With adrenaline pumping drift dives, untouched coral reefs and schools of fish as far as the eye can see, Komodo National Park is a scuba divers paradise.
We’ve put together a guide with everything you need to know about scuba diving in Komodo National Park. We’ll cover what you can see, when, and how to visit as well as an overview of the best sites.
So buckle up.
You’re in for an adventure of a lifetime.
Above and below the water.
What is diving in Komodo National Park like?
Komodo is famous for its crystal clear waters, thrilling currents, and an overwhelming diversity of marine life.
With over 30 dives sites to explore, including gentle slopes, steep walls, isolated pinnacles, and sheltered bays, plus new ones still being discovered, we’re certain you’ll want to dive here again and again.
All dive sites are accessed via boat, either on day trips departing from Labuan Bajo or on a liveaboard. The water temperatures are warm all year round, fluctuating between 25’C and 29’C depending on the season.
The currents that make this underwater world so vibrant can also be challenging if not dived correctly. It is important that you listen carefully to the briefing and stay behind your guide.
What can I see diving in Komodo?
Scuba diving in Komodo provides you with the opportunity to tick a lot of marine creatures off your bucket list. As the meeting point between the Indian and the Pacific Ocean, the abundance of marine life is seriously mind-blowing.
With deep channels and strong currents you never know what you’ll see cruising by. The majestic manta rays and elegant reef sharks are seen almost daily.
Witness huge schools of multi-colored reef fish patrolling across fields of pristine corals. Don’t forget the resident green and hawksbill sea turtles!
If you’re lucky you might even spot a marlin or a dugong. Even whales can be seen migrating through the park. Dolphins will also frequently accompany dive boats as they sail between dive sites.
And don’t underestimate the macro life! Komodo is a mecca for lovers of the small stuff too. Here you can spot a variety of pygmy seahorses, frogfish, nudibranchs, and even the famous blue ring octopus.
You can see pretty much everything in Komodo National Park!
Best Dive Sites like in Komodo
Here’s an overview of our favorite dive sites in Komodo across the 3 areas:
With strong currents, interesting dive plans, and a lot of big stuff, the North is a must for seasoned scuba junkies. This area can be accessed by new divers but only during certain phases of the moon when the currents are less strong.
Castle Rock is one of Komodo’s most famous sites. And rightly so. This large seamount, rising from 25m up to 4m, is an explosion of coral and fish.
Castle Rock offers an unforgettable view. You’ll be engulfed in fusiliers as you watch schooling jacks circle around huddles of sweetlips, parting only to allow the patrolling reef sharks to cruise through.
Thousands of anthias and bannerfish dart back and forth amongst colorful carpets of soft and hard corals. Schools of tuna, manta rays, and even dolphins can be encountered cruising in the currents here.
This site is relatively exposed so currents can be challenging and it is better suited to advanced open water divers. Less experienced groups can jump in on the protected side for a slower-paced dive.
The Cauldron aka Shotgun
This is an exhilarating rollercoaster ride for those who want to experience the full force of Komodo’s currents.
You’ll start the dive drifting over a coral reef and into a sandy bowl (the cauldron) where sharks often congregate. From here the current intensifies and pulls you into ‘the shotgun’, shooting you through a break in the reef.
Enjoy the ride as you fly past mantas, huge schools fish, and great barracuda before being spat out onto one of the most glorious reefs full of healthy corals and macro creatures.
A legendary experience for advanced divers looking to test their limits.
The center of the park offers the most variety of sites, with some of the healthiest reefs, thrilling drifts, and sheltered macro hunting. This area is accessible to both beginners and experienced divers.
Batu Balong (directly translated as ‘rock with a hole’) is continually ranked as one of the top dive sites in the world.
This steep pinnacle starts above the surface and drops down to over 200m deep. Every single inch of Batu Balong is completely covered in coral and swarms of schooling fish.
Batu Balong can only be dived on a slack tide when the current isn’t too strong. You’ll drop in on the sheltered side and zig-zag your way to the top past an overwhelming array of marine life.
Hunting trevallies, napoleon wrasse, reef sharks, moray eels, sweetlips, groupers, turtles. You name it, this site has it!
Makassar Reef aka Manta Point
Famous for its aggregations of up to 100 manta rays at certain times of the year. Makassar is a long gentle drift dive across a relatively flat rubble bottom, dotted with coral gardens full of life.
Watch multiple mantas dance above and around you as you cruise with the current. You can also find marble rays, eagle rays, bamboo sharks, and bumphead parrotfish hanging out at the cleaning stations throughout this site.
One of the highlights of a dive trip in Komodo.
The Southern sites are usually only accessible via liveaboard trips due to their distance from Labuan Bajo.
As well as all the usual reef suspects, here you can find an impressive array of rare macro critters and some seriously challenging currents.
This small seamount experiences little to no current making it a dream for photographers and macro hunters. Famous for an abundance of unusual nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses, and a variety of scorpionfish, it’s a great place to test out your spotting skills.
