Labuan Bajo is a fishing town located at the western end of Flores in the Nusa Tenggara region of eastern Indonesia. Its economy is highly depending on the tourism sector. A wide range of accommodations is available along or near the beaches. Fresh seafood can be found along the harbor market and the price is simply affordable.
Taking the off beaten path by joining a local tour from Labuan Bajo and explore the famous Komodo Island and Rinca Island, home to the famous Komodo dragons.
Getting There and Around
Komodo Airport (LBJ) is located in Labuan Bajo and the main point of transit to Komodo Island, Rinca Island and other islands nearby. Domestic airlines only fly to this island and have limited flights each day, mainly flying from Jakarta and Bali (an hour journey).
Labuan Bajo is a small and remote island, therefore there is very limited transportation option. Upon arrival at the airport, private taxis and seated pick-up trucks are available. You can also check with your hotel or tour operator if they provide transportation for free or with a small fee. Most importantly, do approach any reliable and safe tour operators to Komodo National Park to see the dragons.
Taking the earliest flight from Kuala Lumpur at 7.45 am and arrive in Bali at 10.40 am by Malindo Air and transit with Indonesian local airline (Air Nam) from Bali at 2 pm to Labuan Bajo is my fastest option to get to this island.
Once my backpack is collected, a driver from the tour company takes me from Komodo Airport to Sunset Hill Hotel to check in. The hotel is situated just 10 minutes from the airport, 20 minutes to its town and has a good location to see the sunrise and sunset.
The other hotel guests and I took its free shuttle van at 6 pm into the town to have dinner. The street food near the fish market and the Meeting Point are highly recommended by the hotel receptionist, so I order a medium groupie fish with rice served with chili sauce from one of the stalls. The fish was fresh, delicious and cost only 40,000 rupiah (USD$ 3). The choices of seafood are more or less the same: fish, squids, prawns, lobsters and crabs. Later, I just wander around the street and walk around the ‘Komodo Festival’ carnival before the hotel driver picks us back to the hotel at 9 pm.
After having my breakfast and check out from the hotel, the hotel driver takes me to the town and meet up with my guide, Jun for Komodo trip at Denny Mart Kampung Ujung. I was accompanied by 7 other guests and greeted by other 3 crews on board the boat (Read more).
We depart at 10 am to the first island, takes about one hour from Labuan Bajo named Kanawa Island. It is very small and isolated, surrounded by sandy beach and crystal-clear water. There are small bungalows with a cafe and walking trail up the small hill.
After taking our lunch, our crews assist us to prepare the snorkeling gears. Although I have never done snorkeling in my life, I still manage to do just fine on the calm water just 3-4 meters depth with the help of the boat crew and wearing a life jacket. Learn to snorkel and see the coral reefs and different species of fishes make the most exciting combination. As for a beginner, it is time to take a break and get back up the dock after 30 minutes in water. Still not use to it yet, legs were tired but it’s worth the try!
We moved on to another island called Gili Lawa Barat, taking about an hour ride. Pass by the enormous Komodo Island filled with green mountains. The island is located northeast and right opposite to Komodo Island. The island is mostly seen as a desert barren savannah covered by grass and looks brown because now is the dry season.
We anchored our boat at its shore and wait until 3.30 pm before trekking up the hill to see the sunset. The journey to the top usually takes 20 minutes. However, due to the lack of trekking experience, the three ladies from my group and I took around an hour to reach with the help of our guide and his crews. We also took two breaks in between and the other groups did catch up with us. The hill was quite steep and I was only wearing sandals, do not think it is that challenging (Ouch my legs!!).
At last, we arrive early to enjoy the breathtaking view of the natural surrounding. Looking far west is an active volcano island named Sanghiang Island. I just take the pleasure to take photos and a short video, looking at the beautiful sunset as it goes down in Komodo at 5.45 pm. Jun brought his GoPro to take pictures for us as well.
Soon after sunset, we make our way down and return to the boat by taking an easier path. We were advised to use torchlight or handphone light to walk through the bushes. Leaving this island as we get to Komodo Village to rest and taking turns to shower on board. One of the crew had prepared dinner for us and was simply delicious. We also re-stock our supplies here for next day and call off the first day.
