Komodo Boat Trip from Lombok to Flores

As a thrifty backpacker, the adage, “You get what you pay for,” often does not apply; only suckers pay the full asking price. I always make sure to shop around and try to find a place that’ll provide me deliver the best service for the most affordable price. This was the goal I had in mind when I decided I wanted to visit Komodo Island; home to superb beaches, amazing underwater life, and of course, the elusive, Komodo Dragon.

When looking for a boat trip that would take me from Bangsar in Lombok to Labuan Bajo in Flores, with stops at Komodo, Rinca, Moyo and Laba islands, I managed to find a trip vis-a-vis Komodo Adventures and Beyond for 1,750,000 RPH (around $150USD). The price included breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, free coffee and tea, six 1.5L bottles of water, plus all of the Komodo Island fees and transport from my hotel in Senggigi.

Scary Komodo Dragons at Flores

Komodo Dragons – the least scary thing I encountered on my trip at Flores.

After asking to see photos of the boat, which looked simple yet sturdy (this was no cruise trip I know) AND which also included a Western style toilet (a luxury on this side of the world) I agreed to join the tour and handed over the money. The next morning, a van came and picked me up and brought me to the port, we waited a few hours at Lombok Café for a briefing. Everyone at the restaurant was super nice; it seemed almost too good to be true.

Captain boat Lombok Flores

Komodo adventures and beyond with only one captain!

As soon as the brief started, something felt wrong. Since it was the day after Ramadan, the man giving the briefing told us that despite there being two ships, there would only be one captain because no one else wanted to work that day. We all nervously laughed, thinking it was a joke, but nope, he was serious. After his speech, we made our way to the harbour where we were greeted by an unfamiliar looking boat.

Komodo Boat from Lombok to Flores

Our “cruise” boat from Lombok to Flores

Unlike the images I saw the day before, the boat was essentially two stories of poorly constructed wood tethering on the edge of collapse. The first floor included a small front area, a covered space in the middle with two benches, the captain’s room, plus one cabin and a squatty potty at the back. Upstairs was a covered platform about four feet tall with 20+ mats strewn across the floor; this was apparently our sleeping space. Never one to be deterred, I decided to grin and bear it and enter the boat—after all, it’s about the journey and not the vessel, right?

Komodo Boat from Lombok to Flores

Sleeping condition on the boat trip to Komodo

After 4 very long days living in close quarters on the open water, I’m happy to say I survived. The conditions on the boat did not get any better. The engine broke down on our first night, plenty of people got seasick due to the choppy waters, the food was ALWAYS a variation of mie goreng or nasi goreng, and we never did end up getting a captain which meant we had no idea what was going on most days.

Food onboard Komodo boat trip

Food onboard Komodo boat trip

Despite all of this, seeing the komodo dragons up close, snorkeling with huge manta rays, seeing dolphins, laying out on a pink sand beach, and sleeping under the stars with good people made it all worth it—plus I picked up a few new Indonesian words after becoming friendly with the crew, who while spoke no English, always had big smiles on their faces.

boat crew sailed from Lombok to Komodo Island

Happy boat crew that sailed from Lombok to Komodo island

Here are some helpful tips on how to decide what company to use and what to pack when you brave this adventure:

  • Ask friends for a tour recommendation While I cannot recommend my tour company, komodo dragon, Wanua Adventure seems to be a safe bet. Since our captain never showed up due to an engine problem on the other boat, the captain of the Wanua boat came over and decided to explain the agenda for each day since all the boats more or less have the same schedule.. very nice guy!
  • Ask about how many people will be aboard the ship. We only had 13 people on our boat, which is far less than some other boats that try and squeeze 30 people aboard. Not only is this completely unsafe, but it also means a lot of people are not fed and that there’s not a lot of room to relax.
  • Make sure the komodo park entrance fee is also included in the cost of the cruise. I’ve heard about people having to pay an additional $25 because the fee was not included in their deal.
  • Pack a separate bag filled with your essentials to bring to the sleeping deck. Luggage is stored under the boat and a pain to get to. In addition to sleeping clothes, a bathing suit, a towel and your toiletries, I suggest packing a sarong to use as a cover while you sleep, ear plugs or music to help drown out the noise of the loud engine, baby wipes since there are no showers, and a portable charger due to the high probability the electrical outlets on the boats will either be taken or not working. And if you want, take cards, a wireless speaker, a guitar if you can play, etc. for entertainment on the boat.
  • Bring motion sickness tablets. Even if you don’t end up using it, someone aboard will most likely need them and you’ll have a friend for life.

Our own private beach during Komodo boat trip

Our own private beach during Komodo boat trip

The safety of a boat trip/tour to Komodo has been criticised numerously, there are reports of accidents, so proceed with caution. Decide if this is the adventure for you and use our tips above to make an informed decision. Happy and safe travels!

Related articles:
Komodo National Park, Flores
Flores Travel Guide

Boat (Pelni) Travel in Indonesia

Boat travel in Indonesia is common, especially for the locals but it can be long and tedious and at some times not that budget as air travels are so ubiquitous now. It is known as Pelni boats, which was the company that run the giant ferries in almost every parts and islands of Indonesia wherever there is people.

Classes

1st class – two beds per cabin with private washroom, tv and aircon
2nd class – four beds per cabin, private washroom, tv and aircon
3rd class – six beds per cabin, aircon and shared washrooms
4th class – bed in a dormitory
Economy (ekonomi) class – common area and first come first serve basis for spot to rest

Pelni Boat Indonesia

Pelni Boat

Economy Class

Most people say the real deal of traveling Pelni boat is by economy class, where you rush in with the local once the boat arrives to stake a spot and cramp it all in with them, using a rattan mat as your ‘bed’ and to mark your territory.

Food

There are people selling food on board but don’t bank on it being delicious, in fact it borders on being edible or not. It is best to pack your own food for the long journey.

Pelni Boat Indonesia Economy Class

Pelni Boat Economy Class

Safety

It can get really crowded during peak seasons, sometimes having over-capacity by more than twice it’s limit. Due to overcrowding the safety is a question as there are not enough lifeboats in case of emergency.
Also pickpocket is common, especially in the economy class.

Other Transports Information:
Bus Travel in Indonesia
Train Travel in Indonesia
Air Travel in Indonesia
Best International Budget Airlines to Indonesia

Photo credits from top: Chumwa and VMOS

Boat from Singapore to Indonesia

Q: I am wondering if there is another option to go to Indonesia from Singapore without flying, probably by Boat? I am thinking it might be a cheaper and more adventurous option.

You can take a boat from Sinagpore to either Batam or Bintan which are in Indonesia, and from there you can get boats to Riau or southern Sumatra. It may not necessarily be a more budget option considering there are so many budget airlines that serve this route but it may definitely be an experience itself if you are looking for some adventure. Be forewarn though it is not one of the safest method to travel.

Information on Boat from/to Singapore-Batam – www.batamfast.com

Author: Pearl

Living in Jakarta for more than 20 years now, she still have not manage to cover the tip of Indonesia’s diverse destinations, people and even food! Pearl loves shopping as much as enjoying luxury but she knows all these have to be done sensibly and on a budget. Therefore you may find the best scoop and offers in Jakarta and beyond with her.