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Padar Island, Pink Beaches And Komodo Dragons: An Epic Experience

White, black and pink beaches on Padar Island.

Komodo National Park is an adventure traveller's dream. Come find out why!

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****This article was featured on Lonely Planet’s Best Family Travel Blogs: Best In Travel 2019


Recently, our family of 6 (13, 14, 16 and 20 year old children) spent 17 days exploring many islands all over Indonesia.  One of our highlights was the four days we spent in Komodo National Park where we hiked on Rinca Island surrounded by wild Komodo dragons. But, seeing the Komodo dragons in their natural habitat was merely one extraordinary experience that we had in Komodo National Park. We swam with turtles and giant manta rays, and snorkelled in some of the most beautiful and biodiverse waters in the world. We watched spectacular sunsets that left us speechless. Incredibly, we climbed to the top of Padar Island and discovered below deserted white, black, and pink beaches, ready for us to explore.

 

Rinca Island
An enormous Komodo dragon lurking around the Park Ranger buildings in Komodo National Park.

 

Why Komodo National Park – Rinca Island and Padar Island?

Komodo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site located within the Lesser Sunda Islands near the provinces of East and West Nusa Tenggara. The park includes three large islands called Komodo Island, Padar Island and Rinca Island, and 26 smaller ones. The total area of Komodo National Park is 1,733 km2 or 670 mi2.  Except for park rangers, the islands are uninhabited.

Komodo National Park is within the Coral Triangle. The region has 76% of all known coral species in the world. It is a habitat for 37% of the world’s reef fish and more than 3000 species of fish live in the Coral Triangle. In addition, it is home to six out of the world’s seven marine turtles species. Finally, Komodo National Park is one of the last places on earth that have wild Komodo dragons.

 

Komodo National Park
Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

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Komodo Resort Near Komodo National Park, Rinca Island and Padar Island

Our home during our four day trip to Komodo National park was Komodo Resort on the island of Sebayur, off the coast of Flores Island. We flew 1 1/2 hours from Bali to Flores, and then, employees of the resort met us at the airport. From there, we drove 15 minutes to the port and took a 45 minute speed boat ride to our hotel.

Komodo Resort was beautiful and luxurious, and located just outside of Komodo National Park. From now on, when I think about running away from home to live on a deserted beach with gorgeous accommodation and delicious food and cocktails, I will think of this resort. For more information about Komodo Resort, and how to travel there from Bali, please take a look at another article of mine called The Unbelievable Wonders of Komodo National Park In Indonesia.

 

Komodo National Park
View of Komodo Resort from the water.

 

For accommodation at Komodo Resort or near Komodo National Park, I would highly recommend searching below in booking.com and using the amazing interactive map to find the best location and prices.

 



Booking.com

 

Komodo National Park

In the balance of this blog, I am going to write about our day to day activities in Komodo National Park.  Without question, we were mesmerized and astonished by some of the animal encounters that we had, and by the natural beauty that surrounded us. It was truly some of the best days that I have ever had on a holiday.

 

Day 1 – Rinca Island, Komodo Dragons and Flying Foxes 

 

Komodo dragons

We arrived at our hotel, the Komodo Resort, had lunch and left a couple hours later on our private boat for our first excursion. We headed to Rinca Island to visit Komodo dragons in the wild.

Komodo dragons are the largest lizard in the world. They can grow up to 3 m (or 10ft long), and weigh up to 70 kg (or 150 lb). Their bite is venomous and deadly to humans. They kill their prey by biting them and then, leisurely following them for days until the animal succumbs to the poison and dies. To make matters worst, Komodo dragons are extremely fast.

Rinca Island
One of the wild Komodo dragons that we “met” on Rinca Island near Flores.

 

Komodo dragons on Rinca Island

Months before, when I booked this part of our trip, I thought going to Rinca Island to hike with wild Komodo dragons would be an amazing experience. However, as our boat approached Rinca island, I looked at my children and wondered whether I had made a huge mistake.

The boat ride to Rinca Island, like every boat ride in Komodo National Park was beautiful and serene. We lounged on bean bag pillows on the top deck, mostly under the roof to protect us from the very hot sun. We watched islands go by and spotted birds and fish, barely coming across another boat or person. Komodo National Park was extraordinarily beautiful. It was hard to fathom that Komodo dragons, such dangerous creatures, were so close.

