Located in Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands, the World Heritage Site of Komodo National Park brims with fascinating life on land and under water. We sent Andrew Coggiola, one of our staff members, on our journey that explores this wondrous place.

Komodo-pano of island
Stunning view from the highest point on Padar Island

When I feel the urge to get outside and connect with the natural world, I usually head into the mountains or the forest. I’ve always felt that was my place, but when the opportunity to join our Komodo Snorkeling Expedition came along, I couldn’t say no. I’m really glad I didn’t because I would have missed out on an absolutely incredible experience.

Komodo sunset
We enjoyed a gorgeous sunset on the island of Flores before boarding the Ombak Biru, our home for the next 10 nights
The Ombak Biru (or Blue Wave in Indonesian), our comfortable base of operations

To say that I had limited snorkeling experience going into the trip would be generous, but I tried to do my research. I poured over countless, stunning images of vibrant corals and reef creatures, but nothing could prepare me for the actual experience. It was absolutely mesmeric and totally unreal. I could never have imagined the way the reef positively pulses with life, the delicate, rhythmic swaying of the soft corals providing a counterpoint to the darting damselfish as the entire ecosystem breathes with the current.

A surgeonfish swims over an expanse of table coral

With all of the incredible sea life on display, it was easy to forget we were in the waters of Komodo National Park, home to the largest lizards on earth. We got our chance to see them in the wild the next morning on Rinca, one of only four islands where the dragons can be found.

Komodo dragon
A female dragon guarding her nest
Komodo dragon near window
This large dragon was waiting patiently next to the ranger station’s kitchen

The following day was a real highlight for me as we had our first manta ray sighting! They are truly magnificent, and watching them fly effortlessly over the seafloor was a dream come true.

Komodo-ray swimming

Komodo-ray swimming near surface
Reef manta feeding off Mawan Island

We left the national park the next day and motored to Gili Banta, where we spent the afternoon in a shallow bay with a marvelous coral garden. The calm conditions and relative security made a perfect nursery for juvenile black tip reef sharks.

It may be hard to tell from the photo, but these little sharks were only about two feet long, and totally adorable

We returned to the waters of the national park and spent the next five days blissfully exploring reefs, tide pools, and islands. The days blended together in the best way possible as we drifted along, hypnotized by the riot of colors and profusion of reef creatures of all shapes and sizes.

Tomato anemonefish and a sabae, or purple tip anemone
Komodo-coral and clown fish
Clown anemonefish taking refuge in a magnificent sea anemone
Fields of mushroom coral take on an otherworldly appearance
A curious snowflake moray peeks out of its lair
A Nembrotha kubaryana, my new favorite nudibranch, clings to a wall surrounded by tunicates
Komodo swimminer over coral
The rocky and rugged coast of Tatawa Kecil belies the colorful exuberance just below the surface of the waves

If you love snorkeling, or even if you have no experience at all and just enjoy up-close animal encounters, you need to make your way to Komodo National Park.
—Text by WT staff Andrew Coggiola, photos by Andrew Coggiola and Kenna Miller. Check out our expedition to Komodo here.

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