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10 New Bali's - Labuan Bajo

If you could imagine the natural marine life offered by Lombok Mandalika, perhaps you would also consider Labuan Bajo with many wonders waiting for you to explore. Labuan Bajo was only a small fishing site that today has flourished to become the gateway to many exotic destinations in East Nusa Tenggara. It is blessed with pristine water, gorgeous white- and-pink sand beaches and idyllic mountaintop views that offer beautiful sunsets. Let's explore the beauty of the westernmost tip of the Island of Flores!

Source: Strait Times

Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo is a fishing village that is stationed on the western side of Flores Island, Land of Flowers. Its local population are eager to engage with visitors, offering boat trips, tours of the local school, as well as providing ample opportunities for visitors to experience what life is like in a small scale rural Indonesian setting. If you’re boarding an international flight, the island can be reached via Jakarta, Bali or Lombok. Domestic flights to Labuan Bajo’s Komodo Airport are available daily from either of those cities.

There are so many things to do and experience in Labuan Bajo - from hikes and fantastic dives to rich cultural experiences. Oftentimes, people travel to Labuan Bajo also want to see the Komodo dragons. The Komodo Dragon is the world's largest lizard that grows up to 3 metres in length and can weigh more than 70 kg. The Komodo National Park is the only place in the world where they are found in the wild, predominantly on Komodo and Rinca Island. It was listed as UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in 1991 and is home to fascinating wildlife, both on land and underwater. The park consists of Komodo Island, Rinca Island, Padar Island and numerous smaller islands around them. As komodos are extremely dangerous as they are strong hunters - they hunt native deer and buffalo - and can be quite vicious, travellers must visit the islands with a guide. Tours can be easily arranged on arrival and will vary in price, depending on the itinerary, size of the tour and type of boat.

Source: The Guardian

A more popular choice is a day trip to Rinca, which is smaller than Komodo island but closer to Labuan Bajo. Rinca occupies only 123 square miles and aside from a tiny fishing village, the island is completely undeveloped. Miserably hot and usually dry, Rinca is the perfect home for exotic and dangerous wildlife. Far fewer tourists visit Rinca than the neighbouring Komodo Island. Although never a guarantee, the chances of spotting dragons in the wild is much better on Rina than on Komodo. With a little luck, you may find only yourself and a guide - armed only with a stick - wandering the bush in search of Komodo dragons.

It is worth spending some time snorkelling or diving in the park, which has one of the richest and most pristine marine environments in the world. Indonesia's Komodo National Park claims some of the best diving in the world for those brave enough to face the strong currents. Deep ocean currents coming from Antarctica pour into the Indian Ocean creating dangerous and unpredictable currents. A staggering array of marine life comes to feed on fish and organisms brought in by the currents. Its coral reefs and mangroves are home to more than 1,000 species of fish, hundreds of corals and sponges, sharks, dugongs, manta rays, whales, dolphins and sea turtles. Manta Point (known as Karang Makassar locally) is a popular dive and snorkelling site in the park. The reefs are only 2 to 9 metres deep here, but you can still see sharks, turtles, giant clams and different types of rays, including giant manta rays. It is one of their favourite spots.

Komodo's hilly islands are also popular for hiking, with jagged hilltops that lend spectacular views of the surrounding islands. You can get the most beautiful views of Komodo National Park and its beaches by hiking to the top of the hill on Padar island. The moderate hike takes about 40 minutes to get to the top, from where you will get an amazing view of Labuan Bajo, three crescent beaches and freckles of offshore islands.

Getting to Komodo island is a bit more difficult because it is farther away and can take 11/2 to four hours each way, depending on the boat. But if you are going, be sure to stop at Pink Beach, or Pantai Merah, which is unique for its deep-pink sand that is created naturally from a microscopic animal that lives on the nearby coral reefs and turns them pink. There are a few pink beaches on islands in the park, but this one is the best and is a surreal place to watch the sunset.

Source: Sudamala Resort

There are some interesting destinations that you can discover inside the city. The Mirror Cave, or 'Goa Batu Cermin' in local name, is located only 4 kilometres away from Labuan Bajo. This cave was founded by Dutch archaeologist in 1951, who concludes that Labuan Bajo was once located underwater. In some parts, you can see some stones with reflective character, thus become the name of this natural wonders. Another stunning wonder you might also want to check out is Rangko cave, where you could swim in a cave-lake. It has clear blue sea water with various stalactites which makes the scenery around the cave very exotic. Because of road access, it would be easier to reach the cave using a motorbike as it is located in a remote area and the road is quite bumpy.

Source: Authentic Indonesia

Promising opportunities await you!

With the 10 New Bali's initiative, the government would prioritise Labuan Bajo as one of the five super-priority destinations to support economic growth. The government has set aside Rp1.7 Trillion (US$121.42 Million) this year for the development of Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara {rovince to become a super premium tourist destination. The destination is one of four extraordinary priority destinations that are being prepared to host pre- and post-tours for delegates attending the IMF-World Bank Annual Meeting in Bali, October 2018. The three others being Lake Toba in North Sumatra, the Borobudur cultural park in Central Java and the Mandalika beach resort area in southeast Lombok. The development of five zones has planned to be addressed are Bukit Pramuka, Kampung Air, Container ports and passenger docks, Marina Area, and Kampung Ujung zone. These zones will become a public space with beautiful views and are believed to be the driving force of development and the centre community activities in Labuan Bajo.

Although the central government has increased the budget allocated to support the development, the local government acknowledge the problem of a large number of disputed lands. The problem is exacerbated in rural areas like Labuan Bajo where land is often subject to communal ownership and efforts to rush the land-certification process have led to conflict. For instance, the construction of a private marina in Labuan Bajo has stalled for this very reason, while one island in the town’s harbour has been sold to at least five different foreign investors. Because sometimes a family will have several certificates for one plot, never trust a seller when they show you a certificate. Your lawyer or notary needs to contact the National Land Agency and arrange for them to send a surveyor to measure the land and record the coordinates to make sure they match the details on the certificate. As such, make sure that due diligence is undertaken to avoid all kinds of problems with double certificates for the same piece of land. In-line with this, The President also urged the officials to pay attention to this matter given the number of investors who wanted to invest their capital in Labuan Bajo.

Developments outlined for Labuan Bajo include an integrated tourism complex in the Marina area, which will house the 147-key Hotel Inaya Bay Komodo, a ballroom for up to 1,000 people, commercial spaces, a marina, and a flight deck; a creative hub in Puncak Waringin, which will comprise an amphitheatre, green open spaces and an observation deck. Other than the infrastructure and the landscape, waste problems and clean water issues have planned to be tackled to make the destination is ready to host international events in years to come.

Next time you are in Lombok, make sure you check out Labuan Bajo and charter a boat to island-hop and explore other islands in the area.

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