Hiking Padar Island in Komodo National Park (Indonesia)
Pulau Padar (Padar Island) is the third-largest island in Indonesia’s Komodo National Park, after Komodo and Rinca Islands. It’s famous for the breathtaking views it provides of the Komodo archipelago.
For those willing to wake up early, the sunrise from the top of Padar Island turns the entire horizon into a fiery orange blaze. As the sun rises, the mirrored water softens to reveal pristine turquoise bays and beaches with three distinct colors of sand. I’d say the most famous insta-fabulous pictures of this island are taken later in the day, and show off the beautiful crystal clear water around it, but I was so happy we made the trek up before sunrise. We had the chance to see some of the islands residents (fat field mice that didn’t seem too concerned about our presence), a beautiful landscape of the moon and Jupiter setting over the island, and of course that unbelievably flame colored sunrise.
To get to this point was a fun journey – we were on a 2-day 1-night sleep-aboard trip, where you spend a couple of days on a boat, touring the islands and getting off for various trekking or snorkeling adventures. Our sunrise hike of Padar started when the boat captain woke us at 5 am, letting everyone know that the dingy would be making trips to shore for those who wanted to watch the sunrise form the top of the island. As we stepped onto the pebbly beach and began climbing the wooden stairs I realized that in the space of 5 minutes the sky had gone from nearly black to a light lavender, and the horizon had started to glow with the first sunlight of the day.
The trail is a stone staircase leading up the steep incline; parts of the stairs have crumbled away, leaving loose rocks and dirt to fly out under your feet if you’re not careful. I was wearing sneakers and slipped a few times, but people hike in all sorts of footwear… my particular favorite was a group of young Chinese women sporting gold gladiator sandals, platform flip-flops and some sort of jelly flat. I didn’t feel bad eavesdropping a little – they were complaining that no one told them the hike would be that difficult!
Pro Tip: Although the hike is not long and is paved with stairs, it is also rather steep at certain points. If you don’t have hiking boots, I would recommend a close-toed sneaker or a sturdy hiking sandal.
From our docking point on the beach, it took us about 30 minutes to reach the top of the island. Again, it’s not a long or particularly difficult hike, but the steep incline does get your heart pumping. Once at the top of the island, the view is absolutely worth it. Komodo Island stretches out to the west, while Rinca Island lies south east of Padar. The sunrise was spectacular, and as the sun climbed higher we had the chance to watch the light change the landscape below us from a dark mystery island into a dry, hilly savannah.
Our guide told us that there are still Komodo dragons living on the island, but I have since read that due to food scarcity there are no more on Padar. I can believe that, as the only wildlife we saw were chubby mice and little snakes and lizards; hardly enough food to keep a population of dragons satisfied. I was absolutely entranced by the island swallows as they swooped and floated on the morning ocean breezes, guided by the sharp incline of the island as it rises out of the water; they weren’t bothered by the tourists and their drones, they simply existed in that perfect space, and their freedom encouraged me to do the same.
If you’re planning a trip to Indonesia, all of the islands in Komodo National Park are worth a visit; seeing komodo dragons has been on my bucket list since I was 10, and even though Padar wasn’t on my radar back then, I’m so happy it fit into our schedule. The morning hike was invigorating, the sunrise was incredible, and the sense of peace I felt just being on top of the world and watching it come alive was indescribable. Plus, getting there was half the fun; hanging out on a boat and enjoying the sunshine is a pretty nice way to enjoy a vacation!