A Day Trip to the Komodo Island, Etc..

Seeing komodo dragons was the main reason we wanted to visit Labuan Bajo in Flores (East Nusa Tenggara), but it turned out it had plenty more to offer!

Having visited Bali so many times, we wanted something different. Labuan Bajo reminds me a bit of Malaysia's Langkawi except that it is less hot/humid and much less touristy.

We booked our day trip through Perama www.peramatour.com/, and the tour itself was operated by Alba Cruise. We paid 1,500,000 IDR/pax via Perama for a full-day trip, but I learned much later that booking directly from Alba Cruise would have only costed us 1,200,000 IDR/pax -less than 100 USD per person, dang!! You can go to their website at www.albacruise.co for direct booking. They also have half day trip for 700,000 IDR/pax (about 55 USD/pax).

Wanna know how the tour went? Here we go!
05:30 am: 
They picked us up at our hotel, and drove us to the dock where the ship departed -located at the property of La Prima Hotel. I really liked that fact that the boat was of a medium size, with a capacity of around 50-60 people. It was like a small bus floating on the sea. We only filled less than half of the capacity, leaving us with plenty of space should we choose to use the entire row by ourselves.

06:00 am:
The sail began. It took two hours to reach Padar Island. It was such a scenic ride. East Nusa Tenggara has so many little islands that we passed along the way.

Beautiful Padar Island
08:00 am:
We arrived at Padar Island. The hike to the top of the hill takes about 30-45 minutes depending on your pace. We didn't get to eat breakfast in the morning -poor prep I know! we had snacks and drinks in our hotel room but I thought the tour would provide breakfast so I didn't bother bringing some- so we decided to just hike half way to save energy. Make sure you fuel up prior to departure, lots of people said the view from the peak was worth the hike! Another thing I would suggest to prepare prior to departure: do bring both sneakers and sandals -unless you want to wear sandals while hiking a trail on Padar Island, which would be a wrong move.

Glen at Komodo Park

Off we go to the Flores archipelago!

10:50 am:
Arrived at Komodo Island. We got to see a total of 4 komodos. One was little and rather mobile. The other three were just lying around and barely moved. They must have been doing their siesta! The big ones were about one meter long and looked docile. They seemed to be quite used to being surrounded by humans. We still needed to exercise precautions though, we were told to NOT run or make sudden moves that could potentially startle them. There's no gate enclosing the komodos, and we got to watch them within a close proximity. The Komodo Park itself was rather small and not quite developed. You will be charged a separate admission fee of 250,000 IDR/person (325,000 IDR on public holidays) if you're foreign nationals, 70,000 IDR/person (80,000 IDR on public holidays) for locals.

We did a of 4.5 km hike, which they considered to be "the medium hike", and returned to our boat close to 1 pm. We came across some souvenir shops and small eateries on the Komodo Island. These eateries mostly offered coconut water (for 30,000 IDR/coconut), instant noodle soup/fried Indomie (for 15,000 IDR/cup), small snacks, coffee and tea.

Two male komodos. They're very chill, or lazy should I say?

1:00 pm:
Lunch on the boat. It was pretty basic: rice, curried chicken, veggies, and a piece of tofu.

1:40 pm:
We did the first snorkeling stop at the Manta Point, in the middle of the Flores Sea. I snorkeled in Lovina, Bali and in Thailand before, but Manta Point by far has the most beautiful corals of all. The tour company didn't provide clean towels so make sure to bring your own.

3:15 pm:
The fourth stop was Taka Makassar. It's a very small island.. like an emerged land, so small that you can get walk around it in under 5 minutes. The water around it is rather shallow so we mostly spent our time swimming in the clear turqoise water. It was a lot of fun! There were not too many people which made it a very relaxing swimming there.

Taka Makassar. So stunning!
4 pm:
The boat took us to the Kanawa Island. It is the most developed out of the previous four places. It has a couple of restaurants by the beach. By this point I had a bit of a headache so I didn't bother snorkeling -some people did snorkel, which was just around the island by the dock. Hubby and I just spent time sitting by the dock looking at the corals and sea creatures through the clear water. The water was that clear that we could see them without immersing into the water.

Chilling by the Kanawa Island

5:30 pm:
We arrived back at La Prima Hotel, where the boat departed from. We waited a few minutes before being driven back to our hotel. We reached our hotel just a little before 6 pm.

The rest of our stay in Labuan Baju was quite laid-back. We had dinner at the hotel after this full day trip, then went to Flores Spa in town the next day. It's listed as one of the bests in town. We each had an hour Balinese massage for 145,000 IDR/pax (around 11 USD).  It's a nice, clean facility. Like at most nice spas, you can do after-massage showers to get rid of the sticky feeling on your skin. Tipping is certainly not mandatory at spas in Indonesia, but a 10-20% tip would be appropriate -and much appreciated- if you like the service. We went to eat lunch right after at Ikan Goreng Cianjur, a new franchised restaurant in town, then headed back to the hotel. Hubby had some grilled chicken and fried noodle, and I had a plate of tahu telor (Javanese-styled tofu omelette served with peanut sauce and shrimp chips).

The main building of Puri Sari Beach complex

Getting to town to and from Puri Sari Beach was quite easy due to the shuttle service. It was free after all, we just had to reserve ahead of time. For those of you who love bars and younger crowds, Le Pirate hotel -located right downtown Labuan Bajo- may suit your taste better. It is a newer hotel and is said to have a bar that serves great cocktails. Some reviewers say it's a little too noisy though, has small rooms, and doesn't have a real swimming pool. As for Puri Sari, we had mostly older crowds as well as families with kids. I personally would pick Puri Sari over Le Pirate for its beautiful complex, a good-sized swimming pool, beach-front location, and quietness. The restaurant also has delicious foods at reasonable prices. Main entrees were anywhere from 35,000 - 100,000 IDR (2.5 - 8 USD), drink selections were in a 20,000 IDR - 70,000 IDR range (1.5 - 5 USD).

Labuan Bajo makes a serene beach get-away that's quite the opposite from main beach areas in Bali. Don't expect to find malls or party scenes in downtown Labuan Bajo. There are quite a lot of restaurants (local and western cuisines), a good number of small shops, street vendors, a few massage parlors, often side by side with houses where the locals live. We found it quite relaxing to be in Labuan Bajo and would love to go back!

Goodbye for now East Nusa Tenggara!

The dock by the Kanawa Island

We enjoyed our three-night stay in Labuan Bajo and took Nam Air heading back to Bali on April 1st. The flight took just a little over an hour. Having flown Nam Air twice at that point, I'd recommend flying this airline. The flight departed timely and was a smooth sailing. The fare was just a little over 1,700,000 IDR (around 130 USD) for two. It's never too costly traveling in Indonesia!


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