 

Rinca Island
Mike and I hanging out on the bean bags on top of the boat.

 

The Park Rangers on Rinca Island

When we arrived at Rinca Island, we were met by two park rangers. While we walked, one led us in front and the other walked behind. They each carried a long stick with a “V” at the end, our only weapon to defend ourselves in the event of a Komodo dragon attack. Let’s just say we were unimpressed by this show of force! My oldest son thought this was a good time to remind us that we didn’t have to outrun a Komodo dragon, we only had to make sure we weren’t last. As I sheepishly looked around at my competition – my children, husband and two park rangers who were small but I figured very fast – my sense of unease deepened.

 

Rinca Island
Our park ranger with only a stick with a “V” at the end to defend us in the event a Komodo dragon attacked.

 

Hiking on Rinca Island with Komodo dragons

We went on a one hour moderate hike around Rinca Island. We saw around 30 Komodo dragons of various sizes near the start of the hike near the park ranger buildings, but thankfully, none were lurking around any trees or rocks during our hike.

The Komodo dragons that we did see barely moved. Many of them were piled on top of each other, seemingly napping. Others that I saw, were alone, lazily walking in the shade, or under huts. Interestingly, none of the park ranger buildings were level to the ground. All of them were on stilts with several stairs to the front door. As I watched these creatures move and their desire for shade, I very much appreciated the park rangers’ decision for their front doors to be several feet off of the ground!

Overall, I was thrilled that we had the chance to spend time with wild Komodo dragons on Rinca Island. However, I was equally thrilled when we jumped back on our boat and left. I found being near these fierce and deadly creatures to be a little stressful, to say the least.

 

Young families on Rinca Island with the Komodo dragons

We crossed paths with a young family leaving the park when we first arrived. A man was carrying a child that looked to be around 2 years old and a woman held the hand of a 5 year old. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I would NOT recommend bringing young children to Rinca Island or allowing them to be near the Komodo dragons. These animals are 100% deadly and unpredictable. Children should be older, mature and absolutely capable of following instructions. However, it looks like there are no age restrictions to enter Rinca Island. Accordingly, it would be up to each family to decide whether a visit to Rinca Island to spend time with the wild Komodo dragons would a good idea.

hiking around Komodo dragons
Hiking in Komodo dragons’ natural habitat.
Komodo dragons
This photo seemed like a good idea at the time! Not so sure right now!

 

Download my personally crafted 17 day Indonesia travel guide with my hotel and restaurant recommendations, tours and activities that I enjoyed.

From Rinca Island to Flores for the flying foxes

From Rinca Island, we boated around an hour away to a humongous mangrove forest near Flores Islands to watch the sunset and see the flying foxes.

All we knew before we arrived was we were going to see bats, which happened to be called “flying foxes“. That’s it. We considered all the possibilities. Perhaps, we would go to Flores Island and then hike to a cave to see them? Or maybe, we would take the boat into a cave on Flores Island and watch them from there. Suffice it to say, we were absolutely unprepared for what happened.

 

Flores Island and flying foxes

Once we arrived near Flores Island, we remained on the boat and floated around waiting for some instruction. As the sun slowly set, we spotted a group of birds over Flores Island, far in the distance, that we initially thought might be bats. There were around 30-40 of them and I thought, that’s nice but not sure this is all that big of a deal. Then, all hell broke loose.

Suddenly, these enormous creatures began to emerge right next to us, from deep within the mangroves, and fly over our heads. They were so close – only 15 m (or 50 ft) above us. After a moment or two of stunned silence, we realized these were the bats.

Flying foxes are the largest bat in the world. They have a wing span of 1.5 m (or 4 ft 11 in) wide. Every night around 6:00 pm, thousands and thousands of flying foxes leave the mangroves and fly to Flores Island to eat fruit. 

Flying foxes in Indonesia near Komodo dragons
One of the flying foxes above us.

 

Padar Island
Some of the thousands of flying foxes from the mangroves.

 

Sunset over Flores Island

For 30 minutes, we sat on our boat and watched these amazing creatures in their nightly migration while the sky turned orange, pink, purple and finally red. It was such a mesmerizing scene that I kept asking myself whether this was really happening – that somewhere on this earth, this nightly ritual occurs and somehow, we got a front row seat to watch it.

Padar Island
As the sky darkened, the flying foxes became more like thousands of dots in the sky.

 

Padar Island
The unbelievably beautiful sunset over the mangroves and Flores Island.

