Looking for an adventure in Indonesia? Check out our epic two-wheeled journey across Indonesia in search of Komodo Dragons! If you are thinking about visiting Komodo National Park, why not try scooting to Flores and explore Indonesia’s unique islands and watch how its culture changes as you fly through on two wheels.
Ahh Bali, we did wonder what all the fuss was about. With a perception of beautiful women dressing up in long floaty dresses to play on Bali’s most instagrammable swings and let’s not forgot the classic bedspread where couples lay naked overlooking the rice terrace fields. Yes, this all exists, and don’t get me wrong, these places are stunning, or so we imagine. We saw the fee to enter into such candid environments and turned straight back around.
However, after exploring Bali, we soon realised this tribal looking Hindu island is way more than that!
In February, we arrived in Seminyak for one week to surprise my best friend on her 30th birthday by staying in a swanky villa with friends visiting from Dubai. Living a life of luxury and having the best time ever, it was the perfect break from the fast-paced, thrifty backpacking lifestyle we’d been living. Soon to follow, however, was our journey in search of Komodo Dragons.
We priced up a 125cc scooter from Sutha’s scooter rental at 40IDR (£2.30) per day after some hard bargaining, based on us renting for three weeks. Sutha is located next to the quirky Revolver Coffee Shop (best coffee in Bali I must say, and the food is to die for if you’re looking to cheat on the Balinese cuisine!).
Many rentals simply would not allow their scooters to leave the Island but Sutha was quite happy for us to do so. We ensured we had written consent (a signed document) to leave Bali with the scooter as we’d heard about being asked at ferry crossings for proof.
As Sutha wished us luck on our adventure, we made our way to Sunset Storage. There was absolutely no way we could take both backpacks, the load would be far too heavy and seriously uncomfortable. Storage was reasonably priced at 17IDR (£1) per day for one backpack, whilst the other fit snug in the front of the scooter.
Travel Tip: If you have never ridden a motorbike or scooter, check out our top safety trips while travelling Asia on two wheels.
Seminyak to Pandang Bai 55 km
And we’re off! We left Seminyak to Pandang Bai Ferry Port, a little later than we had planned. It’s important to note, this is the only ferry that allows vehicles; Benoa Harbour is passenger only. The journey took one hour and it amazed us just how noticeable the island changed as we left the over-saturated and well-developed Seminyak area, moving into lesser developed and definitely more ‘Balinese’ areas of Bali.
Specific to Bali, with the rest of Indonesia being predominantly Islamic, Hinduism can be seen and felt throughout the island with hundreds of temples having huge unique symmetrical gates and black pillars, giving a raw tribal feel which we haven’t encountered so far in any other country in Asia.
With a long boat journey ahead, we decided to have dinner before getting on the ferry just outside the port gates at Zenn Inn (you can also stay here, but be sure to book early as they only have four rooms). A variety of snacks are available both on the boat and from a bunch of hawkers who will corner you before the boat departs.
Not only did we need to show our consent document for the scooter, but also our international driving licence. You must organise this in advance of travelling and keep on you at all times or you will get stung with fines throughout Asia. You may remember when Sam was stopped in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
We paid 129IDR (£7.50) for two passengers and the scooter. The ferry boat was due to leave at 16:30, however, classic Asian timing, it left a 17:10.
We witnessed the most amazing sunset out at sea, the clouds were dramatic and moody and the sun reflecting off the clouds lighting up the sky as if it was on fire. Soon after the sunset, came the thunder and lightning. Fascinating to watch on deck. The boat was a little rocky so if you’re nervous about boats, aim for morning ferries as the sea is much calmer.
We arrived in Lombok at 22:00 and left the ferry at 22:25, spending a good 20mins in the hull, boxed in by huge lorries! You might want to get your dust masks at the ready, it’s not pretty down there, so many fumes!
Lembar Lombok Ferry Port to Kuta 48 km
We felt raindrops on our faces as we rode off the ferry. It’s the rainy season and we knew this after witnessing random downpours in Seminyak, but were we prepared? No!
Well, it started lashing it down, it was pitch black and we had an hour to scoot to our accommodation in Kuta (approximately halfway between ports on opposites sides of the island).
‘… when your wife saves your life.’
