10 Ultimate Guide to Labuan Bajo & Komodo
Labuan Bajo a few years ago, the beautiful island of Flores in eastern Indonesia was still an insider tip among travelers to Indonesia. Meanwhile, Flores is one of the most popular destinations in the largest island kingdom in the world alongside Bali, Java, and Lombok.
The tourist center is the port of Labuan Bajo in the west of Flores. From here you can visit the Komodo National Park, the only place in the world where the legendary Komodo dragons (Komodo Dragons) can be experienced in the wild.
Besides the kites, diving around Flores is the biggest tourist attraction. The Komodos underwater world is considered one of the best diving areas in the world: beautiful, intact coral reefs, exciting currents, close encounters with majestic manta rays, and incredible biodiversity characterize this area.
1. Fast facts about Labuan Bajo
The place is idyllically situated on a hilly coast with numerous bays – spectacular sunsets are included with your stay!
Basically, only the one-way main street of Labuan Bajo is relevant for travelers, along which the port and almost all diving providers, restaurants, travel agencies and budget accommodation are located. The more luxurious hotels are more along the Pede and Wae Cicu beaches .
You can find our Best Komodo Dragons Island Tour
2. The Komodo National Park
The Komodo National Park was founded in 1980 as a protected area for Komodo dragons , but later expanded to include the entire flora and fauna – including the underwater world.
The best way to experience the Komodo dragons in the wild is on the islands of Rinca and Komodo . Many providers organize day trips there – mostly combined with a visit to the picturesque island of Padar and the famous Pink Beach .
The diving centers in Labuan Bajo organize excursions that can often be combined with diving (two dives and an afternoon hike to the Komodo Dragons on one of the islands – whether Komodo or Rinca depends on the season).
You can not explore the islands without a ranger – because the dragons are not without danger! The rangers like to share their knowledge of these fascinating creatures.
In addition to the Komodo dragons, monkeys , water buffalos , deer and rare bird species also live on the islands in the national park .
The biodiversity of Komodos is amazing, especially under water. Komodo is located in the so-called coral triangle : one of the areas with the greatest biodiversity in the sea.
Fishing is prohibited here. However, the villages in the national park have special permits in designated areas.
The scenic highlights of the park include Pink Beach , a beach with a pink sandy beach on Komodo Island and a beautiful coral reef offshore. Trekking on the island of Padar , whose rugged cliffs look ancient, is one of the most popular excursions from Labuan Bajo.
3. Diving around Labuan Bajo
Labuan Bajo has more than 30 dive centers and liveaboards , most of which operate their dive centers along the main road. Basically, prices, quality and equipment of the boats are similar.
Komodo is a challenging diving area and the dive centers will ask guests about their certification, number of dives and experience in drift diving .
Some dive sites – especially those in the north – are not suitable for beginners when the current is strong, but the other spots are often very good alternatives.
The area is diverse and there is something for every taste: Dive sites with dramatic topography, beautiful coral gardens and an almost incredible number of different tropical fish, drift dives with manta rays and sharks, but also “Muck Dives” with fascinating “critters” can be found in Komodo.
A. Explore the Komodo National Park on the liveaboard
A particularly attractive way of experiencing the national park are the liveaboards (diving safaris), the prices of which vary depending on the equipment and duration of the trip but are often quite comparable to day trips. In this case, you no longer have to pay for food and accommodation.
The advantage of the Liveaboards is the better timing of the dive sites , that is: At many dive sites you dive almost alone, you can do night dives and reach dive sites that are too far from the mainland for day boats.
Also snorkelers are welcome on the dive boats, but alternatively pure Snorkelling trips can be booked at the Reisevaranstaltern along the main road. Many dive sites are not deep and also interesting for snorkelers. The “ Makassar ” manta point, for example, the dive site in the national park with the highest manta probability, is only about 10 meters deep!
Alternatively, snorkelers can also book pure snorkeling trips with the tour operators along the main road.
B. Our dive provider recommendations for Labuan Bajo
But also as a day tripper you can enjoy spectacular dives, don’t worry!
The Liveaboards Wunderpus Liveaboard and Blue Marlin are also highly recommended. Blue Marlin is a diving chain that also has bases on Bali and the Gili Islands.
