Labuan Bajo

Thousands of Flying Fox Bats emerge from Kalong Island at dusk

Once a small fishing village, Labuan Bajo (also spelled Labuhanbajo and Labuanbajo) in Flores is now a busy bustling epicenter of tourism. It is the launching point for trips to Komodo Island and Rinca Island, home to the famous Komodo dragons. While Labuan Bajo draws plenty of tourists, it is nevertheless quite a small town that runs along one main road, making it easy to navigate.

Nearby Seraya Island is a great opportunity to do some diving and snorkeling and every evening at Kalong Island thousands of flying fox bats put on an amazing display.

Get in

By plane

Komodo Airport is 2 km out of town. The upturn in tourism has meant that ojeks can only be taken if you walk outside the airport and taxi drivers charge set rates of 50,000 IDR one way for this short journey. If all else fails, it's a 20-minute downhill walk.

TransNusa and Wings Air (Lionair) all fly from Denpasar, and Kalstar provides daily flights between them. Most flights continue to either Ende H. Hasan Aroeboesman Airport, Maumere Fransiskus Xaverius Seda Airport in eastern Flores or Kupang in West Timor. Sky Aviation provides services originating in Bali and stopping on route in Lombok in both directions.

Labuan Bajo Airport is now large and new but as yet unfinished, with a single short runway. For all flights you will need to pay a domestic departure tax of Rp 11,000. Don't expect to be able to buy a ticket at the last minute. Even if the planes aren't full, the travel agents and ticket offices aren't always open to take your money. There are agents available - back in Labuan Bajo. There are small cafes downstairs at the airport that serves the most simple of drinks and snacks.

By boat

The port in Labuan Bajo is in the town, and everywhere is reached within a 5-10 minutes walk.

All the tour boats have the same program of snorkelling, trekking and komodo dragon watching, stopping at the same stunning reefs, beaches and waterfalls along the way. For years there have been rumors of safety issues on these boats. However, so far all these rumors have been just that. There are, however, many who remark on the noise (on all boats), so bring earplugs and don't expect any deep, meaningful conversations while the engine is running.

By bus

Buses from Ruteng and Bajawa stop and depart in the centre of town near the school. Buses from Lombok; see Flores (Indonesia)#Get in.

Get around

The town is quite small and can easily be traversed on foot (in 10-15 minutes). Ojeks (Rp 3,000-5,000) and bemos pass every 5 minutes if you get tired of walking. You can rent a motorcycle for Rp 75,000/per day.

See

Do

Komodo National Park encompasses a lot of water and islands west of Labuanbajo. If you want to go to Rinca or Komodo islands, or dive in the park you will have to buy a 1 day park pass for US$15 during the weekdays or $18 at weekends. Money from such user fees is collected by the local government and is supposed to go into conservation efforts.

Rinca Island (Indonesian: Rinca Kecil or Pulau Rinca) is a more convenient place to see Komodo Dragons than Komodo island. Some dive operators might be convinced to combine a stop at the island with a days diving - otherwise charters can be arranged, or walk along the main street of Labuan Bajo and some tour agencies may be advertising places on an existing charter. There are big dragons that are often right in front of the pier when people arrive. On arrival a guide will escort you to the park office where you will be relieved of a range of fees, then you can choose a 1 or 2 hour hike. Presumably if you had a pass from Komodo, you would be exempt from at least some of those fees.

Diving

A manta ray in the Komodo National Park

The Komodo National Park offer dozens of very pristine dive sites, with many migratory pelagics, vibrant reefs- making it one of the world’s richest marine habitats. The Park is located just offshore and easily reached by liveaboard operators, although daytrips may take two hours or more in each direction. Check that your dive operator is reputable, has safety equipment onboard and if possible is a member of the local dive association who have strict minimum safety requirements for their members.

