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Labuan Bajo

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Asia : Southeast Asia : Indonesia : Nusa Tenggara : Flores : Labuan Bajo
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Map of Labuanbajo, Flores Island, Indonesia

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.

Get in

By plane

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 [1], TransNusa [2] and Wings Air (Lionair) [3] 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 [4] provide services originating in Bali and stopping on route in Lombok in both directions of travel.

The Labuan Bajo Airport [5] 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.

By boat

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

  • The ferry from Sape (Rp 46,000) runs daily, and usually arrives around 14:00.
  • A number of companies organise 4 days/3 nights boat trips from Lombok or Bali to Flores for around Rp 1,550,000. You sleep on the deck on thin mattresses (less than 1 inch thick, but you get used to it). No matter where you book the trip from, you will be shuttled to the eastern coast of Lombok with bus/ferry transfers before getting on the boat.
  • The Perama tour [6] is a well advertised trip running 4 days/3 nights from Lombok to Labuan Bajo, and 3 days/2 nights the other way. This sets itself apart from the others by having private (2 person) cabins. Prices are cabin/deck Rp 2,600,000/2,000,000 Lombok-Labuanbajo and Rp 1,800,000/1,300,000 the other way. Be aware of the safety records of these boats
  • Pelni ships arrive from Makassar or Lombok.Pelni has two ships calling on Labuanbajo every 2 weeks. Tilongkbila departs for Bima, Lembar (Lombok, 24 hr) and Benoa (Bali) every other Thursday and returns the following Sunday to go to Makassar and other destinations in Sulawesi. Willis departs for Bima - Benoa - Surabaya every other Saturday and returns Saturday one week later to go east to Marapokot and Maumere.
  • There is a car ferry running weekly (as of September 2012) between Labuanbajo and Bira in Southern Sulawesi, leaving Labuanbajo on Tuesdays and leaving Bira on Sundays. The journey takes two nights and one day, and has stops on the way.

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.

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

  • Caves
  • Surrounding beaches
  • Island tours
  • Komodo Dragons
  • Kanawa Island
  • Diving in the national park

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 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.

Diving

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.

  • Reefseekers. Friendly and professional Scottish run scuba shop. Prices are the standard Rp 800,000 for 2 dives including lunch and equipment, discounts for multiple days. Fantastic marine biology lectures set this one apart. Great service as well, and small groups.

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) [7] 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.

Thousands of Flying Fox Bats emerge from Kalong Island at dusk

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 Coto Makassar place.

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

  • The Corner. Seafood restaurant.
  • Pesona. Standard menu of western menu and seafood.
  • MadeinItaly, [8]. If you are Italian, the food served here might remind you of home. Pizza, pasta, risotto, antipasti or tiramisu; if it's Italian, they have it. It is, however, fairly upscale, and eating here every day would be a strain on your budget.
  • Treetop. Undoubtedly the best view in town. And if that's enough for you, read no further. The menu is extensive with tons of Chinese and Western dishes. But not everything is always available, and they won't always let you know in advance, so don't be surprised if you get something else than what you ordered. Luckily, they have free WiFi to pass the time while you wait for your food surprise.

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.

  • Paradise Bar, (10 min walk north from the centre of town). The only bar that is open until late and has a fantastic view of the sunset. Every Saturday (at least) there is live music till late night, though don't get high expectations about their taste in cover songs. Paradise also serves pretty decent food.
  • The Lounge. The default place for a sundowner. Anker beer is the best-seller, (Rp 27,000-25,000 + tax). They also serve cocktails and food until 23:00. Shisha is available, try the apple/mint flavor for that freshmaker feeling.
  • Mediterraneo. Good sunset view, also for the food.

