Trip Report: Komodo Islands, Indonesia

During my recent trip to Indonesia, I spent three days cruising through the superlative Komodo Islands. Best known as the home of Komodo dragons, the Komodo Islands also offer world-class diving and snorkeling and feature stunning landscapes. My three short days in this tropical paradise certainly weren’t enough.

Most people who visit the Komodos go to see the islands’ famous Komodo dragons. The largest living species of lizard, dragons can grow as big as 10 feet long and weigh as much as 150 pounds. I did some photography with the dragons, but found the whole experience to be a bit disappointing: the dragons are often fed by the park staff, so many of them placidly lounge around the ranger station and staff quarters waiting for their next easy meal. Although this is great if you want a guarantee to see and photograph Komodo dragons, the experience is hardly what I would call a genuinely wild one. If I had more than three days in the islands, I might have spent more time trekking to find wild dragons, but instead I decided to focus my time and energy on the beautiful landscape.

Canon 5DIII, Canon 200-400mm f/4 lens with built-in 1.4x extender, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/160 second.

Sunrise and sunset in the Komodo Islands are often spectacular events, as the sky always seems to have at least a few interesting clouds to catch magic hour light. I hiked up to the top of a hill in the dark to capture this sunrise view, looking down over the twisting and rugged islands below.

Canon 5DIII, Canon 11-24mm f/4 lens, ISO 100, f/11, 0.6 seconds.

One evening during sunset, storm clouds moved in, threatening rain. Instead, I was treated with a spectacular and dramatic sky. I got low and close with a wide-angle lens to a foreground of rippled sand revealed by the falling tide. A woman who was camping nearby hopped on top of the background rocks to take some photos with her smart phone; when I saw the dark cloud pointing towards her, I sensed the moment was coming together perfectly.

Canon 5DIII, Canon 11-24mm f/4 lens, ISO 100, f/14, 1/25 second.

During my trip, I employed the services of Flores XP Adventure. I used their ship the Salacia II as my base of operations and to get from island to island, and to reach many incredible snorkeling spots, perfect for escaping the heat of midday (there are many great underwater photo opportunities in the Komodo Islands, if you have the right gear). Here’s a self-portrait I took perched on the brightly blue-painted bow of the ship, with sunset clouds in the background. I couldn’t resist using the colorful leading lines! I used a hint of fill flash to illuminate my face, helping it stand out better from the background.

Related Course: Tips for Underwater Photography

Canon 5DIII, Canon 111-24mm f/4 lens, ISO 100, f/16, 1/20 second.

All in all, the Komodo Islands are exceptional. I wish I had more than three days to visit this amazing place, and I suspect I will return again in the future!

To see more of my Indonesia photos, visit my website: Ian Plant Photography – Indonesia


About the author: World-renowned professional photographer and Tamron Image Master Ian Plant is a frequent contributor to several leading photo magazines and the author of numerous books and instructional videos. You can see more of Ian’s work at

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5 Responses to “Trip Report: Komodo Islands, Indonesia”

  1. Tom Hall

    Ian, I've been following your photography and subscribing to your brand for years and I must ask. What goes through your head when trekking through strange foreign lands in the dead of night to capture morning light? I often find it a mix of excitement and suspense; wondering if I'll return with amazing images or if I'll return safetly at all. I saw things no tourist typically sees on my last trip to Venice while out and about awaiting the morning magic hour. Your images are great but your brand is even better—thanks for giving back.

  2. Phil green

    Komodo national park includes more than 400 islands! Most uninhabited. Best sunrise and sunsets are June to nov. Flores island next to komodo is also very spectacular and 'untouched'. Cheers

  3. Christine

    You create exceptional landscape images. I've been following your work for a couple of years now, after first hearing you speak in London. I find your images inspiring.

  4. Gene Buechel

    Palawan, in the Philippines also has Monitor Lizards; and like Komodo, has become the Scuba center of the Philippines.

  5. anne walker

    Ian!! These are BEAUTIFUL!!!! I am so happy you had a good trip. Your leading lines are the best!! Hope to see you in another tour!