Komodo Liveaboard: Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Scuba Diving Trip
If you dream of scuba diving in remote sites where you can spot the big stuff — manta rays, reef sharks and dolphins — a liveaboard trip in Komodo National Park should be near the top of your bucket list!
Not only will you be able to experience some of the top dive sites in Indonesia, but you’ll be able to sleep beneath the stars, relax in the sun and make friends from all over the world.
This is a trip of a lifetime whether you’re a scuba diving junkie or relatively new to the sport. And whether you’re hoping to do a liveaboard on a budget or enjoy diving in luxury, there is a boat out there for you. You can easily add a Komodo dive trip onto your travels in Bali since it’s just a short flight away.
We have done 2 liveaboard trips now, and can’t wait to do it again (and again!). If you like scuba diving and are up for an adventure, we couldn’t recommend a liveaboard trip highly enough.
We’re going to share our stories and pictures from our Komodo Liveaboard; plus, we’re going to answer all your questions about liveaboards (trust me, we were wondering all the same things!) so that you have all the tools and knowledge to start planning your very own epic dive trip.
Let’s start from the beginning…
Our Liveaboard Story
While traveling in Thailand a few years ago, we met a girl who had just finished a liveaboard dive trip, and scrolled pictures of her diving next to a whale shark. Our interest was piqued…
This was our first time ever hearing about a liveaboard, so we bombarded her with all sorts of questions and nodded dreamily at her answers.
Do you sleep on the boat? Yes, there are dorms and even private rooms.
How many dives do you do each day? It depends, but usually 3 a day, and possibly up to 4!
Are liveaboards expensive? Prices vary, but they don’t have to be! There are budget liveaboards all the way to luxury dive trips, and of course, everything in the middle!
What else do you do on a liveaboard? Relax in the sun, read a book, swim, eat, make new friends from around the world, play cards, nap, eat some more, soak up time “off the grid”, talk about diving… Well, this all sounds dreamy.
Let’s just say that after this conversation, we were hooked.
We started doing all sorts of research, and found that there are liveaboards all over the world — from the Caribbean to the Galapagos Islands to Australia, and of course, Southeast Asia.
And then we did what we do best: we started plotting and planning and were determined to make our dreams of doing a liveaboard trip come true.
We didn’t even have our Open Water certifications at the time, so getting that was the first thing on our to do list. Turns out we liked scuba diving so much, we stuck around and got our advanced certs!
And just like that, we were on our first liveaboard in Thailand’s famous Similan Islands. We had such a wonderful experience that our fins… err, feet… were itching to do another. So we booked a second voyage, this time in Indonesia with Dragon Dive Komodo. And let me tell you, this certainly won’t be our last liveaboard!
Now let’s go over the basics…
What exactly is a liveaboard?
In the simplest definition, a liveaboard is a multi-day boat trip that is often times focused on scuba diving*. But why try to explain it, when we can show you in a video! Check out our Komodo National Park Liveaboard video below:
*There are non-diving liveaboards too, but for this article, we’ll be focusing on the diving type.
Now that you have a somewhat basic idea, let’s get descriptive…
Imagine looking around and seeing only ocean and uninhabited islands. You zip up your wetsuit and descend into waters that few get to see. You spot manta rays, reef sharks, colorful fish and even dolphins (if you’re lucky!), and after your dive, you return to the boat where lunch is waiting for you.
Not only will you get a lot of dives logged on a liveaboard, but often times the sites you’ll visit are ones you can’t see on day trips. This means you get to see little-touched reefs and marine life that hasn’t been affected by crowds of dive sites closer to shore.
And on top of that, you get to meet new friends from around the world, relax in the sun and sleep beneath the stars.
What is a typical day on a liveaboard like?
People joke that life on a liveaboard consists of 4 things: Dive, Eat, Sleep, Repeat.
And it’s kind of true. We’ll go through what a typical day on a liveaboard looks like so you know what to expect:
6 am: Wake up around sunrise
6:15 am: Coffee and light bites
7:30 am: 1st dive of the day
9 am: Breakfast
9:30 am: Hang out on the sun deck
11 am: 2nd dive of the day
12:30 pm: Lunch
1 pm: Nap and hang out on the sun deck
2:30 pm: 3rd dive of the day
4 pm: Afternoon snacks
4:30 pm: Relax and read
6:30 pm: Dinner and chat
9:30 pm: Early to bed so you’re ready to do it all over again
Note: The dive times vary each day. For example, on our Komodo liveaboard, we did two night dives, so the other dives on those days were a bit later.
