Komodo National Park is located in the center of the Indonesian archipelago, between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores. Established in 1980, initially the main purpose of the Park was to conserve the unique Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) and its habitat. However, over the years, the goals for the Park have expanded to protecting its entire biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine. In 1986, the Park was declared a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, both indications of the Park’s biological importance.
Komodo National Park includes three major islands: Komodo, Rinca and Padar, as well as numerous smaller islands creating a total surface area (marine and land) of 1817km (proposed extensions would bring the total surface area up to 2,321km2). As well as being home to the Komodo dragon, the Park provides refuge for many other notable terrestrial species such as the orange-footed scrub fowl, an endemic rat, and the Timor deer. Moreover, the Park includes one of the richest marine environments including coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, seamounts, and semi-enclosed bays. These habitats harbor more than 1,000 species of fish, some 260 species of reef-building coral, and 70 species of sponges. Dugong, sharks, manta rays, at least 14 species of whales, dolphins, and sea turtles also make Komodo National Park their home.
Threats to terrestrial biodiversity include the increasing pressure on forest cover and water resources as the local human population has increased 800% over the past 60 years. In addition, the Timor deer population, the preferred prey source for the endangered Komodo dragon, is still being poached. Destructive fishing practices such as dynamite-, cyanide, and compressor fishing severely threaten the Park’s marine resources by destroying both the habitat (coral reefs) and the resource itself (fish and invertebrate stocks). The present situation in the Park is characterized by reduced but continuing destructive fishing practices primarily by immigrant fishers, and high pressure on demersal stocks like lobsters, shellfish, groupers and napoleon wrasse. Pollution inputs, ranging from raw sewage to chemicals, are increasing and may pose a major threat in the future.
How to Get in Komodo National Park?
By Boat Starting by private or sharing boat, wooden or speed boat from the capital of the regency Mangarai Barat, the western most region of Flores, Labuan Bajo (also spelled Labuhanbajo and Labuanbajo). It is now a busy bustling epicenter of tourism. This is the launching point for impressive trips to Komodo Island and Rinca Island, home of the famous Komodo dragons. Besides spotting the Varanus komodensis, the main attraction in this area is the extraordinary marine life. Komodo archipelago is indeed a paradise for both divers and snorkelers. Also, a number of companies organize 4 days/3 nights boat trips from Lombok to Labuan bajo. You sleep on the deck on thin mattresses (less than 1 inch thick, but you get used to it).
By Cruise There are also by Cruise which is arriving every months in Komodo or Rinca Island and they are starting from Singapore, Europe or America.
How to Get in Labuan Bajo?
By Plane As of June, 2014 the Labuan Bajo Airport also known as Komodo Airport has switched operations from the old, decrepit terminal to the new one! There are many amenities lacking at the time of writing, but soon to be fixed. There is now a BRI ATM inside the terminal. There is no Wifi, there is no lounge, and there are no luxuries. Maybe one day, but not now. The Airport Komodo is located 2 km out of town. The upturn in tourism has made the Ojeks and taxi drivers charge extortionate rates. There is a taxi stand by the baggage claim that has set rates for all the nearby hotels. If all else fails, it’s a 20 minute walk, mostly downhill.
Garuda Indonesia, NAM Air (Sriwijaya Air), TransNusa , Kalstar Air and Wings Air (Lion air); all fly from Denpasar, providing almost daily flights between them, so around 9 flights daily from Bali and Garuda Indoensia (Jet) fly directly from Jakarta every day. Indonesia Air Transport (IAT), Merpati Airlines, TransNusa, Sky Aviation are not operating any more. Most flights continue to either Ende H. Hasan Aroeboesman Airport, Maumere Fransiskus Xaverius Seda Airport in eastern Flores or Kupang in West Timor. There is no flight from Lombok, Makassar, Surabaya, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok to Flores yet. Hopefully, it happens in coming years or months.
By boat The port in Labuan Bajo is located in the town, and everywhere is reached within a 10-20 minutes’ walk. The ferry from Sape runs daily minimum twice and usually arrives around in the afternoon. The ferry from Labuan Bajo to Sape leaves in the morning.
Pelni ships arrive from Makassar or Lombok. Pelni has two ships calling on Labuan bajo every 2 weeks. Tilongkabila departs for Bima, Lembar (Lombok, 24 hr) and Benoa (Bali) every other Thursday and returns the following Sunday to go to Makassar and other destinations in Sulawesi. Willis departs for Bima – Benoa – Surabaya every other Saturday and returns Saturday one week later to go east to Marapokot and Maumere.
