Komodo National Park

Komodo, West Manggarai Regency, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, Komodo National Park covers vast areas of land and sea between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores. It’s much more than the home of the legendary Komodo lizard (aka the Komodo dragon). Terrestrial denizens include Timor deer, 72 bird species and an endemic rat. And the underwater world is beyond compare, with pristine coral reefs and ocean currents patrolled by manta rays, dugongs, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins and at least 14 whale species.

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Komodo National Park, Indonesia

When you visit the 700-square-mile Komodo National Park, you feel like you’re sailing through the Grand Canyon—but one that’s been flooded with crystalline water and fringed with reef. Underwater, the UNESCO World Heritage Site has more than 1,000 species of fish and 260 kinds of coral, plus whales, sharks, and manta rays, making for some of the world’s best scuba diving and snorkeling.

On the park’s volcanic islands, the planet’s last 2,500 wild Komodo dragons roam. These 200-pound, 10-foot-long reptiles inject their prey with highly septic saliva, and they can devour a water buffalo in just half an hour. To see them, take a stroll around the main islands of Komodo and Rinca—don’t worry, guides shoo the beasts with a stick if they get too curious.

There aren’t any hotels in the park, so live-aboard boats are the way to go. Fly to Lubuan Bajo on the western shore of Flores and head out on a twin-masted phinisi, a cross between an Arab dhow and a Western schooner, or try the five-cabin ironwood Silolona. For a private trip, book Aman’s Amanikan, a 105-foot coastal cruiser.

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