How to spend two days in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia

From admiring marine marvels and blissful sunsets to seeking out the iconic Komodo dragon, here’s how to spend the perfect weekend in Labuan Bajo.

The harbour town of Labuan Bajo perches on the sunset side of Indonesia’s Flores island, overlooking the volcanic islets and white-sand atolls of UNESCO-listed Komodo National Park. 

Photograph by Getty Images
By Theodora Sutcliffe
Published 30 Oct 2021, 21:00 BST

The harbour town of Labuan Bajo perches on the sunset side of Indonesia’s Flores island, overlooking the volcanic islets and white-sand atolls of UNESCO-listed Komodo National Park. Part of the Coral Triangle, the world’s richest centre of marine life and coral diversity, Komodo’s warm waters nurture vibrant reef. Here, there are more than 1,000 species of fish and 260 types of coral. Some travellers arrive by boat from Bali, around 300 miles to the west; others journey overland through Flores’ lush volcanic landscapes and tribal villages. Many opt to fly to Komodo International Airport. However you get there, be sure to spend at least a couple of days exploring this natural wonderland that’s brimming with potential.

Day one
 

Morning
Phinisi (traditional sailing boats) options range from luxury yachts to backpacker boats with mattresses on deck. Taka Makassar, a swirl of icing-sugar sand lapped by turquoise waters, is a great first stop. At nearby Manta Point, mantas circle so that cleaner fish can groom their skin. It’s shallow enough to snorkel, but scuba fans will be rewarded too; Batu Bolong, a pinnacle where sharks and turtles are often seen, is a classic choice.

Afternoon
After lunch on board, set sail for Padar, the national park’s third-largest island. Vivid green during Komodo’s wet season, rusty red during drier months, its volcanic spine fans out into dramatic peaks and narrow promontories. More than 1,000 steps wind up to the summit, which offers dramatic views over bays, beaches and anchored phinisi. Be sure to visit one of the island’s pink beaches.

Evening
Set sail for Kalong Island, where a mangrove forest is home to thousands of flying foxes. At sunset, bats swoop out of the dark trees, heading for mainland Flores to feed. Dinner on board is usually followed by stargazing and ice-cold Bintang beers.

Don’t miss: Abalone-shell bowls or soap dishes in shimmering hues of black and silver make fantastic gifts while helping to support local families. 

Komodo dragons, the world’s largest lizard, can grow up to 10ft long, and Komodo National Park was originally created to protect these apex predators. 

Photograph by Getty Images

Day two
 

Morning
Komodo dragons, the world’s largest lizard, can grow up to 10ft long, and Komodo National Park was originally created to protect these apex predators, which are found on just a handful of islands here. Head to Rinca, the park’s second-largest island, for a guided hike through the forest to see these sluggish-seeming creatures in their natural habitat among the deer and boar they prey on. 

Afternoon
Back in town, enjoy a lunch with a view. Taman Laut Handayani serves up seafood, from ikan bakar (grilled fish) to sea snails, alongside a range of sambals, the archipelago’s tasty chilli sauces. Board a small boat headed for Rangko Cave, a coastal cavern that’s not accessible by road. A ray of sunlight pierces the grotto entrance every afternoon, infusing the waters with brilliant turquoise hues. 

Evening
Head for sundowners at the rooftop bar of French-owned Le Pirate Beach Club in the heart of town. Further out, at five-star Ayana Komodo Resort, Unique Rooftop Bar offers cocktails and dramatic views. For dinner, try MadeInItaly for outstanding Italian dishes made using local ingredients.

Don’t miss: The Cunca Wulang cascades, a spectacular canyon waterfall.

For more inspiration and to plan your trip, visit Indonesia Travel on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter

Published in the Indonesia 2021 guide, distributed with the December 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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