Did you know that Komodo Dragons are the largest land reptile in the world? That they can span 200-300 cm long and weigh 70-166 kgs? Needless to say, they’re massive…and only found in a handful of islands that make up Komodo National Park in Indonesia. Unbeknownst to me, Komodo National Park isn’t just on Komodo Island. In fact, it encompasses 30 different islands, with the largest being Komodo, Padar, Rinca, and Flores. There are about 4,000 people living within the national park, spanning four different islands; each village existed prior to 1980 when it was deemed a national park.
As a tourist though, you need to stay in Labuan Bajo on Flores Island when visiting Komodo National Park.; it is located a short one-hour flight from Bali. When doing so, I couldn’t recommend highly enough staying at the first and only luxury hotel in Komodo: AYANA Komodo Resort, Waecicu Beach. It opened this past September (2018) and is one of the most beautiful properties that I have ever visited. If you’ve been following my travels for a while, you should know that’s saying a lot!
ARRIVING IN LABUAN BAJO | DAY ONE
Everything was perfect from the moment we arrived at the airport in Labuan Bajo. Despite having a change in arrival times, there was a gentleman waiting with a sign for us as soon as we walked out the doors of the airport. With a handshake and a smile, a luxury SUV pulled up to take us to AYANA Komodo Resort on Waecicu Beach. But before leaving, we were given a cold hand towel, soft drinks, and a small box of fresh pastries. What a way to be greeted! I must say, it was the first time I ever received such a lovely welcome (sorry mom, I love your salads-on-arrival too!).
Saying “Hello” To The AYANA Komodo Resort
Fifteen minutes later and we arrived at AYANA Komodo’s open-air reception area that offers sweeping views of the resort, Waecicu Beach, and the ocean below. What immediately stood out to me was the genuine friendliness of the staff from the moment we stepped foot on the property… and that friendliness never ceased. Unlike most hotels, the lobby area is actually the top floor; to showcase its uniqueness, you can also find the UNIQUE Rooftop Bar offering incredible, unobstructed panoramic views and the Mesa Bar nearby reception if you’d rather be inside for a coffee or a drink.
Check-in was a breeze and we were taken to our Full Ocean View Room where the views from our balcony were simply breathtaking! Inside the room you’ll find comfortable beds, a work desk, TV, mini fridge, and a spacious bathroom and tub, paired with elegant beachy decor.
The rooms are classy and comfortable, but the resort is so stunning that I urge you to spend your time outside taking in the views or in the water experiencing it firsthand! It’s the first and only 5-Star hotel in Labuan Bajo for a reason 😉
A Quick Look Around…
AYANA Komodo Resort is the only resort in the area, leaving you completely alone in paradise. Whether you want to lounge by one of the two infinity pools (one is adults only), exercise in the 24-hour gym that faces the ocean, SUP, kayak, snorkel, sunbathe on the beach…you name it, AYANA Komodo Resort has it.
Before we jumped into our experiences, we had lunch at Rinca, AYANA Komodo Resort’s all-day dining experience. What’s great about Rinca is the fact that it’s right beside the pool and overlooking the ocean, so if you’d like to eat outside, you can have gourmet dishes with a bit of sea breeze. We had everything from Caesar salads to grilled tuna, sea bass, and Thai fish curry. They all came with warm homemade bread and we paired them with delicious fruity drinks too! I recommend eating seafood as much as possible while at the AYANA Komodo Resort, as all of the fish are caught locally in the morning before being prepared for guests; it’s as “sea to table” as it gets.
A Breathtaking Sunset from AYANA Komodo Resort
We had a few hours of pool time before watching what became a mesmerizing sunset. From the moment it began, we knew it would be a good one… and it just got better and better as the time passed. The sky started lighting up while we were still in the pool and it came so quickly that we didn’t even have a chance to change out of our bathing suits!
Almost every single area of the hotel’s property is a photo opportunity at sunset, be it from Naga Pier and bar, the beach, pool, the fourth-floor patio, fifth-floor patio, reception, the UNIQUE Rooftop Bar — anywhere!
Kisik Seafood Restaurant
When the sunset had long passed, we walked down to the beach for our seafood BBQ dinner at Kisik Seafood Restaurant. Now this dinner alone is an absolute highlight from our stay at AYANA Komodo Resort. There’s a display outside the beach kitchen that shows everything that was caught that day – from bamboo lobster (which I didn’t even know existed), to king prawn, swordfish, salmon, and scallops to name a few – and you simply go up and point to what you’d like, which sauces you’d like on them, and which vegetables you’d like to accompany them.
Then they cook it up (it’s an open BBQ/kitchen area, so you’re welcome to watch) and it’s brought to your table meters from the ocean as you wiggle your toes in the sand. It’s an incredibly special meal to say the least and certainly one that I will not soon forget.
