The beauty of Indonesia goes far beyond the frequently visited island of Bali. I always give the following Indonesia travel advice: visit Labuan Bajo and Komodo National Park. Why? I spent little over a week on this volcanic, friendly and internet-challenged island with its human eating Komodo dragons and the best dive sites in the world and completely fell in love. That is why I couldn’t have this blog online without an extensive itinerary for Labuan Bajo and the Komodo Islands with all my favorites!
Itinerary for Labuan Bajo 4d3n: Komodo National Park Diving & Komodo Dragons, Kelimutu Volcano and the waterfalls around Labuan Bajo on Flores Island, Indonesia
Why go to Labuan Bajo and for how long?
The reason I rave about Komodo National Park is a combination of a few factors:
- Komodo National Park is incredibly beautiful, has abundant wildlife and vibrant corals
- Labuan Bajo is still relatively undiscovered but is gaining popularity very rapidly, especially with the arrival of the new luxury hotel AYANA.
- The people are genuinely friendly and kind.
- It is easily reachable by flight and per boat
- The value for price is amazing: accommodation on Flores is relatively cheap and transport to the island is relatively cheap. Being able to be able to visit a landscape that is so pristine on a backpacker budget is exceptional!
Labuan Bajo is the main harboring point of the island of Flores, in the East Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia. This half Muslim, half Christian town at the West coast of Flores is the most important town of the island and there is a lot of boat traffic coming through. Tourists usually come here for two reasons, scuba diving and the Komodo islands. Both of those activities are located in the same national park, the Komodo national park.
There is so much to see from Labuan Bajo and the absolute shortest time I would recommend staying here is 4 days/3 nights (4d3n). Stay longer if you can fit it in. I’ve added a few items on my ideal Labuan Bajo Itinerary that you can easily add if you do have more time. If you can afford it, I also recommend spending a few days on a liveaboard. The Komodo National Park is one of the most spectacular places in the world and a lot of it is to be discovered on the water.
Your Labuan Bajo Itinerary: 4d3n
Alright, let’s get started! What are we planning on seeing on your four days and three nights in Labuan Bajo? Here is a recap:
- Scuba diving or snorkeling with Manta Rays in Komodo National Park
- Seeing the Komodo Dragons in real life
- The Pink Beach
- Hiking and amazing viewpoints on Pulau Padar
- A million of flying bats on Kelor island
- The three-colored lake of Kelimutu
- Relax and snorkel on Kanawa Island
There is a lot more to do on the island of Flores and you can easily spend 10 or more days exploring the more Eastern parts of Flores. However, if you only have 4 days, these activities are all based out of Labuan Bajo.
I have not accounted for travel time as this will vary from the flight and/or boats that you choose to take. If you are flying, you don’t need to account for too much travel time. See more about this below.
Day 1&2: Komodo National Park Diving
In my personal opinion, the best part of the Komodo Islands is found underwater. Komodo National Park is a no-fishing zone and has an abundant amount of marine life that you can spot by either going snorkeling or diving. Scuba diving in Komodo means seeing a varied array of fish, including the endangered Napoleon Wrass, Lionfish, Jackfish, etc. The big marine life also frequents Komodo National Park on a regular basis. Expect sea turtles, Manta rays, Whitetip or Blacktip Reef Sharks and, if you’re lucky, maybe even a Whale Shark.
Next to all that wildlife, the corals are largely untouched and super colorful. You will see colors of corals of which you didn’t even know they existed! You won’t quickly find this amount of amazingness on well-visited islands like Koh Tao in Thailand or Gili Trawangan in Indonesia.
I recommend starting your Labuan Bajo itinerary with planning in your scuba dives. Always keep into account that you need to plan at least 24h between your last scuba dive and your flight to your next destination. If you are only snorkeling, you can plan it in on any day that suits you. Don’t forget to get travel insurance if you are doing any boat activities, especially if you are going scuba diving! I’ve included two days of your 4d3n Labuan Bajo itinerary to be spent scuba diving because it is the best thing I did! If you are only snorkeling and don’t want to spend more than one day on a dive boat, I mention a day 2 alternative below.
Komodo National Park Dive Sites
The dive boats leaving Labuan Bajo on a daily basis will visit different dive spots every day. This will depend on the weather of that day, the expected currents in certain dive spots and the expected visibility. Similar to other dive sites in the world, seeing big marine wildlife is usually accompanied by strong currents. As there is a lot of big marine wildlife in Komodo National Park, it also has a reputation of being better suited for advanced divers.