Why Komodo National Park is a great liveaboard choice
Indonesia is home to some of the best diving in the world. And arguably one of the top (and relatively accessible) regions for diving in the country is in Komodo National Park.
All Komodo liveaboards will start their voyage from the seaside town of Labuan Bajo, located on the west side of Flores island.
So what are the dives in Komodo National Park like?
Komodo National Park is known for having somewhat strong currents, which make dives slightly more challenging than other places in the world, like Thailand, for example.
In Komodo, divers have the chance to see lots of big marine life, like manta rays, sharks and dolphins, just to name a few! And dive sites vary quite a bit: You’ll find pinnacles as well as sandy slopes, and there are plenty of drift dives as well as those where you’ll need to swim against the current.
Another cool aspect of the liveaboards in Komodo many of the longer trips stop on land for a few excursions, like seeing the famous komodo dragons and hiking to the stunning Padar Island Viewpoint (see that sweet sunset picture above?!).
Let’s paint you a picture…
Our boat neared the dive site, and everyone on board prepared their gear. Masks were defogged, weight belts fastened and air pressure triple-checked.
Then someone spotted them: “Dolphins!” Just beyond the boat, two fins peeked out of the water for just a moment before disappearing into the depths below.
The possibility of swimming beside dolphins in these remote waters made everyone hurry to get geared up and into the water. Truthfully, I thought we’d seen the last of the dolphins, but as I descended into the water, equalizing my ears every few meters, I spotted them again. And this time, I saw more than just their fins.
All of us were there, suspended in the water, as these two beautiful creatures danced before our eyes. They swam in playful circles just meters in front of us, and we looked on in disbelief. And when they finally decided to swim off into the distance, it was now all of us divers who were dancing in silence, regulators in our mouths, and pure joy radiating through our masks.
And this was just the beginning of the dive — 1 of 15 dives, that is. On just that one dive alone, we saw dolphins, manta rays, schools of barracuda and a reef shark.
Best Dive Sites in Komodo National Park
There are all different lengths of liveaboards in Komodo, the most popular being 3-day, 4-day and 5-day trips. The longer the trip, the more remote the sites you’ll visit.
Each liveaboard company has a rough itinerary, but the sites will change depending on the tides and weather. They will try their best to get you to the top sites if the currents and other factors are working with them.
Manta Alley: This is one of the most famous sites in Komodo, and for good reason. You are almost guaranteed to see manta rays as they hang out in a cleaning station. This was one of our most memorable dives in Komodo!
Manta Point: While the dive site itself isn’t anything too special — sandy spots and broken corals — you have the opportunity to see tons of manta rays. Our guide counted 33 when we were there! This is also a popular site for day trips and snorkelers.
Batu Bolong: One of the favorite sites in Komodo, Batu Bolong means “hole in the rock”, and gets it’s name from an arch in the pinnacle that sticks out of the water. Visibility is typically excellent and you’ll see tons of life on this dive.
Yellow Wall: This sloping wall is somewhat yellow in color from the corals, sea cucumbers and other marine life that calls this place home. It is teeming with smaller marine life, like nudibranchs, but is also a good place to spot schools of fish.
Siaba Besar: Perhaps not as famous as those mentioned above, but this site was one of our favorites, as the visibility was great, coral was healthy and we saw tons of big sea turtles.
Komodo Liveaboard Boat Tour
So what exactly is the boat like that you’ll be living on for multiple days on end? Where do you sleep? And perhaps even more importantly, how are the bathrooms?
These are all great questions, but truthfully, it depends on the boat you choose. Each liveaboard is different, and the higher the price tag, the more plush you can expect the boat to be.
But even the more affordable boats are still quite comfortable. Let’s take you on a tour!
You can often choose between a bunk in a dorm room (perfect choice for a solo traveler or a couple on a tight budget!), or a private room of your own. Both of the liveaboards we’ve been on had air-conditioning and surprisingly comfortable beds.
During our Komodo liveaboard, the generator was shut off in the nighttime, so sleeping on the top deck on a beanbag or hammock turned out to be much more comfortable. You get a nice breeze and a view of the night sky with no light pollution.
For some reason, I was more curious about the bathrooms than I was about the actual room itself. Again, it totally depends on the boat you choose, but ours was quite nice.
We had a private bathroom inside our deluxe room with a flush toilet and get this — a shower with WARM water (not hot, but I’ll take what I can get in the open ocean!).
