Labuan Bajo

The scenic town of Labuan Bajo is located at the doorstep of the Komodo National Park. It has a natural deep harbor and is made up essentially two roads – one running alongside the shore and the other up in the hills. While it is a significant port town – it is still very rural and you won’t find any mass-tourism here, the nearest McDonalds is at least a four hundred kilometers away from here. There are hotels, there are western restaurants, but the can be counted on two hands. This is a functional, small port and trading town of only 20,000 people. Here you can enjoy the slow pace of life, small local restaurants and breathtaking sunsets over the Komodo National Park.

labuan bajo sunsets
Sunsets in Labuan Bajo

Without the mass tourism that has overtaken other parts of Indonesia –  the people here are very friendly and you can easily explore the whole town by foot in just a few hours. The food stalls have plenty of exotic treats and the many nearby islands make for great scenery. During the day you can head out for trekking and tours – but don’t forget the often overlooked Labuan Bajo diving trips!

Labuan Bajo is situated at the extreme western end of the island of Flores. Flores is one of the most rugged and beautiful islands of the Indonesian Archipelago. Its landscapes are dominated by a string of mountains and volcanoes and the island has a lot to offer for the adventurous traveler. The roads on the island are not that well developed, but they will take you along scenic rice terraces and sleepy mountain sides hamlets with small local markets. Take some time to see the surrounding mountains, waterfalls and villages.

Labuan Bajo is surrounded by small islands and the diving is good, very good. From muck dives to sites that rival those inside Komodo. All these sites are easily reached by daytrips and often completely overlooked by those seeking out the park = empty dive sites. Our Labuan Bajo diving trips are often explorations too! There are a few dozens spots we still need to check out, so feel free to join us!

Being on a steep slope, western facing and at the edge of Komodo National Park  – no visit to Labuan Bajo is complete without a sunset drink! The view is breath taking and the colors seen fill any art book. There a a few great places for this and don’t hesitate to ask the staff where to go! Before or after your trips into Komodo – you should also explore the incredible island of Flores. Joining an overland tour to see some amazing things!

The airport of Labuan Bajo is situated on the Eastern edge of the town and there are 6 daily flights departing from Bali and several to other smaller regional airports (Ende, Rutend, Maumere) . Another possibility to get here is to take a boat trip from Bali, Lombok, or Sumbawa which will take a few days.

Our boat departs to the Komodo Islands from the port of Labuan Bajo, which is right at the center of the town. From here, it is only a few minutes to the first dive sites in the area.

Labuan Bajo Sunsets
Did we mention the sunsets
Language:

In Labuan Bajo many people speak a reasonable amount of English, with Bahasa Indonesia being the main language. In the restaurants and dive shops English is the primary language. Several local languages are spoken by the different communities that make up the town – with Bugis being most common among the fisherman and Manggarai among the local inhabitants. Many basic words in Bahasa are easy to learn and use – try it out!

Currency:

Local currency is the Indonesian Rupiah.  Bank notes: 100.000, 50.000, 20.000, 10.000, 5000, 1000 rph. Coins: 500, 200, 100. (Komodo PArk is on the back of the new 50,000 notes!)

Electricity:

Electric current is 220 volt. Like much of Eastern Indonesia, the town in powered by a small diesel power plant. These are erratic and power cuts are very common.

Mobile Phones/Internet:

Depending on your provider you can use your own SIM card in most inhabited areas of Indonesia, but probably very,very expensive. If you intend to call or SMS frequently, it is best to buy an Indonesian mobile number and put the SIM card in your own phone. (ask your dealer if your phone is not ‘locked’ and will accept the Indonesian SIM card). This can be easily done in Bali and many small local phone shops. Simpati seems to provide the best coverage over the country – other services don’t work in Labuan Bajo!!! MicroSIM cards (Iphones) are uncommon and often cut by hand!

Most of Indonesia has 3g coverage and if you can, simply get an internet package for your phone. Wifi is common throughout the country and if you want an internet cafe they are called “warnet” and simply look for the kids – they love them:)

Best Time to Visit

Although you can enjoy activities throughout the year, the very best times to dive Labuan Bajo are between the months of March and October.

