Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991, Komodo National Park is one of Indonesia’s must see destinations. Sitting immediately to the west of Flores and the east of Sumbawa, the park incorporates the three main islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar and a handful of smaller surrounding islands.
Whilst it’s best known for its famous namesake, the Komodo Dragon, the national park and nearby islands have a bucket load of other treasures on offer. Stunning island scenery, fabulous beaches, a rich marine environment and safe, sheltered waters that are the perfect recipe for an idyllic island getaway.
The handful of islands contained with the Komodo National Park boundaries comprise just a small part of the more extensive Lesser Sunda Islands. This island group forms the eastern part of the Sunda Volcanic Arc which stretches eastward from Sumatra all the way across the Java and Banda Sea’s to the western tip of the remote Maluka Islands. The Arc marks the convergence between the East Eurasian plates that underlie Indonesia and the India and Australian Plates that form the seabed of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. It’s a hotbed of subterranean activity that has endowed many of the islands on the Sunda Arc with some of the world’s most dangerous and explosive volcanoes.
The main Lesser Sunda Islands are from west to east Bali, Lombok, Gili Islands, Sumbawa, the Komodo Islands, Flores, Sumba, Timor, the Solor and Alor archipelago’s, Barat Daya Islands and the Tanimbar Islands. They are as diverse as they are visually, ecologically and culturally spectacular.
The so-called Wallace Line, a faunal boundary that separates the ecozone of Asia and the Wallacea transitional zone runs through the Lombok Strait between Bali and Lombok. As a result, the Lesser Sunda Islands have a blend of Asian and Australasian wildlife and due to limited movement of flora and fauna between islands, a high rate of unique localized species such as the famous Komodo Dragon.
In this section, we’re focussing on the smaller islands scattered between Lombok and Flores, one of the RoamIndonesia team’s top picks in Indonesia. Apart from Komodo’s, the warm, clear waters separating these islands offer endless opportunities for swimming, snorkelling and diving. Marine life flourishes among the deep sea trenches, shallow channels and sheltered bays. Drifting over colourful coral reefs spotting sea urchins and starfish is a given. Encounters with whale sharks, manta-rays or turtles are very real possibilities.
Trekking to the high point of some of these islands rewards visitors with endless views across the islands and beyond. Climbing an active volcano on Sangeang Api island is doable for experienced trekkers looking for something a little more challenging. Otherwise, a visit to the island’s tiny village and traditional phinisi boat builders is a fascinating experience.
Exploring these islands is a great way to see Indonesia at its unique best and because of their proximity to Bali, they are easily the most convenient location in Indonesia to do a little island hopping, either independently or by taking one of the many organised tours. If it’s diving you’re into, there are an abundance of liveaboard dive boats plying these waters.