We pulled up for shelter and, through the rain, I saw the sign for Alfamart. I marched in hoping to find two ponchos , and I did! We have tried many different types of ponchos on our trip but these happened to be the best we’ve ever had. I purchased Sam a lovely bright green poncho as punishment because we debated about purchasing ponchos back in Seminyak and Sam thought it was ludicrous to wear one in the red hot heat. He thought it would be best to get wet and dry off on the scooter. How wrong was he! There can’t be anything worse than sitting in wet, sodden clothes. I like to name this part of the trip ‘when your wife saves your life.’
At this point, Sam debated whether to abort the mission and stop at a hotel for the night. I encouraged him to continue and drive on providing he could see clearly and take it steady. We agreed that if we came across a hotel we would stop, we didn’t have an Indonesian SIM card at this point either so we’re unable to do any on-the-fly research to help us out.
Luckily, the rainy season can be just short bursts of torrential rain and the downpour eventually subsided. The roads appeared to be freshly tarmacked and were lit all along the way. However, I would still recommend grabbing an earlier ferry just for comfort and picking up a SIM card in advance of your adventure.
We finally made it to Maharani Homestay by midnight. I booked the accommodation with Petra via Facebook Messenger, a lovely lady with excellent English and extremely accommodating with our late arrival.
We were greeted by Tengku, a friendly and excitable guy who called us brother and sister throughout our stay. We were relieved to see the comforts of our room, AC, a huge bed and a private bathroom with hot water. Tengku knew we wouldn’t have eaten and even though it was midnight, he sent us across the street to Aum Sushi for dinner. We had veggie sushi rolls, Edamame and Nasi Goreng, it was delicious!!
Kuta to Labuhan Lombok Ferry Port 90 km
After a peaceful kip, we woke up to banana pancakes and fresh fruit for breakfast before departing at 11:30 to Labuhan Lombok Harbour. There are plenty of fuel stops along the way, petrol stations and bottled fuel by the side of the road if you need a refill in between.
‘…where are you going mister.’
Riding through Lombok we admired the island’s Islamic culture, in contrast to that we’d seen the day before on Hindu Bali. The streets were filled with huge, bright, colourful Mosques.
Indonesian people are the most curious and want to know ‘where are you going mister.’ They were shouting from the streets, hanging out of moving vehicles and riding by our side on their scooters.
We arrived at Labuhan Lombok Harbour at 13:00. There are no restaurants at the port and nobody spoke English except a helpful port employee called Dito, who helped us get some lunch from the locals/staff restaurant.
Travel Tip: Be wary of random hazard perceptions along the way. You will find dogs, cats, buffalo, chicken and goat that will all attempt road suicide! You have been warned. We had a baby goat run out into the road and hit our back wheel, knocking my foot off the peg! Luckily though, no animals were harmed during this adventure.
Sumbawa ferry to Whales & Waves 45 km
The ferry departed Lombok at 15:00, arriving two hours later on Sumbawa. As soon as we rode off the ferry, a monsoon struck! We threw on our ponchos ready for the storms ahead.
There are two road options for our accommodation, we decided to stick to the main ‘inland’ road, not knowing how reliable the other, minor-looking road would be. However, we found later that the alternative minor road, which runs south from the ferry along the coast, is perfectly sound and would’ve taken only 30 minutes (32 km), instead, our journey took two hours!
Google Maps started failing us again so we decided to stop for an Indonesian SIM card at one of the many Oppo shops you will notice across Asia. The girls in the shop were mesmerised by us, they couldn’t speak a word of English but managed to signal for a quick selfie (Sam’s fave!).
Finally with GPS and relieved we had just 45 minutes until we reached our accommodation. The sun was setting and oh my, another stunning pink and purple Indonesian sunset reflecting off the rice fields.
Racing down narrow lanes desperately trying to beat the night sky, we had to pull over as Sams sunglasses were covered in dead flies which come out in abundance around that time of day! It was a ‘lesser of two evils’ situation; struggling to see through sunglasses in the dying light, or having to deal with a constant barrage of bugs in the eye. Beware, I’d recommend a helmet that has a visor or built sun shield to solve this.
