Fun and Misadventures in Komodo Island and Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo is a town of Flores, Indonesia, known as the gateway to the island of Komodo dragons. My Komodo and Labuan Bajo trip were probably one of the highlights of my Indonesian journey. Aside from the komodo dragons, the town itself offers spectacular sunsets and idyllic landscape view. Divers have described the place as one of the best diving sites in the world.

At first, I was reluctant to include Komodo islands to my itinerary because I was not certain if I could afford it. I’ve done plenty of research, but I could not get the approximate cost of the Komodo tours. Agents online quoted exorbitant rate. I was traveling on a budget so I would like to have an estimate on how much budget should I allocate.

However, when I travel, I don’t want to go back home and wish that I should have done things. I knew then, that if I skipped Labuan Bajo, I would have ended up regretting it. So I crunched my numbers and somehow made it work.

 

What Not To Do

  • Don’t book your tours online; it will be easier and cheaper to book and negotiate tours once you arrived there. Plus you have more option to decide what type of tour is better for you; may it be with the komodo dragons or some diving.
  • Don’t rent a motorbike, if your driving ability is sub par. I went on this trip thinking that I must rent a bike to save money and also to be able to go wherever I want to go. A was not keen on the idea, saying that he doesn’t have much confidence in my driving. Ouch! He reasoned that I only drive when I travel. But I grew up in a town where most people have learned to drive a motorbike before they could walk. I wasn’t one of those people, though. But once I made up my mind to learn, I did it in a day without any supervision. So I became full of myself (Or act before I think). Plus, take into consideration that I am also stubborn, so when he told me what I could not do, I went ahead and proved that he was right. The following happened in chronological order: 

First, I told my friend that it was my first time to ride on the opposite side. In the Philippines, we drive on the right side. He said, “Don’t worry, it’s just one way here.” I concluded it to mean that I could drive in any lanes because they don’t follow the traffic rules. Wrong! We agreed to meet in a restaurant few meters ahead, but I missed it. So, I decided to drive a bit farther to familiarize my body with the bike. Then I made a u-turn to go back to the restaurant.

After few minutes, I got strange looks from people. I saw plenty of cars, trucks, and motorbikes coming towards me. Then I started to wonder, why I was the only one driving towards the opposite side. I felt a bit relieved because the restaurant was about 50 meters ahead until I heard a shout. “No, No, wrong way! Opposite Way! Go back, one way, policeman ahead!” Then it dawned on me, “Oh, shoot, it’s One Way!”

Second, driving on the way to up the waterfall, it started raining hard. The road going up became slippery. Worse, since my body is so used to driving on the opposite side, every time, I passed by a blind curve, I ended up in the opposite lane. It was dangerous especially if another car is heading your way.

We reach the entrance going down to the base of the waterfall, only to realize that there is no proper road. It was full of holes, rough roads and the intense rain did not help at all. Then we passed by these makeshift coconut trunks and bamboos bridge. Up to this day, I was still wondering how I managed to cross it the first time. Maybe because I could barely see it due to the rain and breezed through it or I was not thinking.

Ten minutes to the base of the waterfall, the locals cautioned us not to continue since it was going to be slippery even on the typical day. It is also an hour hike. We also realized that I got a flat tire. Imagine that! While I was driving, my slipper fell off; I stopped (forgotI was on a slope) and boom. I could not even describe my folly. My friend was already gone, so I was holding on to the brakes when I saw this kind old man who stopped and helped me. But I was shaking already. Did I mention, I had a flat tire. When  I saw the bridge again, I stopped and shouted to my friend, “I’m staying here, I’m not going to do that again!” But NO choice.

Third, I did manage to survive, went back to the town, got some food. But going back to my hostel in the mountain was the last draw. The road going up has two cemented lanes with a space in the middle. So you had to balance yourself in one of those cemented roads. I was nervous but doing well, and happy to see my hostel up ahead. Then I slowed down, lost my balance and fell into the ditch (I was lucky I did not choose the ravine side). I decided to crank it a little so the motorbike would move up a bit but I was shaking and ended up accelerating the bike dragging myself along. I was holding on for dear life, and lucky enough that people passed by a few minutes after to help.

After that, I’ve vowed not to drive around Indonesia (well, at least Labuan Bajo), parked the motorbike and my ego. I ended up with few bruises, some wounds and a bit of common sense.

What To Do

  • Watch the spectacular sunsets and view in several places. I was staying at Ciao hostel, and they have the best location for sunset. Another place would be the Bajo bakery.

 

  • Go to the Waterfalls but do it with groups so you can divide the cost. I tried to do it myself, but it was a disaster. What I have to show for it was this picture with my glamorous couture.

 

  • Go on a Komodo Dragon tour. You have an option to do a day-tour, overnight or two-nights tour. You also have an option to go to Rinca Island or Komodo Island. I opted first to go to Rinca, thinking it would be cheaper. But I could not pass up Padar. I did the Padar-Komodo Island-Pink Beach-Manta Rays Tour insteadWe departed around 6 am and came back at 8 pm. The voyage back was a bit rough, long and a bit boring after all the excitement of people swimming with the manta rays in the wild.

  • Eat at the Fish Market. The seafood is pretty cheap and delicious.
  • Go out dancing or for a drink. I was a bit tired and scared from the accident; I opted to stay home. But my roommates changed my mind. And I was glad. I had a fantastic night, and we ended up making plans to meet back in Bali (and we did). Plus we met some generous locals who gave us a ride.

How much to Budget

Activities/Things Cost
 Flights: There are different airlines, and most of them offered good prices. I used Nam Air. There was a bit of delay but pretty cheap with free 20kg check-in luggage.   ~ 1, 188,000 IDR (roundtrip)
 Hostel with airport pick up (with a great view) per night    150,000   IDR
 Padar-Komodo-Pink Beach-Manta Rays Day Tour (inclusion: lunch, snorkeling mask, and flippers)   350-500,000 IDR (depending on your haggling skills)
Entrance to the Komodo Island   230,000 IDR (typical day)

330,000 IDR (holiday)

 Food (per day)   ~200,000 IDR
 Motorcycle Rental (per day)      50,000 IDR

 

My trip to Labuan Bajo is probably one of the most memorable experiences I have had. The place is spectacular, and I’ve met amazing people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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