Pulau Rinca is the younger and less crowded sister of Komodo Island. The Island features the treasury of critters to be enjoyed by fans of macro life, underwater photographers, and night divers. The kaleidoscope of colors from all the soft corals and reef inhabitants infatuates. Occasional big pelagic might be a pleasant bonus to the guests of Pulau Rinca.
Pulau Rinca is located between Komodo Island and Flores Island which belongs to the territory of East Nusa Tenggara. Pulau Rinca together with Komodo Island, Padar, and several small islands, are referred to as Komodo National Park.
In order to arrive at Pulau Rinca, you need first to get either to Bali or to Pulau Flores. There are 2 airports at Flores, but none of them receives international flights. Lionair, Sky Aviation Fly, Merpati, and Transnusa provide regular flights from Bali’s airports to Labuan Bajo at Flores. The flight lasts about 1 hour.
There is only 1 small village on Pulau Rinca that is why you cannot accommodate on the Island itself and the only way to get there is by boat. You can join daily diving trips from Labuan Bajo or visit Pulau Rinca on an overnight boat, on a private boat charter or on a diving liveaboard.
All visitors of Komodo National Park need to pay permits and fees which are valid for 1 day on the whole territory of the Park. Currently, the following fees are imposed: area tax is 50000 IDR (~4USD), the entrance fee is 225000 IDR (~17USD), and the diving fee is 25000 IDR (~2USD).
Diving at Pulau Rinca is very similar to the area around Komodo Island as they share the same currents and tides. Biodiversity under the water strikes with variations of corals and small species. There are several dive sites around the Island voted to be among the best in the world.
The area features a great variety of species because of the nutrition waters coming from the deep and plankton. When the tidal waves from the Pacific Ocean are flowing into the Indian Ocean through the narrow straights around the islands, the currents become very strong. The depth in some areas of Sape Straight near Pulau Rinca reaches 300m (984ft.).
Most of the dive sites can be accessed only by advanced divers. The usage of a dive computer and a buoy is highly recommended. The dive sites to the south of Pulau Rinca feature cold water streams which are coming from the deep. In this connection, 5mm wetsuit with a hood and gloves is highly recommended.
If you are visiting the dives sites on a boat from Labuan Bajo, it usually takes about 25-70 minutes to get there.
Best Dive Sites Overview
This underwater mountain is located to the south of Pulau Rinca. It stretches from the surface down to 30m (98ft.). The pinnacle is fully covered with beautiful hard and soft corals. You can find gorgeous green and blue Anemones; lime green Whip Coral, purple Gorgonians reaching 2m (6ft.) in size sometimes, and Sea Cucumbers including Sea Apples. Currents are not so strong here as the area is protected by the Loh Dasami Bay.
In the shallow areas, you can look for Nudibranchs, Cleaner Shrimp, Coleman Shrimp, Featherstars, Pygmy Seahorse, Scorpionfish, and Zebra Crab. As you go deeper you can expect to see Green Sea Turtle, endemic Yellow-ribbon Sweetlips, Fusiliers, and Black-spotted Stingray.
Yellow wall and Crinoid Canyon
Yellow Wall and Crinoid Canyon dive sites are located next to each other in the southern part of Pulau Rinca where the area features rather cold water. Both of them have weak currents and they can be used for fantastic night dives. The depth ranges between 5-25m (16-82ft.) here. The area in shallow waters reminds a “fish & critter soup” due to a number of living creatures.
Walls at Crinoid Canyon are covered with a countless number of Brittle Stars, Feather Stars, and invertebrates, especially Nudibranchs, Needle Shrimp, Coleman Shrimp, and Crabs. Night dives also allow seeing rare Spanish Dancer.
The 2 walls of the Yellow Wall dive site are surrounded by Butterflyfish, Anthias, Clown Triggerfish, and Parrotfish. In deeper areas you can look for Green Sea Turtle, Red Snappers, and Whitetip Reef Sharks.
Toro Sie dive site can be found in the eastern part of Pulau Rinca. It is close to Molo Straight that is why currents can be very strong here. This is a great place for pelagic and macro life. The rock is covered with soft corals and Crinoids. The depth here is between 5-35m (16-114ft.). It is common to see big Groupers here with occasional sharks and Manta Ray.
This dive site is located between Pulau Padar and Pulau Rinca. The dive usually starts from the south and it proceeds to the west along with the current which can be strong here. The maximum depth is 40m (131ft.). There are several caves, crevices, and swim-throughs at Pillarsteen. The area is very colorful due to a variety of soft corals like Brown Leather Coral and Sea Squirts. There are many Sea Cucumbers here as well. Fish is represented by Boxfish, Angelfish, Snappers, and Fusiliers.
