Had an awesome day on the 6 stop Komodo day trip, saw dragons in the park, turtles and manta rays and lots of lovely healthy reefs. Hugo, captain and the boat team were very helpful and friendly. Hugo our guide spoke great english and was really fun, definitely made the trip. Lots of emphasis on safety when snorkelling especially in currents. The boat was fast and very comfortable and kept cool in the hot sun, lots of water (in metal bottles to help with the plastic problem- thankyou red whale!).
We booked these guys because of the day trip with speedboat instead of the multiple day cruises with the wonkey boats we found elsewhere. They really delivered! The tour was well planned (we where early or alone at most venues), the lunch was nice and we even saw some manta's and turtles. Money well spend ;-)
We were recommended Red Whale by a fellow dive shop in Labuan Bajo.
I was doubting about the overall experience but it was 100% worth it!
From the info we got at the office to the friendly atmosphere, the timing of the arrival in each location, everything was great and I loooooved the excursion!
Go for Red Whale!
One of the best day of my Labuan Bajo trip is the one-day trip with the Red Whale team. Their service feels really professional. From the communication via WA for booking purpose, the briefing one day before the trip, the pick up from our hotel to the pier (I think they cooperate with local driver/s for the pick up), the trip itself and the pick up from the pier back to our hotel. The crews who are with us are so much fun. Big thanks to Hugo and Andre for being such great guides (you guys are so chill and so much fun without trying too hard, well, without trying at all to be honest. you guys are really fun!). It was quite crowded at Padar Island so it's unfortunately not as magical (still pretty though), but we were lucky since November is low season and we were the first boat to arrive at Pink Beach. We saw a couple of huge Mantas within the first few minutes of our snorkel (which is another luck as it I was told it was quite hard to spot them for the past week). At Turtle Bay, we saw turtles (of course) and one shark (how cool!). The lunch provided was good. All in all, I would highly recommend Red Whale!
It has been one of my childhood dreams to travel to Komodo, and now that I've done it I can say that this has been one of the greatest disappointments of my life. I have been on many wildlife excursions around the world (both on tours and independently), but this has got to be the worst. The national park is staffed by imbeciles whose only interest is to take your money and who have complete disregard for the environment and the creatures that are supposed to protect. The search for dragons consists of a lousy fifteen-minute walk through the forest around the park headquarters in the company of an uninterested ranger, so your chances of seeing the lizards are next to zero (we didn't see any, though we did see a pig and sambar deer). You will see plenty of trash though both inside the park and floating at sea, and lots of idle park rangers who spend their time sleeping or harassing the two or three dragons who have taken up residency around the compound because the staff feed them at night when the tourists are not there in order to make the lizards stick around. (Don't believe they don't - they're lying). Indonesians have been blessed with some of the most beautiful sites in the world, but unfortunately take very little pride in their natural heritage. What a shame!
However, what saved this trip from being a total disaster was the crew from Red Whale. The company is run very professionally; at their office in Labuan Bajo they explain to you in detail the plan, the charges, and they don't make any empty promises (though 'the hike through the jungle' is a bit of a stretch). They have excellent command of English (and I'm qualified to say that because I am a teacher), reply very promptly to your emails, and are very honest about handling your money.
Hugo, our tour guide, was quite a character - funny, friendly, and very humble. I appreciated his honesty about not seeing mantas for five days (we ended up seeing many) and he and his two-men crew took us to some very pretty swimming and snorkelling spots. The boat was small and noisy but adequate for the task, though there is little shade from the brutal sun unless you sit close to the captain, so bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen. Lunch was very good and they cater to those who are on diet restrictions.
All in all, if you do travel to Komodo, you can't go wrong with Red Whale. But I've heard that people who visited Rinca Island instead had better experiences because the trek is longer and the rangers there take you through real wilderness, so you will very likely see wild dragons, instead of being witnesses to the cheap circus the morons on Komodo Island are putting up for the tourists.