Most tourists are drawn to Labuan Bajo to visit the Komodo National Park. But the town on the west coast of the island of Flores has much more to offer than the Komodo National Park with its Komodo monitor lizards. We were on the road for almost a week on Flores and would like to share our highlights and general tips about Labuan Bajo, the Komodo National Park and the tours with you here.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Things to Know about Labuan Bajo
Labuan Bajo is the hotspot for diving and snorkeling in Komodo National Park, but is still very underdeveloped in terms of tourism. Labuan Bajo has kept its original “charm”, which means that it is of course very dirty and noisy, but you can still experience the original life of the locals. There is a typical bustling main street teeming with travel agents, but the vendors are far less pushy than we know from other parts of Asia.
However, as there is construction on every corner in Labuan Bajo, the place will probably develop into a tourist hotspot in the next few years. Another big part of the city that you may see less but will definitely hear are the ubiquitous mosques. These proclaim their message with large loudspeakers every hour and to our delight even at 4:30 in the night. For just under 30 minutes.
If you want to have quiet nights, then spend the night outside
Despite the use of earplugs, I was still awakened by the noise every night. And not only because our hostel (the highly recommended La Boheme Bajo*) was right next to a mosque. You can really hear the call of the muezzin from everywhere. A tip therefore, if you want to escape the noise of the city and don’t want to be woken up every night by deafening loudspeakers, take an accommodation outside the city. If you can afford it, you can also stay at one of the many resorts, most of which also have a private beach. Very well rated resorts are for example:
Beaches in Labuan Bajo
An important information is that there is no real beach for swimming or snorkeling around Labuan Bajo. If you look at pictures of the Komodo National Park you will always see beautiful beaches. These are also in this area… but not in Labuan Bajo. The only beach near the city (Pede Beach) is completely dirty and does not invite you to swim.
If you want to walk from your hotel directly to the beach, you should stay in one of the resorts mentioned above. One of the few publicly accessible and relatively beautiful beaches near Labuan Bajo is Waecicu Beach. How to get there you can read below.
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In Labuan Bajo everything is paid in cash, like mostly in the remote area. So this should be mentioned in every Indonesia travel guide. Also the tours to the Komodo National Park are quite expensive. So make sure you have enough cash to withdraw and no limit on your card for cash pickup. In Labuan Bajo itself there are several ATMs on the main street where cash withdrawals are usually limited to IDR 1,250,000 or IDR 2,500,000. So you will have to pick up money several times, especially for the expensive excursions.
Diving in Komodo National Park
Since the Komodo National Park is supposed to be one of the most beautiful diving areas in the world, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to go diving there. Sabrina already has a diving license (Open Water Diver License), but has not dived for years. I have never dived before, but always wanted to try it. So we decided to do a tour where I could do a Discovery Dive and Sabrina could do a Refresh Dive. So we could spend the day together and had a coordinated schedule.
Dive Operators in Labuan Bajo
In Labuan Bajo there are many diving agencies from which you can choose a suitable offer. It is best to look at the offers on site and also do some research on Tripadvisor. It was also important to us that the chemistry with the instructors is right. That’s why we went to some agencies and talked to the employees. In the end we decided to go with Scuba Republic. Together we paid for a Discovery and a Refresh course with 3 dives incl. food 5.5 Mio IDR (approx. 330 €).
On our tour we went to several dive sites in the Komodo National Park and also practiced first at a very shallow site. In about 2 meters deep water we practiced the standard moves, such as pressurizing the nose and blowing water out of the mask. But already on the second dive we were in about 10 meters depth and saw fantastic coral formations and lots of colorful fish. Between the dives we had delicious food on board and were given information about the upcoming dive sites.
We also went to Manta Point and tried to find manta rays there. Unfortunately we had no luck and were not at the right spot. However, other divers from our group were able to see some in the immediate distance. During our dives we saw turtles, small reef sharks and of course many, many fish. The trip was really great and we can recommend the provider Scuba Republic without any compromises.
