Earth : Asia : Southeast Asia : Indonesia : Nusa Tenggara : Flores (Indonesia) : Labuan Bajo
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.
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.
The Airport Komodo is located 2 km out of town. The upturn in tourism has made the Ojeks and taxi drivers charge extortionate rates. Hold your ground and someone will take you and your heavy bags to the town for 5,000 Rp. per person. If all else fails, it's a 20 minutes downhill walk.
Indonesia Air Transport (IAT), Merpati Airlines , TransNusa  and Wings Air (Lionair)  all fly from Denpasar, providing almost 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  provide services originating in Bali and stopping on route in Lombok in both directions of travel.
The Labuan Bajo Airport  is small, with a single short runway and a simple arrivals and departure area. 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 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 is a small cafe outside the airport that serves drinks and snacks.
The port in Labuan Bajo is located 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.
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.
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 3 day park pass for US$15. 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 totalling 90,000Rp, plus guide fee of 50,000Rp, 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.
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.
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 800,000 per day incl. 2 dives, full equipment and lunch (Rp 2,200,000 for 3 days). Choose one of the newer dive centers for the newest equipment, one of the older for the most experience. All are quite safe and know what they are doing, however, the currents around Komodo can be quite strong, and are not for beginners.
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.
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.
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.
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 Coto Makassar place.
Everything is located on the main road. From north to south you have...
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.
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.
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 wifi.