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Gili Lawa Darat Island Trekking Adventure

Hiking Trekking Gili Lawa Darat Island

This is an article that I was supposed to post a while ago. Well, here is my personal experience of my Gili Lawa Darat Island trekking adventure in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.

First of all, where is Gili Lawa Darat Island? It is not near Gili Trawangan but is actually one of the smaller islands that belong to Komodo Island in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara. 

Also, in local Indonesia, this island is called Pulau Gili Lawa Darat. It is not as famous as Padar Island, one of the tourist magnets of Komodo National Park. 

Trekking Adventure at Gili Lawa Darat Island

Most travellers would have heard of Komodo Island or the Komodo National Park which is famed for the majestic Komodo Dragon, this is, in fact, one of the small islands that make up Komodo Island.

This island has a few other names: Gili Lawa Dara or Lawa Dara Island, but the most commonly searched name is still Gili Lawa Darat Island. 

Trekking Hiking Gili Lawa Darat Island
Trekkers heading up to the viewpoint after the sunrise.

Most boat trips or tours from Labuan Bajo will take you to Rinca, Padar and Komodo Island, and there are a few who actually offer trips to Gili Lawa Island.

The fun part about this adventure is that the trekking up to the island starts around 3.30 AM. If you go after 4.00 AM, you will miss the sunrise up here. 

Larger boats will dock just at the bay at Gili Lawa, and you need to hop on to a smaller boat to get to the start of your trek.

Before I continue, I want to inform you that there are actually two trails up to the viewpoint at Gili Lawa, and during my trip, I took the main trail which is the fastest way up.

Gili Lawa Darat Island Trek Hike
This photo was taken on the trek up to the peak at around 4.00 AM.

From the hill's foot, we make our way up the rough trail which is rocks and gravel. There are no stairs like Padar Island, and the trek up is medium to hard level. 

At 3.30 AM, you need to bring a torch or just use your smartphone torch, which is good enough. The trek up can be a little tricky, so one needs to be generally fit for hiking up the trail.

There are no handrails or steps; hence you need to be extra careful with your footing when you are trekking up. As you get higher, it tends to get a little steeper, so be warned.

To trek up Gili Lawa Island, it takes about 20 minutes for the fit people, which simply means those who trek regularly and are very fit. 

I belong the casual trekkers and took me 30 to 40 minutes with multiple breaks in between. It does get exhausting at some point towards the peak.

Once at the peak, it will be pitch dark, and this is when you take your break by finding a spot to watch the sunrise. For me, I had totally run out of breath and needed to sit for a good 10 minutes. 

Photography at Gili Lawa Darat Island

Photography Gili Lawa Darat Island
The moment light breaks through at around 5.00 AM.
After catching my breath and finishing my water, I set up my tripod and DSLR for the sunrise. Of course, there were other photographers in my group, and we started exchanging camera setting info.

By 5.00 AM, the light has started to break in the east of the island, which was the moment everyone was waiting for.

Sunrise at Komodo Island
As the sun rises, the colours clash with the blue sky and someone standing at the other peak.

I shot on both DSLR and my smartphone for the record, which was an Oppo R9s then. I now use a Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus.

As you can see from the photos, the DSLR is still superior in getting these low-light photos, and I shot away testing out different ISO and other settings.

Gili Lawa Darat Island Sunrise Photography
Sun rising at the back of the horizon.

Once the sun had come up and everyone satisfied with their photos, the focus shifted towards the opposite side where you see a top of Komodo Island across the strait.

This is another photo opportunity for landscape photographers, especially with a wide-angle lens. Unfortunately for me, I did not have one, but my smartphone did.

At the peak, a small mound serves as a posing point for the general public where people take turns to stand and pose.

Hiking Gili Lawa Island
Taking the back trail to go down Gili Lawa Island.

Trekking Down Gili Lawa Island

After spending about four hours up here, it was time to leave, and our group took the reverse way back down. This was a much safer and easier way down too. 

The alternate trails lead to the middle part of the island before looping one big round to the start point. Overall, the trek down took us another 30 to 40 minutes.

This back trail is much easier with less incline, and there are a few notable stops for more landscape photography or selfies. 

After everyone was happy, we headed back to our liveaboard boat where our next destination was more scuba diving at Komodo Island

Trekking Trail Gili Lawa Darat Island
Trekking up to the viewpoint can be difficult for beginners.

Important Tip for Trekking up Gili Lawa Island

Coming Here Early

Because of this place's popularity, I would strongly recommend you start your trek around 3.30AM because if you come late, you will miss the sunrise.

If you start early, you will probably see a few people trekking up, and they are the live-on-board or liveaboard visitors who park their boats nearby overnight. 

At about 5.00 to 5.00 AM, there will be many day-trippers from Labuan Bajo that come a little later, and they will crowd the peak area. Sometimes 20 to 30 people or even more. 

Hence if you want privacy, or a nice photo minus people, my tip is to make the live-on-board trips that come here.

For the record, there are two types of live-on-board boats. One is the scuba diving type, and the other is the general, wooden or fibreglass boats that cater to hiking trips and island visits.

Two Trekking Paths Up and Down

The main trek up is the fastest way up which takes around 30 minutes for those who are really fit, but there is another back route that is not as strenuous as the main trek. 

Talk to your boatman or guide about the trekking options if you have difficulties in steep treks. This applies to anyone who seldom treks, especially uphill. 

