Words: Ruth Ninajanty
A must-visit destination that offers more than just the excitement of encountering the endangered Komodo dragons.
Labuan Bajo is a fishing town located in the west-end of Flores. It also serves as the gate to the amazing Islands in the region,
including the world-famous Komodo Island. Despite the relatively underdeveloped access to this destination through land and sea, the Labuan Bajo airport has had an upgrade to accommodate up to 1.5 million tourists a year. A significant jump compared to the previous 150,000. Flying in from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo roughly takes about 90 minutes. Then it’s a 10-minute drive to
the port. These days the small fishing village has transformed into a busy tourist hub. Unfortunately, that development has rendered some issues to the dragons. Although they used to be at the top of the food chain and roamed free on the island,
the dragons now have to share their limited space with the incoming tourists and new infrastructures. Many have yet to realize that beyond the dragons, there are many other wonders the island has to offer. So, once you’re done with your selfie with
the lizard, step out and discover equally cool natural phenomena there.
Meeting the Dragons
The monitor lizards are usually found resting on the main island, the Komodo Island. However, it’s the furthest away from the Labuan Bajo port, requiring a four-hour boat trip as well as an overnight stay on the boat. If you don’t feel that adventurous, turn around and Rinca Island instead. With only a two-hour boat ride from the port, the island has been a popular spot to view
Komodo dragons. These giant lizards, by the way, can measure up to three meters long and usually roam alone. The Komodo National Park, which consists of 29 islands and islets including Komodo, Rinca and Padar, is home to over 5,500 Komodo
dragons. Tourists arriving to the islands are usually accompanied by Komodo Park Rangers who will guide them around the island as well as providing precautions regarding the animals.
The dragons might be the main reason why you’re in the area, but they don’t have to be the only reason. Even without Komodo dragons inhibiting the island, the picturesque nature is compelling enough for tourists to stop by and enjoy the quiet beaches or hike up the hills. One of the smaller islands, Padar, may not have Komodo dragons, but the Pink Beach there is a must-visit. It is
one of seven beaches in the planet that get their distinctive water color from microscopic animals called Foraminifera, producing red pigments on coral reefs which turn pink on white sand. Climbing up the hill to see the surrounding view can also be another insightful adventure. While you can do it on Rinca and Padar islands, there is one spot glorified by many because of its unforgettable view. Gili Lawa, located northeast of Komodo Island, is popular for sunset trekking and a place where boats stay overnight. After 20 minutes of climbing a rather steep hill, you can soak in the gorgeous coastline along with Komodo and Sanghiang island from afar. The area, as fringed by clear turquoise water, is perfect for snorkeling. Don’t just sit down and
sunbathe on the pink beach, but plunge in and see its underwater gardens with hundreds of soft and hard corals species, as well as thousands of fish. A recommended diving spot is Batu Bolong and the Tatawa islands, home to white-tip sharks and coral
In the City
Don’t take Labuan Bajo for granted because the city, like its port, also has a well-kept secret. Batu Cermin Cave is four kilometers away from the city center. Easily reachable by motorbike, it is part of an impressive rock formation, with sunlight reflected on the cave walls. Find out more about the Manggaraian culture by visiting Melo Village, spending half-day watching cultural art performances like the traditional bamboo pole-jumping game.
Originally published in 3S, May-Aug. 2017 edition.