The Indonesian President got involved in issuing presidential decree No. 32 of 2018 dated 5 April 2018 the town of Labuan Bajo and surroundings, situated on the most western tip of the island of Flores, has been determined as Tourism Authority (B0P Labuan Bajo), announced Tourism Minister, Arief Yahya recently.
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The town is the maritime tourism gateway to the Komodo National Park and serves as buffer zone to the Komodo National Park which was established in 1980.
The destination is one of 4 extraordinary priority destinations that are being prepared to host pre- and post-tours for delegates attending the IMF-World Bank Annual Meeting in Bali in October 2018. The 3 others being Lake Toba in North Sumatra, the Borobudur cultural park in Central Java and the Mandalika beach resort area in southeast Lombok.
The town of Labuan Bajo is located some 4 hours boat ride from the island of Komodo or some 3 hours away from the island of Rinca in the National Park, that with the island of Padar are the last remaining habitat in the whole world of these prehistoric Komodo giant lizards.
Originally just a small fishing town, Labuan Bajo has grown by leaps and bounds in the last years since tourists came flocking to witness and get close to the one and only prehistoric living dragons.
Moreover, tourists have also discovered in the National Park its breathtaking underwater paradise, playground of manta rays and huge turtles, its remote isolated islands fringed with white sands, and the rare Pink Beach. Even Russian tourists have come from the cold to witness the dragon firsthand and dive in the warm tropical waters of Komodo.
At the moment, Park authorities say that there are 2,762 Komodo dragons living in the National Park, which is slightly down from the 3,012 in 2016, however, this is still considered stable growth.
To meet the surge in tourist demand, the government has built a larger airport, named it the Komodo Airport, and allowed more domestic airlines to fly to Labuan Bajo from Jakarta and other Indonesian cities. It has also allowed cruise ships and yachts to berth here.
However, it soon became clear that tourist facilities and infrastructure in this town as well as in the Park have become sorely inadequate to meet the tremendous demand worldwide.
Visitors to Labuan Bajo and the Komodo Park has increased rapidly. In 2017, the number of international and domestic tourists numbered 120,000 up 11.04% compared to the previous year. For 2019, however, the government estimates that this number will jump to 500,000.
Therefore, to facilitate tourist arrivals on the one hand but at the same time protect the National Park and the most endangered Komodo dragons on the other,
as well as other sea creatures living here, the Tourism Authority was established to manage both the accelerating numbers of tourists visiting with consequences of mass arrivals, while at the same time protect the National Park’s most precious environment and inhabitants.
On this context, a number of infrastructure and tourist facilities are presently being constructed in and around Labuan Bajo, said Minister Arief Yahya, that include:
- A pedestrian walkway will be built along the coastal road at Jalan Soekarno-Hatta.
- A special culinary center will also be built at Kampung Ujung
- A green open area will be made at Kampung Air formerly used for the Sail Komodo regatta.
- An a bridge will connect Kampung Air with Pramuka Hill
- At sea, 20 mooring buoys will be placed around the Komodo National Park to avoid damage to coral reefs by anchorage of ships, boats, and yachts.
- To ascertain cleanliness of the area and surrounding seas the Ministry of the Environment has established a coordinated Garbage Disposal Management, whereby a Garbage Recycling Center will be built to support garbage disposal from the town of Labuan Bajo, at the Komodo National Park, and provide island garbage disposal management modeled after the one at Pulau Messa, as well as provide garbage ships.
- Whereas, to further meet the rapid surge in tourism demand, the Komodo Airport at Labuan Bajo is planned to be expanded into an international airport, allowing international airlines to land here direct. Construction is ongoing so that by 2019 next year the airport is expected to be ready to receive direct international flights.
While other “critical success factors” for Labuan Bajo, according to Minister Yahya include:
- A rest area, a function hall and souvenir shop to be built at Puncak Waringin, for which the Ministry of Tourism has prepared its architectural design following Flores traditional architecture, and is planned for completion in 2019.
- The present Container harbor at Labuan Bajo will be moved to Bari harbor, to make way and to be replaced by a harbor specifically dedicated for cruise ships, tourism yachts, and boats.
- ut most importantly, the Authority is now in the process to assess the National Park’s Carrying Capacity. 11 dive spots have been identified, among which is Manta Point.
While for the protection of the rare dragon, coral reefs and other sea animals, regulations are in process of being drafted to determine the maximum number of visitors allowed at a given time and season and to manage visitors flow, to meet both tourist demand on the one hand and protect this unique Park and its inhabitants on the other.
Regulations are expected to come into force in October 2018.
For those on the waiting list to visit the Komodo islands, do know that the island of Flores itself is rich in natural beauty, waterfalls, and unique villages. In this district is also the Liang Bua cave where the prehistoric “hobbit”, the Homo Floresiensis was discovered.
Near Ruteng are the unique so-called spiderweb paddy fields, where instead of squares, the green fields are plotted in a concentric circle, following local wisdom. All are within a short distance from Labuan Bajo.
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Preparing your trip to Komodo
For those wishing to visit Komodo, please note that there are NO accommodation facilities in the park itself except for a few simple ranger lodges.
All food and drinks must be taken with you to the islands, and make sure NOT to leave any garbage. All rubbish should be taken home with you.
If you wish to make a one day trip, it is only possible to visit Rinca Island which lies closer to Labuan Bajo.
Here you can easily meet Komodo dragons especially near the rangers kitchen, and trek around the island. But make sure to ALWAYS walk guided by a park ranger. Make sure to have all your provisions in Labuan Bajo. Meanwhile, Komodo island is over 4 hours away from Labuan Bajo, so if you wish to visit Komodo, Padar island and go diving, then best travel by liveaboard.