So if you know yourself, please do not try to be a hero and go for the main trek as you will exhaust yourself for sure.

What to Bring to Gili Lawa Island?

Gili Lawa Darat Sunrise Photo
Managed to photograph a group of people at the peak during sunrise.

As any trekker would be fully prepared, this part is based on my personal experience going up, so I will share what needs to be brought. 

After all, it is just a beautiful viewpoint with nothing up there. There are no toilets or anything, just an open-top viewpoint.

Things to Bring to Gili Lawa;

  • Proper Trekking Shoes (a must because rocks can be slippery)
  • Drinking-Water (definitely a must and bring a large bottle)
  • Snacks (energy bars or banana for those who need the energy)
  • Poncho or Raincoat (you never know when it could rain)
  • Windbreaker (for those who do not like cold)
  • Backpack (To store all your items)
  • Tripod (photographers, this is paramount)

Komodo Island Liveaboard Boat
The liveaboard boat that I used to move around Komodo Island.

What is the Best Way to Visit Gili Lawa Island?

In my opinion, staying on a liveaboard or live-on-board (LOB) is probably the best way to visit Gili Lawa Island. Most LOB's that move around the Komodo National Park will have this as an optional trip.

While you can arrange for Labuan Bajo trips, you need to know that these trips start after midnight. The best option is to talk to the tour operators in Labuan Bajo if you are interested.

Where is Gili Lawa Island? 

Location Gili Lawa Darat Island
The location of Gili Lawa Darat Island at Komodo National Park.

Gili Lawa Island is located on the Northeast of Komodo Island and is one of the smaller islands that make up the entire island.

Komodo Island is located in the Komodo National Park, which is just outside Labuan Bajo in the West part of Flores, East Nusa Tenggara.

How to go to Gili Lawa Island?

You need to fly into Labuan Bajo in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara and there are direct flights from Jakarta and Bali.

In most cases, anyone flying from Southeast Asia or worldwide will have to connect on a separate flight to Labuan Bajo.

From Labuan Bajo, you can either take a liveaboard or live-on-board package or a day trip to get to Gili Lawa Darat Island. 

If you only plan to have a 3D/2N trip to Komodo, this would be difficult as I would recommend spending at least 5D/4N in Komodo and Labuan Bajo.

I have also written a comprehensive article about getting to Komodo Island for any kind of traveller.

Komodo Live On Board Boats
One of the nicer live-on-board boats at Komodo Island  

Types of Liveabroad Packages to Gili Lawa

There are several different types of Live On Board, or Liveaboard packages available from Labuan Bajo and one needs to be careful in which you choose.

You may look at the cheaper packages for those on a serious budget, but you should take note of what you are getting and below is a rough breakdown of what is available.

Budget Live On Board / Liveaboard Boats

  • These packages usually are small wooden or fibreglass boats that provide communal sleeping areas on the boats.
  • If you are a solo or couple traveller and book a budget package, they will usually slot you with other travellers to fill up one boat.
  • These budget boats are not fully equipped for safety and other facilities. 
  • The experience is not a good one from what I was told, and this kind of budget packages usually target the local Indonesian travellers. 
  • These budget boats run on smaller noisy engines and take a much longer time to reach destinations around Komodo National Park. 
  • They take slow casual cruises in the day and park overnight at islands where you trek up early mornings.

General Liveaboard / Live On Board Boats

  • These are the much nicer LOB boats which can be wooden or fibreglass.
  • These cost much more but are very tourist-friendly with proper facilities. 
  • Individual rooms are available with washrooms, dining, and common area.
  • The crew is well trained and prepared with safety equipment.
  • Most of the time, scuba divers will opt for this category.
  • If you are travelling in a group or family, this category is highly recommended.

Luxury Liveaboard / Live On Board Boats

  • For those wanting a luxurious experience, these are catered to the high-end travellers. 
  • Boats include catamarans and other types of luxurious boats.
  • Proper rooms with airconditioning and full facilities, sometimes like hotels.
  • Hot water bathrooms, a proper chef with gourmet food, wine, and alcohol.
  • Highly-trained guides and staff on board. 

At the end of the day, you get what you pay for; therefore, it is entirely up to you on which type of experience you want to have.

What else is there to do around Komodo Island? 

Well, if you plan a 5-day trip here, there are a ton of things to be done around here. First of all, you will be staying in the main town, and I have written an article on what to do in Labuan Bajo.

Visiting Komodo National Park is the main reason you came here, to see the Komodo Dragons in their natural habitat.

Trekking up one of the most famous peaks for the incredible view is at Padar Island. I have also done an article and video of Padar Island for anyone curious.

Trust me, if you are coming all the way here, I would highly recommend spending a minimum of five days to a week here. This way, you can fully enjoy this part of East Nusa Tenggara.


Trips to Gili Lawa Island
Visitors taking photos at the peak of the island

If you have always wanted to visit the Komodo Islands or the Komodo National Park and Labuan Bajo, I will go now before it becomes the next Bali.

These islands are probably one of the up and coming destinations for nature, outdoor and even wildlife or bird watching.

Nothing beats going somewhere not as commercial as Bali and yet, get to experience some of the best adventure treks to be rewarded with incredible views.

Anyone who has plans to visit Komodo should also consider visiting Gili Lawa Darat Island for some adventure trekking.

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