What to do in Labuan Bajo, the gateway to visit pink beaches, see exotic animals and have dreamy views in the island of Flores, Indonesia
Labuan Bajo is a small fishing town located on Flores Island, in eastern Indonesia, and is the destination for visitors wanting to go to the Komodo National Park - an area that is made up of islands and small islets, with Rinca, Padar and Komodo islands as the main and best known ones.
Although it is a picturesque place without much extravagance, Labuan Bajo has become increasingly popular and is gradually entering the spotlight, seducing tourists interested in its unique attraction nearby: Komodo National Park; the only region in the world where you can find the famous Komodo Dragons - the largest lizard in the world - in their natural habitat. However, Komodo Dragons are only part of the beauty of Labuan Bajo and Flores Island also offers mountains with breathtaking views, diving with mantas and sharks, and pink sandy beaches that make the place even more surreal.
If you are planning to visit Labuan Bajo or Flores Island soon, keep reading to find out what you can do there.
What to do in Labuan Bajo – hike Padar Island
Padar Island is one of the islands within the Komodo National Park and one of the most striking places near Flores Island. Padar provides a stunning, unrealistic setting, with pristine half-moon beaches that are tucked away in lush vegetation.
Padar Island is accessible only by boat and is part of many tours from Labuan Bajo, but to reach the top you have to take a short, 30-minute walk, an effort that is completely worth the magical view of the surrounding mountains and the three beaches, with the endless blue sea stretching across the horizon. Hiking to the top can be challenging for some, but for those who can't or won't go up there, it's okay. Along the way there are several points equally as beautiful as the top, where you can stop and enjoy the beauty of the place, when you no longer want to climb.
What to do in Labuan Bajo – swim in Pink Beach
Indonesia is a colorful, spicy country, and these colors are evident in the country's natural beauty. As you pass Pink Beach, the pink sand beach of Flores Island (and one of the very few in the world), be prepared for the shocking beauty of the place. The contrast of the crystal clear, blue sea with the pink sand and the vegetation of the island is a unique experience. Once here, you can swim, snorkel or just walk along the sand checking out the corals that color the place - the beach is pink because of the red corals that crumble and change its color.
What to do in Labuan Bajo – see the Komodo Dragons
In Komodo National Park, there are two islands where you can see the dragons: Rinca Island and Komodo Island. Rinca Island is where most tours go to see the lizards in their natural habitat. The tour can only be done with a guide, as the creatures are extremely dangerous and toxic. (There are various types of bacteria in the Komodo dragon's mouth. Their prey does not die from the bite but rather from the infection caused by the bacteria.) There are 3 hikes around Rinca Island: short (almost 1 hour), medium (about 1 and a half hours) and long (around 2 hours and 30 minutes). During our visit, we took the medium, seeing multiple dragons along the way and ending with a phenomenal view of the park.
The Komodo Dragons are unique creatures, both beautiful and scary looking, and are the largest lizards in the world; growing up to 3 meters long, weighing around 150 kilograms and able to reach speeds of 20 km/h. They are carnivores and cannibals, at times eating the newborns and even other adults - already knowing what to expect, after birth the young climb up the trees and stay there until they are about 3 years old, feeding on just bugs and geckos. Another curiosity about these animals is that they can live up to 100 years old and eat up to 80% of their weight in a single meal, which consists basically of the other animals in the park. The Komodo Dragon is the king of Rinca Island, but you will also see pigs, monkeys, buffalo and other animals in their natural habitat (and serving as dinner for the giant lizards).
What to do in Labuan Bajo – apreciate the crystal water of Taka Makassar
Taka Makassar is a sandbar in the middle of nowhere with calm, crystal clear water where you can take a short walk and watch small fish and relax in the middle of nowhere. Enjoy every second of its clear, refreshing water, as this breathtaking place is unusual. The surrounding sea is different shades of blue and, looking around, you can see the mountains of Flores Island, making for a postcard picture.
What to do in Labuan Bajo – snorkel in Kanawa Island
Kanawa Island is located 15 kilometers from the city of Labuan Bajo and is one of the highlights of Flores. Kanawa Island's main attraction is the mesmerizing coral reef, with its striking features, full of colorful fish. Its turquoise water is extraordinarily calm and clear, attracting tourists to snorkel and relax on its inviting white sand.
What to do in Labuan Bajo – watch the sunset in Kalong Island
The end of a day on Kalong Island is greeted with a show - thousands of “flying foxes” bats fly over the island during sunset, creating an extraordinary scene. This species of bat is the largest of the known giant bats, with its width reachingabout 1.5 meters and weighing more than 1 kilogram. The natural show lasts about 30 minutes, with bats flying from island to island in a long column as the colors of the sky change.
How to get to Labuan Bajo
Getting to Labuan Bajo is now easier than ever: Labuan Bajo Airport - Komodo Airport - receives, as of this writing, direct flights from Jakarta (Soekarno Hatta) and Bali (Denpasar), taking approximately 2 hours and half, and 1 hour and 20 minutes, respectively.
Arriving at the airport, downtown Labuan Bajo is about a 20-minute drive away, and it is very easy to get taxis directly at the airport to take you to the hotel without prior reservation.
Also, check the post about places to stay in Labuan Bajo, that includes hotels, hostels and boats.
Once in Labuan Bajo, you can stay in the center, where you can walk the streets and find many companies offering tours with different routes to see the beauties of Labuan Bajo and other parts of Flores Island. Tours can be part-time or full day, or even up to several days on the boat. When hiring a tour, be sure to check if it already includes entrance fees to Komodo National Park, if they offer snorkeling gear and what meals are included. We took our tour with the hotel we stayed in, Ayana Komodo, and it included a lunch, drinks, snacks, and cold towels for all boat passengers to cool off in the searing July heat.
When to visit Labuan Bajo and Komodo National Park
The best time to visit Labuan Bajo, and Indonesia, is during the dry season from April to October.
Read all practical information for visiting Indonesia, including visa, currency and language.
Where to eat in Labuan Bajo
I recommend the restaurants of Ayana Komodo, the Japanese HonZEN; Kisik Grill, a seafood restaurant; the Unique Bar, the rooftop bar of the hotel (with excellent views of sunset); and Rinca, a multi-menu restaurant offering Asian and Western dishes.
For those staying in the city center, I recommend the Made in Italy, an Italian restaurant which offers the option to pick you up and take you back to the hotel without having to worry about taxis.
My tips to enjoy the best of Labuan Bajo
Sunscreen, hat and glasses are a must.
Be sure to confirm exactly what is included in the tour and lookout for “extra” entrance fees to Komodo National Park.
If you are planning to visit any other of Indonesia's 17,000 islands, be sure to check out the other posts about the country:
See more photos of Labuan Bajo on my Instagram @elen.pradera.