We arrived at Whales and Waves at 19:30, greeted by the lovely Dewi and the resort’s two dogs, Gracey and Chilli. Dewi was very excited to see us! We ordered dinner and ate under the bamboo pagoda and called it night. We couldn’t wait to wake up…
Whales & Waves – the best Accommodation in Sumbawa
I opened the door of our bungalow and paradise smacked me right in the face! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Super green palm trees covered the entire resort and the sky like a cloudless diamond, clear and shining. Just beyond the fence, I could see the horizon of the ocean and Mount Rinjani on Lombok in the distance, hiding behind hovering clouds. It felt like I was dreaming.
Later, we decided to take the dogs for a walk down the beach. Pantai Kertasari beach was deserted, the benefits of being out of season and surrounded only by beach cows, goats and crabs!
We grabbed a spot in a wooden shack and watched the sunset. The sky completely transformed, forming wispy cirrus clouds across the sky. The sunlight reflected orange, pink and purple as the moon rose in the opposite direction. It’s the most beautiful sunset we’ve ever seen!
West Sumbawa to Bima 360 km
After two days in pure paradise and getting to know Dewi (and the dogs) very well, it was time to depart at 08:15 to Bima, basically, the opposite end of Sumbawa island, a potential 10-hour slog and the longest ride we have ever done on two wheels.
We took the B road back up towards the ferry along the coast for a much quicker and scenic route. Pure paradise continued along the shore as we rode north, up and over Sumbawa.
Almost two hours of riding and the picturesque views had us pulling over for a photo and a stretch of the legs. Further down the road, we noticed a wooden-looking hut with benches overlooking the ocean. We rode over to see if we could grab a drink and take in the views.
We couldn’t believe our luck. La Bgong is a little sea-view restaurant and although it was 10:50, it was too good of an opportunity to pass on having lunch here.
Originally from Lombok, independent Indra, the owner, a kind young lady who built her business and dream career from scratch in an area not so popular of tourists (yet) but planning for the future. We got to know each other well, exchanging positive vibes to one another as Indra opened up about her past.
We continued our mission across Sumbawa, it’s a huge island so we had some ground to cover. I enjoy chilling on the back of the scooter admiring all the wildlife. Water buffalo bathe in mud puddles from torrential downpours. Cheeky monkeys laying at the side of the road and not to mention the most beautiful cows I’ve ever seen. I swear, an English cow mated with a deer and bred the prettiest Indonesian cow I ever did see!
The heat was unbearable, well, for Sam anyway and he insisted on buying a shirt to cover up from the sun, while I lathered up in cream to catch a tan. We pulled into a random shop and the assistants were all over him, trying to find something he liked. He waltzed out with the jazziest 70s shirt! Sam has a unique dress sense, which several people have commented on during our travels haha!
As we rode along the coastline we desperately needed a break from our sore arses after 8 hours riding. We ventured down a dirt path to sit by the sea. As we got comfy, we heard loud rustling in the trees behind us and I was pretty scared before we saw what would pop out!
The most curious and gently creatures and my favourite Asian animal. The cutest family of water buffalo making their way to the water to join another herd who were already soaking themselves in the sea. We felt as though we were watching a live scene from David Attenborough’s Planet Earth.
We arrived in Bima at 18:15 and found a hotel for the evening. I’m not going to link this accommodation, I will just refer to it as Grottvile 7 (yep, we’ve had a few minging accommodations since we started travelling). We quickly showered and visited the Falcao Cafe we passed on the way in for dinner. It certainly made up for the grotty accommodation we were staying in.
Bima to Sape 55 km
The last leg of what is, overall, a very long but spectacular ride. We left Grotville 7 at 06:20 to make the first ferry departing at 9:00 from Sape. We rode up and over the mountain watching the sunrise and dodging monkeys chilling in the road.
We arrived at 07:45 and purchased our tickets costing 250IDR (£14). A little more expensive than previous ferries, however, this was a mammoth crossing, 7 hours. The ferry didn’t leave until 10:15 which meant arriving in Flores much later than expected.
Arrived 17:35 in Flores
Woohoo we’ve landed in Labuan Bajo finally with rumbling tummies and jumped straight into a Japanese restaurant called Happy Banana Komodo. Amazing food!