By bus Buses from Ruteng and Bajawa stop and depart in the center of town near the school. They usually drop off passengers at their accommodation on the way in.
Overview and What to Do in Labuan bajo.
Around Labuan Bajo The town is quite small and can easily be traversed on foot (in 10-15 minutes). Ojeks and bemos pass every 5 minutes if you get tired of walking. You can rent a motorcycle and there are only a few scooters available. Some interesting spots around Labuan bajo: Caves (Goa Batu Cermin, Goa Rangko, Liang Bua, Istana Ular), Pede Beach and Binongko Beach, Island tours by Private or sharing Boat to several islands within from Labuan Bajo offer great diving and snorkeling opportunities: Bidadari Island, Seraya Island, Sabolo Island to the North of Labuan Bajo, and Kanawa and Sebayur island to the West, Cunca Rami Waterfall, Sano Nggoang Crater Lake, Caci Dancing – A cultural dance performance three times a week, Wae Rebo traditional villages, and Cunca Wulang waterfall, Melo village, Mbrata farming village, Spider webs Sawah Cancar, etc. Southward, on the route to Rinca there is Kalong Island house of a colony of “flying foxes”, huge bats that can be seen flying away in thousands at dusk.
Trekking Komodo National Park encompasses a lot of water and islands west of Labuanbajo. The mating season for the Komodo dragons is in July and August, so they are often harder to spot then. Rinca Island (Indonesian: Pulau Rinca) is a more convenient place to see Komodo Dragons than Komodo island. Trekking can do in Kelor, Kanawa, Bukit Cinta, Bukit Sylvia, Komodo Island, Padar Island, Gili Lawa, etc.
Trekking Mt. Mbeliling, Cunca Rami Water Fall and Crater Lake The ideal region for eco-adventures. Manggarai’s mountains, lakes and waterfalls offers many hiking and trekking routes to suit all experience levels of hikers.
Trekking Wae Rebo is the last remaining traditional Manggaraian ethnic village with traditional houses. It is located at an altitude of 1,125 meter above sea level in the Nature Conservation Forest. There are seven traditional houses, the so called ‘Mbaru Tembong’ and each of these houses hosts more than one family. The people live on agricultural products as coffee, taro and vegetables.
Diving The Komodo National Park offer dozens of very pristine dive sites, with many migratory pelagics, vibrant reefs- making it one of the world’s richest marine habitats. The Park is located just offshore. Several islands within from Labuan Bajo offer great diving and snorkeling opportunities: Bidadari Island, Seraya Island, Sabolo Island to the North of Labuan Bajo, and Kanawa and Sebayur island to the West
Snorkeling Labuan Bajo is the most convenient point from which to go snorkeling in the Komodo National Park. The snorkeling within the park offers many opportunities to see pristine reefs with some of the greatest fish and coral diversity in the world. Pink Beach, Sebayur, Sabolon, Kelor, Manta Point, Kanawa, etc is a great spot for snorkeling right off the beach.
Other One of the more spectacular displays of nature in the area is at Kalong Island (Indonesian: Pulau Kalong; also spelt Kalung), which literally means “Flying Fox Island.” The name is quite appropriate as the island is home to thousands of Kalong, or giant flying fox bats.
Buy There are currently three ATMs in town which belong to the BNI and Mandiri bank and can deliver up to Rp 2,000,000 per transaction in Rp 100,000 or Rp 50,000 notes, but also a few other banks and one money changer. Shops selling tourist trinkets, local fabric, and Komodo Dragon carvings are located in the center of town. Western products of varying quality are available in the toko or kiosk alongside the roads. Consider taking a trip to the market early in the morning to purchase local coffee, spices, or just to look over a wealth of local produce and goods.
Eat Choose from a variety of Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, and Western restaurants on the main road. There are also many masakan padang places along the main road, which are worth checking out for an inexpensive and filling meal. There are some nice restaurants and have free wifi.
Drink Beer is available from the supermarkets and some of the shops around town. You can get the local moonshine (Sopi/Arak/moke), however it resembles paint thinner, and it’s not unlikely that you will go blind if it is adulterated with methyl alcohol. Some bars around here.
Sleep There are ample amounts of accommodation to choose from in Labuan Bajo but much is left to be desired in the budget category. It’s difficult to find value in the lower end of the accommodation range – but with tourism growing exponentially, new places should be popping up.