We begin the day at 6.30 am, have a light breakfast and catch the sunrise before visiting Komodo Island. We were welcomed by the friendly locals, children and our two rangers. The rangers give us a short briefing on the ‘do’s and don’t’ and safety guideline before entering the park. There is a total of 1,300 dragons living on this island.
We decided to take a mid-range trail about 3km in length. Luckily for us, we went into the male territory and saw seven of them feeding and resting. We silently walk to one of them and took pictures with it from behind.
Komodo dragons prey on deers, wild boars and rabbits, running up to 18 km/h for a short distance to catch them. They can weigh up to 80 kilograms and grow up to 3 meters in length. Once its babies hatch, they will climb up the trees to avoid eaten by predators or even THEIR OWN (Yeah, really scary!). These creatures are capable to smell the scents of blood up to 12 km away, in search of its female during the mating season.
Tips When Encounter The Dragons
- Climb up the tree
- Run as fast as you can, using big zig-zag direction that will slow them down
As we are leaving the jetty, here comes the big cruise ship carrying 450 Europeans and Americans. Fortunately, we arrive here early before this group of tourists starts to flock in, carrying those passengers with a few small ferries to the national park. I was wondering if those tourists will be afraid of the dragons or the dragons will be scared of them because of the massive crowd.
Our next attraction is Manta Point. It didn’t take long before we spot a dozen of manta rays swimming beneath us. Looking at the strong sea current and wind, I decide to stay dry and look at these gentle sea creatures from the boat while the rest did not hesitate to jump into the sea to snorkel. Apart from us, there is also another group come here to dive.
After our lunch, we have finally reach Namong Island and Pink Beach in Padar Island. Both beaches have pink sand which is formed by Foraminifera that produces red or pink light on the reef. With this hot weather at 3 pm, it is my turn to run into the calm water to cool down my body in Namong Island and sunbathing in Pink Beach. It is pretty amazing how this small shells can create such stunning beaches and exist here, one out of seven in the world.
As the sun goes down, we make our way to Kalong Island, 20 minutes away from Komodo Village. It is home to tons of flying fox and the island is surrounded by mangrove. They are harmless to humans and feed only on fruits.
We hop onto a small sampan, take us to the shore and hike up along the small bush to have a closer look at them. Some of their sizes are big. The bats usually hang on the mangroves and trees during the daytime and fly out from their nests at night until morning to search for food.
Next morning, our boat captain jump-start the engine around 5 am from the village while we are still asleep and head south to Padar Island, the third largest island in Komodo National Park. The journey takes approximately 2.5 hours to this island. There are no dragons inhabited here but is a perfect place for natural sightseeing.
The route to the hilltop is much easier compare to Gili Lawa Barat because there is a man-made path and is mostly complete, allow us to get up there in just 30 minutes. We sit at the edge of the hill and watch its fascinating landscape. Pink Beach where we went yesterday is just another side of the island.
As we hop back into the boat and have our lunch, the final stop of this trip is Kalong Island. The island is small and crowded with foreign tourists. People come here to swim or snorkel. While under the hot sun, most of us prefer to just stay on board, while others just make a quick exploration around here.
When we arrive back at the Meeting Point in Labuan Bajo, we wish each other farewell and thank the crews for making this a most memorable and adventurous trip that can never forget. Jun was very helpful as he called upon a taxi driver and take me to check-in at Sylvia Hotel and Resort, a 4-star resort. It comes with free wifi, small bungalows with private bathroom and balcony, private beach, swimming pool and a restaurant.
Today is a free and easy day. I have plenty of time before going to the airport to take my flight. After taking breakfast, spend another 30 minutes in the pool before checking out from the hotel. By 2 pm, I finally arrive back at Komodo Airport to begin my next part of my adventure in Bali.
- When visiting Komodo National Park, always walk with a park ranger to be safe from Komodo dragons and other wild animals. Never wander alone in the park
- Due to limited transportation, it is best to check with the accommodation providers for pick-up services availability, to and from airport and the town. Also, check if the tour operators can assist to make any transportation arrangements.
- Bring lots of sunblock and water to keep yourself hydrated.
- Camera is a MUST. There are full of beautiful natural sceneries.
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