Labuan Bajo is the beginning or start for most backpackers for a 3 day - 2 night boottour that sails them from Flores to Lombok or the other way around. After driving through the non touristic island of Sumbawa to get here, where we haven’t seen any foreigners at all, it feels a bit surrealistic to arrive here. There are diveshops everywhere and walking down the street, most of the shopowners try to sell you a boattrip to go and see the dragons.
We arrived in Labuan Bajo after a 2 day motorbike drive from Senggigi Lombok crossing the island of Sumbawa to the island of Flores. It took us 2 ferry's and we covered more then 450 kilometers to get here.
The second time we arrived in Labuan Bajo from Bajawa. We started in Bajawa at around 8 am and drove to Ruteng. From there we went straight to Labuan Bajo where we arrived at 4 pm. The road from Bajawa to Labuan Bajo is in a good condition and these 260 kilometers is a easy ride, although you will pass some mountain roads which will slow your pace. That’s why it took us 8 hours instead of 5 to 6 hours.
There are plenty of restaurants in the main street and you can get any food you want. We enjoyed a pretty good beef rendang at Mama’s and had bbq fish at the night market.
The first time, we drove around, asked at several guesthouses for a room and the price, checked out a few rooms but they were all overpriced or just way to expensive. We ended up at Hotel Bajo where we paid 200.000 Rupiah for a noisy room, with a cold shower and a poor breakfast. Not a place we would recommended.
The second time, we stayed at Wisata Hotel It was a bit more expensive, 250.000 Rupiah, but better than the first guesthouse. There were however a few cockroaches. We are getting used to them and they don’t really disgust us anymore, so when Marije saw one, she asked for a antibug spray to kill it. Bad plan! Instead of killing it, it alarmed it’s friends and instead of 1, we had 6 cockroaches running around. That did disgust us so we changed rooms. Problem solved!
Our first time here, we only stayed for one night after we arrived by ferry from Sumbawa. The second time, almost a week and a half later, we had more exciting things to do! The changes are big that you can see the mantarays here, and since we missed them at Nusa Lembongan in Bali, we had to give it another shot. We also wanted to see the dragons but heard mixed stories about this trip. Because it’s to hot, they don’t really move and just lay around in the shadow, mostly in the kitchen area because the smell of food attracts them. We didn’t want to spent a whole day just to see the dragons, but we found a combined trip with 2 dives and a visit to Rinca for 1.2 million Rupiah p.p. (excluding the entrance fee to the Marine Park for diving (175.000 Rupiah p.p. and the entrancefee to Rinca which is 65.000 Rupiah p.p.) We where even hoping to be able to take the 6 o’clock ferry back to Sumbawa at the end of the day, depending on what time we would be back from the trip.
The first dive was at Batu Bolong. Nice Pinnacle with turtles, sharks and big fishes who don't move out of the way when you are coming. Very nice place to Dive! But most of all we saw an annoying Thai girl, learning to be a dive instructor, that didn't care about anyone else and was always in the way when we wanted to make a movie or photo or she was just scaring the animals away.
On the boat, on our way to the second dive spot called Manta Point, we saw our first manta’s. That got us extra excited for this dive and we couldn’t wait to get in the water. But the dive started really boring. No nice coral, no fishes, and no manta’s! We did how ever see a naked Thai girl, swimming right in front of us, showing her delicate parts.. Apparently a tradition on dive number 100. It was not pretty to see and luckily we are still far away from that number of dives.. After 15 minutes, we got a bit disappointed for not seeing the manta's yet, but then we got lucky! These 5 to 7 meters wide giants swam right at us. It’s amazing how elegant these big creatures move in the water. Really impressing and a special feeling to swim right next to them. In total we saw around 10 of them. Michiel even got so caught up in seeing them and getting them on film, he got a bit lost. Luckily he found us back after a few minutes and we didn’t had to leave him behind.
After this great and best dive ever, we had lunch and set of to Rinca island, home to the komodo dragons. Armed with a camera and a stick we stepped of the boat and started hunting these fearless animals. At arrival we saw the sign: 'Be careful crocodile area'. So we stayed close to our guide because these animals are on top of the food chain here and one bite won’t kill you right away, but will kill you eventually because of all the bacteria's in their mouth. And they look scary! We saw a few next to the path, and as expected, a bunch of them next to the kitchen. They looked lazy, but still impressive and moved every now and then. When they moved we all stepped back like a frightened chicken. We also walked up to the top of the hill for a really nice view overlooking the water and the islands. Even though it wasn’t spectaculair to see them, we are glad we visited Rinca. For us it felt a bit stupid to be this close, and not going there because Flores is the only place on earth where you can see these beasts.
Sailing back to the harbor, we saw the ferry leaving so we had to stay one more night. We had a beer, went out for diner with one of the other divers (and no, this was’ t the Thai girl) and fell asleep with big smiles after a really great day!