per person

Tour company experiences

When I first started investigating Komodo national park I found there weren’t many family blogs. But I did find this one from Go Live Young (a lovely adventure family I follow on Instagram!). They had a blog which I read in detail and made me very excited about our trip.

Read it here

I’ve also asked them about their experiences of booking a boat tour (they are currently travelling so when I get their feedback I’ll add it here).

However, they did write about a traumatic experience of their own regarding mis-selling! It’s important your read reviews and make sure they are current. Some reviews are also false so read carefully and make your own judgement call!

These are more shared experiences we have for you:

Experience 1 (couple who were diving)

A couple we meet in Maumere, Flores told us they were planning a diving tour with this company. They gave us their experience here:

The overall Flores xp experience was great!

The only downside was the bathroom – some people had rooms with en-suite and others had to share and also share with the crew, which meant about 12 people to one bathroom.

But we think it’s also a bit of a lucky dip with what boat you get as ours wasn’t the one that they name on their website.  But overall we really enjoyed it! I think its one of the cheaper tours so it wouldn’t be for everyone but I’d still recommend it friends though.

Experience 2 (family on a shared boat)

Another family we met in Lauban Bajo had a similar experience to us & booked with an agent after arriving in Lauban bajo.

They booked a boat tour for IDR 700,000pp for a 2 day 1 night experience. They booked through a company in the main street called “up and up”.

Their family slept on an open deck with around 20 other travellers. The sleeping area was cramped and the toilet facilities were not the best but ok.
Also, the food was not enough to feed everyone and ran out quickly. They suggested we bought snacks with us on our tour for this reason.

They shared their experience with us:

“They put us on a boat with travelers that had booked through other agencies.
The boat was called Mona Lisa – it was a bit tattered but fine for one night. “

Our experience (family private boat on deck sleeping)

Still smiling at the end

We made contact with a few companies beforehand via WhatsApp or email:

Best Komodo tours – very keen (bit over keen if I’m honest!). The correspondence was insistent which set off alarm bells, but he did send through pictures of the boats and didn’t ask for money. I was half convinced & would use him as a back up plan if we didn’t find anything in town.  As it happens when we arrived in Lauban Bajo we couldn’t find him! I wanted to check his offering against others we’d found! Epic fail!!

We were offered these tours:

  • Komodo Island Tour 2 Days 1 Night – Private Tour – Cabin With AC. Total price : IDR.10.860.000 (not including NP entrance fee)
  • Komodo 1 day tour – Speed Boat – Open / Join Trip – USD 148 per Person

Komodo one click – provided a total family quote of IDR 15.000.000. This price includes Komodo National Park Tickets, Tour Guide, Transportation, all meals during the trip, and snorkeling equipment with air conditioned cabin. Their boat photos were of a superior boat.

They also sent pictures of the boats & followed up our initial enquiry.  But it was a bit too expensive!

Discovery Komodo adventure – provided a quote for 2 options:

  • Standard 2D 1N USD 895 4 person private boat tour OR Superior Boat USD 1.275 for 4 person private boat tour

I asked them for pictures of the boat and they didn’t send any. That set off alarm bells.

Our story

We arrived in Lauban Bajo early afternoon thinking this would be enough time to book something for tomorrow. In fact, it wasn’t – we should have allowed a full day to research. There are so many companies and shacks and tours and types! It took an hour just to walk down the street!!

Plus it didn’t help that our accommodation had a plumbing fault and we needed to find somewhere else to sleep too!!

After wandering around we ended up with very few options it was now nearly 5pm and we had left ourselves only an afternoon to organise this tour. Our original back up plan from our internet research didn’t even pan out – just goes to show a website doesn’t mean security!

We wanted to leave tomorrow for 2 days! It wasn’t looking good and we were actually getting desperate. We were stopped by a gentleman who offered us the chance of a tour as we were walking down the street. He was in a shack opposite Laprima Hotel. He had a nice polo shirt on, was knowledgeable about the area and said he could get us a boat. He didn’t seem a study character.

After much discussion we agreed on a boat with a cabin and a slightly higher price than Keith would have liked. He wanted a deposit but Keith didn’t want to pay anything. But he said he couldn’t secure the boat with nothing. So we gave him IDR 400,000 (we thought we could afford to lose £25!)

We went out for dinner and when we returned we had a message to ring the guy. He came round and told us that the shared boat we agreed was now full. But there was a private boat for more money, but would have a cabin.  We really were left with very little option, so we agreed! The total price was now IDR 5,000,000.

At 7am the next morning we had a knock on the door! It was our bleary-eyed guy again!!! He said he tried to contact us at midnight but we were asleep (erm yeah!!). He wanted to tell us that the boat we had agreed to last night was having engine difficulty and wouldn’t be back (actually he confessed that the passengers had decided to stay out for another night!).