If you only go out for one day of scuba diving in Komodo National Park, make sure you head to Manta Point. Manta Point is the best known Manta Ray ‘Cleaning Station’ of Indonesia. This means that Manta Rays come here to get their gills cleaned by little tiny fish. Manta Rays are beloved by scuba divers all around the world because they are incredibly curious. Don’t be surprised if a Manta comes up and check you out instead of the other way around.
As with all wildlife, there is never a guarantee of seeing these magical creatures. They come and go as they please. Other marine life that you can expect to see at this dive site are (massive) Stingrays, Mantis Shrimps, Napoleon Wrasses, Travalli, Boxfish, etc.
Sebayur Kecil & Sebayur Besar
The words Kecil and Besar can be found in many of the dive site names in Indonesia. It simply means small and big. Sebayur Kecil and Sebayur Besar are two twin islands that have popular snorkel and dive sites right next to them. You will often go to one of the other, depending on the currents. Expect to see Turtles, Unicornfish, Lionfish, Trumpetfish, Clownfish, Cuttlefish and much more.
A dive site I’ve never forgotten the name of. Batu Bolong is a dive site with medium to strong currents attracting large marine life. Divers love it for its abundance of wildlife including Whitetip reef sharks, Napoleon Wrasse, Hawksbill Turtles, Giant Trevally, Bluefin Trevallies and much more.
The Cauldron is another dive site I will never forget. It is a beautifully clear dive with almost no current. We quickly spotted three White Tip Reef Sharks and later on the most magical event of my life. We had the privilege of witnessing two turtles mate! Chasing the other, there was a definite seduction game happening. It was so beautiful to watch, what an honor!
Chrystal Rock is only suitable for advanced divers as you will go into the blue below 18 meters (the max depth for Open Water Divers). During this dive, I got caught up into a tornado of Giant Trevally on the hunt for food, intimidating and exciting. I also got to see the biggest Napoleon Wrasse EVER on top of White Tip Sharks, Spanish Mackerel and Octopus. A must of you are an Advanced Certified Diver!
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Who to go diving with?
There are a few diving schools on the island that focus only on scuba diving. I was put in touch with one diving school in particular, Manta Rhei Diving School. They happened to be Belgian, which I loved, and have been recommending them to everyone since (not sponsored). The school and beautiful boat is staffed with amazing local and international people. They work with good equipment and will know where the best diving spots are. Not to mention the delicious lunches and the cutest dog ever.
Another option is to walk around the town center and talk to all the dive shops or to go through your accommodation to get a package with your hotel. There are a lot of resorts such as XPirates, Dragon Dive Komodo Hostel and many others that offer these diving courses in Labuan Bajo. Booking.com allows you to filter accommodation on whether or not they provide diving.
Day 2 Alternative: Activities on the Island of Flores
I say that Flores is my happy place because the people on the island were so kind to me. The majority of tourists through Komodo National Park never set foot on the island and maybe that’s why the island is still a bit untouched. Most locals will wish you good morning or will give you a genuine smile. The kids will line up next to the road to get high fives from tourists coming by on their scooters and will be fascinated by your appearance (apart from the cheeky little boys below). It reminded me of the isolated motorcycle loops in Laos where people were similarly friendly and curious.
If you don’t want to spend another day on the boat, there is plenty to discover out of Labuan Bajo itself. Ask your dive shop where you can find the most reputable scooter and head on out. Make sure that you check your travel insurance and that you always drive very carefully. I met someone in Labuan Bajo who had very painful injuries from a fall on the motorcycle.
Here is a list of the activities you can do by scooter from Labuan Bajo:
- Wae Cicu Beach: The local Labuan Bajo Beach if you want to nothing else than bum around.
- Cunca Wulang Waterfall: A pretty epic spot within driving distance from Labuan Bajo. The waterfall is at the end of the canyon. Expect a rigorous hike back up!
- Cunca Rami Waterfall: A bigger waterfall which I didn’t know existed at the time. I would definitely put it on my itinerary the next time around! You have to pay to park your bike, but the fall is visitable with a voluntary donation.
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- Visit Tradition Village Melo: Located 17km from Labuan Bajo, Melo is an often visited destination to take in local cultural dances and traditional costumes.
- Sano Nggoang Crater Lake: Only 35km east from Labuan Bajo, this crater lake is so cool! It’s not the easiest treck by motorcycle if I research the way there, but have a look at Tripadvisor yourself. It includes driving on dirt roads and hiking to get there. Make sure to find the hot springs as well if you’re headed out here!
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- Tengku Siwa Waterfall: This green oasis is located a bit further from Labuan Bajo (2,5h per motorbike) and might require a stay-over in the nearby village of Ruteng. The locals know where the waterfall is, otherwise, this Instagram post might help.