You’ll also find frogfish, fire urchins, Coleman shrimp, zebra crabs, and much more hidden amongst the excellent array of soft corals.
Langkoi Rock / TNC Rock
Located south of Komodo island, this difficult-to-find pinnacle drops down into very deep water. Here you can find huge potato groupers and several species of shark congregating, including grey reef, whitetips and if you’re lucky, hammerheads.
Langkoi rock is one for experienced divers only. This site is very unprotected with the currents providing quite an adrenaline rush at the right time.
Jump in, hang on, and enjoy the show.
When is the best time to dive in Komodo?
Komodo National Park experiences a dry season and a wet season. Although diving in Komodo is epic all year round, the two seasons can affect what areas are accessible, as well as what you are more likely to see.
Dry season in Komodo: April to October
The dry season is generally considered to have the best diving conditions. July and August are the busiest months in Komodo offering the best weather. However, prices and the number of divers will also peak during these months.
The northern area of Komodo National Park can often only be visited during the dry season. These sites offer some of the more challenging currents which attract the bucket list pelagics and abundant schools of fish.
During the wet season, these sites are not accessible as strong northerly winds create rough seas and low visibility.
The central region of Komodo National Park is mostly accessible year-round although best during the dry season.
During the dry season, the south of the park is hit with strong winds making most of the sites here inaccessible.
Wet season in Komodo: November to March
The weather is not as unpredictable in the wet season. But you can still experience great overall conditions and the dives sites are much less crowded during this time of year.
During wet season boats tend to visit central Komodo or head to the south of the Park. The southern sites have a similar abundance of marine life to the rest of the park but are particularly famous for macro life.
The seas in this area are calm between November and March providing the best visibility and general conditions.
The wet season is also known as manta season. Although you do have the chance of seeing Mantas all year, they are much more abundant between November and January. This is the time when you can witness trains of up to 60 Mantas cruising past in one dive!
Still confused about when to dive in Komodo?
We recommend planning a trip at the beginning or end of the dry season (March/April or October / November), as this time offers the best balance between weather, diving conditions, marine life, and the number of divers.
It’s best to avoid visiting in February as rough sea conditions often cancel trips and many operators will dry dock their boats for annual service.
Day trips or a liveaboard?
Diving Komodo on a day trip
Day trips are a more affordable way to dive in Komodo National Park. Departing from Labuan Bajo, these trips offer either 3 dives per day or 2 dives and a trek on Rinca Island to see the Komodo dragons.
The journey between Labuan Bajo and the park takes approximately 1.5hrs, giving you plenty of time to relax and soak up mesmerizing scenery.
Day trips will include snacks, lunch, tea/coffee, and drinking water. Most day boats are very comfortable with plenty of sunny and shady spots to enjoy during the surface intervals.
With day trips you can also take a day off diving and explore above the surface of Komodo National Park or the untouched countryside surrounding Labuan Bajo.
Diving Komodo on a liveaboard
If you have the budget, we highly recommend considering a liveaboard to experience the best of what diving in Komodo National Park has to offer.
With a liveaboard, you can access more sites, dive them at the optimal time, and beat the crowds. The experience is truly beyond compare.
What can be better than waking up and rolling straight into some of the world’s most breathtaking sites, followed by a delicious breakfast and more mind-blowing dives all day long?
There are many liveaboard options to suit all budgets, time frames, and travel preferences.
What certification or experience do I need to dive in Komodo National Park?
Some of the sites have very strong currents and down currents can occur. Diving these sites does require experience. However, there are many beautiful spots where you can see incredible things with just an open water certification (up to 18m).
Komodo has a huge variety of dive sites, many of which can be dived differently depending on your level of experience.
For example, more experienced divers will drop in where they can catch the current before drifting round to a more sheltered area. Less experienced divers will drop straight into the sheltered area.
Scuba diving in Komodo is accessible for all levels of certified divers. Your dive operator will be able to recommend sites based on your certification level and experience.
Who can I dive with in Komodo?
It’s important to choose a dive operator that you feel safe and comfortable with.
With so many companies offering scuba diving within the park, we recommend taking the time to find the best fit for your style and needs. Here are a few of our favorites:
Best for beginners or solo travelers: Uber Scuba
Uber Scuba has a young and upbeat atmosphere where all divers feel welcomed and looked after.
They really focus on giving you the best possible diving experience for your level on both their day trips and liveaboard.
Best for a little luxury or couples: Manta Rhei
With arguably the most elegant and comfortable comfiest day boat in Labuan Bajo and fresh Belgian waffles for breakfast, Manta Rhei is perfect for those looking for a little indulgence between dives.
Their calm and collected approach presents spectacular diving in a relaxed atmosphere.
Best for experienced divers: Komodo Dive Center
Catering to mostly to advanced divers, Komodo Dive Center prides itself on showing you the best of what the park has to offer.
As one of the most experienced operators in the Park, they’re a great team to support you in challenging currents.