 

Padar Island
The last colour of the sunset before complete darkness.

 

From Flores Island to Komodo Resort

Once the sky turned deep red, we could hardly see the flying foxes anymore. It was time to return to our hotel, the Komodo Resort. It took around 45 minutes to get there and we boated mostly in the dark. Incredibly, it was absolutely silent, except for the sound of the engine and waves hitting our boat. There wasn’t another boat, person, or any other sign of human life on our return until we had almost reached the Komodo Resort. It was a magical end to an unbelievable awe-inspiring day.

 

Day 2 –Snorkelling and Swimming in Komodo National Park

Another incredible day! We spent it back on our private boat, swimming and snorkelling in multiple spots in Komodo National Park, including in front of Komodo Resort at the very end of our day.

 

Komodo National Park

I don’t think that I have ever seen more beautiful underwater coral, reefs, and plant life than what I saw in Komodo National Park. Underwater, I felt that I had been dropped into a world that Dr. Seuss had drawn – fantastical colours and shapes were everywhere just below the surface. I saw fish, of course – lots and lots of spectacular and exotic fish. But, it was the coral and plant life that had me spellbound. I simply floated and stared. I absolutely loved it.

 

Komodo National Park
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

 

We went to four different snorkelling spots in Komodo National Park. They were Makaser Reef, Batu Bolong, and near the islands of Mauan and Siaba BS. We swam with enormous turtles near Siaba BS. It was magnificent.

Everywhere we went in Komodo National Park, the water was warm and we felt very safe. We had a guide in the water with us, a spotter on the boat, and another crew person in a motorized dinghy following us from behind. With life jackets and similar supervision, young children comfortable in sea water should be able to participate.

 

Komodo National Park
Photo by Tanguy Sauvin on Unsplash

 

Day 3 – Padar Island, Pink Beaches, and Manta Rays in Komodo National Park

 

Komodo Resort to Padar Island

In the morning, we headed to Padar Island where we hiked to the top of a small mountain. The hike on Padar Island took about 30 minutes. I did not find it difficult but it was very hot, steep in certain places and a little slippery. The path was largely made up of small loose pebbles. Young children should hold hands with their parents and stay in the centre of the path. There wasn’t any fencing until we reached the top.

 

The views from the top of Padar Island

From the top , we had a breathtaking panoramic view of the rest of Padar Island and other islands in Komodo National Park. Incredulously, this also included seeing three different coloured beaches – black, white and even pink – all at the same time down below on Padar Island. It was an absolutely stunning sight to see.

 

Padar Island
Three different coloured beaches on Padar Island – white, black and pink!

 

From Padar Island to the pink beach

We left Padar Island and boated to Sara Island, which amazingly, also has a pink beach. However, unlike the pink beach on Padar Island, this pink beach does not have regular visitors. We swam, snorkelled, had lunch and explored this tiny piece of paradise. There wasn’t another boat or person in sight.

 

pink beaches Indonesia
Relishing our private time on the pink beach of Sara Island.

 

From our own pink beach to swimming with manta rays

Notwithstanding the incredible experiences that we already had in Komodo National Park, swimming with manta rays was one of the most breathtaking things that I have ever done. However, it almost didn’t happen!

We headed back to Makaser Reef where apparently,  the manta rays like to swim. This was one of my favourite spots from the day before. We had not found any manta rays, but the coral and plant life were stunning. Once we arrived, we started to put on our snorkelling gear when one of our guides yelled and pointed “manta, manta”! I couldn’t believe it. We ran over to where the guide was and looked into the water, but I couldn’t see anything other than an enormous black shadow under the water. I thought “Great, a large rock. How did I already miss the manta ray?” However, ever determined to find it, I jumped in as fast as I could with one fin on and my goggles barely attached to my head.

 

Manta Rays!

I immediately looked down and finally, spotted my first manta ray. In fact, the enormous rock that I spotted from the boat WAS the manta ray! It was ASTONISHING. First of all, it was GINORMOUS! Manta rays reach between 5.5 m – 7 m wide (or 16 feet – 23 feet). I had no idea. The day before when we were snorkelling here, I was looking for cute little things, maybe slightly bigger than a standard seat cushion, maybe hiding on the bottom of the ocean or tucked behind some coral. Well, there was no way this magnificent creature was ever going to hide from anything.