So instead he said he’d found us another boat (this morning!!!) but it was sleeping on deck (still private – no pictures!!). What!!! My stress levels were through the roof and all our criteria and rules were out the window. Geez, we were meant to be leaving in half an hour. But the guy did genuinely look like he was trying to sort it. Keith was not convinced but we took a chance with all our fingers and toes crossed!!

This ended up being our boat

These are our beds for the night

We got to the jetty at 9am and met the captain, who spoke good English. The boat was ok, very basic, but did have a Western toilet! We were here now – what could go wrong… read our Facebook and Instagram account for our story (hopefully I’ll get a chance to write our story at some point!!).

Captain J fixing our boat!

Ps I found this website to be very knowledgeable about Flores on the whole if you need information. Travel fish blog

Best Komodo tour companies

…That we heard of!!!

Overall the dive companies had the best reviews. It’s clear that the boats and maintenance are not governed well here,  but the dive companies do have a governance over their ability to dive & need licenses – personally, this would be a comfort.

For me, they also had a formal shop (rather than shacks), they were more knowledgeable when we spoke to them, they were also the most booked up!

Wanderpus – this seemed to be the most popular company with excellent reviews and had a sign saying no availability for at least a month!! That’s surely a good sign! But they are expensive!  http://wunderpusliveaboard.com/

Red whale dive centrehttp://redwhaledc.com/ I like the feel of this place, but again no availability for tomorrow on a 2 day / 1 night tour, which we needed.

Blue marlin dive centre https://www.bluemarlindive.com/bluemarlindive/destinations/blue-marlin-komodo/ we saw lots of people milling around here and they had a nice coffee shop and dining room.

Le piratehttps://lepirate.com/explorer/ again a reputable place which also had a restaurant in the street.  It gets good reviews on trip advisor

Manta Rhei – I only found this on my last day in Lauban Bajo. It’s a Belgian family who run the company with good reviews https://www.mantarhei.com/

Basically we found the most knowledgeable and better equipped tour shops to be on the street based from the jetty to blue marlin shop. If you are walking and talking then start here. Don’t be put off that they are dive centres, they offer snorkelling tours too! But they will also be more expensive!

The rest were a bit of a shambles, you’ll find shacks and stalls like these all the way along the main Street in Lauban Bajo.

There was one company we found to offer a budget shared tour for IDR 700,000pp which Keith wishes we’d booked (me less so!). He was one of the lesser dodgy outfits. But this was based further up the street on the left hand side as you walk away from the jetty. He also sounded like they were his boats and organised tours rather than being just a middle man!

Unfortunately I can’t remember the name (sorry!!) It all got a bit fuzzled with the information. I’ll add it if I remember!!

Companies not to use

Our research also gave a few company names to avoid!! I’ll mention them with a caveat that you need to read reviews and make your own decision!! These were mentioned:

Gokomodotours
Komodo tours
Petrus oaks – name mentioned with scamming.

DO NOT book any package from anyone ( on-line / in advance – you may arrive to find out that this tour company does not exist) and pay nothing in advance (zero, not a penny), no deposit, no card details unless you see the vessel with your own eyes.

I read a recent report when a woman chartered a boat for Komodo and specifically asked for cabins, proper bedding, clean toilets etc. She paid the whole sum in advance and ended up with trivial backpacker tub/ disaster with sleeping on the floor, filthy mattresses, one broken filthy toilet and rats around during the night.

Everyone has different expectations, but safety & basic clean facilities are our focus!!

If you see ANYTHING not to your liking: un- satisfactory boat condition, lack of safety vets, cleanliness issues etc – turn your back and run!

What we learnt

Having wandered the streets, researched the internet, looked up the reviews and generally made our brains hurt, these are the conclusions we reached:

It’s an amazing area… But…

  • Read trip advisor first & check CURRENT reviews
  • Make contact and check prices and availability for your dates (it’s useful to have some back ups!)
  • Review their websites
  • Ask for photos of the boat
  • Check the itinerary (some 2 days didn’t go to manta point!). Plus we wanted to go to Rinca island, not komodo island
  • Get to lauban Bajo a day early to do planning (make sure it’s a whole day too!!)

And good luck! It’s not the easiest of tours to organise when you are on a budget!

Is Komodo national park closing?

NO!! It hasn’t been decided yet. But the news suggests it’s only Komodo island that will close. You can still see Komodo dragons on Rinca island!

But for me it’s the amazing snorkelling and sailing (when the boat was working!) that made this place so special. It was a truly amazing experience!!

Enjoy, and feel free to fire any questions to us!

This information is current @ August 2019 

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