Komodo Islands – one of the most beautiful destinations on the planet

Fall in love with the Komodo Islands - one of the most beautiful destinations on the planet

By Sarah Dougherty

Situated within a narrow channel between Flores and Sumbawa, Komodo National Park is comprised of three large islands (Komodo, Padar and Rincah) and 26 smaller ones spread over almost 2,000 square kilometres of tranquil blue sea.

DAY 1 – Bali to Labuan Bajo, gateway to Komodo

Leaving Denpasar on a wet morning to fly to Flores for the first time comes with the added excitement of boarding a plane for the first time in over a year. 

Our little team consists of myself (I’m Sarah from 360Bali), Nigel from The Yak Magazine, and Chloe, a colleague who is putting together travel itineraries for VIP Concierge, a bespoke concierge service. 

The flight takes us over Bali, Lombok, and Sumbawa, mountainous islands surrounded by stunning coral reefs. We pass Bali’s Mt Agung, Mt Rinjani on Lombok, smaller volcanoes, and endless coves as we travel towards our destination; the fishing village of Labuan Bajo, the gateway to Komodo, and currently one of the fastest-growing destinations in Indonesia. It is well worth trying to get a window seat as the views are fabulous. 

The descent reveals tiny islands rising from a calm sea, we’re now in the land of the dragons and from above there is something prehistoric about the geography. 

The airport reminds me of many I’ve been to before, albeit quite fancy for this little fishing village. The airport is literally minutes from our villa. We’re immediately plunged into the  huge public works program that is underway here, creating a dust storm that mars our welcome but fails to diminish our excitement. Enough has been done so we can see the wide, palm-fringed boulevards starting to take shape. A huge investment is going in to upgrade Labuan Bajo into a premiere international destination and the activity is fierce on our visit. 

Our first glance at the Villa, Paradise Garage, part of the Scallywags family, reveals a stunning two-story building with sweeping views across the harbour over tiny islands with misty lands in the distance that whisper of adventures yet to come. 

paradise garage Villa - Labuan Bajo The captivating views from the terrace at Paradise Garage, Labuan Bajo.

A modern 7-bedroom villa on the hill, Paradise Garage is stunning, with wide verandas to enjoy the views across two levels, a beautiful fully equipped kitchen and living room leading to the air-conditioned guest rooms with private en-suite bathrooms. Built as a home, you could move right in and enjoy a week or more just gazing out at the views. It’s possibly Labuan Bajo’s most luxurious private villa and definitely the largest.

After settling in with our hosts, owners Nigel and Jacky, we head into town, navigating the construction that is going on everywhere. For lunch, we stop at Happy Banana, an incongruous mix of antique interiors and Japanese food, created by the owners, Simone, an Italian, and his Australian wife. The beers are cold and the modern sushi menu is surprisingly good for this little outpost. 

Happy banana - Labuan bajo The modern sushi menu at Happy Banana is a delicious surprise.

Day 2 – Cruise to Seraya island and Le Pirate beach Club.

 

Underwater and barefoot

Today we’re heading out to dive and snorkel. Rallying the troops post-breakfast we gather at the Scallywags dive centre. Four of our crew are diving while Jacky and I are content to snorkel. We’re planning lunch at the popular boutique resort and beach club, Le Pirate, on the island of Sabalon.

The harbour is dusty, due to the construction, and lined with small shops. A new marina is being built here to replace the old commercial port. With it will be an upmarket shopping precinct, a Starbucks, and above it, the new 5-star hotel, Inaya Bay Komodo. I’m imagining my next visit will be to a different Labuan Bajo, yet it is nice to see the local flavour will be restored rather than wiped out. Locals are given materials to upgrade their homes rather than bulldozing them for modern builds, retaining a lot of the unique character.

We board Scallywag Dive’s boat. A compact speed boat designed to take divers and snorkelers to the outer islands in quick time. Divemaster Caroline Scott has fallen in love with Flores and her enthusiasm is infectious.

cruising Komodo
Cruising the Komodo islands aboard Segara Buana

Caroline will dive today with the boss, Nigel, Chloe, and traveling partner Tibo. Chloe and Tibo haven’t had a dive for a couple of years so they enjoy a refresher and a run through the equipment before we moor off Seraya Island, home to two beautiful boutique resorts. 

While the divers head down, we get off and order coffee and beers at The Seraya Resort overlooking the bay. With a mix of tents and private suites, The Seraya puts a soft footprint on this island and the bamboo restaurant on the hill has a lovely menu. A second resort, Sudamala, is located on the neighbouring beach. 

Post dive, we set off for Le Pirate where we’ll snorkel along the beachfront while the divers take another turn exploring the deeper water. 

The snorkelling is stunning, like swimming in an aquarium with incredible fish and beautiful coral. We spot a turtle and follow it for a while before heading to the beach club for drinks and lunch. Le Pirate’s beach club is a popular stop out here with a lively sand bar and a pretty restaurant. Glamping tents are built along the shore and today they have a full house as well as more day-trippers than we expected to see. The music is good, the beers are cold and the burgers are very welcome after being on the water for a few hours.

A bunch of happy, and slightly tipsy, campers we head back to the harbour and enjoy an early home-cooked dinner at the villa before turning in. Tomorrow is an early start. 

Diving deep beneath the clear waters of Kom