Liveaboards in Labuan Bajo
Most providers of diving courses also offer you a liveaboard tour. Thereby you drive with a bigger ship (often even a sailing ship) several days through the Komodo National Park and have the possibility to do several dives and snorkels. Since you are on the road for several days, you have the opportunity to get to distant destinations and also to stay overnight on board. You save the overnight stay in the noisy Labuan Bajo and can make a very special experience.
Such tours can last from 2 to 5 days and can be individually tailored to your wishes. With some providers you can even get a diving license on board. Unfortunately, we did not have time for such a tour, but would have liked to take the time in retrospect. Such tours should be booked some time in advance and cannot be done spontaneously. So ask before your arrival at the appropriate providers for times and prices.
The following providers offer you a liveaboard tour:
Things To Do in Labuan Bajo: Exploring by Scooter
Even if the underwater world of the Komodo National Park is certainly THE highlight of Flores, Labuan Bajo also has a lot to offer, so you can explore the island on 1-2 days by scooter. A scooter can usually be rented for about 75,000 IDR (about 5 €) per day. Most accommodations can get you a scooter or at least tell you where to get one.
We picked out the best things to do in Labuan Bajo and made a route to connect all the places. You definitely can’t do it all in one day, so you have to choose your highlights wisely. The route we did in one day you can find here: Google Maps Link
Batu Cermin Cave
- Entrance fee is 50,000 IDR p.p
- A guide costs 50.000 IDR extra, but you don’t necessarily need one
- Travel time about 40 minutes from Labuan Bajo
How to get to Batu Termin?
About 4 kilometers east of the city is this very impressive cave. It takes about 40 minutes to get there on a scooter, but the roads are sometimes very bad. Of course, it also depends on which route you take, but at one point (we were a bit off the beaten path) we even found ourselves in front of a bridge provisionally repaired with bamboo canes. We were not sure if we would get the scooter over the few bamboo tubes tied together in one piece over the approx. 1 meter large hole in the bridge.
Since the bamboo bridge was also very narrow, I could just barely walk next to the scooter and carry it to the other side of the bridge. After this hurdle was overcome, we continued for a few minutes over the very poorly constructed gravel roads. You should have some practice riding a scooter to master this road. When this part of the road is overcome, it continues on a well-built and paved road to the parking lot of Batu Cermin.
At the parking lot itself there are a few restaurants, toilets and also a stall where you could buy fresh coconuts.
Exploring The Cave
After paying the entrance fee of 50,000 IDR (3 €) you walk about 10 minutes to the entrance of the cave. Right in front of the cave entrance there are helmets ready, which you should also put on your head. You should also take a flashlight, because in the cave it is really pitch black and also very humid and hot. In addition, it is still very narrow in places at height, but it’s fun as hell to crawl around between the stalactites and stalagmites.
On our way through the cave we saw some great rock formations and also some bats. You can visit the cave without a guide, because there is really only one way through. During our visit we were all alone in the cave, which enhanced the atmosphere. Even though Batu Cermin is certainly not the biggest cave in Asia, we can highly recommend a visit because of the unique atmosphere and the proximity to Labuan Bajo.
- Entrance fee 50.000 IDR per person (300.000 IDR for the boat)
- You can only get to this cave by boat
- You can even swim in the cave Google Maps Link
This cave is already something very special. Although it is not super big, but in it a small salt water lake has formed, in which you can even swim. This is super refreshing and a great way to cool down. Unfortunately, the way there is not so easy.
How to get to Rangko Cave?
You drive about 1 hour from Labuan Bajo and you can’t go directly to the cave.You have to go to a small boat dock first. From there you take a boat that brings you to the cave in about 25 minutes. For the boat we have paid 300,000 IDR (18 €). At the jetty on the beach you can see a lot of great corals. When the tide is low, the boat can not go all the way to the cave, but must stop about 100 meters from the beach. The rest of the way you have to wade through the water.