 

Komodo national park
Photo by Julia Wimmerlin on Unsplash

 

We spent about an hour swimming with 4 manta rays and it was extraordinary. For those with children, manta rays are harmless and gentle. They swim with their enormous mouths wide open, eating tiny plankton by filtering what gets scooped into their mouth. They are scared of humans so it is best not to get too close or they will swim away. However, a couple of times, our guide swam just under one (not touching it), prompting the manta ray to shoot up straight towards us. It was amazing to see! I still think back to our time in the water and shake my head at the beauty and wonder of  this experience.

 

Conclusion – Komodo Dragons, Padar Island, Pink Beaches and Manta Rays

Every day that we spent in Komodo National Park felt like we had won the lottery. We basked on our own boat gliding though remarkably beautiful and untouched islands and beaches. At our pleasure, we snorkelled and saw extraordinary reef and plant life, unlike most any place in the world. We survived a hike with wild Komodo dragons, and for a moment in time, we swam with some of the largest, most magnificent creatures in the seas. Komodo National Park is an untouched jewel that is waiting for you to explore!

 

If you are interested in reading more about our adventures during our three week trip to Indonesia, here is a list of all the articles that I have written:

The Unbelievable Wonders of Komodo National Park In Indonesia;

Padar Island, Pink Beaches and Komodo Dragons: An Epic Experience;

Kelimutu: An Epic Guide To A Breathtaking Indonesia Volcano;

Exploring the Untouched Beauty of Kelimutu Indonesia

A Stunning Borneo Ecotour With Teens

Trekking For Orangutans in Indonesia

Indonesia: The Magic of Lightning Bugs In the Rainforest

Indonesia: The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta, Food and Fashion

A Mind Blowing 17 Day Indonesian Adventure With Teens

 

Download my personally crafted 17 day Indonesia travel guide with my hotel and restaurant recommendations, tours and activities that I enjoyed.

If you would like to save one of these articles for future use, then please click on the “Save” button on the photo below. If you think someone else might find this article interesting, please feel free to share this article on your social media channels. Have a great day!

I am thrilled that Lonely Planet chose this article to celebrate Best in Travel. Our four day trip to Komodo National Park in Indonesia was extraordinary. We hiked with Komodo dragons, swam with giant manta rays and turtles, hung out on deserted pink beaches, and witnessed thousands of flying foxes on their nightly migration. What are you waiting for? #travel #familytravel #bestintravel #lonelyplanet #worldunesco |Asia, Flores, Komodo Resort, Makaser, mangrove, Padar Island, Pimpe, Rinca,

 

13 Comments

  • Wow wow wow what an incredible trip! Komodo dragons, amazing underwater pictures, stunning views – I’m definitely a little jealous! Thanks for the wanderlust-inspiring post!

  • I love wildlife so much. I knew about the Komodo Dragons, but I didn’t realize there was such a broad range of other wildlife to see. Thanks for sharing. Your turtle pic is great! #weekendwanderlust

  • It looks like you had a great time there. Komodo dragons, manta rays and all. I will check out all your pther posts about thos trip. My favourite island in Indonesia is Sumatra, I wrote about it on my blog.

    • Thanks. I read your post about Sumatra. I really wanted to go there, but I couldn’t squeeze that into the time we had. I laughed when I read about how you couldn’t look at noodles for a long time. My oldest son became like that!

  • We saw komodo dragons in Bangkok and they were SO SCARY!!! Love the pictures of all the other animals plus the pink beaches though! #WeekendWanderlust

    • I was very unnerved by the Komodo dragons. They were not cute and looked like they wanted to eat us as soon as possible. I loved spending time with them, but I don’t need to do it again!

  • What a wonderful experience! I would love to explore these islands but I wish the dragons were not around. I am not that fond of reptiles and these look scary. I once saw one at a zoo and it was huge! I have the hunch they are bigger in the wild. Other than that the islands look beautiful!

    • I don’t blame you. The Komodo dragons are very dangerous and scary looking. But, they only reside on two of the islands and you must have Park Rangers assigned to you when you visit. The rest of the islands are beautiful and uninhabited and waiting for exploration.

  • Pink Beach, or Pantai Merah, as it is aptly named, is one of seven pink beaches on the planet, and is just one of the many amazing features of Komodo Island

    • Wow! I knew that pink beaches were rare but I had no idea that there were only seven of them in the world. Thank you for sharing.

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