Once a sleepy fishing village, Labuan Bajo is home to over 3,000 residents where life is mostly dependent on water. It is located in the westernmost region of Flores and now one of Indonesia’s soaring tourist destinations. The sunset, which symbolizes the completion of a day’s work is actually the beginning of our exploration to the picturesque bay of the town. Labuan Bajo, situated on a steep slope and facing the edge of Komodo National Park is famous for its surreal sunset.
It was a sunny afternoon when we arrived in the slow paced and a less touristy town of Labuan Bajo. It’s a small developing town where everything can be reached in 20 minutes or less. Indeed, the airport to our hotel and nearby bars and restaurants are reachable either by foot or a short drive.
Although serves as a springboard to the Komodo Islands, someone visiting Labuan Bajo shouldn’t miss the sunset. One ideal location while waiting is at Paradise Bar. The view is undistracted bay filled with tens of boats and some nearby islands of Komodo park, its beauty, as described by my friends, can be compared with Halong Bay.
While drinking some mango juice (I wished it was a bottle of beer though) and eating chips, I kept my eyes steady on the horizon as the sun fell behind it, painting the sky shades of orange, pink, and red. I wouldn’t deny that this is one of the best sunsets I witnessed in my entire life. The feeling is so romantic, which somehow made me wish I’m with someone dear to me to share this magical moment.
The next day, we started our tour early to explore the islands of Komodo National Park. This park has 3 large islands namely Komodo, Padar, and Rinca as well as 26 smaller ones. The national park was founded last 1980 to protect the Komodo Dragons, the largest lizard in the world. In 1991, the park was declared as UNESCO world heritage site and in 2012, it has been selected as one of the new 7 wonders of nature. Komodo Archipelago is indeed a paradise for divers, in fact, it’s part of the coral triangle of the world with the richest biodiversity on earth.
Approximately one and half hours away from the mainland, Komodo Island gave us our first experience of a raw wildlife. The entire national park is said to be home to a stable population of around 3,000 to 5,000 dragons making it conservation status vulnerable. The island is a deserted and dry place, more brown than green.
There are different trails to explore (short, medium , adventure and long trek). Due to limited time and shockingly humid weather, we just had a short trek. Though this trek will just show you few dragons, I still recommend it especially if the weather is hot during your visit.
I know that Komodo is the world’s largest lizard but as our guide explained, some safety precautions need to be taken before our tour. I found them frightening; Komodo Dragons can grow as big as 10ft, that’s actually really big and I can’t imagine seeing them soon while listening to the guide. There are a number of deers around the island, which is the dragon’s primary food. We were advised to walk silently, stay with the group, and avoid staying too close to the dragons.
Komodos are extremely dangerous and can run up to 11 miles per hour. So In case they will run after you, don’t dare to climb a tree or dive into the water because they can both do it faster than human. Instead, run in a zigzag direction.
Few minutes walk from the starting point, we easily spotted one Komodo Dragon, contrary to what I expected, the dragon just stayed on one spot and barely showed any movement. This is actually better than seeing them running after us. Our guide drew a circle, a reminder of how only close we can have a photo with the dragon. I just had a quick selfie since the idea of them being a venomous animal was running in my head.
If you want to see more Komodo Dragons yet taking a short trek, I recommend visiting Rinca Island. During our visit, there are around 5-1 dragons just 5 minutes away from the starting point.
Close to Komodo Island is a beach that doesn’t need a posh name to stand out. It’s simply called, Pink Beach because of its pinkish sand caused by red corals in the shallow part of the sea. What is more interesting about this place was the feeling of isolation. Without our big group, I believe that there were less than 20 people enjoying the beauty of Pink beach. The place wasn’t developed, there was only 1 cottage where we had lunch, the rest are few trees near the shore that would serve as a shelter from the heat of the sun.
It’s a good spot for diving and snorkeling, the water was clear. I actually spent most of my time here, enjoying its colorful underwater world. It was no secret that I’m a fan of diving or snorkeling. This kind of place is so different from the ordinary world that we are living. This is the wonderland of my dreams.
After spending hours of time swimming at Pink Beach, I never thought that we will visit another island, which according to my friends who dove there, is the best underwater spot during our entire trip. I didn’t swim, which something I regretted because I spent most of my energy at the Pink Beach.
Unlike Pink Beach, Kanawa Island is more a developed place yet secluded . It’s one of the closest beaches from the port of Labuan Bajo where you could have an overnight stay. There is a restaurant and few wooden cottages available for people who are looking for an undisturbed vacation. The waves here are so gentle, the sand is fine and white. You won’t hear any loud music. The peacefulness of the island serves as my resting place under a huge tree for hours while waiting for our group to move back to our hotel.
Trekking at Padar Island serves as our final activity during our 3-day stay at Labuan Bajo and Komodo National Park. I would say that a visit to this park would never be complete without trekking Padar Island and see how Instagram-able the view of the park is. It was less than an hour walk to reach it’s highest part. It looks easy but some of my friends got injured during the trek because the soil of the path was loose and dry with lesser grass to hold on to.
I’m not a fan of trekking, actually, this was the second time that I did this. But the tiring walk under the heat of the sun was worth it because when I reached the peak, the beauty of the surroundings took my breath away. I normally compare places in Indonesia to the places I visited here in the Philippines, but I couldn’t think of any place in my country that looked similar to it. The natural panorama of the sea separated by islands and hills made it look like there’s a twin lakes in the sea. Its beauty is unparalleled.
The sense of awe I had was enhanced. The world seemed more real up there. If I will be given a chance to revisit and trek Padar Island again, I would say yes regardless how painful the heat of the sun is.
A smile comes to my face as I remember all the wonderful adventures we had at Komodo National Park. From its gigantic dragons, unique pink beach, the vivid underwater world, and the exceptional view from the mountain top, everything was memorable. Being with a group of adventurous people for a couple of days brought indescribable joy to our entire trip. Thank you Ministry of Tourism- Indonesia for the opportunity to discover your wonderful country.