On the way we could not get out of the amazement, because we have seen numerous starfish on the way. There were also sea urchins to admire on the way, so it is highly recommended to have swimming shoes with you. To get to the cave you have to walk a bit along the beach and then past a small ticket booth. After 5 minutes of walking, a small ladder leads down into the cave.
Swimming in the Cave
When we arrived, there were already some other tourists, but when they left after a few minutes we were all alone in the cave. After the sea outside is almost bathtub temperature, we finally got a cooling in the cave. The salty water in the cave has a pleasantly cool temperature and shines at you in a beautiful blue. At midday, the sun shines in through the opening of the cave and enchants the atmosphere even more intensely.
The reflections of the water conjure up wild patterns on the rock formations on the ceiling of the cave. By the way, when descending into the water, be very careful (and wear swimming shoes), as the rocks are very wet and slippery.
- about 15 minutes north of Labuan Bajo
- Parking here costs nothing Google Maps Link
Even though these 2 hills (Indonesian name: Bukit Amelia Sea) north of Labuan Bajo don’t really have anything to do with love, they are one of the best things to do in Labuan Bajo and offer a great view after a very short hike. In order to walk up, it is best to drive down the new road to the right, shortly before the actual place (not yet listed on Google Maps) and park your scooter there at the edge of the road.
There you can also reach the back hill easier, which offers an even better view of the sea. Unfortunately, you can’t watch the sunset from here, because it takes place on the side facing away from the sea. The drive from Labuan Bajo takes about 15 minutes and leads over a well-built road. To climb the hills you need about 10 minutes each. The hills are really beautiful to look at and can be well combined with a visit to the nearby Waecicu beach.
- Parking costs here 30.000 IDR
- Driving time about 20 minutes from Labuan Bajo
- one of the few beaches open to the public Google Maps Link
Waecicu Beach is located very close to Love Hill and is one of the cleaner beaches near Labuan Bajo. Clean means it is not completely littered but there is a bit of trash on the beach and in the water. Opposite Waecicu Beach is another small island to which you can swim over within a few minutes.
Also here you can find some garbage on the beach, which was washed up by the sea. Nevertheless, here you can spend a few hours away from the hustle and bustle and the garbage on the beach. Even if this beach actually belongs to a hotel complex and it is certainly not one of the most beautiful in Indonesia, the beach is worth a trip, because there are not really many beaches near Labuan Bajo and most of them belong to a hotel complex or are totally dirty. So if you want to go swimming at the beach in Labuan Bajo, this is where you should go.
Cunca Wulang Waterfall
- about 1.5 hours from Labuan Bajo
- Entrance fee 100.000 IDR Google Maps Link
Since this waterfall is located a bit further outside of Labuan Bajo, we unfortunately couldn’t visit it and therefore can’t report much about it. But if you have a little more time, then you should treat this waterfall a little side trip.
Snorkeling Tour in Komodo National Park
During a snorkeling tour you can see the wonderful underwater world of the Komodo National Park without having a diving license. Because the diving areas around Komodo National Park are among the most beautiful in the world, but many places can also be viewed from the water surface. In addition, a snorkeling tour can also be wonderfully combined with some island hopping.
Organization of a Snorkeling tour in Komodo National Park
Snorkeling trips can actually be booked everywhere in Labuan Bajo and almost all agencies offer the same deals. To find a provider we just walked along the main street and asked several providers. The standard itinerary includes the islands Rinca and Komodo, Padar Island, Manta Point, Pink Beach, the Flying Foxes and Kanawa.
However, it is by far not possible to do everything in one day. Therefore, it is advisable to undertake a tour of several days. Alternatively you can take a speed boat to do more destinations in one day. Then the trip is not so relaxed and of course you pay more. You will usually be provided with a tasty lunch and water by your provider.
