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A Few Days in Labuan Bajo Posted by on Oct 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

Located on the western end of Flores, Labuan Bajo is the logical place to either start or finish your trip across the island. Once a tiny fishing village, it has developed into a bustling tourist center – at least as far as Flores is concerned – thanks to its excellent diving and proximity to¬†islands that are home to the legendary Komodo dragons. Before planning your trip here and to the island in general, you’ll have to ask yourself one question…

Start or Finish?

On the road from Ruteng.

On the road from Ruteng.

With an airport that has direct flights to and from Bali, many visitors to Flores simply book round-trip flights to Labuan Bajo and spend a few days here diving and searching for dragons. If you’re looking to spend some more time exploring the island, though, you might want to end your trip here. Other possible starting points include Maumere and Ende, and you can then spend a week or two traversing the island to end up here. Labuan Bajo is far and away the most touristy town on Flores. It has a pretty good choice of accommodation, plenty of options for dining (including Western food), an even a few bars. Plus, a boat trip around the surrounding islands is sure to be the highlight of your entire trip. Why not tough it out by visiting the lesser developed towns and villages first, and then reward yourself at the end? That’s the way we planned our 2-week trip, and it worked out perfectly.

Exploring the Town

A tourist town indeed.

A tourist town indeed.

While many will be tempted to jet off on the first boat possible on a Komodo Island trip, it’s worth it to spend at least a night or two in town. The town is small enough that you can cover it all on foot, but there are also the ubiquitous ojeks and bemos that you find across Indonesia if you need a lift. If you’ve been traveling in Flores, you’ll be amazed at what you find in Labuan Bajo – hostels, cafes, travel agents, dive shops, spas, and even rooftop bars. It’s nothing like the super developed beach towns of Bali, but compared to the rest of Flores this town is absolutely bumping!

Some scenes around town.

Some scenes around town.

Walk just a few minutes past the main tourist strip, and you’ll come by a large mosque – quite a common sight in Indonesia at large but a bit rare on the mostly Catholic island of Flores. Stroll through empty soccer fields and past bustling local markets, and find an elevated spot to catch a beautiful sunset.

Get your cameras ready!

Get your cameras ready!

Be sure to arrange your plans for the next day if you’re not planning on sticking around town. Most of the travel agents and dive shops stay open a bit later, hoping to fill their boat for the next day. Book your diving, snorkeling, or Komodo chasing trip, and then enjoy a night on the town.

Night Market

Gotta love night markets!

Gotta love night markets!

If you’re in search of a cheap, local dinner, the night market (pasar malam) is the place to be. Take your pick from Indonesian classics such as a stuffed pancake (martabak) or some noodles with chicken and meatballs (mie ayam bakso), and pull up a stool.

Or perhaps some grilled fish?

Or perhaps some grilled fish?

It is a fishing town, after all, so why not order up some fresh grilled fish (ikan bakar)? The price is based on the weight, and it comes with rice, veggies, and sambal for all. Whatever you get, your dinner won’t be more than $5 per person.

Comfort Food

Comfort food!

A great place for dinner.

If you’ve been traveling across the island, chances are you’ve had your fair share of mixed rice (nasi campur)¬†– oftentimes it’s the only thing available. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a guy who absolutely loves his nasi campur, but sometimes you just gotta have some comfort food.

Comfort food!

Comfort food!

Thankfully that’s available in abundance here, especially Italian food. Apparently a lot of Italians work in the diving business and travel here, and you know they can’t be without bread, cheese, and pasta. Head to Mediterraneo to fill up on all of the above.

Atlantis Beach Club

Atlantis Beach Club

Atlantis Beach Club

Bali is famous for its beach clubs, which are usually packed to the brim with vacationers. For a much more relaxed experience, check out LBJ’s one and only beach club – Atlantis. It’s located quite a ways out of town, but they’ll shuttle you there for free from their office in town if you want to go check it out.

Empty pool? Yes, please!

Empty pool? Yes, please!

If you’re winding down from a busy live-aboard trip and are getting ready to move on to your next destination, this is the perfect spot to spend a lazy afternoon. On our visit, we had the entire place to ourselves. A few hours of sitting in the pool, sipping cold Bintangs, and enjoying some snacks and margaritas in their restaurant was the perfect end to our trip.

Accommodation

Bajo Sunset

Bajo Sunset

Compared with the rest of Flores, there are ample choices for accommodation in Labuan Bajo. While prices are still generally higher and of a lower quality than Bali, this is the best you’ll find on the island. Most of the places are located on the main tourist road, but you can find a few others if you poke around. We ended up staying at Bajo Sunset, where we got beds in a 4-person dorm and breakfast for a reasonable price.

 

While the town itself is just fine for a few days, let’s be honest – the real reason you’re here is to get out there and find some Komodo dragons or do some underwater exploring. Next up we’ll have a few posts about our 2-day boat trip to do just that.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.