All diving centers that are members of the DOCK organization (“Dive Operators Community Komodo”) are committed to the highest safety standards, fair wages and working conditions and support the environmental protection organizations Trash Hero .
Active members of DOCK include:
- Blue Marlin Dive
- Neren diving
- Wicked diving
- About Scuba
- Scuba junkie Komodo
- Wunderpus diving
- Dive Komodo
- Flores Diving Center
- Komodo Dive Center
4. Restaurants and warungs in Labuan Bajo
For a small town, Labuan Bajo has a remarkable number of delicious and varied restaurants and warungs.
Fresh fish fans can try the catch of the day at the night market – the
best place to go is the stall that is furthest away from the fish market building,
as the locals recommend this.
Excellent Indonesian food with lots of vegetarian options is available at Warung Mama on the main street. Along the street there are some other warungs that offer super Indonesian food for little money.
Our favorite shop
Indonesian, Western and also vegan food is available at any time of the day in a gem in Labuan Bajo: The quiet and idyllic location and Molas Café & Spa offers not only very good cuisine and great operators and employees, but also a wonderful and cozy atmosphere as well as a pool. Here guests can relax by the pool all day.
Great nature documentaries are shown on a screen, and film evenings are held once a week. If you want to treat yourself to a massage or another treatment, you can indulge yourself in the Molas Spa – the full body massage and the hair spa are highly recommended.
Sushi, healthy bowls with fresh fish , great juices and much more are available in the Happy Banana , as well as DJ performances and air conditioning.
Those who want to eat Italian are well advised with the Made in Italy and the Mediterraneo – both offer more sophisticated Italian cuisine in a particularly nice setting. Our secret favorite among Italians, however, is La Cucina , where you can enjoy Italian home cooking with a view of the sea at an excellent price-performance ratio.
Those who want dinner entertainment will find what they are looking for at Le Pirate , where there is delicious Western and Indonesian food with live music and occasional movie nights .
Coffee lovers come in Labuan Bajo in cafe.in.hit and Catur’z Kopi club their money.
The Bamboo Café opened in summer 2018 and offers not only very good coffee, but also healthy bowls , Indonesian food and fresh juices.
The best bread Labuan Bajos, as well as delicious breakfasts, muffins and cakes, are available in the Bajo Bakery , and in the Bajo Taco next door you can get hearty TexMex cuisine as well as the cheapest cocktails in the place as well as exciting homemade schnapps with or made from fresh fruit.
With the Casa Selini , also on the main street, Labuan Bajo even has a Greek restaurant with delicious pita breads .
The more remote restaurant Atlantis on the Rock from the Plataran Resort Komodo is open to in-house guests as well as to external guests. There is an absolutely fantastic view of the sunset here!
5. Sunset alert in Labuan Bajo
What Labuan Bajo definitely can do: sunsets !
Almost every day you think: “It can’t get any better”, and then you are surprised again.
The most spectacular sunsets in Labuan Bajo can be enjoyed in the Paradise Bar on a hill just outside, which also offers one of the few nightlife options in town. On Saturdays, there is dancing to live music and DJ sounds until the wee hours.
On the roof terrace of the Ciao Hostel, there are drinks, good food, and an incredibly good view of the sunset! The only challenge: The (short) way to get there is steep and not manageable with some scooters. It is best to test it beforehand or have it brought up by a scooter taxi (Ojek). It is worth the journey! At night, however, we would not recommend female travelers to use an Ojek alone.
Next to the Ciao Hostel is the La Cecile Hotel , which offers the same great view.
If you don’t want to drive out of Labuan Bajo, you can also enjoy the sunset from various restaurants and bars on the main street. It’s nice to sit in the Blue Marlin restaurant or on the terrace of La Cucina
6. Excursions and tours around Labuan Bajo
A. Waterfalls around and Labuan Bajo
Not far from Labuan Bajo there are two scenic waterfalls .
But you should be able to swim really well! Please don’t (!) Swim past the waterfall. If the current is too strong, there is no chance of coming back (see also reader comment at the end of the article).
The second waterfall is called Cunca Rami and is a few kilometers away. Here you hike through forest and rice fields and then you are rewarded with a great view.
B. Caves around Labuan Bajo
There are also caves in the vicinity of Labuan Bajo.
Batu Cermin Cave is just five minutes from the village .
The spectacular Gua Rangko cave can only be reached by boat – the travel agents in Labuan Bajo can organize the visit.
