Visiting the Komodo Islands and the Komodo Dragons by sea kayak is an awesome experience. The west part of Flores offers great conditions for kayaking. One of the spots is around Labuan Bajo; the other in Komodo National Park.
Kayaking in Komodo National Park and around Labuan Bajo
Several options are available for those who want to explore Komodo National Park (KNP) by kayak. You could hire a kayak in Labuan Bajo and carry it on a local boat to Rinca Island, where you can spend the night at the ranger station and explore the surrounding bays. Or you could join a dive boat for the day, and paddle while the divers explore beneath the waves. A third option is to join a multi-day trip with an operator such as No Roads Expeditions.
On a kayak expedition in KNP, you may have the chance to paddle with majestic manta rays, or even be overtaken by a pod of leaping dolphins. With a little more luck, you may even find a dugong lifting its big nose out of the water. They have been spotted around Karang Makassar but are rare, shy, and difficult to find. For the best chance of encountering one of these elusive creatures, it is worth contacting a local fisherman from Komodo, Rinca, or Papagarang Village, who can show you the best locations for a reasonable price.
The currents around KNP can be extremely strong, and kayakers who venture away from the coastline should take care. Within the park, the currents are much stronger than your arms, and you are highly recommended to seek the company of a professional guide and support boat. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water, sun cream, and a sunhat to protect yourself from the tropical sun.
The currents, your physical condition, and your preference for a relaxed or more competitive paddling style will determine how long it takes to reach your destination. A strong current in the wrong direction may produce waves of one meter or more in height, and can slow you down massively.
Kayaking around Labuan Bajo
Starting from Labuan Bajo, there are many beaches and bays that can be explored during a half- or one-day trip. The islands close to Labuan Bajo are very popular. Setting out from the wooden jetty near Labuan Bajo’s fish market, the islands of Bajo, Monyet, and Kelapa can be reached within 10–25 minutes.
This is a tranquil paddle; and in the early morning and late afternoon you may see monkeys, sea eagles, and maybe even a turtle lifting its head above the ripples to enjoy the fresh breeze with you. Do not expect too much from these beaches: waste management is still an unsolved challenge in Flores, and scattered plastic is just one of the most visible expressions of that problem.
It is worth paddling for another 45–90 minutes to reach Pulau Seture or Pulau Bidadari. Pulau Bidadari’s white, clean, sandy beaches will entice you from across the waves, and a colorful coral reef offers good snorkeling.
While not as diverse or impressive as the dive and snorkel sites within the national park, Pulau Bidadari is nonetheless a beautiful paradise, and just a short paddle from Labuan Bajo. Alternatively, you can head north along the coastline to explore the long beaches of Waecicu and Batu Gosok. If you have time, consider a 2-day trip.
The island of Seraya Kecil is a 2-4 hour paddle. Here you can stay overnight in simple but cheerful bungalows. Be sure to book in advance (reservations can be made at Gardena Hotel) as this place gets very busy during the high season (June–August) and it is a long way back if they are full!
For variety, try to catch a lift to the village of Merombok and then turn right along a small road until you reach the river. From here, you can paddle downstream to reach the open sea at Gorontalo. Another option is to explore the river delta starting from the open ocean at Nanganae.