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- If you are heading to Ruteng, put the Spider Web Rice Fields in Cancar on your itinerary as well! These beautifully shaped rice fields are like nothing else in this world.
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Day 3: Visit the Komodo Islands
See the Komodo Dragons from Labuan Bajo
Most tourists will visit the Komodo Islands to see the famous Komodo Dragons. I’ve already written about everything you need to know about visiting the Komodo Dragons on the Komodo Islands. As I mention in this post, you can see the Komodo Dragons on two of the islands in Komodo National Park: Rinca and Komodo. I recommend booking a tour to only Rinca island and spending the rest of the day exploring the other islands of Komodo National Park.
Other Must-Do Activities in Komodo National Park
When choosing your tour, make sure that you walk around Labuan Bajo and discuss prices and the planned stops with the tour operators in town. Have a look at the bottom activities in and around the Komodo Islands and pick your favorites as not all tours will stop at all of these stops.
- Palau Padar: The 30-minute hike up to Padar viewpoint is simply breathtaking and should be on your itinerary. It’s a favorite amongst tourists and I completely understand why.
- Pink Beach/Pantai Merah: Hop back on the boat and head out to Pink Beach. Another massive Insta-worthy destination. I’ll leave whether you want to battle the number of tourists on this beach up to you. Be aware that the beach is not the same shade of pink every single day and that you should never take any sand home with you.
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- Kalong Island: An absolute must on your Komodo Island tour is a sunset stop next to Kalong Island. It is famous for watching the flying foxes that fly off the island to collect food. There are thousands and thousands of them and seeing them is simply spectacular
- Kanawa Island: A famous stop when visitors come out to see the Komodo Dragons. Kanawa Island is the perfect spot to relax and snorkel in pristine turquoise waters.
- Taka Makassar: This tiny beach in the middle of the ocean looks more like a sand cay. People have even have seen Manta Rays snorkeling from the island.
Day 4: Hike up to the three-colored lake of volcano Kelimutu
Hiking a volcano is always an amazing experience. I loved the volcanoes Bromo and Ijen on the island of Java, Indonesia! If you want to spend even more time exploring volcanoes and the beautiful natural phenomena they create, visit Mount Kelimutu.
Mount Kelimutu is, as the title of the article indicates, famous for its three differently colored lakes: Lake of Old People (green), Lake for Young Men and Maidens (a pale blue) and Bewitched Lake (turquoise). While these may be the most common colors, they can change to different shades of blue and green but have even known to be red, brown, black or white.
Hiking Mount Kelimutu
There is an entrance fee to be paid to enter the park. If you are booking a tour this may or not be included, I recommend that you check. Similar to Mount Kawan Ijen, the famous sulfur volcano, the hike up to the three lakes will start around 1 am to reach the top by sunrise. If you’re looking at visiting Mount Kelimutu without a tour, your best bet is to organize transport through a shared car, ojek or truck (again, just like at Mount Ijen). I didn’t personally visit Mount Kelimutu but have heard many great stories on the view. Read this article by a fellow travel blogger for the full details on how to get there without a tour. Alternatively, you can book a tour that will pick you up in Labuan Bajo and drop you back off.
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If you decide to visit Mount Kelimutu without a tour, you will need a night of accommodation in Moni. Don’t forget that transport might also be slower than if you join a tour.
How to get to Mount Kelimutu?
Mount Kelimutu is located on the Eastern part of the island Flores and will require transport to get there. You have two options to get to Kelimutu, either by plane or by bus. The first option is by flying from Labuan Bajo to ENE Ende airport. You can find flights on Skyscanner or Kiwi. Return flights are around 130AUD. From there you will need to take the bus to Moni. Read this article if you need more specifics on flying into Ende and taking the bus to Moni. Don’t forget to take your diving schedule into account when booking a domestic flight!
Alternatively, you can take the bus from Labuan Bajo, but you will have to add a few days onto your itinerary to take public transport. Flores is not a small island! Renting a private car is another option which would take you around 12h. Read more about this overland journey here.
Where to stay in Labuan Bajo?
Labuan Bajo is a perfect base for a lot of travelers as you can find both luxury accommodation and budget accommodation.
As I mentioned in the intro, the brand new luxury addition to the island of Flores is the first 5-star resort, Ayana Resort. You might know the Rockbar in Bali, but now they also have an all-inclusive, everything you can imagine, luxury hotel in Labuan Bajo. If you can afford it, AYANA will take you on their liveaboard, give you massages and bath you in true luxury.
Another high-end option is the Sunset Hill Hotel which has insane views. The most popular accommodation on Flores, which is actually on an island in between Flores and the Komodo Islands, is Xpirates dive camp.