These excursions can also be done on your own with mopeds (be careful!), Unfortunately there is often no usable signage. Passers-by are happy to help, but only a few people speak English in the villages.
C. Viewpoints around Labuan Bajo
On the peninsula at Wae Cicu there are great viewpoints (“Amelia Sea View” or “Bukit Amelia Sea”).
You take the coastal road up the hill, past the Paradise Bar and the Hotel Golo Hilltop. If the road turns right, continue straight along the coast until you reach the hills.
There you can enjoy the sunset wonderfully!
D. Excursions to the Komodo National Park
If you want to visit Komodo National Park without diving , you can plan these trips with the countless tour operators along the main road, usually the operators of the hotels in Labuan Bajo organize such trips.
These trips are available in different variations, for example as day trips or multi-day cruises on ships and “boats” of different sizes and equipment classes.
E. Pools around Labuan Bajo
Those who cannot afford a hotel with a swimming pool , but still need to cool down: Many hotels with a pool allow day guests to use their swimming pools and sun loungers for an entrance fee – or simply by consuming drinks or food .
In the Atlantis Beach Club, for example, the use of the pool is free of charge if you consume food or drinks there.
The same applies to the Molas Café (see above in the article).
Villa Domanik on the outskirts of the city is new since 2018 and offers a beautiful pool with a view.
F. Beaches around Labuan Bajo
The beaches of Labuan Bajos – Pede and Wae Cicu – are unfortunately hardly recommendable, since there is a lot of rubbish everywhere, although Wae Cicu is a bit cleaner.
However, there are a few fantastic islands in the area with accommodations that day trippers can also visit:
- The Seraya
- Le Pirate Island
- Kanawa Island Resort (This island getaway is said to have become significantly more expensive and worse at the same time – many tour boats go there for a small beach stop)
8. Flores Overland tours
In Flores’s traditional villages ( e.g. Wae Rebo ), beautiful volcanoes and lonely beaches are waiting to be discovered – not to mention the warm people who live here, cultivate their cultural traditions and guarantee every tourist the feeling of being an absolute superstar be.
Flores is wonderful to explore on buses and Bemos – but with Tour Guide you have the advantage of being able to understand the country and its people better, especially if you don’t speak Indonesian (many old people here don’t speak Indonesian at all, just their local languages).
There is also the limited possibility to cross Flores by scooter, but since the rental mopeds have to be transferred again (unless you want to drive back the route yourself), this can only be planned with local help. A good starting point for this is the Lena House Flores in Maumere and the Divers Paradise Komodo in Labuan Bajo.
Flores east-west tour
Flores offers a unique variety of landscapes and cultures. From east to west (or vice versa) you can explore dreamlike beaches, breathtaking underwater worlds, culturally interesting villages, volcanoes, hot springs, waterfalls, and the impressive Komodo Marine Park.
9. The downside of the coin
As beautiful as the development of this beautiful region is – it has a downside.
The city will get a modern marina, which will be built as a huge building directly at the port of Labuan Bajo and will serve as a hotel and shopping mall.
In a second stage of construction, another building will be located – on the site of the current local fish market, where the fishermen sell their catch of the day.
It is sad to see how a small village becomes such a mega project.
10. Practical information about Labuan Bajo: travel time and health
A. The best time to visit Labuan Bajo
The best time to travel is from the beginning of May to the end of October when there is always a dry season and the winds are less strong. However, this cannot be predicted exactly: in 2016 it rained heavily into June.
During the rainy season, especially in December and January, there are increased cases of dengue fever. In 2018, the Siloam Hospital was full of sick people. If you travel to Labuan Bajo during the rainy season, you should definitely pay attention to mosquito protection around the clock (even at night in bed). Mosquitoes are rarely found in rooms with air conditioning, but due to the warm, humid climate, they buzz around everywhere else.
If you come to Labuan Bajo primarily because of the manta rays, you should adjust your travel times a little. The gentle giants can basically be seen almost all year round in the national park, but the most frequent sightings of large groups take place in the winter months. From October / November to May the probability is significantly higher. Particularly exciting: Mantas is mating season in November / December!
Due to the local weather conditions, the dive sites in the south of Komodo are only approached from around November, the spots in the north often offer poorer conditions and visibility in winter.