Three Sisters are 3 underwater rocks connected with each other by ridges. They are located in the south-eastern part of Pulau Padar and Pulau Rinca. The peaks of the pinnacles can be found at the depth of 8m (26ft.), 7m (22ft.), and 6m (19ft.) and they go down to 30m (98ft.). The dive site is very colorful and there are many Sea Cucumber, Nudibranchs, Sea Squirt, and Starfish here.
Best Dive Season
If you want to dive your best around Pulau Rinca, you’d better arrive between October and April when there is a northwest monsoon.
The water temperature around Pulau Rinca is usually lower than the temperature around Komodo. The highest temperature is 27ºC (80ºF) while in some areas it can be as low as 18-21ºC (64-69ºF).
The average visibility is not as great as in some other areas because of plankton and strong winds. In average it is 10-15m (32-49ft.).
The area of Rinca, as well as Komodo, is famous for its strong currents due to the narrow gap which serves as a passage for water exchange between the Indian Ocean and the Flores Sea. Sometimes diving can be restricted at some of the dive sites due to the rough sea conditions and strong currents.
Pulau Rinca is surrounded by the healthiest and the best soft corals in the world. Only the number of Sponges is estimated at about 70 species. The iridescent reefs are covered with Crinoids, Whip Corals, Gorgonians, Anemones, and Sea Apples.
There is not as much big pelagic around Rinca as there is around Komodo, but you still have a chance to meet Whitetip and Blacktip Reef Shark, various rays and Manta Ray, Green Sea Turtles, big Groupers, and occasional Whale Shark.
The lack of pelagic is over and above compensated by the immeasurable number of small creatures and reef fish. Here you can find Spanish Dancer, Pygmy Seahorse, Ghost Pipefish, Zebra Crab, Coleman Shrimp, Needle Shrimp, various species of Sea Cucumber and Nudibranchs, Starfish, and many others.
Komodo National Park operates several bungalows which are located right on the Islands of Komodo and Rinca. However, these are usually reserved for VIP guests and filming crews. Thus, it is better to choose accommodation at Labuan Bajo which features different types of hotels. It is also possible to accommodate on some of the nearby islands.
Komodo Resort Hotel and Diving
This is the only Resort located on Pulau Sebayur Besar. You can stay at one of the 16 seafront Bungalows made of teak wood. Each Bungalow features a terrace, a private bathroom, and a garden. There is Spa, a gym, a restaurant, and a bar on site. PADI Diving Resort is integrated with the Hotel. It owns 2 boats to serve up to 25 divers. Snorkelling is possible right at the house reef which is 1km (0.6mi) long.
Blue Marlin Komodo
Blue Marlin is a 5-star PADI Dive Resort. It is located in Labuan Bajo. Accommodation is offered either in Rooms or Bungalows which are situated right behind the dive shop. Each unit has a private bathroom and A/C. There are a restaurant and a pool on the territory of the Resort. You can benefit from special diving packages which include 3 daily dives, accommodation, and breakfast.
Kanawa Island Resort and Bungalows
This is the only Resort located on Pulau Kanawa at the border of Komodo National Park. You can get there within 10 minutes on a speed boat or 1 hour by an ordinary boat from Labuan Bajo. There are 18 eco-friendly Bungalows offered to the guests. Breakfast is usually included in the price of accommodation. There is a restaurant, BBQ area, pizza oven, and massage area on site. The Resort does not yet own a dive shop; nevertheless, the guests are welcomed to use services of one of the Labuan Bajo’s dive centres. The staff will gladly assist with organisation of the diving trips. Beautiful reefs surround the Island so snorkelling is possible in front of the Resort. Sometimes Manta Rays are spotted right from the jetty.
The Jayakarta Suites Komodo Flores
This is a luxury diving Resort which is located in front of Labuan Bajo Beach. You can stay in Deluxe Rooms, Jayakarta Suites or Presidential Suites. All Rooms feature a private bathroom, A/C, refrigerator, tea/coffee facilities, and bathrobes. The facilities of the Resort include a pool, a jogging track, Spa, a gym, and a tennis court. The dive centre is located on site.