Liveaboard Common Space
Every boat, whether luxury or budget, will have a couple common areas to hang out and relax in. You can expect a sundeck as well as a shaded area (sunburns are no fun on a dive trip!).
Grab a hammock or bean bag and unwind with a book or chat with other guests about your last dive.
Let’s just say that we have been really surprised (in a good way!) with the quality of food on each of our liveaboard trips.
Considering that the chef needs to cook food for a large group while on a boat with limited space, we were pretty darn please with the meals that were served.
On both our Similan Island and Komodo liveaboard, we ate lots of local dishes, like curries, seafood, grilled meat, noodles, rice and fruit.
In addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, there was also an afternoon snack of smoothies and fried bananas to enjoy between dives.
Let’s just say, we had plenty to eat the whole trip!
Note: If you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, let them know before your trip and they can accommodate you.
Eco Friendly Liveaboard Tips
Whether your liveaboard is in Komodo or anywhere else in the world, it’s important to be mindful of the environment, as you will be coming in contact with some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems.
1. Be mindful of the waste you create. If you have plastic bags or food wrappers, be sure to keep it in a safe place so they don’t fly overboard.
2. Wear reef safe sunscreen. Any product you put on your body during your liveaboard will end up in the ocean. This means it’s important that it is free of harsh chemicals that bleach the corals. Some liveaboards have biodegradable soap and shampoo, which makes it easy.
3. Don’t touch anything underwater. This should be a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating. Coral takes a long time to grow back after they’ve been broken, and marine creatures don’t need your fingers stuck in their faces. Practice good buoyancy, and be mindful of where your fins are at all times.
4. Choose an eco friendly liveaboard. When you’re deciding which liveaboard to choose, do a little research on their environmental practices. Choose companies that support conservation, try to reduce their footprint and teach good diving practices.
Related Reading: Learn more about how to be a responsible traveler.
How to book a Liveaboard
Are you ready to book a liveaboard trip?! Whooo hoo! We don’t think you’ll regret it. But where do you start?
Whether you’re looking to book a trip in Komodo like we did, or elsewhere in the world, Liveaboard.com is a fantastic place to search.
You can compare voyages, reviews, availability and prices all in one place, making it the easiest and most secure way to book your liveaboard.
Best Liveaboard Options in Komodo
Diving in Komodo National Park is a relatively popular route for liveaboards, with options ranging from budget to luxury. You can also find voyages as short as 3 days and as long as 11 days.
Komodo Liveaboard Budget Option
Our Pick: Dragon Dive Komodo
We chose to book with Dragon Dive Komodo and we were overall very happy with our choice.
This is a good budget option, and everyone on our voyage was really fun! The instructors were professional, yet relaxed and the food was pretty good.
Komodo Liveaboard Middle-Range Option
Our Pick: Tanaka
With a beautifully-design boat, rooms with ensuite bathrooms and fine wine stocked on board, it’s no wonder that Tanaka earns exceptional reviews.
Komodo Liveaboard Luxury Option
Our Pick: Samambaia
This stunning yacht has a spacious design, offers guests free nitrox and food worthy of a 5-star restaurant, this luxury liveaboard offers guests a truly unforgettable experience.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Search all liveaboards in Indonesia, and find one to suit your needs.
Insider Tip: Raja Ampat (in eastern Indonesia) has incredible diving as well!
How much does a liveaboard cost?
There’s the question we know you’re wondering! Let’s just say that the cost of a liveaboard trip is going to vary drastically based on what type of company you choose. It also depends on where in the world you will be diving — for instance, Indonesia is going to be much cheaper than Australia or the Galapagos.
If you go with the most affordable option out there, you can expect to pay around $120 USD per day. This covers your accommodation, instructors, transportation and all your meals and your dives. So when you really break it down, it’s not that bad.
If you’re going the super budget route, be prepared for dorm room-type rooms, and you might even want to be prepared to sleep on the deck beneath the stars (which is actually quite nice!).
If your budget is bigger though, you might have a nicer room, a more luxurious boat and more upscale meals.
Before booking your liveaboard, be sure you understand what is included and what will cost extra. Here are some questions to ask:
Are there park fees?
You’ll definitely want to know the answer to this question before you roll up to the dive shop. And if you’re traveling during high season, ask if the fees more than usual?
