Best Ever Destinations: A Scenic Guide To New Normal Travel in Labuan Bajo

Best Ever Destinations: A Scenic Guide To New Normal Travel in Labuan Bajo

Step into the picturesque, kaleidoscopic wonders of Labuan Bajo under the new normal

Experience a slice of paradise on earth in the fishing village of Labuan Bajo. With magnificent underwater views, breathtaking green hills and sublime wildlife, this top honeymoon destination has charmed its way to become one of Indonesia’s Best Ever Destinations.

Located on the western coast of Flores, Labuan Bajo is the gateway to Komodo National Park. Come to watch the world’s largest lizards roaming free here, and stay for the pristine neighboring islands within the national park. Spot manta rays if you’re lucky or relax at the salmon-colored sands of Pink Beach. 

Whether you’re out sailing in the beautiful waters or enjoying stunning hilltop views in the savanna, a scenic adventure awaits you in Labuan Bajo. Don’t know where to start? Try exploring the best of this coastal town with our 1-day itinerary:

Morning

Explore this: Spot komodos in Rinca Island 

  • Travel time from Labuan Bajo pier: 2 hours by speedboat

The Jurassic World-like Komodo Island. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

Start your exploration of Labuan Bajo by venturing into the islands of Komodo National Park to catch sight of komodo dragons in their natural habitats at Rinca Island. Home to the largest komodo population, the sights and sounds of Rinca Island’s grassy savannah landscapes is a marvel to behold. 

During your komodo spotting excursion, make sure you keep the noise down and socially distance yourself from these majestic apex predators. Their venomous bites are known to be lethal and they can run up to 20 kilometers per hour during their hunt for food. Stay with your pack and listen to your ranger at all times.

Pick between three trails to suit the adventure you’re seeking for at Loh Liang. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

As Rinca Island is currently going through a serious overhaul until the end of the year, all komodo watching trips will be diverted to Loh Liang at the neighboring island of Komodo. As komodo dragons live in holes, the conservation area’s name translates to ‘nesting hole’ in local Bajo language. It’s also the second largest home to these wild beasts. 

When you arrive, you are required to fill out their visitor form for health and safety purposes. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

Whether it’s at Rinca Island or Loh Liang, don’t forget to wear your most comfortable shoes during your komodo spotting as lots of walking will be involved. Protect yourself from the tropical Flores heat by wearing your sunhat and applying lots of sunscreen. You can also protect others by keeping yourself clean and wearing masks throughout the trip as health protocols are strictly enforced in the national park area.

Eat this: Bakwan Bayam at Loh Liang cafeteria 

  • Travel time from Loh Liang: 2 minutes by foot

Bakwan Bayam, the perfect bite for a quick sustenance after komodo dragon-spotting. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

Deep fried fritters in Indonesia come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with all kinds of different versions. Be it sweet or savory, bakwan is the national savior for hunger pangs at any time of day. Made from a tasty batter of vegetable mix, the star ingredient for bakwan bayam is spinach. The soft, sweet taste of the spinach mixed with the crunch of the fritter makes it hard to not keep going for more. 

At Loh Liang, you will find a row of humble food stalls selling quick, on-the-go meals for a fast grub grab. It’s a great post-trek spot to rest your feet before you head to your next island hopping destination or stroll through the colorful souvenir shops. Remember to always keep your hands clean before you bite into those fritters and keep a safe distance from other travelers.

Afternoon

Do this: Swim with manta rays in Makassar Reef

  • Travel time from Loh Liang: 45 minutes by speed boat

Unbelievable sights, indescribable feelings is exactly what you will sing when you arrive at Makassar Reef. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

Arrive in the tropical utopia of Makassar Reef, where you can only find pristine, white sands and clear azure waters everywhere you turn. Located off of Komodo Island, this blissful spot is a must visit when you’re hopping around the national park. Before you even get off your boat, you will already be spoiled with the view of the stunning corals and beautiful manta rays dancing in the waters. 

Don’t expect any livelihood in Makassar Reef as you won’t find even a single tree in this spit. The soccer field-sized stretch of white sands is known for its surreal underwater seascapes, making it the perfect spot for snorkeling and diving – just remember to rent your equipment ahead. Be warned though, as the currents at Makassar Reef could get strong. 

Turtles, black tip reef sharks, bamboo sharks and eagle rays can also be found dancing in the waters of Makassar Reef. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

If you’re not much of a swimmer, sunbathing in the middle of the crescent island or strolling till its edges are experiences not any less magical. Fly out your drones for postcard views to take home and bask in the glory of having encountered such beauty during your trip. Just don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen to avoid nasty sunburns!