History

From the European historical story, Labuan Bajo was first the territory of Portuguese in the 14th to 15th century. It was already a major trading hub and out post of the Majapahit kingdom (1200-1500). Previous to this there are remains dating habitation back more than 4000 years in the nearby hills!!! With the coming of Westerners also came new religions. Currently the Island of Flores is pre-dominatnly Cathoilic, but the fishing area of Labuan Bajo is very much a muslim area – as these tend to be migrant workers. Since the opening of the Komodo National Park, Labuan Bajo is now known as the gateway to Komodo and the airport, harbor and waterfront are all being developed. International Airport status is being sought in 2014 and the new terminal should open shortly before that.

Weather

The weather in Flores, like the rest of Indonesia, is tropical and has a simple based on a wet and a dry season. What is different for Labuan Bajo – is the mountains surrounding the area which actually mean that the dry season is longer, the days are hotter and winds are a bit stronger. Thankfully, with the close proximity to the coast, there is often a cool breeze.

Even the cloudy days are beautiful
Even the cloudy days are beautiful

The wet season is commonly between December and March leaving April to November to the dry season. The surrounding mountains  reach more than 1000 meters (3300ft) and are topped with extremely wet forests. Often shrouded in clouds, these mountains are not always seen from the town. But they keep the town dry, even dusty during the busy time.

What to do in Labuan Bajo

Activities

Located adjacent to the Komodo National Park, you can not overlook this opportunity. However, the mountains surrounding Labuan Bajo are rich in history, culture and agriculture! From per-historic sites featuring Homo Floresensis and 4000 yr old megaliths, to the waterfalls spraying down coffee and clove plantations.

Where to Stay

The selection of hotels in Labuan Bajo continues to grow and improve with something to fit most budgets and tastes. There are still some flophouses right in the heart of town. If you want a bit of luxury, but not break the bank, we send most of our guests to the Bintang Flores. There are plenty of other choices and we strongly suggest you read tripadvisor reviews before booking 🙂

Getting There

The easiest and most common departure point for flights to Labuan Bajo is from Denpasar Airport – also known as Bali International Airport (DPS). International flights to Labuan Bajo (LBJ) are not currently available, so any visit requires a connecting flight. Labuan Bajo airport was upgraded in 2015-2016 and is a fine example of Indonesian development. They are now working on making the runway suitable for larger jets and then International flights.

Labuan Bajo Airport - the gateway to komodo
Labuan Bajo Airport and typical plane

As the Flights to Labuan Bajo are usually on smaller aircraft they can be quite sensitive to luggage allowances! Most Airlines limit you to 15kg (33 lbs.) but these rules are more dependent on the person at the counter than anything else. So – no matter how difficult – smile and be courteous, it helps! The excess weight prices are very reasonable at about 10,000idr (about $1) per kilo…so don’t stress!

With 6 or more daily flights between Bali and Labuan Bajo the selection is pretty good. Nearly all flights are in the morning and this can make connecting arrival flights difficult, but can make for a very fast departure! However, cancellations and last minute changes can – and do – occur. During rainy season this is guaranteed! But Indonesian airlines take a very different approach to schedules and communication to guests. Please re-check your flights the day before departure – you may even find your flight leaving 1-2 hours earlier than expected. Good humor and patience will serve you far better in preparing for the flights than rigid expectations! Please build into any connecting flights a good buffer for Indonesian time.

It is also a rather frustrating issue that no domestic airline in Indonesia accepts credit cards. You will almost certainly need to book with an Indonesian travel agent. This can be somewhat daunting from the outside, but if you need hep we are happy to direct to a couple of reliable agents. While not a great plan, most seats on flights are available to purchase at the airport. The exception will be major holidays (Ramadan) and the Summer months of July and August.

Labuan Bajo is currently served by:

  • Garuda
  • Wings/Lion Air
  • Nam Airways
  • Kalstar

We recommend using Garuda in all instances. the higher price is rewarded by timely flights, potential refunds and customer service. You can check flights by using www.skyscanner.co.id