B. Arrival in Labuan Bajo
1. By plane
The easiest way to get to Labuan Bajo from Bali is by taking an approximately one-hour flight .
This route is flown by the following airlines: Wings Air, Nam Air, Kalstar, Transnusa and Garuda Indonesia. Definitely book a window seat, the landing approach is spectacular!
2. By bus
If you have a tight budget but have a lot of time, you can also travel publicly , for example from Mataram in Lombok . This takes about 24 hours (cost point 2015: IDR 350,000) and includes buses, ferries, bemos and long waiting times – and no sleeping facilities.
3. With the ferry
The Pelni ferries, which also have cabins, are somewhat more convenient, but only run once a week or every 10 days (from Benoa / Bali or Ampenan / Lombok, but also from Makassar / Sulawesi). The timetable will be published on the Pelni website approximately 6 weeks in advance .
4. With the boat
Backpackers are very popular with 4-day boat trips from the Gili Islands or Senggigi to Lombok, where you can sleep on deck or in the cabins, make snorkeling stops and also visit the Komodo dragons.
Many travelers are very enthusiastic about these ship trips, but make sure you have the safety equipment of the boats in advance – there have already been ship accidents here.
The absolute minimum equipment includes life jackets and a mobile marine radio. The favorite among our readers is the boat trip from Perama Tours
C. Medical care in Labuan Bajo
Basic medical care is available in the new Siloam Hospital, in the “Puskesmas” (a small clinic) and at some doctors and pharmacies. For all serious cases you have to go to Bali at least.
Since 2018 there is a decompression chamber in Labuan Bajo for possible diving accidents. Specialized diving doctors are still only available on Lombok and Bali. For this reason, diving is conservative in Komodo.
It makes sense to take out travel health insurance .
D. Religion and etiquette on Flores
The majority of Flores’ population is Christian, and many Muslims also live in port cities such as Labuan Bajo. At festivals such as Christmas, Muslims decorate the streets with Christians, in cities like Ruteng there is a motorcycle parade with fireworks at the end of Ramadan, in which Christians also take part.
At weddings it is completely normal to offer a halal buffet for Muslim friends. Respect and tolerance are lived here on a large and small scale every day. Traditions are capitalized, the mood is warm, but believing and conservative.
It is absolutely frowned upon to run around in short shorts and a bikini top (or for the boys: without a T-shirt).
As everywhere in Indonesia, authorities such as the Immigration Office (Kantor Imigrasi) do not welcome you in shorts and flip-flops.
The locals are incredibly friendly, happy, curious and talkative.
Older men are respectfully addressed with “Om” (“uncle”), women with “Tanta” (“aunt”). Younger men and women are addressed with “Kaka” (“older sister / brother”).
E. Travel sustainably on Flores
Labuan Bajo has a garbage problem that is also obvious to tourists. Anyone can try to help reduce the problem: avoid garbage!
Instead of buying plastic bottles every day, use more reusable water bottles and fill up drinking water at the refill stations (for example in the Bajo Bakery or in the Catur’z Kopi Club).
You can order drinks without plastic straw, avoid canned drinks. Recycling is practically non-existent. Take problematic waste such as batteries, electronic waste, etc. back home and dispose of it properly.
Who wants to do good: Every Friday the organization Trash Hero meets for garbage collection campaigns.
ATMs of all major Indonesian banks are now abundant.
If you want to buy an Indonesian SIM card, you can only use the provider Telkomsel in Flores. Recently there was 4G in Labuan Bajo, but the stability and speed of the connection cannot be compared to Bali or even Jakarta. This also applies to WiFi coverage. There are often local power outages.
Moped taxis (“ojeks”) cost IDR 5,000 by day and IRD 10,000 by night, although they are few and far between at night. Popular apps like Gojek, Uber, Grabcar etc. are not available for Flores in Bali and Java. As a woman, you shouldn’t necessarily use an ojek alone in the dark.
A taxi from the airport to the city costs IDR 50,000.
Various travel agents along the main street rent mopeds for around IDR 75,000 per day
Flores is expensive, at least compared to Java, Bali, or Lombok. There is hardly any industry, almost everything is imported from Java and Bali. Therefore, accommodations, moped rentals, western but even local food are slightly more expensive than in other regions of Indonesia. It also happens that the petrol stations run out of fuel!
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