Private Snorkeling Tour
We decided to do a private tour and not join a group. After inquiring about prices and tours with several providers, we got stuck with one who was also very sympathetic to us. In total, we paid for 2 people including food 2.3 million IDR (about 140 €). Why did we do that?
First of all, we wanted to spend as much time at each spot as we liked. If we liked a spot as much as e.g. Padar Island, then we stayed there longer and cut time at other places. Also, we didn’t want to see Komodo dragons, so we didn’t want to go on a group tour, since every tour we went on had Komodo or at least Rinca on the itinerary. And on both islands you only go to see the monitor lizards.
Komodo monitor lizards
Most people visit the islands of Komodo and Rinca, where the species of Komodo monitor lizard can be seen. Only on these two islands it is at home. However, we decided not to include these islands in our tour. You will surely ask yourselves why we did not want to see monitor lizards! In most reports on other blogs and on sites like TripAdvisor, people reported that they saw the monitor lizards on Rinca and Komodo only at the beginning right next to the canteen.
The reason is obvious, namely that the animals are fed there and are therefore constantly there. We have also seen footage from inside Komodo Island where goats were hanging from trees to attract monitor lizards for the tourists. If this was not the case, however, most tourists have not seen monitor lizards in the wild according to various reports. We want to see animals as far as possible in their natural habitat. Otherwise you can go directly to a zoo. Therefore, we try to avoid such things and have therefore left out Komodo and Rinca.
This island was certainly one of the highlights of our trip and is in our opinion one of the most beautiful photo spots in the Komodo National Park… if not of whole Indonesia. The island is the farthest from Labuan Bajo and is therefore usually the first to be visited on tours. After arriving at the jetty with many other tourists, you are first asked to pay. You pay for the entrance fee and to be allowed to snorkel. Even if you do not intend to do so.
After one has paid thus scarcely 200,000 IDR per person it goes to the approx. 30-40 minute ascent. This is quite strenuous, but when you reach the top, the whole splendor of the Komodo National Park is revealed. You have a wonderful view to all directions and we could not tear ourselves away. Therefore, we spent more time here than was actually planned. Good that we were on our own private tour and could therefore take the time.
Manta Point is one of the many places in Indonesia where you can be lucky enough to see these huge sea creatures. Unfortunately we were not lucky and did not see any on our trip. But we heard from other tourists that they were at the right place at the right time and even got several manta rays in front of their camera lens.
There are several beaches in Komodo National Park that have a slightly pink shimmer. Of course it is not bright pink as you can see on some photos, but still it is very worth seeing. The color, by the way, comes from slivers of red coral mixing with the white sand to create the pink color. The Pink Beach we visited was in a small bay with a beautiful coral reef present. So instead of spending time on the beach, we kept jumping off the boat into the sea, swimming through the turquoise water and marveling at the colorful corals and fish.
Kanawa is a very small island in Komodo National Park, not far from Labuan Bajo and is considered Honey Moon Island. There are a number of bungalows on this small island, which can be circumnavigated in a few minutes. Even though the island already looks very spectacular from the air with my drone, it is rather bleak to look at from the ground.
The vegetation is not very lush and I would rather choose something else for our honeymoon. Nevertheless, the island is highly recommended for snorkeling. Directly in front of the beach and also directly next to the pier is an incredibly diverse underwater world to marvel at. Partly directly under the water surface. There is also a small restaurant on the island where you can take a break.
Excursion Tip: The Kelimutu Crater
A little further away from Labuan Bajo and thus from the Komodo National Park, in the middle of the island of Flores, between Ende and Maumere located is the Kelimutu Crater with its blue shimmering lakes. For us one of the highlights of our whole vacation in Indonesia. How to get there and what you can experience there all you can read in a separate article:
Do you have any questions about your upcoming trip to Indonesia or just want to share a tip of your own? Then write us a comment.