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Labuan Bajo

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Labuan Bajo will be the first port of call for most first-time visitors to Flores, whether arriving by boat or plane. And like many port towns in the world, we want to love it, but it just isn't very lovable.

Most near anywhere else in Flores is more lovable than Labuan Bajo, and most travellers will stay here just a night or two as they come and go.

During low season, Labuan Bajo seems to have a fair range of accommodation, but in high season, in the words of one diving instructor we talked to, it is "a veritable madhouse where the hotels are packed and every soul wants to get the hell out of dodge". Even in low season, we had to try three hotels before finding a hotel with a spare room that was decent, so if you're visiting Labuan Bajo in July or August, book in advance if you can. Most of the better establishments are happy to let you book online or over the phone, and won't require a deposit.

The port is the jumping off point for Rinca and Komodo islands along with a handful of other islands in the Bay of Bajo that have accommodation such as Kanawa and Seraya. Any diving or liveaboard operation with a presence in Komodo will have an office in Labuan Bajo, and there are plenty of dive operators to choose from.

Labuan Bajo also marks the completion (or starting) point of the popular Lombok-Sumbawa-Komodo-Flores boat trips.

Lastly, Labuan Bajo houses an airport, which is soon to be upgraded to an international one, and is the western terminus of all transport along the Trans-Flores Highway (which runs from Maumere in the east through Ende, Bajawa (almost) and Ruteng on the way to Labuan Bajo).

So it can be a pretty busy place.

The downtown waterside area is home to some of the more convenient hotels, plenty of tourist-orientated eateries, more bars than the rest of Flores combined (so about four) and a gaggle of travel agents, clothes shops, laundries, minimarts and so on. It's really your one-stop-shop for all your travelling needs in Flores. Western-style food, toiletries and other modern conveniences all become rather thin on the ground after you leave here for the Flores interior or out to the islands.

The waterfront of Labuan Bajo is sort of capital l-shaped with a fish market worthy of an early morning browse in the centre. To the northern end, there are boats to the headland (for Waecicu) and Seraya Island, while the main port (to the south) runs boats to Kanawa, Rinca and Komodo. This isn't a strict rule though, and you could probably charter a boat to anywhere from anywhere here.

If you're heading to Kanawa, Seraya or Bidadari, go to their booking office along the main drag in Labuan Bajo and they'll walk you to wherever the regular boat is going from at the right time.

BNI have an international access ATM up near Treetops, which is open late. There's a larger bank of BNI ATMs further down the road out of town, heading right and facing away from the ocean. Many of the restaurants advertise free WiFi, though in our experience it doesn't always work -- you'll likely have to check around until you find something reliable.

Drivers can be hired from the kiosk opposite (but on the same side of the road) as Gardena or try at any travel agent. Be prepared to bargain. See the transport section for contact details for specific individuals we have used.

If you're looking for specific info on Flores, NGO SwissContact has put out a series of three guidebooks, covering culture, trekking, and diving and snorkelling respectively. It's a shame they didn't release them as a single guide, and while it's now getting a touch out of date in parts – though more so that places have opened than places have closed -- it's got some excellent information tucked away.

The Belgian-born Gaelie and Flores native Heri Anu Due at Flores Remo Travel offer distinctive cultural and nature-oriented package tours of Flores and surroundings, including Komodo, Rinca, Kelimutu and points further afield. Everything is customisable -- contact them for details and scheduling. They're a good choice for remote or custom adventures, especially for those unable or just plain uninterested in arranging their own back-of-beyond adventure travel.

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Text and/or map last updated on 30th October, 2013.

Last reviewed by:
Stuart McDonald co-founded with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton and he spends most of his time in Bali, Indonesia.

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