Labuan Bajo is a small fishing village turned tourist mecca at the North-Western tip of Flores, known as the Gateway to the Komodo Dragon. It was my second visit to the town but with more time on my hands, I was keen to soak up the relaxed atmosphere and devour the sunset views. I'll post more another time about my trip to see the Komodo Dragons - an absolute must-do if you're in this part of Indonesia. For now, here's a quick guide for how to spend a couple of days in Labuan Bajo.
Labuan Bajo is first and foremost a jumping-off point to Komodo and the surrounding islands, as well as other parts of Flores, so there are few sights in and around the actual town itself. But if you have a couple of days to kill and are keen to take it slowly, there are some great spots you can visit.
The key attractions in town are the various dive schools who will take you on day trips around the local islands. I'd actually organised to go to Labuan Bajo a day earlier than my friends in order to go diving near Komodo Island but the trips are full-day trips and returned too late for my friends and I to start our Flores road trip. I can't wait to get back another time - the diving is meant to be fantastic.
Also highly recommended - but I wasn't able to fit in this trip - is Kanawa Island. Featuring a small resort, this island is a must-visit for a relaxing beach vacation close to Labuan Bajo. Crystal clear waters, kayaks, snorkelling and stunning sunsets, it's worth an overnight trip here, though boats can be chartered just for the day at an additional cost.
The morning markets are a great way to experience the local culture. Remember to ask before taking photographs and go armed with a few Indonesian words, as many of the locals here are not involved in the tourist industry so do not speak much English. Ask for directions at your accommodation if you're not sure.
Further out of town are the waterfalls and gorges Cunca Wulang and Cunca Rami. Keep in mind these are around 35km out of town on a bumpy road. I'd reached breaking point after a week in a car so opted to relax at our Eden Beach hotel while my friends explored the waterfalls. Cunca Wulang is often inaccessible due to bad roads but Cunca Rami is worth a visit if you're in the area. Keep in mind you will probably be required to pay a driver a full day rate, which can be about US$75. This is not a trip to make if you're travelling solo or on a tight budget! Ojeks (motorbike taxis) can probably take you there cheaper, but the road can be unsafe so ensure you are riding with a helmet.
Casa Selini is located in a great spot on the main street in Labuan Bajo, Casa Selini has just three small rooms attached to a restaurant/cafe. It's decorated in a shabby-chic style full of shells, coral and fun pictures on the wall.
Be warned that Room #3 is right at the back of the property next to the kitchen and the mosque, so you will be kept up late by the abrubt Greek owner screeching at her staff and woken early by the pre-dawn call to prayer. Not the most relaxing night I've ever had but the room was very comfortable. It was quite pricey at Rp450,000/night (around US$45) but the location was fantastic. Apparently the rooms at the front are better. I booked through Agoda.com.
Waicicu Eden Beach is a beautiful oasis with its own private beach. Set on a hillside, make sure to warn the owners if you will have trouble walking up/down lots of steps. It took a solid 5 minutes of walking up steps to reach our bungalows! The accommodation is reached by a 20-30min boat ride. Beware if you're planning to arrive at night - the boats don't have lights on them, so they prefer not to take them out in the dark. The views are incredible and we paid around Rp350,000/night (around US$35) for a fan-cooled twin-bed bungalow with million dollar views. Book directly through their website for the best deals.
Amazing views from our room at Waecicu Eden Beach
Labuan Bajo has doubled in terms of tourist offerings since I was there 9 months ago. They've really started to take advantage of the spectacular views and influx of backpackers, with affordable bars and restaurants lining the streets.
I had a couple of lunches at my accommodation's cafe, Cafe Selini, which offers a Greek menu (a rarity in Indonesia!) full of tasty chicken souflaki and spanakopita. I had the most delicious pumpkin soup I've ever had in my life and the chicken souflaki was absolutely delicious! Unfortunately, service is a little slow, even when you're the only customer or you order your food ahead, so make sure you give yourself enough time.
La Cucina is a cute little spot that I visited for breakfast and dinner, with a small bench area facing the ocean. This place can get busy so make sure you arrive early to secure a spot. I had Wild Boar Tagliatelle for dinner - so delicious! Breakfast was simple eggs, toast and fruit but they were very accommodating with my hatred of bananas and easily made some menu adjustments to the fruit salad and juices for me. Great views at sunset, like most places along this strip.
Osteria Del Mare is located on the ocean-side of the main drag and, like many restaurants in Labuan Bajo, offers a mostly Italian menu. I enjoyed sunset mocktails here at the bench-seats facing the water and spent half a day relaxing in the upstairs loft. Their juices and mocktails are fantastic, but unfortunately I made the wrong choice with my food. I ordered a Pizza Marinara, expecting fresh prawns to be gracing the topping of my pizza. Instead it was covered with mashed up balls of fish. And got cold pretty quickly in the breeze. It was pretty unappetising. I thought you couldn't go wrong with pizza!
Fortunately the hammock more than made up for it and I whiled away 4 or 5 hours here with my book.
Treehouse is one of the older establishments in town, on the same stretch of ocean-facing road as Osteria del Mare and La Cucina. Unfortunately I made my 'I'm near the ocean! Surely the seafood will be amazing!' mistake once again, ordering garlic prawns. More like garlic miniature prawns. Cooked in a thick creamy sauce with the shells on, I think they'd forgotten to check on them and by the time they arrived, they were a thick gelatenous goo and very VERY messy to eat. I'm not averse to peeling prawns, but this was beyond a joke. I will never learn. Should have stuck with the Nasi Goreng.
Well that's it for now! I imagine if I went back to Labuan Bajo in another 6-9 months things would have grown and changed even more. If you've been, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the best (or worst) places to eat and sleep in town, leave a comment!