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

  • Gardena Hotel Once the default budget place, the hotel now offers new bungalows on the top of the hill with great view. The old rooms, while falling apart are big with old beds, mosquito nets and private bathrooms in a shared wooden bungalow setting. The hotel also runs the resort on Seraya Kecil Island (Rp 250,000); a stay on the island (2 nights minimum) can be booked at the front desk. Rp 150,000-250,000.
  • Surya Hotel. Excellent good value choice. Spotlessly clean tiled rooms, brand new with bathrooms and fan or A/C set around a charming flowered little courtyard with ever present helpful staff. 10 min walk out of town, which is why it is such good value. Rp 150,000-250,000.
  • Bajo Beach Hotel. checkout: 12. The beach part, is purely marketing. However, it's clean and well-run, with the rooms of similar size and price to Gardena, it is worth checking out before putting down your bags at either. They are among the few that have (broken) western toilets. For an extra Rp 250,000 you can get a room with A/C. Rp 150,000.
  • Hotel Matahari. The restaurant has great views of the bay, and the rooms are located below it in two floors. The upper rooms still views and some sunshine, but the downstairs do not. Mosquito nets are provided and needed. Fairly dingy and dirty in parts but good airflow and nice lower deck for sunset watching. Rp 100,000-150,000 with own toilet and shower, inc breakfast).
  • Komodo Indah. Tiled, somewhat musty rooms with big bathrooms (Rp 150,000) or similar rooms with shared bathroom (100,000 Rp). The sole shared bathroom is shared by many, though, has no shower, and occasionally doesn't even have water. The beds are comfortable. There are no mosquito nets but there are not too many mosquitos. Add Rp 50,000/night for A/C. Rp 100,000-150,000.


Mid-Range

  • Golo Hilltop Hotel. To get away from the noise the Golo Hill Top Hotel is excellent with great views and a delightful new pool. Standard rooms are fan-only, and the wall fan is in an odd position which limits its effectiveness. Food comparable to the Gardena but great service. It is a 5-10 min walk to town down the hill - the road is terrible but the walk is not too bad, even on the way back up (best to carry a torch at night). Rp 250-450,000.
  • Green Hill Hotel. Boutique hotel (whatever that means) with A/C and big bathrooms. The service will netiher offend nor impress you and the problems they encounter (such as power cuts) are truly not their fault. However, the price tag this place comes with might make you expect more. However, if you want a reliable option and are willing to pay for that, this is your place. Rp 450,000.
  • Chez Felix, (Down the main road, turn left at the Warnet and up the hill). The Felix Hotel (Rp 250,000) is new and hits a sweet spot between quality and price. Mainly because it's new and clean.

Splurge

  • Bintang Flores, (10 min drive south of dusty Labuan Bajo), [9]. It's so so. US$100-250.
  • The Jayakarta Suites Komodo Flores, Jalan Pantai Pede Km 5, Labuan Bajo, Flores, +623852443688, [10]. Located only 10 minutes by car from Komodo Airport. Check for the rooms and facilities in their website. Breakfast is awesome. They provide a professional diving club, Orca Dive. It's worth to try! US$60-200.

Contact

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.

Get out

  • 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. There are big dragons that are often right in front of the pier when people arrive.
  • Kanawa Island (Pulau Kanawa) is surrounded by spectacular reefs with thousands of fish species, turtles, corals and reef sharks. Sometimes it is possible to see some mantas just around the arrival jetty. Snorkeling around Kanawa has been nominated as one of the best in all south east Asia. Kanawa island is 10 km away from Labuan Bajo (about 1hr with a local boat or 10 min with speed boat) and located just at the borders of Komodo National Park. on Kanawa there is a small bungalow resort, designed for travelers, complete of PADI diving centre, restaurant, cinema on the beach etc... possible to visit the national park directly from there with wooden boats. Reef around Kanawa is protected, so fishing is not allowed, but the restaurant provides fabulous fresh seafood coming form the nearby fisherman island. Turtles love to hatch on the beach just next to the restaurant. It is possible to camp on the island, bring your own tent or rent one on the spot.
  • Seats on 12-seater "Travel Buses" to Ruteng, Bajawa, Ende, Moni, Maumere etc can be arranged through the Perama office on the main street - the price usually includes pick-up from your hotel.


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