KOMODO DRAGONS, STARFISH, AND BATS | DAY TWO
We awoke early the next day to an incredibly tasty breakfast at Rinca by the water. The staff greeted us with the most lovely smiles, which absolutely made our day right from the start. They suggested that I have the tumeric, tamarind, and ginger drink to begin my breakfast – which was just what I needed. That, paired with the tastiest french toast (a must!), a cappuccino, and the ocean beside us, and it couldn’t get any better.
I may have been almost as smiley as the staff when we realized that we had to leave breakfast at Rinca to go to the island of Rinca to see the infamous Komodo Dragons in Komodo National Park. AYANA Komodo Resort has three different boats available to suit your needs — the Lako Cama speedboat, the Lako Di’a liveaboard, and the Lako Taka glass bottom boat (which is what we took) — to take you wherever you please.
Komodo National Park
Of course, as with all wildlife, there’s no guarantee of a siting. Yet, we saw a baby Komodo Dragon within 5 minutes of stepping onto Rinca Island and entering the park.
Thinking that that’d be our only sighting, we were ecstatic. Little did we know that we would then see another 11 Komodo Dragons as we explored Rinca.
After Rinca, we made our way over to Menjerite Island for a snorkel. The water was clear as could be and the sun was hitting it just right, perfectly illuminating the blue, purple, and green corals along with hundreds of starfish. We had the ocean to ourselves while we leisurely snorkeled. Upon getting back aboard the Lako Taka, the crew had a Bento Box lunch waiting for us as we rode back to the AYANA Komodo Resort.
Sunset from the Lako Taka
We then had yet another delicious lunch at Rinca (the restaurant again this time) and relaxed at the pool for a bit; it was nice to let our sore muscles rest after having finished climbing Mt. Bromo and Mt. Ijen just days prior. Before we knew it, we were boarding the Lako Taka again for their bat watching and sunset tour.
We sailed about 20 minutes from shore to witness a lovely sunset over the water (the sun rays were gorgeous!) before making our way to an uninhabited island to watch thousands of bats leave the island at sunset. It was certainly a unique way to experience sunset, and I can definitely say that I’ve never seen bats silhouetted in the sun before.
A Dinner at HonZEN
Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, we made our way up to HonZEN for dinner, AYANA Komodo Resort's specialty Japanese restaurant. The chef was actually brought over from Japan and taught his staff how to cook Japanese food the proper way, so there’s no doubt that you’re getting authentic Japanese food. This isn’t your everyday walk in the park hotel Japanese restaurant; this is more like fine dining Japanese food, and you can even have a Teppanyaki (similar to Hibachi) if you’d like, as we did! I honestly can’t even count how many meals we had, but the food was as fresh as could be and cooked directly in front of us. The staff at HonZEN was unbelievably attentive, and we enjoyed speaking with everyone a bit as we were transported back to Japan through our food.
LAST MOMENTS AT AYANA KOMODO RESORT | DAY THREE
We awoke and opened our curtains to see the sun hitting the water in a way that took our breath away. The turquoise water surrounding the AYANA Komodo Resort and its nearby reefs shimmered and dazzled in the morning sun. It was mesmerizing, and difficult to turn away from its beauty to begin the day.
Unfortunately, we only had three days in Labuan Bajo at AYANA Komodo Resort due to time constraints. We easily could have spent well over a week not only enjoying the resort and getting to know its staff better, but further exploring the surrounding islands as well (Padar Island, I’m coming for you next!).
After another delicious breakfast at Rinca – I’m telling you, their french toast is addicting! – I stood by the Mesa Bar on the Lobby Level taking in all of the views for one final time. Spectacular is the only word that comes to mind when I think of AYANA Komodo Resort.
The Staff is Unforgettable!
We had a very special goodbye with the entire staff at AYANA Komodo Resort, and I am certain that I will be back in the future. They were so gracious and hospitable; the staff truly went above and beyond in every way and made me feel like I was a VIP! I am absolutely blown away by the attentiveness of everyone working at the AYANA Komodo Resort and I am positive that their personalities alone can keep bringing people back. So to the staff, I’d like to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone working at AYANA Komodo Resort – you certainly know how to make someone’s holiday a special one.
Hopefully next year I will have the opportunity to visit Labuan Bajo again and join the AYANA Komodo Resort on their luxury Lako Di’a liveaboard to further explore the pristine islands encompassing this beautiful region. Terima Kasih!
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**Massive thanks to AYANA Komodo Resort for hosting us during our stay. As always, all opinions are my own.**
Wow, Sarah, this looks amazing. I can see why you suggested it as a place to go in 2019. I loved your photo so much that it is the featured, prominent, cover photo on that article. Best wishes for a magnificent year of memorable and enjoyable travel experiences.