On our Komodo Liveaboard, we were surprised that the park fees were quite a bit more expensive than we had been quoted at a different time of year. We are happy to support the conservation of wilderness area, but just weren’t prepared (aka didn’t have enough cash on us!) to pay the 275,000 IDR fee per day (roughly $20 USD). This worked out to be about $100 USD each for the 5-day trip.
Is rental gear included?
Unless you’re traveling with a wetsuit, mask and fins, it’s likely that you’ll need to rent at least a few pieces of gear. This is included in the price of some liveaboards, but is an additional cost for others. For example, we paid $10 USD each per day for our rental gear on our Komodo liveaboard.
Are dive computers part of the rental gear package?
We learned how to dive in Thailand where it is common practice for all dive shops to give customers computers. We both feel much more comfortable with a dive computer, and honestly, it’s time we just make the investment and buy our own!
On our Similan Island liveaboad, dive computers were part of the rental package, but in Komodo, they were $10 extra per day (150,000 IDR). Had we known ahead of time, we probably would have just bought our own computers before the trip.
Are there any excursions during the trip?
Our liveaboard in Komodo National Park made a stop on one of the islands so we could see the famous komodo dragons. We were happy to have some cash on us, because this excursion was not included in the original fee.
Are beverages extra?
Obviously this is an optional cost, but if you feel like having a beer (or 2!) after the last dive of your day, you’ll want to know how much they charge for drinks. And on some higher-end boats, drinks might even be included.
Is gratuity included?
You’ll want to have some cash on you to tip the boat crew at the end of your trip. They work incredibly hard to cook you meals, keep your room clean, and make sure your equipment is properly set up.
Ask ahead of time how much is typical for guests to leave for gratuity so you can be prepared.
What to pack for a liveaboard
You truly really don’t need much on a liveaboard, as you’ll basically be living in the same clothes during your whole trip. And your living quarters are likely smaller than what you’d expect on land, so our advice is to pack only what you need and leave the rest at your hotel on shore.
Diving certification card
Diving log book
Ladies: choose suits that stay on well so when you take off your wetsuit, you aren’t accidentally flashing the boat. (There’s really no subtle way of saying that!) One pieces area good idea! Also, avoid suits with metal pieces, as that will be uncomfortable beneath a wetsuit. I like to have a couple options so I’m not constantly in a wet bikini.
Guys: A pair of compression shorts is more comfortable than a bulky swimsuit once you put on your wetsuit.
Sarong: use as a cover up, to dry off with, to lay on, or to shield yourself from sunburn.
A couple pairs of dry clothes: You’ll want something for putting over your swimsuit between dives, like shorts and a tank top or a loose dress. You might also want a zip-up and pair of lightweight pants for at night (it can get a bit chilly even in tropical places!).
Imodium (just in case!)
ginger pills if you get seasick (or Dramamine if you want something stronger)
pain killer (we like arnica because it’s natural)
Don’t get too concerned with medicine, as there will be a first aid kit on board.
Reef Safe sunscreen
Book or Kindle
Snacks (optional) – on the 2 liveaboards we’ve been on, there has been plenty of food. However, if you are a picky eater or get hungry easily, brining a handful of granola bars or trail mix wouldn’t be a bad idea.
deck of cards
PSI Bands: if you easily get seasick, these pressure point bands can help prevent nausea
eye cover and ear plugs (in case you’ll be sleeping on the deck)
coconut oil: use as lotion or to put in your hair to keep it from becoming a mess between dives #longhairproblems
Go Pro & waterproof housing
Cash: for tipping and additional costs
Tip: If you don’t have a red filter for your GoPro, the footage you take beneath 5 meters may come out quite green. Don’t worry though, you can color correct your footage in seconds by using the app Dive+.
If you have all your own gear, by all means pack it. But most diving equipment is expensive and bulky to travel with.
You can rent most things on your liveaboard, but there are 2 items we would recommend purchasing yourself if possible. (They should also be available to rent if you don’t have your own.)
Dive computer: A good investment for any diver. We each need to buy one of these babies soon! They are essential for dive safety, especially when you’re doing multiple dives per day.
Mask: Sometimes ones available for rent won’t fit your face all that well and can leak.
Still have questions?
If you still have any burning questions about liveaboards, comment below and we’ll do our best to answer you from our experience, or find an answer for you.
We wholeheartedly think this is such a special experience, and we want you to feel comfortable and excited when planning your own liveaboard trip!
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Disclosure: A big thank you to our friends at Liveaboard.com for hosting us on our trip with Dragon Dive Komodo. As with every article on our site, all opinions are entirely our own.