Angel Island Eco Resort
The Resort is the only accommodation on Bidadari Island where you can get on a boat from Labuan Bajo within the 30-minute transfer. There are 10 handcrafted Villas each of which provides a comfortable accommodation for the guests. There is an open air bathroom, A/C, and free WiFi in each Villa. You can enjoy the meals at beach front restaurant. The accommodation is usually offered on the all-inclusive basis with la carte meals. Kayaks are available free of charge for the guests. You can also enjoy massage and therapies on site. There is an SSI dive centre on the territory of the Resort.
The best season to travel on a liveaboard through the territory of Komodo National Park is between April and September. During this period, you will find many liveaboard options because water is smooth and calm. Itineraries differ from operator to operator. They can cover only some of the dive spots around the Park during 3-5 days or provide longer trips from 5 up to 11 nights covering the best sites around Komodo and Rinca.
The choice of liveaboards is very big: there are hundreds of boats travelling from Bali and dozens of boats travelling from Labuan Bajo. It is important to choose an experienced dive operator in order to get the best diving taking into consideration safety of the guests as well.
She is a 30m (98ft.) long traditional Indonesian Phinisi boat. Up of 12 guests can be accommodated in 2 Double bed Cabins, 2 Three bed Cabins, and 1 Family Cabin with a double bed and 2 bunk beds. Even though more people can be taken aboard, the liveaboard prefers comfort to her guests and 12 people is the maximum number. All Cabins have en-suite bathrooms and A/C. 4 meals a day and non-alcoholic drinks are usually included in the package. The boat embarks either from Bali or from Komodo Island.
The world’s famous Aggressor Fleet is the owner of Info Aggressor. The vessel is 38m (124ft.) long. Maximum of 16 divers can be taken aboard. The guests are accommodated in Standard Twin bunk bed cabins, Master Double Cabins, and Deluxe Double Cabins. Each Cabin has an en-suite bathroom with kimonos. Zodiacs are attached to the liveaboard. The boat embarks from Bali and disembarks in Labuan Bajo.
She is a 58m (190ft.) long three-masted luxury liveaboard. 18 guests can enjoy the facilities and private Cabins with entertainment systems and private lounge areas. There is plenty of space aboard including a spacious dive deck. There are 3 Zodiacs for the comfort of divers. For guests’ safety location system devices are provided to each person.
S/Y Indo Siren
This vessel belongs to the world class Siren Fleet. She is a 40m (131ft.) long luxurious liveaboard. Up to 16 guests can be accommodated in 8 Cabins. Each Cabin features a private bathroom, individual climate control, and entertainment system. There is a sun deck, huge diving deck, lounge area, and a library aboard. You can order massage services as well. Kayaks are attached to the boat and they can be used by the guests.
She is a Phinisi sailing schooner made of teak and ironwood. The liveaboard has 6 jaunty sails. She is 23m (75ft.) long and she can accommodate 14 guests in 4 Twin Cabins and 2 Triple bed Cabins. All Cabins have A/C. There are 3 shared bathrooms aboard. All meals and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the package. There is 1 Zodiac attached to the boat.
She is one of the luxurious vessels belonging to Mermaid Fleet. The length of the liveaboard is 28m (91ft.). There are 8 Cabins to provide lodging for 15 guests. Each Cabin has en-suite bathroom, A/C, entertainment facilities, storage area, and bathrobes. There are a spacious dive deck and comfortable diving platform. Different itineraries are offered either from Maumere or from Bali.
Aurora is a traditional sailing vessel; her length is 42m (137ft.). 8 Cabins can accommodate 16 divers. Each Cabin has an en-suite bathroom and individual A/C control. There are a salon and sun decks to relax between the dives. 3 Zodiacs are attached to the vessel. Itineraries usually start and end in Labuan Bajo.
Other Activities For Non-Divers
If you are staying at one of the islands near Rinca (like Bidadari Island) then usually you will have an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful reef right around the island. If you are staying at Labuan Bajo, it might be a good idea to take either a daily snorkeling tour or to join one of the liveaboards offering short snorkeling tours around Rinca. All snorkelers need to pay an entry fee to Komodo National Park, which is 225000 IDR (~17USD), and a snorkeling daily fee of 15000 IDR (~1.1USD).
Komodo dragon is the main terrestrial attraction on Pulau Rinca being the second largest island to host these dragons. One of the best ways to get acquainted with these giant lizards is to take a trekking tour around the Island. There are different options recommended by local tour operators: from a 30-minute trek up to 6-hour trek. Besides dragons, you can see some other wild animals like Wild Boar, Timor Deer, Water Buffalo, Horses, and Macaques. The Island is also famous for different bird species.