If you don’t want to head to an island and want the convenience of the town of Labuan Bajo, but still want to have the views, check out Coconut Garden Beach Resort. It’s on the beach and is about as Insta-worthy as hotels get.
The biggest advantage of traveling through South East Asia is that we can usually afford a bit more luxury than at home. Especially if you for a package deal of accommodation + one of the hotel’s tours. If you are looking for even more budget accommodation, check out the increasing number of accommodation on Hostelworld in Labuan Bajo (prices around 10AUD/7USD/6EUR).
Let’s talk Internet and Electricity
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, Flores tends to be internet-challenged. By this, I mean that you should expect several blackouts where both the electricity and internet goes for an undetermined amount of time. The island has learned to deal with it and I personally enjoyed it!
How to get to Labuan Bajo?
Flores is located east from Bali and can be reached in three ways, by boat, by plane or by a combination of ferries and busses.
Flying from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo
Depending on where you are traveling from, chances are you are going to have to connect through Denpasar, the main airport of Bali. The destination of Flores has become a lot more popular over the past few years, therefore the prices of flights have climbed. A return flight from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo will set you back around 164USD/147EUR/237AUD return. Your travel time will be only 1 hour, super quick!
Taking the boat from Bali to Labuan Bajo
You can also get to Labuan Bajo by boat. The local way is by taking the public ferry, which is very cheap and long. Another option would be by booking a tour, which is going to be the most expensive way to get to Labuan Bajo. I took the plane twice to save on time, but I will take the boat the next time as I have heard it is a beautiful trip, depending on the boat that you take.
The cheapest and most time intensive option (24h-36h) is taking a public ferry. It will also be the most dangerous option. Why is this choice dangerous? Because the safety standard are very different from in the Western countries and these boats tend to have twice the amount of people on board than the boat is suited to. Do you research well if you choose this option and don’t attempt it without travel insurance. We all remember the story of this famous travel blogger getting shipwrecked in this exact area.
Your second option to go to Labuan Bajo by boat is by booking a tour. This will often be the most expensive option as you will also have accommodation, food, and tours to Komodo National Park included.
If you are considering taking the boat across to Labuan Bajo, I recommend taking the boat from Labuan Bajo to Bali. Most tourist travel from Bali to Labuan Bajo and then fly back, so you will avoid a large crowd and might get a cheaper ticket.
When is the best time to visit Labuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia?
I was in Labuan Bajo at the beginning of April, at the end of the rain season. Being a tropical island, Flores Island and its capital Labuan Bajo have a dry and a wet season. If you are looking at visiting Labuan Bajo yourself, have a look at below calendar:
- April to June: The end of the rain season. There are a few downpours in the early evening, but the days are wonderful. The temperature is great and there aren’t too many people on the island yet. It’s the perfect time to visit! These months are also great for the underwater visibility and you can see both Manta Rays in the water and the Komodo Dragons on land.
- July & August: This is the high season of Flores Island and the Komodo Islands. Visiting the islands is at its ideal condition as the Komodo dragons are mating and the temperatures during the day are very warm. Expect plenty of tourists on Komodo Island at this time of year.
- September to November: This is also a shoulder season in Labuan Bajo and on the Komodo Islands. The temperatures are still high and you can expect the start of the rain season. Just as in April to June, prices will be lower than during the high season and there will be a lot fewer tourists. These months are especially perfect if you are visiting for the marine wildlife (Manta Rays, Whales and Sharks). If you are only coming for the Komodo Dragons, don’t come during this period as they are busy nesting.
Want to visit Labuan Bajo yourself? Don’t forget to pin it!
Recommended reading about traveling to Indonesia
I loved Indonesia and always mention it as my favorite country on my six-month backpacking trip through South East Asia. If you are planning your own trip, the following articles on my blog will help your planning:
- I was one of the first people to discover and write about visiting Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen without an expensive tour. I regularly update this post and have added a bunch of tips for the closest big city Surabaya and also a detailed itinerary on how to get from Surabaya to Mount Bromo to Mount Ijen.
- As you can tell, I like visiting famous tourist destinations on a budget. I also found out what the cheapest way is to see the Komodo Dragons on Komodo Island.
- Planning to learn how to surf in Bali or Lombok, find out what beach essentials you should pack.
- Visiting Lombok was an amazing experience, have a look at my favorite travel photos of Lombok.
Disclaimer: This post was first published on the 1st of October, 2015 and has been republished and completely redone to give you the most accurate information. This post contains affiliate links which means that I will earn a small commission if you buy something or book a hotel. This comes at zero extra cost for you and is a way to support me and the blog. Thank you!