I spent ages trying to work out who to tour with on Komodo. We were only there for a day, arriving via P&O cruise ship, Pacific Eden on 1 June 2017. We'd been told (a) you had to have an approved tour booked or we wouldn't be allowed off the ship, (b) P&O cruise shore tours would be given first preference on tenders off the ship. Needless to say I was a little nervous and was looking for a tour operator who'd dealt with these conditions.
I'd read reviews that said don't pay until you've done your tour, there can be a risk of not getting off the ship if the seas are too rough. Yet P&O demand to see tour booking confirmation, paid receipt/invoice and list of all people in the tour group. Maxi, who runs www.dragonislandtours.com, is well-versed in cruise ship requirements and was more than happy to provide these documents including showing payment made (though we only paid cash at the end of our amazing day with his team).
Our group was 15 people off the ship, none of whom myself or my husband had met before. As such we all arrived on different tenders. Maxi's team had signs with our names and were prepared to start the walk early with one group so as not to keep anyone waiting. The P&O tour was noted as requiring a high level of fitness, which I didn't think I could do. Maxi offered alternatives for our group of doing the short, medium or long walk as well as whether we wanted to climb a hill for a view back over the bay to our ship. They assisted me with the climb, stopped when required for me to rest and then helped me all the way down.
Being in a smaller group who didn't have to follow a set tour path meant we were one of the few groups to see Komodo Dragons just ambling along, outside the water hole area. Florian, one of Maxi's team, was extremely knowledgeable about the dragons as well as plants on the island. Our national park tour ranger, Rahman, was also a wonderful wealth of information and always on the look out for things to show us, as well as being on guard with his stick.
Maxi provided drinks for all our group both before and after the walk. After the walk, we then walked down to the jetty and out to his boat which was motored around to pink beach, about 20 mins from Komodo Island. They had awesome beanbags up top which we enjoyed resting in whilst we motored to the bay.
Granted, pink beach was crowded - mainly with other passengers from our cruise ship on their own or P&O shore tour cruises. Another benefit to not doing the P&O tour (apart from being cheaper) was that we had the whole day and could choose to move on to the beach and snorkel for as long as we wanted. Maxi had great snorkelling masks and flippers of all sizes. We took a small local boat (rickety!) into the shore and then we were off our snorkelling. There were hawkers on the beach mainly selling freshwater strings of pearls, but Maxi's guys stayed with our gear whilst another came out with us snorkelling to show us the best spots and make sure everyone was comfortable. You do have to keep watch for the local boats going to and from the beach dropping people off or picking up. With so many boats and with the current, there was unfortunately a lot of sediment in the water so not the clearest. However, the fish and corals were still wonderful and the water beautifully warm.
On return to the boat, Maxi's team who'd stayed on board had cooked us up a fabulous feed of local foods - a chicken curry, tofu with noodles, fried rice, chilli fish - enough to have as much as you wanted and water and soft drink to wash down.
We were dropped back at Komodo Island jetty and each given a bag of local Flores coffee as a thank you.
I can't recommend Maxi and his team at Dragon Island Tours highly enough if you're off to Komodo. They have a range of other tours available if you're lucky enough to have more time in Flores and surrounds.