We popped into a few tour companies on the high street to enquire about the Komodo tour. We came across Golden Tours and met a very genuine guy called Alvian. He was super helpful and friendly compared to the other shops. Alvian gave us a fair price and so we secured our spot on the tour the following day!
Checking in at La Boheme, an open-air shabby chic bohemian themed hostel with a beautiful view of the bay and spacious courtyard for barbecuing, we couldn’t wait to unwind for the evening.
Komodo National Park Tour
We packed an overnight bag and La Boheme was kind enough to store the rest of our belongings.
We both packed our trusty hiking boots for dragon spotting and Padar viewpoint hike, plus Havaianas when on deck. In case a monsoon struck, we packed our ponchos and Rab jackets. A dry bag to hold our belongings while snorkelling and hiking. Underwater camera for all the sea creatures and of course my Olympus camera, complete with Joby Tripod. Portable charging battery as there are no charging points on the boat. A change of clothes for two days, hiking gear, pj’s, toiletries. Bite away for mosquitoes and portable towel for the beach and showering. All packed away in our Oakely backpack.
You can check out our One-Stop Travel Shop to see all our possessions carried for our travels.
Alvian collected us at 7:20 from La Boheme with Simon from Germany and Christa from Switzerland. We called at the shop for some beers in preparation of our overnight stay on the boat and soon broke the ice with introductions.
Arriving at the harbour, a few wooden boats were preparing for a tour around Komodo National Park. Our home for the next two days had 10 Komodo Dragon enthusiasts ready and raring to go. Wading through introductions, knowing Sam would never remember anyone’s name, we found a spare bean bag and a spot on deck.
Talk about a multilingual boat trip! We heard native English for the first time in a long while as a couple of English sisters sat at the front of the boat conversing with a retired American man and wife. Amy, an energetic and enthusiastic lass from Scotland. A quiet German couple who we recognised from our hostel, a french dude and a quirky Czech couple.
After a few hours sailing across the Flores Sea, we landed on Rinca Island. Stepping off the boat, we were greeted by a bunch of park rangers.
As we huddled around an information board listening to the park rangers blast through safety instructions, I noticed something moving in the background behind our group. It was a small Komodo dragon crawling by, we couldn’t believe it! Not even deep into the park and we had met our first Komodo Dragon, buzzing!
As we marched around the back of the small onsite cafe, four more Komodo dragons were chilling by the air condenser units. Apparently, they like to hang around the cafe in hope of food, an indication of how man’s interference has had a less-than-natural impact on the animals.
A few of the dragons were sleeping and the other crawling over another to get his chilling spot. He then made his way for a drink in the stream, so surreal.
The park ranger recommended a shorter trek because we had landed on Rinca Island later than expected due to the wind blowing against the boat. A small debate began within the group. Part of the group wanted to go on a long trek to see more dragons in the wild while others preferred a shorter trek to have more time to talk and learn from the park rangers about Komodo Dragons.
The ranger was keen to stress how it wasn’t guaranteed that we would see more Komodo Dragons on the longer trek so we compromised on a medium ‘unofficial’ trek via a river bed where the dragons are likely to be cooling at this time of the day.
Bring on the dragons! As we stomped through the jungle, briefly stopping along the way to listen to the rangers knowledge about Komodo Dragons, we eventually went off-piste for a stroll down by the river.
Keeping super quiet and searching the bushes for dragons, we suddenly caught a glimpse of movement in the water. It was about the biggest male Komodo Dragon you would find on Rinca Island, soaking in the river, floating along and cooling himself from the heat.
Well, until he spied us, and started swimming faster down the river before climbing out. The size of him was unbelievable, a huge beast, very much like a dinosaur! I couldn’t believe my eyes as he exited the river. He paused for a moment, looking at us from the side and sticking his forked tongue out like a snake. Komodo Dragons smell with their tongues, it’s their primary food detector and he was sampling the air and touching the roof of his mouth with his tongue.
We stopped in our tracks not moving a muscle, except for the click of our fingers on camera equipment. The dragon continued moving on so we slowly followed him but he soon waddled out of sight (Komodo Dragons don’t move in a straight line because of their bowed legs). Despite their bow legs, however, Komodo Dragons can run pretty fast, up to 12 mph compared to the average human sprint of 15 mph. Imagine one of these beasts running at you?!
