Labuan Bajo and Scuba Diving Komodo National Park
Labuan Bajo is a city island located on the east coast of Flores Island in Indonesia and is the gateway to the world famous Komodo National Park. Labuan Bajo is the main port from which majority of the boats leave to go to Komodo and Rinca Islands to see Komodo Dragons. It is also the main hub for those interested in Scuba Diving in Komodo or liveaboards. Below is our summary of must-knows as well as recommendations for those considering visiting this place.
The easiest and the most popular way for getting to Labuan Bajo in 2019 is by plane from Bali or Lombok. Flights will be your most convenient option and considering a single ticket should not cost more than 1 million Indonesian Rupiah it will be the best value for money. Alternatives include boats from Bali or Lombok, but those are likely to take a very long time. This option might not be available if weather conditions are unfavourable. If you really love scuba diving you might want to look into liveaboards from Lombok to Komodo.
There are a number of platforms for checking ticket prices but we always use Skyscanner to check dates and find best prices. One thing I would avoid is booking through travel agencies in Indonesia. More likely than not they will go to the same website as you would, purchase the ticket for you and add a commission on top for the pleasure. It’s 21st century, if people in a remote village in Indonesia can use a computer to book flights – you can too!
Tip: Travel light (without check-in luggage) if at all possible. Consider leaving your luggage with a trusted hotel in Bali or Lombok. 20kg check-in bag is likely to cost you around 400k Rupiah which is almost the same as the actual ticket price.
Labuan Bajo is a small city, however I did not have any problems with withdrawing money. I would avoid withdrawing cash on Sundays as it seems only very few ATMs have any cash available at the end of the week.
Transportation in Labuan Bajo
If you are here for Scuba Diving, Snorkelling or Komodo Dragons my best tip is to pick a hotel close to your dive shop or the pier. This is where majority of the restaurants and shops are anyway and that means you won’t have to worry about transportation so much.
If you want to move around a bit more you options are motorbike hire or taxi.
Note: Scuba or Snorkelling trips are likely to include hotel pick-up. Some might include early breakfast or drop-off – ask before you book.
Accommodation in Labuan Bajo
Due to the fact we visited Labuan Bajo in February which is considered low (rainy) season we have had a lot of choice in terms of where to stay. We ended up staying in Bajo Sunset Hostel the whole time because of the amazing value this place could offer. Thinking about it, this was our cheapest accommodation in Indonesia and probably the whole South East Asia. We paid 84k for a double bedroom with private bathroom and breakfast was included too.
As mentioned in my previous posts about Indonesia this is a low season price. It is unlikely such deals will be available during high season. If you are struggling with finding a good place to stay try Agoda or booking.com or give us a shout and we can try to help you out.
Food in Labuan Bajo
I have to admit Labuan Bajo is where we struggled with food the most, at least for the first couple of days. The restaurants with good reviews were quite expensive and the ones which were cheaper had mediocre food.
Luckily, we came across a fish market which where we could buy a large fish (enough for both of us) and get it grilled for us for around 100k Rupiah. I do not normally eat fish but it was so tasty here we came back a couple of times to try more.
Note: Most vendors at the fish market have their stalls up by 6pm. You have to exchange cash into vouchers at one of the desks. Vouchers are then used to pay for food. If you get change in vouchers you can exchange those back to cash at the desks.
Activities in Komodo National Park
The most popular activities in Labuan Bajo are Scuba Diving Day Trips in Komodo National Park, Komodo Scuba Liveaboards, Island and Snorkelling tours (to Padar Island, Rinca or/and Komodo).
First and foremost, scuba diving is something that I love so obviously this was the first thing I wanted to do in Komodo National Park. We talked to a number of dive shops in Labuan Bajo, but the one that left a really good impression (and was cheaper than others) was Paradise Divers Komodo. Staff in the shop were really helpful, however, it is the dive guides and the staff on the boat who deserve a special mention. Right from the start the communication was excellent, we knew where we were going and what to expect. Pre-dive safety briefings were detailed and emergency procedures were explained clearly.
On the first day we did three dives (Crystal Rock, The Cauldron and Tatawa Besar) and on the second day we went snorkelling at two different spots (Batu Bolong and Manta Point) and visited Rinca Island. In Rinca we did a little guided hike and saw Komodo Dragons. On both days we were given breakfast in the office and there were fruits, snacks and lunch provided on the boat.
In addition to paying less per dive (1.5 Million for 3 dives, while other shops asked for 1.65 Million) we also managed to negotiate a small discount on the second day of activities. Due to long (approx. 2h) boat rides required to reach some of the best sites Scuba Diving in Komodo National Park is more expensive than in Gili Islands, Lembongan or Bali.
Note: Rumor has it there exists a public boat that can take you directly to Komodo island which could be a significantly cheaper option that going with a tour. We searched for it and could not find it, but you might want to give it another try. Your other options for seeing dragons are with Paradise Divers (500k per person) which would also include two snorkelling spots, with a local slow boat tour (around 375k) or a speedboat tour (around 1.2M) which is likely to include snorkeling and cover a few other locations in addition to visit to Komodo/Rinca.
Is Komodo National Park worth checking out?
Labuan Bajo in Flores, Indonesia is the gateway to the awesome Komodo National Park well known for its dragons. However there is more than just dragons in Komodo.
Diving, especially in the North of Komodo is spectacular. The marine life is really rich and colourful and the variety is just unbelievable. Whether it is a quick boat trip or a several day liveaboard you are after, you will find the ways and the means to do it in Labuan Bajo.
We enjoyed our stay here and as always we wish we could have stayed longer. We hope you enjoy it too.
Note: As of February 2019, there have been debates going on between Indonesian government officials about closing Komodo National Park to tourists. Check online if Komodo is still open to visitors before committing anything.