How do I get to Komodo National Park?
Komodo National park is most commonly accessed via Labuan Bajo, an up and coming port town on the western tip of Flores.
Most day trips and liveaboards will start and end in Labuan Bajo. However, you can also access Komodo National Park via liveaboard trips departing from Lombok or Bali.
Flying is the quickest and easiest way to arrive in Labuan Bajo. There are several direct flights per day from Jakarta and Denpasar, Bali, as well as a few direct flights per week from Lombok.
Labuan Bajo airport is also set to become an international airport by the end of 2020 with direct flights to Malaysia and Singapore.
You can take a buss-ferry combination from Lombok or the Gilis. This trip is the longest but the cheapest. And takes you on an adventure across the more untouched areas of Sumbawa island.
A popular choice is to take a 3-day boat trip from Lombok, along the north coast of Sumbawa. You’ll stop along the way for superb snorkeling, waterfall trekking, and night time swimming with phosphorescent plankton.
The last day of the trip will be sailing through Komodo National Park. Here you have the opportunity to visit the famous viewpoints, hike to see the Komodo dragons, and snorkel with mantas before arriving in Labuan Bajo.
The majority of these trips are suited to a backpacker’s budget and travel style. However, there are some more upscale liveaboards that sail this route.
Where can I stay in Labuan Bajo?
Labuan Bajo is a relatively small town, so wherever you chose to stay you are never too far from the harbor or the airport.
Staying on or near the main street puts you within easy walking distance of restaurants and all the dive operators. But it can be very noisy.
Staying up on the hill provides more peace and some seriously breathtaking sunset views. However, you’ll need to hop on a scooter or face a rather steep walk into town.
From basic hostels to luxury resorts, there’s a large variety of accommodation in Labuan Bajo to suit all budgets. Here are a few of our top picks:
Budget accommodation in Labuan Bajo
This new boutique hostel features a combination of luxury dorms and private e-suites, a large swimming pool, and a lively rooftop bar.
With a delicious international menu, a great social atmosphere, and insane sunset views Seaesta is our favorite hostel in Labuan Bajo.
Golo Tango Homestay
Close enough to walk into town but far enough out to stay peaceful, Golo Tango Homestay provides the perfect retreat after a day of diving. This homestay offers simple but clean and comfortable rooms with very welcoming hosts.
Midrange accommodation in Labuan Bajo
Waes Mola Hotel
We love this tranquil oasis situated towards the end of the main strip. This small laid back hotel offers a beautiful pool, tasty food and faultless facilities for a very reasonable price.
Luxury accommodation in Labuan Bajo
Puri Sari Beach Hotel
This elegant hotel offers a secluded beach retreat just on the outskirts of Labuan Bajo. With spacious rooms all featuring their own private balcony, a superb open-air restaurant, and high-end customer service it’s the perfect place to treat yourself.
What else is there to do in Komodo National Park?
The magic of Komodo isn’t restricted to the underwater world. There are still plenty of adventures to be had once you’ve maxed out your bottom time.
Our favorite surface interval activities include:
- Hanging out at the mesmerizing Pink Beach.
- Hiking up to the famous viewpoint on Padar Island
- Trekking across Rinca or Komodo island to spot the legendary Komodo Dragons
These can be included in both day trips and liveaboard itineraries.
History and geography of Komodo National Park
Komodo National Park, located between Sumbawa and Flores within the Lesser Sunda Islands in central Indonesia, covers a total area of 1,733km² including the 3 larger islands of Komodo, Rinca, Padar and 26 other small islands.
The National Park was first created in 1980 to protect the Komodo Dragon.
Later it was extended to protect the entire biodiversity of the area, including the rich marine life, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991.
Komodo National Park is a landscape of contrasts between starkly rugged islands, empty white sandy beaches, and brilliant blue waters.
Komodo is undeniably one of the most dramatic landscapes in Indonesia.
But why does Komodo have such rich biodiversity and strong currents?
It’s all about the location.
Komodo National Park sits between 2 great seas: the Savu Sea to the south, fed by the Indian Ocean, and the Flores Sea to the north, fed by the Pacific Ocean.
Every day, the waters rise and fall with the tides through the narrow channels created by the islands of the park. As these are the only break in a land barrier hundreds of miles long the water movement is intensified.
This creates some crazy currents and nutrient-rich waters that sustain an unbelievable array of underwater life.
Scuba diving in Komodo is an unparalleled experience
With some of the world’s richest marine life, crystal clear waters and stunning topography Komodo deserves to be at the top of your ‘to dive’ list.
And now you’ve got all the information you need to make that trip happen.
It’s time for you to go explore this vibrant underwater world!
Alexa Worswick is a PADI and SSI scuba diving Instructor, recreational freediver and freelance copywriter. She first learnt to scuba dive in the UK aged 15 and has since travelled and dived in multiple locations across 3 different continents. After quitting her marketing job in London in 2016, Alexa is now based in Indonesia where she can pursue her passion for the ocean fulltime.