We took a new route hiking towards Rinca Island’s viewpoint, passing carcasses of water buffalo along the way. Komodo Dragons are fierce hunters and enjoy feasting on large prey, leaving nothing but the remains of animal bones.
Komodo’s will hunt their prey and shred it. If their prey is lucky enough to escape, it will die within 24 hours from infection. This is due to the Komodo’s saliva which contains over 50 types of bacteria. Komodos sniff out and stalk their prey, even from miles away to find it and finish their meal.
We caught our breath at the top of the viewpoint, soaking up the views of jagged hills and mangrove forests across Komodo National Park, surrounded by the clear blue Flores Sea.
Coming towards the end of the Rinca Island tour we hoped we’d see just one more dragon, and there he was, the beast from earlier! Slowly creeping through the jungle, some of the team raced in front of the ranger for a closer look.
“… and if your ranger is worried, then so should you be!”
The dragon was alerted to our presence as he stopped in his tracks and checked out those closest to him. The ranger was just advising not to get any closer when the dragon thrashed, as if to ward us off! It was certainly a scare, and I have never been so scared in my life!
The park rangers had a special forked stick to ward off any dragons. He jumped in front of the tour to protect them and made us move on immediately. Even the rangers seemed worried, and if your ranger is worried, then so should you be!
We disappeared as quickly as possible to give the dragon some space and he wandered off peacefully. Thank gawd! I felt very lucky a serious incident didn’t occur and was also resentful at those who were pushing their luck!
Next, we were bound for Komodo Island. As we climbed aboard the boat crew had prepared lunch for us all. Fantastic snap to fill our bellies, some vegetarian dishes and meat dishes with fruit and water.
Once we’d finished lunch, we all made our way on deck to get slumped for a 2-hour boat ride. Well… the excitement of Rinca must’ve got us because we all napped for the entire journey. Try telling me you wouldn’t drift off after coming face to face with the biggest Komodo Dragon ever, chowing down on fabulous Indonesian cuisine to then being swayed rhythmically by the waves on a beanbag. You’d be a goner too!
As we drowsily walked the plank, there was a Komodo at the end of the dock to welcome us, or so we thought. He was laid low by a tree watching the deers on the beach, as if in hunting mode ready to attack.
We were greeted by new park rangers in preparation of our second tour. The leading park ranger seemed very knowledgeable and had a sense of authority about him as if he wasn’t to be messed with. He was very good, way more informative and had his crew in order ready for the jungle trek.
As the leading ranger laid out the safety instructions, we noticed a pretty big dragon laying nearby. The ranger said he was a regular at the cafe and confirmed it was safe enough to kneel behind him for a photo, keeping our distance of course. One for the memorabilia box I guess, but in a less authentic environment.
Komodo Island is home to wild boar, monkeys, deer and wild horses. We began our tour through the tropical dry forest commenting on how dry this island is compared to Rinca.
Palm tree leaves covered the floor which made it difficult to spot any dragons. However, we soon found a skinny, scaly dragon, camouflaged among the fallen palm leaves, maybe waiting for his prey which he so desperately needed for survival. It looked like he could do with a buffalo or two.
We didn’t meet any more dragons after that. Both islands are huge, but the areas of the islands you are exposed to during a tour are quite small. The likelihood of meeting Komodo dragons on a tour isn’t guaranteed, so we were grateful and 100% satisfied with the result of both the beastly male we saw bathing on Rinca, and the sly specimen we saw lying in the leaves on Komodo. Two different examples of behaviour in their natural environment.
Next stop, Pink Beach! Appropriately named after the beach’s unique hue of pink sand. The pink colour is created by microscopic animals called Foraminifera which are tiny little creatures with pink shells who live in coral reefs. When combined with white sand, it creates a soft pink tint.
Snorkelling at Pink Beach is next level! We have never witnessed such psychedelic coral and fish. As we snorkelled around the bay, popping up for air now and then, the technicolour vibe continued above sea level. The sun was setting and transforming the sky from pink to purple, blue to grey. It was the perfect majestic ending to a magical day in Komodo National Park.
The boat docked for the night at Pink Beach. The crew prepped dinner and laid out our beds and blankets for the evening on the deck. The crew were simply amazing! We drank beers and played music while running from flying cockroaches, my absolute worse nightmare! I don’t actually know how I survived that night… but I did! Manning up slightly on our travels I guess.
