Just a short plane ride away from the spectacular Bali, sits quietly Indonesia’s hidden gem, Labuan Bajo. Located in the Island of Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, the small fishing town has a lot to offer for those hungry for an outdoors-y experience.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Start from Labuan Bajo and sail away on a Pinisi ship across the Flores Sea to appreciate the beauty of Indonesia’s archipelago. One of the checkpoints is Komodo Island, where you can watch the endangered Komodo Dragons in their natural element. In between the island-hopping trip, divers and snorkelers can head to the islets as they offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance to observe marine life. Those who seek for untampered beaches will find these sandy shores a beautiful delight.
After a draining yet rewarding time getting acquainted with Labuan Bajo’s perimeter, hop back on the ship for some refreshments. The crew onboard includes a local chef so the food will not disappoint! Plus, get accustomed to feasting with a 360° breathtaking view, where you’ll forget about looking at your phone. After all, the majestic open sea ahead of you is worth missing a few posts on Instagram.
The ships have reasonably sized rooms for guest so you may be able to host a couple of friends. Lastly, the tail of the ship is an open deck where you can sprawl to get your morning tan in or an episode of stargazing at night.
WHAT TO PACK:
Be sure to pack sunscreen, snorkelling suits (gear is provided on board) and definitely a camera to capture the marvel of Labuan Bajo and its surroundings. Don’t worry about drinking water or underwater gear because the crew on board will take care of that. But do pack your swimsuits, along with comfortable clothes. While the sun is sure to give you a nice tan, it can get a little chilly when night falls. Hence, bring along a light jacket, and perhaps a book to read at night.
Labuan Bajo has so much to offer but here’s a handy digest of 10 highlights that you absolutely have to experience. Now, muster up some courage and leave your resort for a couple of days out at sea!
Head over to the heart of Labuan Bajo and find a vessel rental company. After filling up the paperwork, you will be escorted to your Pinisi ship (an ethnic Indonesian two-masted sailing ship). On most ships, you will have a reasonably sized cabin and an open deck for you to bask in the sunlight and enjoy the view. But don’t get too excited with the ship — this is only the beginning!
How many times have you been misled by ‘private’ beaches while in reality they are ridiculously overcrowded? Be fooled no more. As you breeze through the waters of Indonesia, you’ll find yourself in the midst of islets with astonishing beaches. Unless there are other Pinisis around, yours will be the only party. The beach is completely yours.
Pinisis are equipped with speed boats so get ready to island-hop! Alighting from the wobbly boat, allow your senses to immerse itself in the surroundings. Feel how the sand is almost as smooth as water, and marvel at the clear as sky water. Hear the waves crashing on the shore and take a deep breath before you go underwater.
No picture or video would do the Flores sea’s marine life justice – but we recommend taking a waterproof camera anyway. Be it diving or snorkelling, the lovely inhabitants of the sea are a sight to see. The best part is, some of them are friendly (and fearless) enough to let you get close to touching distance. Look out for sea turtles and vibrant anemones as well but be warned: what seems like 10 minutes of diving or snorkelling could actually be an hour on land.
No, not the fire-breathing dragon in the legends, but Indonesia’s four-legged Komodo dragon. The government stopped keeping them in caged environments, so you’ll have a ranger/ tourguide to lead a hike around Rinca island. You, in turn, will hunt for these — believe it or not — fast carnivorous reptiles. These fearsome dragons can weigh up to 166 kg and stretch up to 3.5 m.
Since you have the sailboat to yourself for the next few days, feel free to request to stop at a certain spot if you feel like snorkelling or diving. It is during these times that some of the crew members will prepare hot meals after an exhilarating day out in the archipelago. Tip: look down and collect some exotic looking sea shells you probably won’t find at mediocre touristy beaches.
Another highlight of the adventure would be Komodo Island. Besides taking a closer look at the endangered Komodo, the Fregata Hill, just a short trek away is a must-see. The hidden gem spans wide enough for numerous photo ops. The picture speaks for itself.
‘Flores’ is Portuguese and Spanish for ‘flower’ and just as beautiful as its name is the picturesque hills around the sea. Sailing across the open waters, treading routes unfamiliar to you, rewards with scenic views that you’ll only otherwise see on National Geographic.