In typical followtheboat fashion, it’s taken us over a month to get from Lombok to the Komodo National Park, a distance of just 400km as the crow flies.
But before we take in busy Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores, or even think about going to see the infamous Komodo dragons, we wanted to relax at our first anchorage at Pulau Sebuayur, where we dropped the hook by the extraordinary Seven Mushrooms.
Eventually, we tore ourselves away from the unexpectedly gorgeous Komodo Resort & Diving Club and anchored about 1.5 nautical miles south west of Labuan Bajo. We’re just a short hop across shallow water to a bunch of small hotels, including the elusive Eco resort that hadn’t closed but had rebranded.
One of the reasons we spent so long here wasn’t just the calm anchorage, but the spectacular sunsets on offer every night with an aspect looking back across the islands of Komodo and Sangean.
We ended up befriending the staff at the Luwansa Hotel, a good base when provisioning for diesel and food, with the added bonus of convenient scooter hire. The busy town of Labuan Bajo is just a hop and skip away.
Labuan Bajo Town
Labaun Bajo is quite different to most of the Indonesian towns of similar size that we’ve come across. The effects of tourism are evident and give the town a particularly un-Indonesian vibe, at least on the main strip. It is the jumping off point for trips to the Komodo National Park, so the bulk of the shops are there to sell you boat rides and dive expeditions.
There’s a profusion of restaurants to suit all tastes, and we ended up visiting La Cucina restaurant far more often than we should! For every restaurant there’s an enticing coffee shop, including our favourite, The Carpenter Cafe and Roastery.
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The town centre is built around a one-way street system, so to get to the lower part you have to take your scooter over the top of the town, which offers some great views across the bay.
The casual visitor would be forgiven for thinking Labuan Bajo is just a tourist strip. But it’s clear that planners divided up the original town to make way for visitors, leaving two main residential areas on either side of the commercial strip.
To the west are the lower quarters, and to the east, above the main strip, are homes built into the steep hillside.
Labuan Bajo Old Quarters
The lower quarters consist of narrow footpaths, barely wide enough for a scooter, and while these may seem claustrophobic, they offer welcome shade from the sun, keeping the buildings and residents cool and comfortable. The buildings appear to be in a state of flux, with construction and maintenance on every corner.
We spent enough time in Labuan Bajo for Jamie to reignite his love of off-camera street photography. It often has a macabre or sinister feel to it, due mainly to the angle of the flash and surprised expressions on people’s faces.
In last week’s podcast we talked about street photography in more detail (if you missed it here’s the link) and Jamie explained that often the frame captured rarely reflects the actual moment.
A Long Break
Despite spending many weeks at anchor and taking a number of scooter rides in and around Labuan Bajo, we barely scratched the surface of western Flores. If you were to come here as a tourist you’d be spoilt for a choice of hotels, restaurants and boat trips.
But, of course, the main reason for coming to Labuan Bajo is to walk with the infamous and deadly Komodo dragons. And that’s where we’re going next…
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