Komodo National Park Sunrise
At 05:00 the boat fired up and we had no idea why so early until I looked outside and the sky was turning a haze of colours; grey, blue, purple, pink. We shuffled to the front of the boat passing hot tea and coffee from below deck and watched the UNESCO national park wake up. What a way to start the day!
Obviously, we had come a long way to see the dragons but this next stop I’d been waiting to see for a long time.
We grabbed our hiking boots for the morning hike to Padar Island’s viewpoint which overlooks the entire Komodo National Park. The weather was lush!
Padar Island isn’t a tough hike and takes around 45 minutes to reach the top. At the summit, I was awestruck by the scenery and it left me feeling very grateful. I had only seen pictures of this place and it felt quite surreal to finally be stood here.
All three coloured beach’s come into sight; white, grey and pink. The view goes for miles over the park and the Flores Sea. You can venture a little further and reach the edge of the cliff but be careful!
Later, we clambered back down and onto our trusty wooden boat. The crew prepared a hearty breakfast in advance of Manta Point.
Urgh, the moment I had ‘not’ been waiting for! This was my first opportunity to conquer my fear of the deep blue sea.
Way out in the middle of the ocean and the boat drops its anchor! Everyone is super excited and can’t wait to dive off the boat and into the ocean to swim with manta rays. Well not everyone, me and one of the English sisters were a little apprehensive so we watched as one by one jumped overboard.
Sam was like a water-baby. There were over a dozen huge manta rays, up to 10ft in diameter were swimming around and past the boat as everyone snorkelled and dove down below, marvelling at these majestic beasts. Manta rays are pretty inquisitive and curious creatures and enjoy swimming up close and personal.
It took me a while to get in but I eventually did with the support and encouragement of the team. I jumped in with my flippers and snorkel gear, stuck my head in, scanned the ocean for a few minutes checking out the manta rays swimming around like elegant butterflies… and jumped out!
A dreamy picturesque island with the whitest sand and turquoise sea and, sadly, our final stop of the day. We found these ridiculous huge heavy shells on the shore with absolutely no idea how they had got there. Everyone still entered the competition to see who could lift the heaviest shell.
We snorkelled around the bay chasing all types of fish including the famous orange Nemo fish and dozy blue Dory fish. I found a stunning starfish sat on the coral but was disturbed by a sea-snake slithering towards me. As I backed off, I saw a stingray! Steve Irwin sprung to mind, so I ventured out for a beer.
We all ligged out on the beach with a Bintang, reminiscing, feeling lucky to be where we were and reflecting on how much of a pleasure it was to meet everyone. We agreed to meet for dinner and drinks at Bajo Taco later that evening for one last supper.
As we set sail for Labuan Bajo taking in the breeze on deck, Amy, the loud Scottish lass shouts ‘dolphins, dolphins’ in the distance. How cliche!
Alvian promised a memorable tour with the best crew on the island, and he certainly delivered. I would 100% recommend booking your Komodo tour with Golden Tours on the high street in Labuan Bajo if you plan to visit the prehistoric Komodo dragons. You can check them out on TripAdvisor or pop in when you arrive on Flores.
Journey back to Bali
Fortunately, the early morning boat from Flores allowed us to get a head start across Sumbawa, a more leisurely ride by splitting the journey in two, staying in locations more inland than before.
As we reached Lombok, we rode south to spend some time in Kuta, relaxing on the beaches after a hectic few days.
Later, we rode north to the Gili Islands, leaving our trusty scooter on Lombok to grab a boat over to Gili T for a few days to chill and swim with sea turtles.
As we returned to Bali, we called in at Lake Batur for the evening. We agreed with the hotel manager to arrange a guide for 03:00 to hike Mount Batur, a popular volcano many tourists hike for sunrise. Although touristy, it was phenomenal.
Before we returned our scooter to Sutha, we made a stop at beautiful Ubud for a few nights where we enjoyed the best Indonesian cuisine we had found anywhere so far in Indonesia.
What an epic journey across Indonesia! Indonesia has been our favourite country to visit in Asia so far, mainly because of how diverse it is, wonderful friendly people and the cuisine. There is no doubt we will return!