Labuan Bajo – West Flores
The regency of West Manggarai is subdivided into 7 districts and 121 sub-districts. Labuan Bajo is the regional capital of West Manggarai. West Manggarai is the regency covering the westernmost area of West Flores, located within the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara. In 2003, West Manggarai was elevated to the status of a regency in recognition of its role as an important gateway to Flores.
With the established of the regional administration in Labuan Bajo, transportation access to Labuan Bajo, by land, sea and air continue to be enhanced. Numerous economic and tourism developments are now in an advanced planning stage or under construction in West Manggarai.
Labuanbajo, also spelled Labuhanbajo, is a city at the tip of Flores Island in Indonesia. It is the launching point for trips to Komodo Island and Rinca Island to see Komodo dragons and the surrounding sea is idyllic for diving and snorkeling. Nearby Seraya Island is a great opportunity to do some diving and snorkeling and every evening at Kalong Island thousands of flying fox bats put on an amazing display.
Labuanbajo can be accessed by ferry from Sumbawa or by public bus from Ende and Maumere. There are also daily flights between Labuanbajo and Denpasar.
A number of companies organise 4 day sailing trips between Lombok or Bali and Flores for around Rp1,000,000 passengers should be aware that these trips can cross open waters and are on boats with no navigation or safety equipment other than some lifejackets (ie. no radio, flairs or life rafts).
What to Do:
Komodo National Park encompasses a lot of water and islands west of Labuanbajo. If you want to go to Rinca or Komodo islands, or dive in the park you will have to buy a 3 day park pass for 15 $USD. Money from such user fees goes into conservation efforts (including armed patrols) that are apparently overseen by the WWF.
Rinca Island (Indonesian: Rinca Kecil or Rinca Pulau) is a more convenient place to see Komodo Dragons than Komodo island. Some dive operators might be convinced to combine a stop at the island with a days diving. There are big dragons that are often right in front of the pier when people arrive.
Scuba Diving within the park is excellent. There are three main dive operators that offer day dives as well as live aboard opportunities: Bajo Dive Club, Dive Komodo, and Reef Seekers. The Komodo Diving dive master is a true enthusiast of manta rays (clearly evident by the tattoo on his back), who often spots manta rays from the boat between dives. He has been known to join divers in jumping into the water with snorkel gear to have a look at them.
Seraya Island (Indonesian: Seraya Kecil or Seraya Pulau) is an idyllic island and a great opportunity to get away from civilization and do some snorkeling and diving. Seraya is little more than a small, arid island outside of the Komodo National Park with a few bamboo huts for tourist lodging, a restaurant, and some villagers who let their goats graze on vegetation.
The island’s cove is protected from the sea providing calm and clear water for snorkeling. At low tide the coral is exposed and local fishermen walk on the reef in search of prey. Rowboats can be rented and taken to nearby islands for snorkeling and diving. Make sure to run up to the top of the hill behind the resorts and check out the sunset. The lodges on the island do have showers, but running water is only available a few hours a day. The resort on Seraya is operated by Gardena hotel in Labuanbajo and a stay on the island can be booked at Gardena’s front desk.
One of the more spectacular displays of nature in the area is at Kalong Island (Indonesian: Pulau Kalong; also spelt Kalung), which literally means “Flying Fox Island.” The name is quit appropriate as the island is home to thousands of Kalong, or giant flying fox bats. Boats to Kalong can be chartered from Labuanbajo for around $30 for a return ride, including a snorkeling stop at a nearby island before you reach Pulau Kalong.
Your boat will situate itself next to the mangrove island and at dusk literally tens of thousands of flying foxes emerge from the mangrove island and move over your boat towards Rinca Island. For the entire colony to emerge will take roughly twenty minutes of continuous waves of bats passing over your boat. The boat ride to/from Labuanbajo will take roughly one hour.
Ferries to Sumbawa Island to the west (towards Bali) leave daily and very crowded public buses leave for Ende and Maumere. For those going on to points in the east of Flores another more expensive option is to hire a car.
The “Komodo dragons” which are indigenous to the regency are a tourism icon of West Manggarai. Komodo was named a World Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in1977 and added to the list of World Natural Heritage Sites by in 1991. The Government of Indonesia proclaimed a National Park in 1990. The Park’s land area is 603 km2 while the total size of the park, including sea areas, is 1,817 km2.
West Manggarai occupies an area of 9,450,000 km2 (land and sea).162 islands are contained within the boundaries of West Manggarai, 84 of which are part of the Komodo National Park. Only 17 of West Manggarai islands are inhabited. Because of the world renowned reputation of Komodo, the rich local marine environment and the natural beauty the region – both the regional and national governments of Indonesia have acknowledged the strong tourism potential development of West Manggarai