Be warned, bidding farewell to the picture perfect views of Makassar Reef won’t be easy. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

As the crescent-shaped island goes underwater during high tides, it’s also locally known as pulau pasir timbul, which loosely translates to a ‘pop-up’ island. This is the reason why there’s no trash cans in Makassar Reef so bring your trash back to Labuan Bajo with you. Masks and clean hands are also practiced here to make sure this paradise on earth stays virus-free.

Eat this: Nasi Goreng Wae Rebo at La Cecile Cafe

  • Travel time from Labuan Bajo pier: 8 minutes by car

Always opt for the deck seats at La Cecile Cafe for unforgettable views as you enjoy your meal. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

Treat your tummy to a fulfilling lunch with the quintessential Indonesian dish of fried rice at La Cecile. Their take on fried rice, or nasi goreng, however, is unlike any other. An ode to the local village of Wae Rebo, Nasi Goreng Wae Rebo is shaped like a traditional Manggarai house and tinted with squid ink to replicate its colors. 

Rich and briny at every bite, this elevated fried rice dish is just as special as your trip to Labuan Bajo. La Cecile Cafe is also a popular hangout spot for locals as it offers wow-worthy views of the bay, so you can watch the calming views of ships passing by as you chomp down your lunch. For health and safety measures, La Cecile Cafe requires you to wear masks when you enter and encourages payments to be done with cards.

Evening

Enjoy this: Chase the sunset at Sylvia Hill

  • Travel time for La Cecile Cafe: 10 minutes by car

Reignite your romantic side as the colors of dusk paint the sky at Sylvia Hill. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

Romanticize your escapade in Labuan Bajo by ending it at Sylvia Hill for breathtaking sunset vistas. It’s also popularly known by locals as bukit cinta or love hill, so don’t be surprised if you catch a proposal happening on the scene. 

When you make your way there, don’t forget to roll down your windows to catch the beautiful coastal sights of the northern part of town. If you want a more adventurous turn, do as the locals do and go there with a motorcycle ojek taxi or a shared angkot minibus. The hike from the drop off point to the peak of Sylvia Hill isn’t much of a challenge as pathways are pedestrian-friendly as long as your shoes are up to the task. 

The surrounding peaks of Sylvia Hill makes it a scenery you won’t ever forget. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

Try to arrive here an hour ahead of sunset to witness the sun paint the neighboring islands off the coast. Sit down and relax to take in the view of rolling savanna hills with the coast stretching as far as the eye can see and the sun slowly going down over the horizon.

Every lookout spot in Sylvia Hill is a charmer, making it Labuan Bajo’s top spot for photo shoots. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

Leaving Sylvia Hill without falling in love with its charm is a hard task, but if you’d like to extend your stay for daybreak views, there’s lots of hotels around the area. Keep in mind that there’s no litter box in the hills so be sure to take your litter with you as you go. As every spot at Sylvia Hill is as good as the next, keep your distance from other crowds and wear your masks throughout your sunset spotting. 

Eat this: Seafood galore at Wisata Kuliner Kampung Ujung 

  • Travel time from Sylvia Hill: 10 minutes by car

Treat yourself with the best tasting seafood in town at Wisata Kuliner Kampung Ujung. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

What’s a trip to a fishing village without feasting on some lip smacking, fresh seafood? Wisata Kuliner Kampung Ujung is a seafood lover’s heaven that puts the extra in extraordinary. You can find a delectable array of local fresh catch here, from fishes like red snapper, pomfret and blue barred parrotfish and other seafood like crab, lobster and prawns. 

At Wisata Kuliner Kampung Ujung, pick any stall from the long strip of humble beachside eateries and choose your own seafood to start. As seafood is best enjoyed grilled, this is the most common cooking style ordered and of course, with some yummy stir-fry veggie sides to complete the meal. Don’t forget that mask-wearing is compulsory here so keep those on and wash your hands before you dig in.

Health & safety protocols to note

Throughout Indonesia, health and safety protocols are strictly enforced. Temperature checks upon entry is the norm across all establishments, including tourist destinations. Don’t forget to bring your vaccine certificates with you or have it ready from the PeduliLindungi app. Masks in public spaces are required all over the country, so double up and always bring extras in your bag.

While some destinations still allow cash, major establishments prefer cashless and card payments so have your e-wallets topped up before you start your itinerary. However, hand washing stations are required to be installed at every establishment, making it easy for you to keep clean after every cash transaction.

As of current, only international travelers on business visas are allowed to enter Indonesia while certain international travelers are allowed to enter Bali. However, domestic travel is open for vaccinated tourists across the archipelago, with a requirement of vaccine certificates and a negative antigen test result for travels by land, water, or air.

Kickstart your trip to wonderful Indonesia right now

This guide is produced in association with Indonesia Travel. 

  • All photography by Andri Ramadhan
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