The chance to see rare Komodo dragons was too great to pass up! And as budget slow travelers, we kept our costs low and the adrenaline high!
(Editor’s note: *Indonesia is open to tourists as of May 30, 2022, with qualifications, such as COVID insurance. The Komodo National Park also is open, but individual island closures are possible, due to the ongoing dispute over development. Updated information on that dispute can be found at the end of this article.)
After weeks of living in various locations on the island of Bali, Indonesia, we figured we’d like to see some other parts of the sprawling 17,000-island nation.
We decided on a trip to see the Komodo dragons. This post breaks down the total overall costs, including accommodations and airfare.
Total cost to see rare Komodo dragons
I had been watching airfare prices, and there was a sale. As early retired, budget, slow travelers, that is often what spurs us to select any destination.
The Komodo Islands are internationally known as the only place on the planet where Komodo Dragons – Earth’s largest lizards – live in the wild. The location is about an hours flight (or a day-and-half by bus/boat) east from Bali.
Totally worth it!
Of course, a trip to Komodo would mean expenses beyond the airfare. But since we were already so close to this unique place, we felt it would be unwise to skip it just to save a few hundred dollars. After all, the reason we are wandering about the globe is precisely to witness the most amazing and beautiful places on this wondrous planet.
So off to Komodo we went. And we are sooooo glad we did. It was a tremendous experience that we would advise for anyone — especially if you find yourself in this part of the world to begin with, as we did.
Below is an exact breakdown of what it cost for two people to spend four nights in the far eastern islands of Indonesia including a two-day, one-night boat trip to see the carnivorous, monstrous Komodo dragons in their most natural habitat.
Breakdown of total cost to see Komodo dragons
$237 round trip airfare to Labuan Bajo / Komodo airport (LBJ) from Bali (DSP)
$100 2-day/1-night boat trip (includes 4 meals) to 6 island locations (2 with dragons)
+ $71 total mandatory national park admissions & ranger guide fees
$92 Airbnb accommodations in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia (includes $10 Airbnb fee)
$78 restaurant food & drink in Labuan Bajo
$19 extra beer & sodas while on boat trip
$18 private car to Bali airport from Ubud, Indonesia home stay
$18 tips for Airbnb staff & drivers
$14 tip for tour boat crew
$11 prorated Indonesian visa cost (5 days)
$7 admission to Cermin Cave & park in Labuan Bajo
$670 total for 2 people – 5 days / 4 nights
A few notes on the total:
–Labuan Bajo is the start point of all organized boat excursions to the Komodo islands.
-Airfare from Bali to Labuan Bajo would normally be about $100 more.
-We could have saved $18 by checking out of our Labuan Bajo Airbnb for the boat night.
-We could have easily cut the restaurant and beer costs in half.
-Obviously, tips are optional – but they were all really nice Indonesian folks.
In all, we spent a total of $670 on the five-day side trip from Bali to the Komodo Islands. Of course, as global vagabonds, we have lodging, food and daily living expenses no matter where we are in the world. And we can usually live comfortably for around $50 per day. Viewed that way, the Komodo trip added only about $400 in ‘extra’ costs – a pretty reasonable amount for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
As for seeing the dragons and the boat trip itself; we have a separate blog post – including amazing details and photos.
Finally, it should be noted that various conservation ideas are currently being weighed by the Indonesian government which could increase fees and/or severely restrict access to Komodo National Park. Anyone planning a visit should seek out the latest information in this regard.
As always, happy trails & more beer!
Editor’s note: In March 2022, the Indonesian government agency that manages the Komodo National Park – home to the rare Komodo dragons – announced it was working with international partners to better “protect the UNESCO World Heritage site while improving tourism infrastructure.” The government’s article is in Indonesian, but you can Google translate it.
There is quite a different take on the tourism to the Komodo Islands by Indonesians. You can read quite a different take on the ‘development’ in an English-language opinion article by a U.S.-based non-profit conservation news platform.
Part 1 of our Komodo adventure details all stops on the tour – snorkeling and beaches, as well as two dragon islands. ***Note: the park includes more than one island with Komodo dragons, and one island or another might be closed when you visit.
Part 3 of our Komodo adventure covers exactly what to expect on the overnight boat.
This post was updated May 30, 2022.