There are many dive operators that offer dive courses, fun dives and 3 day live aboards. They have fixed pricing for fun dives at Rp 1,200,000 per day incl. 2 dives, full equipment and lunch (Rp 1,500,000 for three dives. Choose one of the Dive Association dive centers for the newest equipment, experienced guides and safety equipment onboard. It is true the currents around Komodo can be quite strong and some sites are unsuitable for beginners, however if you dive with a reputable company, in a small group, with an experienced guide and at the less current swept sites there is no reason even Open Water divers shouldn't be able to enjoy the diving !

Snorkelling

Labuan Bajo is the most convenient point from which to go snorkelling in the Komodo National Park. The snorkeling within the park offers many opportunities to see pristine reefs with some of the greatest fish and coral diversity in the world.

Other

Seraya Island (Indonesian: Pulau Seraya) is little more than a small, arid island outside of the Komodo National Park with a few bamboo huts for tourist lodging, a restaurant, and some villagers who let their goats graze on vegetation. The island’s cove is protected from the sea, providing calm and clear water for snorkelling. At low tide the coral is exposed and local fishermen walk on the reef in search of prey. Rowboats can be rented and taken to nearby islands for snorkelling and diving. Make sure to run up to the top of the hill behind the resorts and check out the sunset. The lodges on the island do have showers, but running water is only available a few hours a day.

One of the more spectacular displays of nature in the area is at Kalong Island (Indonesian: Pulau Kalong; also spelt Kalung), which literally means "Flying Fox Island." The name is quite appropriate as the island is home to thousands of Kalong, or giant flying fox bats. Boats to Kalong can be chartered from Labuanbajo for around Rp 300,000 for a return ride, including a snorkelling stop at a nearby island before you reach Pulau Kalong. Your boat will be moored next to the mangrove island and at dusk literally tens of thousands of flying foxes emerge from the mangrove island and move over your boat towards Rinca Island. For the entire colony to emerge will take roughly 20 min of continuous waves of bats passing over your boat. The boat ride to/from Labuanbajo will take roughly one hour. This trip can also be packaged into a one day tour together with (for example) a visit of Rinca Island and some snorkelling in the area.

Buy

There are currently three ATMs in town which belong to the BNI bank and can deliver up to Rp 2,500,000 per transaction in Rp 100,000 or Rp 50,000 notes, but also a few other banks and one money changer. There is a bad rate, so better change enough money before coming here.

Shops selling tourist trinkets, local fabric, and Komodo Dragon carvings are located in the center of town. Western products of varying quality are available in the toko or kiosk alongside the roads.

Consider taking a trip to the market early in the morning to purchase local coffee, spices, or just to look over a wealth of local produce and goods.

Eat


Choose from a variety of Indonesian, Chinese, and Western restaurants on the main road. There are also many masakan padang places along the main road, which are worth checking out for an inexpensive and filling meal. Opposite the TransNusa office there is a Soto Makassar place. As a tourist place some cheating takes place: some restaurants add 10% "service tax" to the bill. Other restaurants refuse to give change less of than 1000 rupiah. Insist on exact change.

Everything is on the main road. From north to south you have...

Drink


Beer (Rp 20,000) and Arak is available from the supermarkets and some of the shops around town. You can get the local moonshine (Arak), however, it resembles paint thinner, and it's not unlikely that you will go blind if it is contaminated with methyl alcohol.

Sleep


There is plenty of accommodation to choose from in Labuanbajo. And with tourism growing exponentially, new places are springing up constantly. The cheapest places are the local homestays (Penginapan) near the ferry port. However, practice your Indonesian first.

Listed from north to south, here are some of the hotels. All places include breakfast, but to some breakfast merely translates into a cup of coffee. Ask first to avoid disappointment.

Budget


Mid-range


Splurge

Connect

Internet cafes along the main road are plentiful, and their connections are all generally the same at 1 Mbit/s which is fine for Skype and youtube. The Warnet in the south has the newest hardware, and most places have headsets for Skype.

All restaurants mentioned above have free Wi-Fi.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 06, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.